Ashgabat - the morning after and the city tour - Day 1
Updated: Jun 19
Last evening we crossed the plaza to the Circus and bought tickets . This is only the first day in Ashgabat, but the performance could well be the highlight of the tour. It was a magnificent, old-fashioned circus although full of up to date sophistication. The effects, choreography and skills were superb. There were jugglers, acrobats, tumblers, high-wire artistes, goats, doves, camels, a donkey and the wonderful Akhal-Teke horses.
I went up to pat one, and their coat is truly extraordinary with it's iridescent sheen. The trick riders were enormously talented. Imagine the nightmare it must have been as a cavalry of Mongolians charged down on a town - How frustrating to swing a sword at a rider and find they'd ducked beneath their horse and come out the other side! One of these riders was a little girl, who can't have been more than five.
Today the city tour: We started at the Sunday market where everything is there for sale, from goats to jewellery, but the scale of the place is so large it could take you a lifetime to find it all.
Then on to the City itself.
I had no idea! Ashgabat is magnificent. This is a city of white and gold - white for the marble, imported from Turkey, that is used on the buildings; and gold or gold leaf liberally applied to public monuments.
This is a CIty of grand design. Completely destroyed by a vicious earthquake in 1948 in which 100,000 people were killed, old Ashgabat disappeared. Initially it's reconstruction was determined by Russian Communist values, but in 1991 when the USSR fell apart and Turkmenistan achieved independence the scheme changed. There is a grandiose, monumental vision designing this city. It's buildings, it's vision is on an enormous scale by any measure.
I imagine this is how Paris felt when Napoleon started knocking it into the modern world, or maybe what London was like after the fire forced it to redesign itself.
Every detail of this city has had thought and design put into it. I couldn't find any object, from lamp posts to monuments, that had been put together purely to be utilitarian. Everything has been designed to be aesthetically pleasing. It's almost like being in an extended Disney land, except this is for real.
A part of me worries that, like Versailles, this creation may have beggared the nation. Still a larger part of me wants to applaud the vision that created all of this. Ashgabat, I would be a poorer person if I hadn't seen you. In an ordinary world, you are truly unique.