The Subway Palaces of Tashkent, Uzbekistan

As our journey into Central Asia slowly ended, Tashkent was our final stop. We thoroughly enjoyed the exotic and surprising nature of Uzbekistan, but also grew weary of challenges. Finding marts and grocery stores for water or any food was a constant struggle, which left us frequently hungry and dehydrated. This cut into the experience and made some days more a matter of survival than enjoyment. Nevertheless, we persisted and worked together to create solutions.

Hidden beneath the roughly paved streets of Tashkent, a network of beautifully adorned subway platforms welcomed us.  Many former Soviet republics contain ornate and decadent subway systems. It was said that the Soviet leaders outfitted the underground systems with such decoration to be the “palaces of the people”. They also doubled as bomb shelters, some even equipped with gas masks.

Uzbekistan had a tense history with outsiders. In the past, it was a land of rigorous visas, baggage checks, computer and hard drive monitoring, and occasional bribes. Thankfully, westerners now face a much warmer reception. Though, while travelling in Uzbekistan, we did have to collect slips of paper from our lodging at each stay to prove where we had been during our time in the country. These were then requested at passport control upon leaving. Failure to produce slips for every nights’ stay could purportedly result in a hefty fine (or bribe), but the agents didn’t seem to look at the slips too closely.

Entering the airport required several x-ray and metal detectors before even checking in for the flight. Further in, 2 very lowly and empty looking airport restaurants greeted us. This was not your standard western airport experience, which only echoed our time in Uzbekistan. We sluggishly gave in to some french fries and a bag of mixed chocolate snacks; the fact that this was the best option should tell you what we faced.

Even though Uzbekistan was one of our hardest destinations, it was also extremely rewarding. To travel in places that are relatively untouched by international tourism is an amazing and unique experience because the true culture of the place still lives in its people. We experienced generosity, hospitality, and honesty from the people of Uzbekistan in every city we visited. We never felt scammed or judged, which at times we felt so in other countries. Although we don’t have plans to return any time soon, we were very glad we went.


2 thoughts on “The Subway Palaces of Tashkent, Uzbekistan

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