Several people have asked us, “How did you get into Turkmenistan? Isn’t it closed to foreigners?” Turkmenistan is a special bureaucratic animal. But, with a little bit of advanced planning and an expanded daily budget, it really isn’t all that difficult, particularly if you don’t work for a media company or human rights organization. We believe our visit there was well worth the effort and adjustments required. Continue Reading »
Category Archive: Turkmenistan
“All-time favorite places” is a difficult one to answer without writing a book, but if we limit the question to 2007 (as we did in our personal growth exercise last night), the answer becomes manageable and something worth sharing with our readers. Continue Reading »
One last thing about Turkmenistan before we move on…camels.
No animal seems to capture the essence of grace while embracing its own awkwardness like the Dromedary camel. Though you’ll catch the occasional loner wandering the open scrub or tracing the roadside, camels are actually domesticated. They move in herds and are raised for their meat and milk. If you have the chance, try chal – a fizzy, fermented version of camel milk.
We never could get our fill of camel-spotting, camel-chasing and camel-filming. Our group regressed into a Romper Room of riotous pre-schoolers each time we spotted one of these unmistakable beasts in the distance. Continue Reading »
While planning our itinerary through Central Asia last May, we dismissed Turkmenistan mainly due to Audrey’s impressions of the place. She envisioned a dark, totalitarian state where people mysteriously die in jail. The outlandish whimsical declarations of its leader, Turkmenbashi, would be humorous if they didn’t encase the six million people living there in a difficult reality. Having worked with Turkmenistan and some of its neighbors in the job she’d recently departed, Audrey was certain this wasn’t her vivid imagination running wild.
Dan kept Turkmenistan in sight and brought it up often enough to keep it on the radar of travel possibilities.
Considering that Turkmenbashi had just died in December 2006 and that we might not have this unique opportunity again in the near future, we decided to give it a go. We left it to fate and the Turkmen government’s willingness to grant us adequate visas.
As fate would have it, the Turkmen authorities said yes. So did we. Continue Reading »
If a baby died, its bones would be kept in a ceramic jar in the house.
– Our guide Oleg providing another fascinating background tidbit on the ruins at Gonur Depe, Turkmenistan.
Fifteen minutes later, one of us literally kicked up the fragmented top of an ancient ceramic urn encrusted with earth and filled with small bones. The bit about the bones may sound morbid, but when you realize that what you just overturned with your hiking boots probably dates back 1000s of years, it becomes a really cool find. Continue Reading »
Your trip across the Caspian may provide some of the scariest and most fulfilling moments of your entire journey.
– A veteran journalist we met in Tbilisi, Georgia who had seen it all in the former Soviet Union.
Although we are posting this from Pingyao, China, we dial back a few clicks to the beginning of our journey in Central Asia in an attempt to adequately address the images in our mind and the notes in our journals.
Oddly shaped like a damaged index finger or a distressed plume of smoke, the Caspian Sea pumps out oil and caviar in the midst of the surrounding desert and extreme landscape. Continue Reading »
Ashgabat has been adorned by many beautiful buildings, which made unique architectural ensemble.
– A quote on the reverse side of an “official” postcard of the main drama theater named after Turkmenbashi.
One part Las Vegas, another part Pyong Yang, Ashgabat springs up out of the middle of nowhere in the Turkmen desert. You wonder how and you wonder why. Continue Reading »
No less idiosyncratic than its architecture, Turkmenistan’s laws are the stuff of laughter and legend. Though locals may plead ignorance or flat out deny that some of these laws ever existed, here’s what we discovered about some of the more notable whacky entries conjured up by the former president, Sapmurat Niyazov (otherwise known as Turkmenbashi, Leader of all Turkmens).
What’s true and what’s Turkmenbashi urban myth? Here’s the scoop based on our peek inside Turkmenistan. Continue Reading »
As we continue along the Silk Road in Uzbekistan, our minds often take us back to Turkmenistan, whose ancient history is longer and remains underground, unexcavated and unreconstructed.
The few clicks across the Caspian Sea brought us to a world of visual stimuli significantly different than that of the Caucasus (Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan). This is what we’ve always envisioned when historians speak of the iconic Silk Road and the Orient. Continue Reading »