Getting into Uzbekistan generally means that you have to spend some time in Tashkent. While the Silk Road beckons, I would actually spend more time in Tashkent … not only is it a big city, but it is a super historical one as well. Aside from the large roads, beautiful subway stations that you cannot legally take pictures of, and great architecture … you’re also going to find a lot of markets. I like markets a lot … I’ll put them with churches, cemeteries and waterfalls on my photographic wish list. They’re always super interesting and you’ll always meet tons of curious people. Tashkent has many markets and bazaars and you can buy almost anything at the markets in Tashkent. If you’re on a timeline as I was, then I would pick a walk through Chorsu Bazaar. It’s the oldest market in Tashkent and you cannot miss the distinctive blue-green dome. It dominates the skyline of the area.
Hundreds years ago it was one of the busiest bazaars in Central Asia, since it is located on the silk route. The location hasn’t changed in all these years but the old buildings have been replaced by modern buildings. Like any other oriental Bazaar, Chorsu is spread over a large area – so be prepared to walk around. Architecturally, the dome is fantastic … it’s tough to take an uninteresting picture in here.
While walking around the market, be prepared to haggle with vendors. The great thing was that people were more curious than anything else. Unlike our markets in Trinidad – people aren’t aggressively trying to sell you stuff (I won’t even mention a Jamaican shopping experience). The market is definitely busy, but as mentioned – you won’t have a bad shot. BTW – do buy some nuts from the vendors … you’ll probably have the best pistachios of your life in here, as well as honey dipped, sesame seed crusted varieties …
There is also a full abbatoir and dairy market … they also sell these dried yogurt like things. There are tons of vendors selling them, but I had no idea what they were – but thankfully if you google “Dried yogurt balls in chorsu bazaar”, you’ll get Kurut. Thankfully, I had my Russian spy to sample them for me … his feedback was that they tasted like “old yogurty feet” … the powdery consistency got stuck in his mouth for way too long, and the saltiness was only slightly overpowered by the harsh old yogurt/cheese taste.
I guess if you’re looking for cheesy, salty, yogurty balls … then Kurut is your thing. I’m so super glad, I had someone there to try this stuff … because if I had tried it … it would have resulted in a diplomatic incident … most likely all over the floor of Chorsu Bazaar. My advice is that if you’re not a fan of dairy products, then it should take a very, very long time before you get into an actual food-to-mouth position with kurut. As an FYI, there were entire stands of pungent rocks and balls.
As a Trini, you’re also going to want to buy some chilies or spice in the market. The food will never be hot enough for you. I suggest going to any chili vendor, having a Russian explain that you think their chilies are shit and that they couldn’t produce something spicy, if their lives depended on it and possibly their grandchildren’s. You’ll be inundated with requests to try every type of spice for free!
If you’re super lucky … you’re going to end up with a bottle of very good pepper sauce (hot sauce) … and like a good Trini … you’re going to take it to every restaurant with you – like the WORLD BOSS that you are, to apply generously with your horse meat and cold noodles (shown directly in the center) … but that’s for another blog.