A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about gonur depe

Mary City Sightseeing

A leisurely day


View The Forgotten Stan - Turkmenistan 2019 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Despite being up three times in the night, I managed to get nine hours sleep last night. I still feel tired though.

After a breakfast of egg, salami and bread, we head out to explore the town of Mary.

large_abeb6050-2b36-11eb-89f0-37e8cfb48f64.jpg
As in Ashgabat, everything seems to be white and gold here too.

Mary Museum

The map shows the different areas of Turkmenistan, and Meylis points out the route we took across the desert. All the images from the museum are taken without flash, and from behind glass, so are mostly of very poor quality.

large_cb5648b0-2b36-11eb-89f0-37e8cfb48f64.jpg


The first part of the museum is dedicated to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, the current leader of Turkmenistan, featuring photographic evidence about his super-powers, with such amazing qualities and abilities, such as football, tennis cycling, horse riding, rally driving, target shooting, martial arts, running, cooking, cotton picker, factory worker, even a qualified surgeon!

large_7906ab20-2b6a-11eb-81f5-b59c8366ca61.jpg

The next section is a display of the animals found in this region.

large_409dd540-2b6c-11eb-82e3-a785d16cce9f.jpg

large_49a38e50-2b6c-11eb-82e3-a785d16cce9f.jpg

large_51dd1dc0-2b6c-11eb-82e3-a785d16cce9f.jpg

large_a283aee0-2beb-11eb-805f-75e495567237.jpg
7th century lamps found at Merv archaeological site

large_0842e4d0-2bec-11eb-805f-75e495567237.jpg
14th century jewellery featuring serdolik stones

large_e38f7d00-2bec-11eb-805f-75e495567237.jpg
Sugar and tea - essential trade items along the famed Silk Road

large_f747b4c0-2bec-11eb-805f-75e495567237.jpg
Gold medal from 5th Asian Games

large_172cd630-2bed-11eb-805f-75e495567237.jpg
Weighlifting medals

large_26e6de40-2bed-11eb-805f-75e495567237.jpg
Viktor Sariyanidi, the man who discovered Gonur Depe archaeological site

large_e3a61cd0-2bed-11eb-805f-75e495567237.jpg
Painting using just red and white colours by A Akyyev called Guljemal Khan

A number of dioramas show traditional life in Turkmenistan.

large_95feb3f0-2c08-11eb-8c5a-ad0d0141596c.jpg

large_9f9ed840-2c08-11eb-8c5a-ad0d0141596c.jpg

large_a8ca8fe0-2c08-11eb-8c5a-ad0d0141596c.jpg
Showing the traditional bread oven

large_d933aa00-2c11-11eb-b0b9-110978e02e9a.jpg
Needles for making holes in the bread

large_54c8f930-2c13-11eb-8222-617e8849519a.jpg
Traditional Central Asian felt making

large_81869120-2c14-11eb-8222-617e8849519a.jpg
A traditional Turkmen wedding

large_5b43d6c0-2c15-11eb-8222-617e8849519a.jpg
Desert hunting dogs - still used today. No weapons are allowed while hunting, only dogs

large_6812f3e0-2c15-11eb-8222-617e8849519a.jpg
Traditional yurt

large_74d2cec0-2c15-11eb-8222-617e8849519a.jpg
Inside the yurt

The most interesting section of the museum, to me, is the part dedicated to the items found during excavations of Gonur Depe, the archaeological site we visited yesterday. These exhibits completely blow my mind – it is almost incomprehensible to take in the fact that they are FOUR THOUSAND years old!

large_0be57c10-52b1-11eb-a3bd-31285b655afb.jpg

large_24c82e80-52b1-11eb-a3bd-31285b655afb.jpg

large_34c7cb10-52b1-11eb-a3bd-31285b655afb.jpg

It is believed that life ended in Gonur Depe as the river changed course and deprived the inhabitants of a water source. As they left, they practised the scorched earth policy, setting fire to the town before departure.

large_85d722d0-52b1-11eb-a3bd-31285b655afb.jpg
How historians believe the people of Gonur Depe looked like.

