It was the second day of our stay in Ashgabat that we decided to get a better idea of how and by what the capital of Turkmenistan lives nowadays. But first of all, let me tell you about those interesting meetings that we had since early in the morning.
Before leaving for the city, we met once again with the German Ambassador to Turkmenistan to conduct an official photo session. Also, we were very pleased to receive from the diplomatic mission staff an ornamented national handkerchief as a gift which we are going to carefully bring to Shanghai. We met the Mongolian rally participants because they lived in just the same hotel as we did. The teams turned out to be miscellaneous as well as their cars. For example, we remembered one American who decided to cover this route single-handedly in his tiny Bedford minivan. Unfortunately, his partner at the last moment failed to participate in that run. We were also fascinated by a female crew from San Francisco who drove the Nissan Micra. For instance, one of the ladies walked barefoot peacefully on the hot asphalt as if she was a yogi. Besides, of course, we were amused by a German crew driving the old Nissan which looked like a rally car, but had very ‘uncomplicated’ design solutions such as an exhaust pipe installed under the front bumper or a luggage compartment door supported by a wooden stick. Instead of the rear seats the guys placed a huge wooden storage box. Yet, the canisters located inside the spare wheels from old German cars were a reasonable solution indeed!
After getting acquainted with the travelers we went to see Ashgabat. Actually, the name of the city was formed from Persian words denoting love and a populated well-maintained land. Indeed, Ashgabat is probably one of the most comfortable cities I've ever seen. ‘The Marble Capital’ – that's how they call this fairy tale city in Turkmenistan – has over half a thousand new buildings faced with white marble, that is, over 4.5 million square meters! They say here that if all the buildings and structures of Ashgabat marble were spread all over the globe, then almost every fifth square meter of its surface would be covered with marble. Glass, concrete and high-rise buildings make Ashgabat strikingly different from other Central Asian capitals. Streets are crystal clean, lawns are full of flowers and vegetation, asphalt is perfectly smooth and ... nothing to see but foreign cars! Sometimes Ashgabat reminds of Dubai somehow, while the nearness of the Iranian mountains makes it even more charming. But where did all the people go? The roads seemed deserted and the town looked like a ghost before us. As the local guides said, in the forty-degree centigrade heat everybody spend days either at home or at work in the office. Only in the evening life comes to the streets. Indeed, as soon as we turned to the nearest shopping center, we found the parking area full of cars, and the building full of people. However, such an unusual emptiness in the streets allowed us to take a lot of shots of the city and, of course, our Volkswagen Tiguan against the background of the astonishing Ashgabat architecture.
In the middle of the day, we again visited our friends from the Volkswagen Garagum Ulag dealership, where the service personnel carried out a thorough technical inspection of our Volkswagen Tiguan and replaced the engine oil. All as per regulations manual! The verdict of the technical specialists was brief and optimistic: our Tiguan was as vigorous as ever and ready for further adventures! And we, in our turn, thank the guys for the high level and quality of service. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts!
At sunset, we visited one of the popular tourist attractions in the Ashgabat suburbs – the Teleradiocenter which is located in the mountains and from where one can enjoy an amazing view of the Turkmen capital and its vicinity. In the same area there is also the ‘Path of Health’ – a well-developed 36-kilometer-long and 5-meter-wide track with lamps and drinking water sources. That is where our day came to an end and we decided to drive through the city one more time to be fascinated by it once again. After all, tomorrow we will say farewell to Turkmenistan as our route leads us to Uzbekistan!
Author: Peter Bakanov