Friday, 31 May 2013

I Met a Traveller.....

"That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach."
Aldous Huxley

This quote appeared on my radar just after returning home from our trip to 'The Stans'. I can't remember where I saw it but it dovetails perfectly with the thoughts I had before we left home.

'I met a traveller from an antique land' has been rattling around in my brain for many years, thanks to an exercise in Kate Grenville's "The Writing Book", without me fully realising what it was or where it came from.

It seemed like it would make the perfect introduction for the journal I intended to keep on the trip. Some quick research and I discovered it comes from the poem 'Ozymandias' (by Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1818) and essentially speaks about the transient nature of leadership and the inevitable decline of leaders and their empires no matter how vast and powerful they are in their own time - a lesson that perhaps Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, Adolph (or the idiot child in North Korea) to name only a few should have taken on board.

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, it frequently cropped up in  the commentary on a number of our guided tours at various historical sites.

The exercise involves using each word of the borrowed text (in order) as the first word of the your next sentence - like an acrostic poem. As I explained the exercise to a fellow traveller my own brain, stimulated by recent experiences, went into overdrive and this is the result......
                                  (A couple of small paintings we bought will set the scene.)


I Met a Traveller From an Antique Land

I followed the winding paths of the caravans along the Old Silk Road.

Met with weather-wizened faces and equally curious stares we shared wide smiles and delighted both in each other and new knowledge.

A journey filled with romantic visions of handcrafted beauty, heavily-laden, gently swaying camels and tinkling silver bells.

Traveller, where do you come from? What is your name? How (old) are you? Do you want to change money?

From Ashgabat to Almaty I stood in the footsteps of Genghis Khan and pondered, 'What makes such a man?'

An era of unspeakable barbarism where civilisations were razed to the ground, yet some true wonders remained untouched.

Antique remnants of structures stand defiant and proud in the desert as the bitter winds chill me to the bones and the swirling sands around my feet rise and fill my ears, nose and mouth with the harsh truth of life.

Land echoing with ghostly footsteps and whispering voices among the rocks and deep within the singing sands.

(Hand-painted on antique silk paper.)

(It's salt, not snow.)

   (A 'traveller' I met on the days that brought the ideas crashing together.....all romantic visions of caravans were well and truly knocked out that day. )

Sue xxxx

For anyone  interested here is Shelley's poem:


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: `Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear --
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.'

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

More Ms

A necropolis may not be the obvious choice of venue to spend the day after your 60th birthday,

but when it's the Shakhi Zinda in Samarkand and is so beautiful (and peaceful despite the number of visitors) what can I say?  It seemed a perfectly reasonable place to be.... on a temporary basis that is.....I made no plans to move in permanently......

Equally interesting for someone with a vivid imagination was the modern part of the cemetery where most headstones included a photo embedded into the stone - how it's done, I don't know. I saw several stonemasons' workshops but no-one working at the time. 

The main paths were well paved...

......but had side tracks leading to higgledy-piggledy clusters of headstones and patches of iris and other spring flowers in bloom. 

Despite being unable to read much of the inscription, by looking at the faces it was easy to imagine a narrative. As in any such place there are a lot of small histories which, in reality, all combine to create to the greater picture.

Quiescent in the presence and grandeur of the domes.

All in all a quiet interlude into an otherwise jam-packed day.

Sue xxxx

(I will post about tiles and domes in more detail later - they deserve close attention.)

Saturday, 25 May 2013

In the Parcel

Here it is - well worth waiting for and I'm finding every excuse I can to walk over it in bare feet.......

The design is called 'Elephants Foot' and it seemed to be different from most of the wool carpets we saw in the showroom.

Vital stats - made from "baby camel neck hair" in Afghanistan in an internationally supervised factory and certified no child labour (as much as is possible to assure this - a certain amount of trust is involved). Approx 2m long by 1m in reds and dark blues giving it a purplish tinge in certain lights. Love it!!!

I'm planning a more detailed post on carpets later on but it will take a while to get  it together. In the meantime I plan to enjoy this one now that it has arrived safely.

Sue xxxx

PS: I think I have corrected the settings so it should now be possible to leave a comment for those people who tried and weren't able to. Would love to hear your thoughts on any posts..... Sx

Thursday, 23 May 2013


The bread, present at every meal, was delicious from the first bought loaf in a Tashkent market, Uzbekistan...... still warm..... the last food market visited in Almaty, Kazakhstan....

The loaves were similar throughout the four countries visited but each one had its own distinct pattern and flavour. (I'm guessing each baker has their own design and recipe, but didn't confirm this as fact.)

Mostly cooked in a Tandoor type oven, hence quite flat. (The patterning helps to flatten the loaves.) If they are too leavened and heavy they wouldn't stick to the wall of the oven to cook and fall into the fire at the bottom and burn instead.

We also had some tasty little meat and onion pastries cooked in these ovens. Simple but very effective means of cooking. 

These loaves are different to the norm - look closely to see an added difference....

(It was having a lovely picnic til spotted.)

And this is????

A bread stamp, of course - soon to be tested, I hope.

(And the lovely old man selling them.)
Sue xxxx

(PS: Acording to my jeans, some of the above bread may have come home with me. Such is life...)

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

An Introduction to Four of the 'Ms'.... (Part 1)

Mosques, Minarets, Madrassas (Islamic school and universities) and Mausoleums.... (The other m's - meals, markets and monuments I'll save for future posts.)

At this stage the photos, which are in no particular order,  provide just a taste of some of the glorious buildings we encountered and give you a sense of the ancient landscapes that dotted the Silk Road. (I will go into a little more detail later on and focus on some of the wonderful designs that filled my head and my camera....).

The general range in age is from about the 9th century to the 15th century - give or take a few years here and there. The condition of the structures also ranges from original remnants to repaired and restored, or completely rebuilt,  depending on the ravages of earthquakes and conquerors or intervention by bodies such as UNESCO - who are doing a great job to protect many sites listed as World Heritage Areas.

                     (Although it was bitterly cold that day it's salt on the ground, not snow.)


Interestingly I didn't tire of looking at these but the modern versions left me cold........I'll post some more photos that Bob took later on - my card was full at the time - bugger!!
Sue xxxx