large_261eef70-52b2-11eb-a3bd-31285b655afb.jpg
Model of Gonur Depe in its heyday

While the items unearthed at Merw – which we will be visiting tomorrow – are nowhere near as old as they ones from Gonur Depe, they depict a rich mix of cultures as Merw was known as the heart of the Silk Road.

large_fa3b50e0-52bd-11eb-8c15-59ab5e823133.jpg

large_09bc2080-52be-11eb-8c15-59ab5e823133.jpg

large_15e93140-52be-11eb-8c15-59ab5e823133.jpg
The intriguing mythical bull figure

large_25c16fb0-52be-11eb-8c15-59ab5e823133.jpg
Artistic interpretation of Merw

Mary Library

We leave the museum to explore more of the town of Mary. The roof of the library opens up to reveal tulip-type petals, hiding a powerful telescope. This is a nod to the famous Observatory in ancient Merw, where dozens of scientists, including Omar Khayyam studied the universe.

large_0c160420-52c0-11eb-a444-b7800d0d771c.jpg

The library holds three million books and can accommodate 600 readers at any one time. It was opened in 2011 and cost $36 million to build. The library is a reminder that Merw was famous for the world's largest library that was once the centre of science, education and culture.

Gurbanguly Hajji Mosque

The mosque was renovated during Ramadan last year, replacing the previous orange dome with the current gilded version.

large_605d1c60-52c2-11eb-82d2-ab4033bc1213.jpg

The prayer hall can hold 3,000 male worshippers, with a further 2,000 women on the second floor. Unlike the previous mosques we have visited, where the writing has been in the local Turkmen language, here the scripts are all in traditional Islamic calligraphy.

large_6b8ba8e0-52c2-11eb-82d2-ab4033bc1213.jpg

large_796e31d0-52c2-11eb-82d2-ab4033bc1213.jpg
The beautiful dome

Pokrovskaya Russian Orthodox Church

The church was built around 1900 by Russian forces after they seized the city in 1884 and guarded it against frequent attacks by British forces and Afghan armies.

large_115cbfc0-52c8-11eb-837f-03d7b8e99621.jpg

Following the Russian Revolution and the Establishment of the Soviet Union, religious freedoms were curtailed and by the 1930s, the church was closed, the priest executed, the cross torn down, and the building repurposed as a club and later a military warehouse. The church returned to its original function in 1947, following the end of World War II, though religious activities remained tightly controlled under Stalin's officially atheist regime.

large_2a465000-52c8-11eb-837f-03d7b8e99621.jpg

Only with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 was atheism no longer encouraged by the state. Following the breakup of the USSR, the various Republics were free to form their own religious policies. In Turkmenistan, the Russian Orthodox church is officially recognized as about 3% of the population are Orthodox believers.

large_4bdccaf0-52c8-11eb-837f-03d7b8e99621.jpg

large_56bb3ba0-52c8-11eb-837f-03d7b8e99621.jpg

Just like Doubting Thomas, devotees touch the crucified feet of Jesus, as can be seen by the flaking worn-out paint.

large_39e751d0-52c8-11eb-837f-03d7b8e99621.jpg

large_68f5d410-52c8-11eb-837f-03d7b8e99621.jpg

Outside the church we encounter a group of beggars, the first we've seen on this trip. I ask Meylis if I can give them something, and how much. He suggests 10 manat (less than £3), and that I tell them to “deletes”, which means share. They appear very grateful. (bad photo from inside the car as we drive off)

large_Beggars.jpg

Aladdin Café
Today's lunch restaurant, located near our hotel, is a funky retro-style café (Turkmenistan's answer to the Hard Rock Café chain) with quirky charm and good, mostly Turkish, food.

large_e0cc7e80-52d2-11eb-a089-750c42fa444b.jpg

large_eafe5b80-52d2-11eb-a089-750c42fa444b.jpg

large_f84e1a50-52d2-11eb-a089-750c42fa444b.jpg

large_051daca0-52d3-11eb-a089-750c42fa444b.jpg

large_10cd5000-52d3-11eb-a089-750c42fa444b.jpg

large_2a44c860-52d3-11eb-a089-750c42fa444b.jpg
Tavuk Döş – a tasty and tender chicken dish, here shown with Dymok, a smoked vegetable salsa

large_39f70840-52d3-11eb-a089-750c42fa444b.jpg
Karişik Pide – Turkish pizza with minced lamb

