Eating My Way Across Uzbekistan – Part 1

My first morning in Uzbekistan, and I’m exhausted. The journey here has taken days. I only fell asleep a few hours ago, but the morning sun is already burning through our hotel room windows.  Unable to sleep any longer, I decided to go for a walk.

Most of the city is still asleep, save for a few birds and the odd policeman. I wandered through the old covered bazaars and caravanserai, past the mosques and medressas that will be packed with tourists in a few hours, and started down one of Bukhara’s dusty back streets.

The conversation began, like so many others in this part of the world, “Hello mister, where are you from… “. My cynical brain is sure this is a trap. But it’s too late to get away. An outstretched hand can’t be ignored. Best case, he wants to sell me a rug. Worst case, I am the rug. A moment later and I’m being led by the arm into the stranger’s house.

We duck under a low doorway and round a corner into a room that somehow is even hotter and dustier than the desert air outside. I’m now standing just inches away from a fire burning so hot, my eyeballs may start sweating any moment. Two more men are waiting in the room to continue the interrogation.

I manage, in my heavily-accented, light-on-vocabulary Russian, to explain that I am a tourist from America. I show them my camera. One man pounds the table while another man asks the questions. He doesn’t wait for me to answer the first question before shouting the next one. He has to raise his voice for me to hear him over Michael Jacksons’ Smooth Criminal blaring from the radio.

Far from a scam or an assault, this was my first taste of Uzbekistan’s famous hospitality. The men, as far as I can tell, are father and sons. The woman, who was present in the room with us but never spoke, must be the mother. The family bakes Non bread out of their modest home in Bukhara.

One brother mixed the dough as the other formed it into balls and left it to rise. The father proudly displayed his collection of dough stamps, the round tools covered in spikes that they use to prevent the centers of the loaves from rising, giving Uzbek Non bread it’s distinctive form. The clay oven burned bright and hot, but they didn’t start actually baking any loaves before I left. Still I considered this a good omen for the rest of my trip.

In Samarkand, I struck gold. I followed a young boy pushing a cart down a small alley. He was heading the opposite direction from everyone else. Away from the main pedestrian street that connects the Bibi Khanum Mosque with the Registan.

His cart, like dozens of others I had seen in the bazaar, was a mutant. The chassis and wheels were from an ancient baby carriage, and on top, there was a round platform wrapped in old linens. Unlike the carts I’d seen in the bazaar which were piled high with bread for sale, the boy’s cart was empty.

Following the boy lead me straight to the source. Another family bakery. This time, I caught them in the middle of the day, just as they were pulling piping hot loaves of Non bread out of the oven.

There are very few pleasures in life that can compare to tearing into a freshly baked loaf of bread. Warm and pillowy soft inside, with just the right amount of crunch on the outside.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Anthony Bourdain. Today would have been his 63rd birthday.

The World According to Instagram

Instagram now has over one billion users. That’s roughly three times the population of the entire United States, sharing and liking photos and videos. Not exactly a well-kept secret, but I think most people underestimate just how massive the “Instagram effect” can be. Especially when it comes to discovering new trends. Instagram influences the way we dress, the things we buy, and the food we eat. But what about travel? How has Instagram changed the way we travel?

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Oh the places I (still) want to go…

When I tell people that I have lived for years as a nomad, traveling all the time, they often say to me, “You must have been everywhere by now!”
No way!
I am very fortunate, having traveled to many countries, but there are so many more that I have not yet visited. I am missing two whole continents (I have never been to Australia or Antarctica) and I’ve only just scratched the surface of Africa.
Even in Europe, where I’ve done the most exploring, I still have a handful of countries left to visit… like Scotland, Sweden, and Norway in the North; Cyprus and Malta in the South; also Belarus, and a few of the Balkans. Closer to home, I’ve never even been to Mexico, Central America, or anywhere in the Caribbean!
I don’t travel for the sake of “checking countries off my list.”  Instead, I go to the places that interest me the most. I also revisit my favorite places as often as I can. As for the rest, I figure I’ll get there eventually.
But there are plenty of new places that I am very eager to visit. Here are a few of the ones that excite me the most at the moment:

continue reading Oh the places I (still) want to go…

Journey to Patagonia: Part 1

April 13, 2018

Arrival in Buenos Aires.

I just traveled for an entire day to get here. Uber from Cascais to Lisbon, three hour flight from Lisbon to Frankfurt, and a 14 hour non-stop flight from Frankfurt to Buenos Aires. Then the taxi ride from the airport to my Airbnb in Palermo took so long that I had to ask the driver to stop for a bathroom break. There was an accident on the main road, so we took a detour. So did everyone else. A few more detours later and we were on a road that was only partially paved, and surrounded by trash heaps.

Even after all that, I’m a little surprised to actually be here. I almost cancelled this entire trip to South America. It sounded fun, but too disruptive. There’s too much going on in my life. Work is busy! I need to get back to DC. All the usual excuses. Plus, this was supposed to be the year to slow down a bit, travel a little less, and spend more time in one place. Instead, I’ve been to five continents in five months.

continue reading Journey to Patagonia: Part 1