250km/h, speed of Uzbekistan’s finest train, the Afrosiyob
The early morning sun shone definitively through the dust-covered, weathered window pane, as our train trundled through a landscape of hillside foliage. We were on a journey from Uzbekistan’s capital, Tashkent towards the great Silk Road city of Kokand, now the perfect introduction to the Fergana Valley region.
Spending time on the rails in Uzbekistan uncovers simple, pleasurable rides through unoccupied desert, vast plains and perky greenery (once you’ve arrived deep in the eastern parts anyway). An opportunity outside of bazaars, cafes and parks to experience the thoughtfulness, generosity and humour within the country. A relaxed approach to reaching your destination, mixed with the unique hustle, liveliness and charm which Uzbekistan so often offers.
To travel by train in this landlocked region is to follow the route passed by caravan camels of bygone days. Evoking a sense of nostalgia from adventurous travellers and entrepreneurs riding to the rhythm of the land in search of trade and triumph. It’s easy for your imagination to drift to such scenes, especially when on a journey between two ancient cities, such as Khiva and Bukhara, where the vast terrain still dictates so much. Even with modern day travel, this delightful trip across the Kyzylkum Desert takes almost 7 hours, plenty of time to daydream over the spirit of the Silk Road.
Whilst most corners of Uzbekistan are accessed by the more traditional style trains, technology is advancing with the triumphant Afrosiyob, a Spanish-built beauty invigorating train travel through the country at speeds of 250 kilometres per hour. A journey on-board will whisk you between Tashkent and Samarkand in an impressive 2 hours, bringing capital city and cultural charmer closer than ever before.
Being reminiscent of travel and trade is embedded within the region, and such that journeys of 2 or 7 hours may not be enough for your adventurous soul once your feet are firmly on this historical ground. The answer is a sleeper train experience, whether that’s across the entire country with Tashkent to Khiva, or even a border-crossing venture between the capital cities of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan (a wondrous 16 hours overnight journey).
Rolling forward, they’ll be more sun-drenched journeys through Uzbekistan; unforgettable window views, long chats in the dining car, private cabins with stretched out naps, and new cities awaiting our enthusiastic arrival. If you’re in the mood for more transport tales, then do read our Tashkent Metro article.
Text by The Central Collective (https://www.cencollective.com/)