Arriving at the train stations and boarding the trains was an interesting experience.
The train station is all gated and we had to walk around, through a side gate, which I guess is the main (only) entrance, and then near the front of the building is a guards' station. The guards checked our passports and tickets and then we were allowed to walk through and enter the train station.
As soon we as entered the train station we put our bags through a security scanner and then we each walked through a scanner as well. The guards once again checked out passports and tickets and then we proceeded through the station towards the platform. ('Platform' seems as if it will forever be a word that I now know in Italian, 'binario', and can never think of in English!)
Walking onto the platform toward the train, there were more guards and a turnstile-type gate. The guards checked our tickets, marked our tickets, and allowed us to pass through.
Whew! Good thing we left enough time for the train station's process! The same thing happened to us at both train stations.
Every guard that checked our passports was very surprised that we are Americans. They do not see many Americans traveling in Uzbekistan. Some of them have relatives studying in America and were happy to meet us. Everyone that we met were very friendly and nice.
Our nook on the train from Samarkand to Bukhara:
There were three chairs in a row, facing the table shown above and a television, which we could not turn the volume down, nor turn off : P
I love these glasses!
As seen from the chugging train:
Awesome old cars everywhere:
Our friend, Goula, giving us a snack:
Goula, Goula, Goula.
I'm not sure if I'm spelling it correctly but she said that her name means 'rose' in Uzbek. When the lady at the guesthouse brought us rose jam the next morning with breakfast, I said "goula!" and she was VERY surprised. Haha.
Goula also taught us the word for 'beautiful' - 'Gozal'. This is the name of her daughter-in-law. I also used this Uzbek word with the lady at our guesthouse in Bukhara when she had changed into a new robe and I told her it was beautiful. She and I became good friends. : )
Back to Goula-on-the-train: Goula was the lady sitting with Jaime and I in the carriage. She is originally from Bukhara but has been living in Tashkent for years now - after marrying a man from Tashkent.
Her English was superb, although she said she hasn't used it in years. She was surprised that we were two young American girls traveling in Uzbekistan. Goula talked to us... the.entire.3-hour.ride.
She was very nice but it was a lot. - Too much after some time. I tried to close my eyes and take a nap during the ride but Goula did not approve of that! : P
Goula is recently divorced but hoping that her husband comes back to her. We learned all about the woman that he left her for. Goula owns farmland and grows fruit near Tashkent. Goula knows of a very long bridge in NYC and scolded me when I mentioned that we are not from the big city but from further north... THAT is not what she is talking about. Yikes. Ok!
Goula wants to begin a business with us. We can have her mail goods from Uzbekistan to us and we can sell them. Selling goods like this can pay for our travels. Why would we not do this?!
Goula wants us to call her and she will come to our hotel and take us out all day the next day. She is going to take us to a public bath. She repeatedly questioned me when I said that she and Jaime could go but I did not want to get naked in public. I would be happy to shop on my own and go to a cafe while they went to the bath. Goula asked why I would not want to go. I said that I did not want to get naked in public. She asked why. I said that I thought my first response was good enough. (At this point, I had had enough. Very nice lady but too much.)
Arriving to Bukhara, we said goodbye to Goula and went out to meet our taxi driver, as was set up and already paid for by the travel agency.
Low and behold, Goula is following us and strikes up a conversation with the taxi driver. The two of them talk the entire walk to the car. The driver puts our bags into the trunk and we, once again, say goodbye to Goula.
Surprise, surprise! Goula has talked to the taxi driver and he will drive her home as well.
Goula now knows where we are staying and continues to make plans of all the things she will show us the next day. In part, I think that would be really cool - to have her show us Bukhara. But mostly, I want to walk and explore on my own at my own pace with Jaime. We have just over one day in Bukhara and I don't want to feel like I'm stuck with someone that is nice but a bit rude and pushy.
Turns out, she didn't love where our hotel was located nor did she want to walk in her heels all the way down the alley to our hotel, so we said goodbye (AGAIN!) and we were on our way. We did not call Goula and did not see her again.
OH! - but the photo above...
During each train ride, we received tea and a complimentary sandwich. Picking the meat off the sandwich, I quite enjoyed the bread and cheese. During the train ride with Goula, I was still pretty hungry and was going to see if I could purchase another sandwich. When Goula overheard me talking to Jaime about this, she said she would take care of it (nice of her!).
Goula is gone for a minute and then pops her head through the door and says, "Do either of you have a knife?"
Uhhh, no. We don't have a knife.
She leaves again.
Goula comes back a couple minutes later with a large knife. (???)
She then gets her bag from under the table and begins taking a bunch of plastic bags out.
Out comes cheese, the traditional bread roll, and sausage links.
Oh geez. If you know me well, you might know that I'm quite fearful of food not being refrigerated properly. Who knows how long this stuff has been sitting out! Goula was traveling twice as far as us, having already been on the train that morning from Tashkent.
I tried to nicely thank her and say no thank you, but she wasn't having it.
I at least did say that I'm vegetarian, so couldn't eat the sausage / hot dog. I was hoping Jaime would speak up and say she was vegetarian too, but didn't want to speak for her in case she was alright with the meat. Come to find out later - Jaime didn't want the hot dog at all but felt stuck. Goula was super pushy and it became one of those things where Goula was insulted if we said no to something.
So... we had pieces of bread and fresh cheese - it was like mozzarella. My first piece of cheese had some kind of a hair stuck in it. Jaime was able to swallow a bite of the sausage and pretended to want to split the link in half with Goula. Yikes!
Well... I asked for a cheese sandwich and got one! The picture above is of Goula making our sandwiches.
She also took photos of us on her camera... she didn't think the camera on her phone was working and now she has about 40 photos of Jaime and I.
We were missing Bon Cafe's lovely coffee and macroons in Tashkent... couple more days until we're back to get THAT! ...
Beyond our train adventures, the small airport in Bukhara was another adventure.
The taxi dropped us off about 100 meters from the front of the building. Like the train stations, there was a gate surrounding most of the building. We had to walk around the side to enter through a guards' station and then into the building. Walking up to the airport felt like a deserted Disney World. It was odd. There were people waiting to be picked up from little stations with benches... there was a loud speaker that would say things now and then but it was silent other than that... and we felt like the only two people there.
Entering the airport was quite like the train station as well. We had to sit and wait to check in until it was closer to our flight time. After check in and proceeding upstairs towards the gate, the workers at passport control were sleeping...........
The flight turned out to be fine. We made it back to Tashkent and had another evening to hang out with my friend Donna : ) I departed early the next morning.