Our Trip Along the Silk Road Summarized

The picture is taken from the webpages of Vodkatrain who operate the tour

 

 

The Silk Road has its name from the trade of silk and other things between Asia and Europe, but the routes used were actually many. They all go through Central Asia, through changing landscape, countries and cultures. On my trip from North Korea to Turkey I made stops on the following places:

 

China: We made one stop at Urumqi, which is a city much different to East Coast China. People are friendlier, the food is like the ex-Soviet countries and most people are muslims. The city feels really Central Asian.

Khazakstan: We stayed in the capital Almaty, which had really good night life and some beautiful mountains lying next to it. The city feels quite like Moscow and more people speak Russian than Khazak.

Uzbekistan: This is the country we spent the most time in and for good reason. We visited Samarkand and Bukhara which have been capitols of one of the Worlds greatest empires where mosques, madrassas, tombs and minarets are built to be the most beautiful ever.

Turkmenistan: We visited Turkmenabat and traveled through the country to see that the capital Ashgabat had gotten all the oil money resulting in a white marble city with lots of fountains and Golden statues. The city has no soul as everything felt a bit fake/un natural, but it was so fascinating to see.

Iran: We stayed in Mashad, Isfahan and Teheran and it was a favorite even though we were tired of mosques and markets which was all there was to see in these cities. The reason being that Iran has the most warm hearted people who showed us that they welcome foreigners by inviting us to their homes, giving us small gifts and just showing genuine interest in us.

Turkey: We went to Ankara and Istanbul which both are cities with a lot of history and are good for cheap onwards flights. The food is also great and it is quite liberal making it a nice place to celebrate having completed the journey

 

Of the total 25 days we spent approximately 200 hours on the train, which I think was just as great as the stops made inbetween. The Silk Road is a trip everyone should have on their bucket list.

Teheran Express

We arrived Teheran early morning, just a few minutes after the train had done its daily 5 am prayer stop. It had been a short ride with just a couple of hours of sleep, so we were all happy when we arrived at our hotel and were told that we could eat breakfast, go swimming in the pool and then sleep a few more hours before starting the sightseeing in the Iranian capitol.

First stop on the tour through the capital was a stop at the palace, where the inside decoration was beautiful and full of mirrors. Next up was the former armory, which now had been turned into a Subway station. The last stop for the day was the former US embassy, which had been taken over during the Islamic eevolution in 1979 and is now being used as a museum showing documents found there that they claim proved surveilance and espionage from the US. The walls around the embassy was full of government propaganda saying “down with the us” and showed pictures of the Statue of Liberty and the American flag portrayed with death skulls and bombs etc.

When taking pictures of the grafitti, some guy stopped to tell us that this was all government propaganda that the Iranian people disliked and wanted removed. That confirmed the feeling I had all along, that the Iranian government do not represent the Iranian people very well. We have been invited over to numerous homes, been welcomed warmly to Iran and have been met with countless people wanting to know where we are from and what our countries were like, with no ulterior motive. Iranians have been the most warm hearted people I have ever met when traveling and they deserve the most of respect, so I ask that the pictures below should be perceived with the belief that this is just government propaganda. Iranians are beautiful people and it is both with exitement and sadness that we will be boarding the Trans Asian Express to Turkey today.

Iranian government propaganda. This does not represent the attitude of the people of Iran, who are the most welcoming and friendly people on my trip. 

Skipping History Class in Isfahan

We got to do a full day of sightseeing in Isfahan to see the Worlds second biggest plaza (after Tianamen Square in Beijing), the palace, some underground and overground Mosques and the famous bridges that connect the South of the city with the North. For the two next days our guide could not show up due to some tragic events, so we were on our own to do whatever we wanted to.

With plenty of historic sights seen the last couple of weeks we were ready for something more adventurous, so we headed off to the amusement park Dream Land situated about half an hour outside the city of Isfahan. The park was completely empty and with our entry pass costing just 400 000 rials (10USD) we could take the rides as many times as we wanted, e.g the rollercoaster that we took five times non stop. It was almost like being back in Turkmenistan where there were heaps of things to see and do, but with no other people. The spinning chairs from the pictures below were my absolute favorite, where I could have just gone again and again for a whole day straight. Just being in my own thoughts, in a chair gently flying through the air in a faraway country..

Mashad- the Most Sacred City of Iran

When crossing the border from Turkmenistan to Iran there was an instant transformation of how people behaved and how they dressed. By law all women in Iran have to cover their hair and body and men have to wear long trousers. There were more pictures of political and religious leaders than there were comercial advertisement on the streets and people were much more friendly than any of the places we had visited so far. When buying dried fruit on the market a seller insisted on not accepting any money and everywhere we go there are people coming up to us to ask where we are from and welcome us to Iran. Alcohol is illegal here, but shisha (waterpipe) bars were plentiful.

 

Mashad is the second holiest city for Shia muslims after Mecca and a place where millions of people come visit as part of their pilgrimages. The reason for the holiness being that the Imam Ali al-Reza was buried on a place where it has been built the worlds biggest shrine for praying together with a mosque which has the biggest dome in the world. Bringing in cameras was not allowed, but it was nice to just walk around and learn about the religion which makes Iran the country that is today.

Everyone wants to talk to you in Iran, just like these school girls

Upcoming Travels

Travelplanning

I always have a lot of trips to look forward to, and during the next few months I will travel to the following places:

November 14.-16. Ireland: Celebrating my birthday together with my girlfriend doing christmas shopping and visiting breweries and destilleries

November 21.-30. Cuba: Sailing through the Canarreos Archipelago. A free study trip with Kilroy and G-Adventures

December-31-January 4. Turkey: Celebrating New Years in one of my favorite cities; Istanbul. Business Class tickets that I won with TK through an Instagram competition earlier this year

March 30.- April 4. Sri Lanka: Renting a motorcycle to explore remote villages of the up and coming country

April 4.-13. Maldives: Cruising through the Vadhoo Canal on a Dhoni Boat with G-Adventures. Experiencing local life on the beaches and fishing villages of Dhiggaru, Felidhoo and Enboodhoofinolhu.

April 25.-30. North Korea: Traveling from Beijing over to their mysterious neighbor in the east

May 1.-25. China, Khazakstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Turkey: on the Silk Road with Vodkatrain

 

Have you done any of these trips and have anything to share or recommend from your own trip? Feel free to comment!