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 »
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 »