Along the Silk Road 2016.

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Another episode- rather a long one! - in our adventure packed lives - from Beijing to Istanbul

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Leaving Valencia on September 11th and enjoying a Business Class lounge in Istanbul- en route that is!

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Made it to the Start- a really nice hotel, so nice we demanded loads & loads of pictures be taken. Very pleasant garden,
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yummy, yummy breakfasts and met up with Mike for lunch. Yet to meet those other 12 in our Wild Frontiers Group though!

 

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Next big adventure was getting up on to that Great Wall - actually in a cable car! One or two of the group might have caught a glimpse of us by now!
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Then an overnight train to Xian- we'd rather forget about that! Busy market, peaceful mosque & then Wow!- all those terracotta warriors
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and they were real life size, dwarved us lads!. Then we learnt some Chinese Calligraphy - bit messy but made quite a good go of it!
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We also visited the Wild Goose Pagoda. Then did the city walls before we came out at dinner - & the group peered at us, somewhat suspiciously!
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Yet another train- hey and there's Jude, tour leader, & others

 

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Installed in Xiahe, met the Tibetan hotel owner, & acquired a new brother, young Kubla Khan, yak

 

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Toured the monastery in the pouring rain and saw some of the monks: envied them theiryellow hats

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Then on from Xiahe and its monastery to the fantastic Buddha Caves at Bingling Si

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Took a speedboat across to the miraculous Bingling Si site on the Yellow River: hundreds of buddhas, from 420 AD onwards, carved in the rock. And fantastic mountain scenery all around
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Availed ourselves of this transport to get back to our bus: well at home with the group now! And were unfazed by another train

 

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delivering us to Jiayuguan, with dancing in the dolphin park . Inspected a clean Muslim restaurant before visiting the Wei Jin tombs. Then, at the nearby Wall,
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whilst the super fit raced up to the tower, we explored locally. Were impressed by the Fort, met Emma's camel & Hey! what a super photo of the group

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Our own bed at Dunhuang, then to the world renowned Mogao Caves, with a mere 1000 buddhas, some 1400 years old. The guide rather liked us
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Onwards to Turpan & a visit to the Karez water system museum before exploring Jiaohe, an important Silk Road trading city before Genghis Khan flattened it
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And we concluded our stay in Turpan by visiting the beautiful Emin Mosque and Minaret

 

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We seem to have stayed under the duvet in Kashgar: well we had been here before & deliberately sent Kubla Khan off to snap the animal market . Missed out on the Tea House though.

On to Kyrgystan

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A chilly picnic once over the border in Kyrgystan, then on to Sary Tash and a snug homestay. Good food and great scenery, and our leader taking solace in vodka

& then to Uzbekistan

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A drive with great views down to Osh and ImanJon's guesthouse. A tad camera shy this day! Then over the border to Uzbekistan and some
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Kendal Mint cake- thanks Maggie-before visiting the Silk Factory in Margelan. On to Khokand with a personal tour of the Khan's palace from its director

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Palace in Khokand

On to Tashkent

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A 4*4 ride over the mountains to Tashkent, where a super comfy bedroom awaited us. Then out for lunch in a park
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Followed by visits to the Chorso covered market & the Khast Imam Complex

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Opera House in Tashkent

On to Samarkand

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An early morning high speed train to Samarkand-first class! A couple of hours round the Shah-i-Zinda Necropolis and then coffee, followed just slightly later by lunch, at a yummy cafe
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Then visited the Bibi Khanym mosque- lots of photos here! Then to the Malika Prime hotel - guess what, that's us outside it on the grass, room not photogenic!
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Bit cloudy at the Registan, but great night photos. Bought some majolica and a large bowl - proud potter showing us off!

 

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Fierce tigers too be seen at the Registan!. We made an extra stop at a mulberry paper making tourist trap- for Norma's benefit. And drinks in the patio with Jude , Kubla Khan & Marijke

Bukara

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Glanced at an old caravanserai during the drive to Bukara; lunch on arrival. Said hello to 2012 friend Sabena & her silk carpets, & re-rode a donkey
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Then the padre got felled by a bicycle, so had to be specially good and not demand photos all the time! He looked very sore but still managed lunch next day
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But he had a gorgeous room in which to groan and listen to the merriment of the group just outside his window

Turkmenestan . . Merv & Ashgabat

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Padre still sore but the journey, now to Mary & Merv, must go on. Barbara sang beautifully for us here in the Sultan Sanjah Mausoleum .
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Needed a shut eye in the Mary Hotel. We were in the coveted yellow minibus en route to Ashgabat!, stopping at the Nadir-Shah Fortress & a cuddle with Fiona.

