Khiva’s out to git ya!

Today started as each day did and that’s with breakfast. It’s our first morning here and wow! Breakfast is killer. I know, I know it must be getting annoying how often I mention how much this place reminds me of New Mexico but they even served us empinadas with breakfast. This wasn’t even the full spread. Every time I took a picture they brought more food. Eventually I gave up and just started eating.

After breakfast we headed out for a big day of site seeing. We wanted to hit all the sites in town today. First we saw the Kalta Minor Minaret. It’s the widest and overall largest minaret in all of Uzbekistan. When it was begun, in 1851, it was planned to be the tallest minaret in all Central Asia. It was commissioned by Mohammed Amin Khan but then, he was, oops, killed on the battlefield in 1855. With no more money coming in the work ceased and no there’s just this odd short stubby minaret that reminds one of a decorative nuclear cooling tower in the heart of Khiva. Is ay that in jest. In all our Uzbek travels it is by far the most beautiful minaret we have seen. That’s the true story about the minaret. There are lots of legends about its building like the khan got angry with the man that was building it and buried his body inside the minaret. There are others.

As we walked away form the Kalta Minor we saw a sign over a door that said Mennonite Museum. Huh? Mennonites? In Uzbekistan? Yep. They were here. They had come here all on their own in the late 1800’s. At first, all went okay, they were allowed to stay, as long as they paid their taxes of course, they did all their Mennonite things like make furniture, sell veggies in the market, and speak German. Then when the USSR came in they refused to obey and they were deported!

Next, we saw this mosque, this minaret, this mausoleum, and this madrassa. I know I’m going in a hurry but we’ve kinda seen a million of them by now. I will say we’ve seen loads of mosques of this multi-column style by now and this was my favorite. I love the way the light pours in.

By now it was 41°C/106°F outside and we had been walking for several hours so it was time for a break. We spotted a teahouse and went in for a bit. I wasn’t hungry, only thirsty, but Brandon and Trinidad wanted a little bite. We ordered two small bowls of soup with bread, three bottles of water, and two coffees. That was it. When we asked for the check we were shocked! They charged us as much money as we had paid for a full dinner for all three of us for dinner last night! And????? The restroom didn’t even have toilet paper!!! That would NEVER have happened to us anywhere between the Fergana Valley and Samarkand. We saw a touch of it in Bukhara, but wait for my next story.

After our little break we headed outside the city wall. First we wanted to see the Afghan War memorial.

And then we walked to Nurullaboy Saroyi Palace. Oh. My. God. If you are reading this and you are planning a visit to Khiva do not go there. I guarantee you it is a rip off. We refused to pay the entrance fee. They wanted 50,000 som! 50,000 som per person!!!!!!!! That’s insane!!!! For that amount of money I would expect not only an English speaking guide but also someone following me around with a fan, a private tea ceremony after, and probably even dinner. I know 50,000 som doesn’t mean anything to many of you reading this. It’s $5 USD. Now, I know that sounds cheap, and, really, it’s very little money, but we’ve traveled this whole country and entrance fee to most museums is about $1 and an expensive ticket is $2.50. The most expensive museum we’ve seen, with a highly knowledgable fluent in English speaking private tour guide just for us was about $12 and this place wanted $15 just for us to walk in the door. We said no, turned around, and walked away. You should have seen her face.

You know. It’s not about the money. It’s not like we’re broke. We can afford $15. It’s about principle. We walked down the street and gave four times that much to an artist I liked and I felt good about myself.

Here are some random photos from Khiva. The entire old city is a construction site right now. I’m not sure who’s paying for it. I’ve looked online but I can’t find details. I found a link about a meeting with UNESCO, the European Union, and the Uzbekistan Tourism Division talking about renovating Khiva to try to attract tourists. I guess the meeting worked. But who’s paying for it? We had one cool thing happened. I’m pretty sure we walked right through an archeological dig site. We looked in a hole and there were ancient bricks from a wall.