Tashkent is probably an unusual destination to recommend for a city break but for me it made a good pitstop on my Central Asia travel odyssey through the former Soviet republics of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
Mainly because it has actual hotels and is somewhere you can (with some difficulty) get cash and have travel visas delivered!
In fact Tashkent is quite a pleasant city and worth a visit. Like other towns and cities developed by the Soviets in this part of the world it is well laid out, low rise and leafy. Chorsu bazaar is where everyone shops and the plov (Central Asia’s answer to pilaf) got my thumbs up, not being oily and having nice lean meat.
Whatever you may want to say about the politics of Uzbekistan, Tashkent’s Independence Square is an impressive green space setting off the public buildings with colonnades and sculptures.
Tashkent has an impressively decorative metro system (similar to the famous Moscow metro). Each station is unique, everything from cupolas, colonnades and chandeliers to Timurid tiles and cosmonaut-inspired art. Kosmonaut station is particularly beautiful with exquisite blue tiles and spooky 1960s glass cladding on the pillars.
The Tashkent train museum is simply awesome, filled with fabulous old USSR behemoths from the last 60-70 years. I love train travel and it was amazing to see these old beasts, and the old signal system with the wire rings handed to the driver – just as I have seen on the ‘toy trains’ of India (Simla and the Kalka Valley).
No visit to Tashkent would be complete without a visit to the gracious Alisher Navoi Theatre. They put on a different show every night, which for us was an almost passable production of Swan Lake.
By Natasha von Geldern