I have now arrived in Istanbul after a journey of 45 days from Beijing. It seemed quite daunting at the beginning but went very smoothly and was so well organised that we just followed along.
What are the common threads I wonder.
The first which came to mind are mulberry trees, there are mulberry trees all the way, we have eaten white mulberries from Beijing to Istanbul.
Markets/bazaars. Bazaars seem to be a thriving centre in each of the cities, selling fresh and dried food, spices, and goods of all descriptions. The word ‘traders’ is used which seem to suggest so much more than ‘shopkeeper’. Many of the foodstuffs sold in these bazaars are the same as has always been sold however much of the other items may now very well, I was going to say, made else where ie watches, mobile phones, clothes etc. but I guess bazaars have always sold goods from elsewhere.
They have all been very crowded and busy. We went to the Muslim night market in Xian, mostly a food market which has been ‘tidied up’ in recent years. Then markets all the way to the miles of bazaar in Isfaban and then the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul now a mecca for tourists but with some traders who have been there for generations.
Islam is practiced from Xian to Istanbul. We visited the mosque in Xian and then mosques all the way to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. Some of the countries are secular states which forbid the Call for Prayer such as Uzbekistan.
Food Kebabs first appeared to us as street food in Xian China and were very common food through to Istanbul.
Bread was an essential part of every meal from Turpan. The shape of the bread varied from place to place but large loaves or baskets of bread were provided as soon as we sat down. For us use to a small dinner roll it was much too much bread.
Cheese appeared on the breakfast table from Turpan to Istanbul. It is soft fresh sheep’s cheese as these people were nomads.
Tea was the main drink along the entire journey.
Life was difficult for coffee drinkers until we got to Bukhara where the number of tourists meant cafes sold lattes.
We travelled by train and mini van. In China the stations were full of men who seemed to be travelling to work in distant locations.
The roads were all sealed, except for the 200km to the border between China and Krygizstan which is under construction and the Military Road from Tbilisi to the Russian border which was a detour for us to see the monastery. Some roads needed much work such as between Samarkand and Bukhara. The road from the Turkish border to Istanbul was a divided 4 lane highway.
We saw long lines of trucks waiting to cross some borders, especially entering and leaving China.
However we also shared the road with donkey carts, cows grazing, sheep and cattle being driven, and small tractors pulling carts carrying the whole family or goods.
Other sights in the towns were different for us.
So all in all an extraordinary journey and much easier than most imagine.