Shopping

After lunch Meylis takes us to the supermarket for 'essential supplies' for a room picnic this evening. We buy some local wine (against Meylis' advice – he says it is “no good”. I always like to try local food and drink, so at just $2, I take a chance), cheese and various snacks. I am out or rum, so we look at the Bacardi in the wine store, but when we compare the price of the imported rum (460 manat, a very steep £100) against that of the local vodka at 26 manat (just over £5), it's a bit of a no-brainer. The supermarket, like many other shops in this part of the world, has no small coins, so gives us back sweets and chewies in lieu of change.

large_5b63db20-52d3-11eb-a089-750c42fa444b.jpg

We continue to the pharmacy for a cold spray for David's leg. The only thing they can offer is a cream, and he gets headache tablets as change.

large_67930ec0-52d3-11eb-a089-750c42fa444b.jpg

Free afternoon

Back in the room we find that there has been no maid service while we have been out, which means there is no toilet paper. We anticipated a shortage, as this seems to have been the norm so far on this trip, so we bought some earlier in the grocery store.

Having ended up with a bit more time here in Mary than anticipated due to the change of itinerary after David hurt his leg, there is nothing planned for us for the rest of this afternoon. There are no book stores nearby, nor a hotel shop, and I didn't bring my kindle, any books or magazines, as I didn't expect to have any time to read them. Most western websites are banned – YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, BBC and other news outlets, even my chiropractor's site is unavailable. I can get gmail, that's my only way of keeping in touch with the outside world, and the VPN I purchased before leaving home, is not working either. There is a pool, but neither of us brought swim wear. Not only can David barely walk, it is also over 40 °C outside , so exploring the surrounding area on foot is out of the question. A snooze it is then.

Room Picnic

Our room here in Mary is spacious and well furnished, perfect for a room picnic. Using my sarong as a tablecloth and the lids of our Tupperware containers as plates, plus we always bring plastic tumblers and sporks (combined spoon+knife+fork) – we are well equipped.

large_fdb7bb10-5339-11eb-a236-2d4adc0ec1f3.jpg
As always, we have bought way too much food, and also some surprising stuff – what we thought was a savoury snack, turns out to be sugar puff cereal! Oh well.

large_e2b89bd0-533a-11eb-a236-2d4adc0ec1f3.jpg
David's doorstep cheese sandwich!

large_148ab570-533c-11eb-b8df-c11bbe07cba2.jpg
The wine. What can I say about the wine? It smells, looks and tastes like medicine, or a really bad Muscat wine. Maylis was right, it is D.I.S.G.U.S.T.I.N.G.! One mouthful and the rest goes down the loo!

large_6befe880-533c-11eb-b8df-c11bbe07cba2.jpg
The vodka makes up for it though, this was a brand recommended by Artem. When the locals drink vodka and Coke, they have it in two separate glasses, and will take one mouthful of neat vodka followed by one mouthful of Coke. We mix it together in the same glass, however.

That bring us to the end of another day in Turkmenistan, on a fascinating trip arranged by Undiscovered Destinations. If you are into unusual travel destinations, check them out, they have a number of great itineraries, as groups or private tours.

large_92029cc0-533c-11eb-b8df-c11bbe07cba2.jpg

Posted by Grete Howard 23:32 Archived in Turkmenistan Tagged mosque church shopping museum wine picnic pizza mary library vodka hard_rock_cafe rum supermarket pharmacy cheese yurt turkish_food merv vpn russian_orthodox_church pide orthodox_church undiscovered_destinations room_picnic gurbanguly_berdimuhamedow leg_injury gmail golden_dome mary_library merw mary_museum gonur_depe felt_making serdolik archaeological_finds gurbanguly_hajji_mosque spork sore-leg aladdin_café pokrovskaya Comments (2)

(Entries 1 - 1 of 1) Page [1]