Tashkent Metro and other Sights
Tashkent is one of those cities where there isn’t much too see. So never take your girlfriend there on an extended weekend unless you plan to spend most of the time at the hotel pool or in bed. Better go to Khiva, Bukhara or Samarkand.
The city tour, our local guide Jelol took us on, lasted half a day and covered the main attractions. From our hotel we took a public bus that brought us to one of the metro stops. Believe it or not, going by metro is the city’s number one tourist attraction. There are two major reasons for this. One, the Tashkent metro system is one of only two in Central Asia (the other one is in Almaty). And two, the interior of the stations is very splendiferous and ornate. Unfortunately taking pictures in the metro isn’t allowed because it’s considered a military installation. Originally it was designed as a nuclear shelter however only one of the lines is actually capable to serve as a shelter and was build after the end of the cold war. Although I’m German I don’t always stick to the rules and took a few sneaky ones. There were lots of personnel and security cameras around watching what you are doing but they didn’t spot me.
I cannot remember the exact fare of a metro ticket but think it was around 400 Sum (0.16 USD) which you pay at a ticket counter. For that price you receive a blue plastic token which you put into one of the guard barriers. When entering the station you are overwhelmed by Soviet architecture at its best. Each of the three stations we visited looked very much different and centered on a specific cultural or historic theme. One of the stations was ”Космонавтлар” (in English cosmonaut). It was designed in a Soviet space theme and featured pictures of Yuri Gagarin, the first human in outer space, and Valentina Tereshkova, the first women in space. The station was very spacious and reminded me on a huge spaceship. There is also a big digital clock on each platform showing how much time has elapsed since the last train departed which is kind of confusing. Usually those displays show in how many minutes the next train is expected. Speaking of minutes, you never wait more than 5-10 min which is very convenient.
When coming out of the metro we found us at the Independence Square, also known as Mustakillik Square. It’s the political center of Uzbekistan and the senate is located here. You enter the square through a large archway decorated with a sculpture of storks taking flight. During Soviet times the Independence Square used to be the largest inner city square with the tallest Lenin statue in the middle of it. After the independence of Uzbekistan this statue got replaced by the Monument of Independence which is a large golden globe with the map of the country on it. Another monument on the square is the Happy Mother monument which is supposed to symbolize the homeland (mother) and the future (the child she is holding).
In a short walking distance to the Independence Square is the World War II Memorial. It consists of a park with a building holding names of fallen victims, the Crying Mother Monument and an eternal flame. The last building we saw was the Palace of Prince Romanov, now home to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which we weren’t allowed to enter.
When we walked towards a square, with the statue of Amir Timur on the middle of it, we also ran into a small market. Locals were selling self-painted pictures and all kinds of Soviet stuff there. Afterwards we split and people went off to visit all kinds of museums. A few others and I went back to the hotel where I spent the afternoon at the pool.