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Nothing less than a junior suite in the Grand Turkman Hotel there. A bus with a vintage year! My what a tall Turkman and fantastic architecture, even an Owl

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Mashad

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The ladies learnt how to don their hijabs, and then their chadors. Photos banned in the Shrine, so back to bed for just one night before flying to Tehran

Tehran & Kashan

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The group was given tea as they entered the beautiful Golestan Palace- wondrous tiles and mirrors. Then we all treated ourselves to proper coffee in the grounds. Found this friend on a walk.
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The religious festival of Ashura in the most holy city of Kashan was considered too dangerous for us to participate in. Stayed in the safety of the Negin hotel, with its delightful courtyards

Esfahan

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The Abbasi hotel had wondrous gardens, icecream and a nice table outside the restaurant! The town square is one of the largest city squares in the world
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We found a sumptious coffee shop just off this square and climbed to the music hall in the Palace to see the old Khan's polo view.
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Visited the Jammut Mosque & the Armenian Church & Museum, with its Memorial for the Armenian Genocide in 1915. Then lunch at Arc A- yummy drinks & good bread .

Tabriz, our last stop in Iran

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17 hours to fly to Tabriz- 90 mins in the air! But we enjoyed counting the 1m real notes! The Unesco listed Bazaar was incredible- we were lucky not to get lost! . Lunched in a Bath House & visited the cave houses at Kandovan. Got on well with this super driver

On into the north eastern corner of Turkey: Dogubeyzit & Kars

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View of Mount Ararat from the hotel Erter & view of the 17th century Palacio Ishak Pasha from down below

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Lunch in town of excellent kebabs before visiting the Palacio and a few photo opportunities there . Next day on to Kars, stopping at a
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turkey farm almost on the Armenian border for turkish coffee. Visited the Armenian church/mosque & one of its famed cheese shops there. Then snow!!
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My it was cold out at Ani, a ruined Mediaeval Armenian City, now in Turkey, 45 mins from Kars. Pam had bought a special hat!.The Silk road caravans used to cross at a bridge over the river down behind us. The Church of St Gregory contained wondrous frescoes- all deteriorating. Barbara sang to us in it.
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Also many other sites, including the Cathedral and a mosque. After 3 hours we needed those turkish coffees- thanks John. And then lunch also in the Ani Cafe

The BBC has a good travelogue on Ani

From Ani we proceeded to Erzurum

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Our snug bed in the Hotel Kral. Then a tour of the town with its Citadel and tombs. Were feeling the cold until we found the
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Arzen Cafe, a serendipitous find, pure paradise, and . . we were allowed back there next morning too, inviting a few friends along

& then onto Kemaliye

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Following the mighty Euphratus - do you see the train's reflection?- stopping for photo opportunities, before
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reaching Kemaliye, renowned for its Ottoman period Houses, & staying in the Bozkurt hotel

Next stop was Sivas, via Divrigi

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Pam's birthday, celebrated early & late, guess the parents got a bit of that cake! The mosque & mental hospital, 13th century, in Divrigi were impressive
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13th century Seljuk & Ottoman architecture in Sivas, with its mosques, madrasas & baths. Also an appetising market- bought some bits for Tapas back home

Amasya

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Mountains of sugar beet & cabbages around - saw many double this size by the roadside. Changed rooms in the Lalehan hotel, visited an old mental hospital
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Met this one year old today wee chap. Helped Jude make a phone call to a seagull, rested whilst the brave climbed to the castle top, & later enjoyed a coffee

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Hotel was a trifle cold- that's our window between the trees. Nearby sites of Yazilikaya and Hattusa most impressive; Hittite rock carvings from 1600-1200 BC
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Hattusa was the capital of the Hittite Empire in the late bronze age. We walked for miles - hence the celebration!- and eventually could see our entry point

Ankara & on to the last city of our long trek, Istanbul

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A couple of hours at Ataturk's Mausoleum; kept our heads down a bit with all those guards & were not allowed to goose step!. Good sunset from hotel window
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An exciting day: high speed train- 1st class!- past a toy shop before a ferry across the Bosphorus. Needed our siesta
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Too wet for us to wander the bazaars & thus we missed caffeetopia- boo hoo. But had a good walk next day round the city, Hagia Sophia & lots of mosques
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Perused all Marijke's purchases- other than those she'd had sent home by post! Then the final Supper in a superb fish restaurant: note the Silk Road Scarf! Bye to all our new friends & , oh dear, it's the airport again

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Once home we had to introduce Kubla Khan to all the lads. And a couple of weeks after we got home we received two new mugs for our vodka!

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Life in 2016