One thing I was looking forward to when arriving to Uzbekistan was a bottle of beer, from the month spent in Iran where alcohol is illegal to the whirlwind tour of Turkmenistan I was getting an urge for a drink, not a massive drink just a couple of bottles. The vision I had of Uzbekistan was of a free`er land than to Iran in people and society, in hindsight it did`nt quite feel like that, police checkpoints were dotted regularly along roads and the freedom of wild camping was hindered having to register each night in a hotel or guesthouse, due to regulations tourists must carry registration slips as proof of residency each night, if found without deportation is what can normally happen, sometimes it was`nt always possible to find a place that`s licensed to accept tourists or was within cycling distance.
Eventually crossing the border after having a bit of an episode as to which nationally i`am, I thought I was loosing my mind at one point, handing over my passport I was asked what nationality, I replied British, the guard replied Britannia? pointing to the computer screen which was in Russian lettering, I said no i`m English which created a confusion, then explaining i`m from the UK which is also called England and Great Britain, created further confusion, after being firm looking the man in the eye, I said im British, British!, he looked at the cover of the passport pointed to where it says, & Northern Ireland, replied, Ireland? with a straight face.
The first night in Uzbekistan unable to register to a hotel, I stopped at a man named Asan`s house who I got talking to in a small town called Qarakol, On the night we went to meet his friends at a restaurant down the road. Walking in, there was a table full of food and 2 bottles of vodka on the table, myself and Asan sat down to eat and join in with toast after toast of drinking shots of vodka from soup bowls.
waking up in the morning washing my face with cold water from a tin jug, everything was basic living, we sat and ate stale bread with a fried egg. Looking up from where i was sitting there was a large poster on the wall of an immaculate very expensive looking living room with glistening table & chairs and flowers in vases.
The following days cycling towards Samarqand felt quite a false sense of security with the midwinter weather of central Asia i`d been expecting, one freak day reached 26 degrees Celsius in Samarqand, other days was coat wearing weather a bit more like an Autumns day, then three days later within two miles of leaving Almalyk snow appeared.
Arriving to go through a tunnel in the mountain side an army officer beckoned me to stop and to show my passport and visa, we had a bit of a joke about vodka, then I set off on my way through the tunnel to go to the other side where i was stopped again to show my details, the only thing I can think of was in case I`d made a quick identity change. After going through three tunnels the final one was downhill to Qoqand, through all the ride until then I`d never been so cold, there was a freezing fog in the air which gave the first sense of midwinter weather. Passing a women on the side of the road, catching her out of the corner of my eye, sitting there knitting with no gloves on selling apples!
Uzbekistan is the only doubly landlocked country in Central Asia and one of only two such countries worldwide.
Before 1991 Uzbekistan was part of the Soviet Union.
The population to Uzbekistan is 26.8 million.
The vast majority of Uzbekistan's citizens are Sunni Muslims, at 88% of the population. An additional 9% are Orthodox Christians, primarily of the Russian Orthodox faith. There are tiny minorities of Buddhists and Jews, as well.
The area of Uzbekistan is 172,700 square miles (447,400 square kilometers).
The highest temperature ever recorded in Uzbekistan was 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius). The all-time low was -31 Fahrenheit (-35 Celsius).
The Uzbek economy is based primarily on raw materials export. Uzbekistan is a major cotton producing country, and also exports large amounts of gold, uranium, and natural gas.
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