Ladies and Gentlemen, the shire boys are proud to introduce the first of our country profiles. We figured that since we had only heard about places such as Uzbekistan and Tajikistan thanks to sporcle.com that a bit of research behind some of these places wouldn’t go amidst. And we figured why not share it with our followers as well as tell them our planned itinerary. To start this series off we figured what better place to start than the misunderstood country of Turkmenistan.
Turkmenistan, the North Korea of central Asia, sounds like one of those places which wouldn’t be out of place in George Lucas iconic Star Wars trilogy (we are going to imagine the last three never happened). From its marbal capital, Ashgabat, to the abandoned holiday resort of Awaza, the ruined city of Merv and its most iconic feature the Darwaza gas crater (or the door to hell to you and me). Driving in from Iran our route through this fascinating country will take us through Ashgabat, before we start a 340 mile round detour to spend one night camping by the door to hell, apparently you can smell rotting eggs a few miles away from the site, but just by the pictures we have seen of the place we are pretty sure that isn’t going to be a problem. On our second day we hope to drive 10 hours before reaching the city of Merv. Once the world biggest city there is nothing left of this historic site but ruins. Still, I can think of worst places to grab some shut eye after a day stuck in our hot, smelly and cramped car while all the time having to listen to George’s endless rubbish. After that it’s another early morning and a rush to Turkmenabat and an almost certain terrible experience trying to enter Uzbekistan at the border crossing (our bet is that the bribe money kitty might have to come out).
Unfortunately we will only be staying three days in this weird and wonderful country, however because of the terms of our Transit visa (which allows 5 days) and the fact that overstaying your visa usually means a stint in prison, we figured a couple of days spare in case of the inevitable breakdown wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Over and out,
The Shire Boys x
Ps: We couldn’t finish without mentioning the now deceased, His Excellency Saparmurat Niyazov Turkmenbashy the Great, Father of the Turkmen People. A dictator who came from nothing, an orphan who work his way up through the political system of Turkmenistan. After the downfall of the USSR, Niyazov won the upcoming general election with 99.9% of the vote (It’s worth mentioning he ran unopposed). This guy was, by the sounds of it, one of the most eccentric and totalitarian dictators history has ever produced! A list of the things he banned are as followed: Algebra, P.E and Physics lessons, smoking (after quitting due to a health scare), beards and long hair for men, the opera, lip syncing (yes you read that correctly), ballet, gold teeth and he outlawed having dogs in the capital because he didn’t like there odour. He changed the word for bread to his mother’s name, renamed the month of September after his own book (But that wasn’t enough so he also built a 50ft statue of the book in the centre of Ashgabat), built a few golden statues of himself (including one which rotated so that he was always facing the sun) and tried to built an ice palace in the middle of the Karakum desert (Just because he could). As George so eloquently put it “He sounds like a real dictator, a dictator of the heart.”