In this episode of Globe Trekker Round the World, Holly Morris travels one of the most exotic highways in the world, the ancient Silk Road, across Central Asia from the border of China to the edge of Europe.
Holly starts her journey in the spectacular, mountainous country of Kyrgyzstan, participating in a traditional horse-riding festival. Kyrgyz horses are famous throughout the region, and have been for well over a thousand years. In fact, it was the ancient Chinese Emperors’ urgent desire to get their hands on these enormous, strong, agile horses that first opened up the Silk Road 2000 years ago. From Kyrgyzstan, Holly travels to the capital of Uzbekistan, Tashkent, before catching the train to the ancient Silk Road city of Samarkand. Holly visits many of its exquisite buildings, which survive intact from its heyday in the 14th and 15th centuries, before travelling on to the nearby city of Bukhara.
One of the best preserved ancient cities anywhere along the Silk Road, its caravanserais, bazaars, mosques, minarets, and carpet shops all still vividly retain the atmosphere of the Silk Road. From Bukhara Holly crosses remote desert to visit the little known country of Turkmenistan and the rarely seen ruins of ancient Merv, once one of the greatest cities in the Islamic world, rivalling Baghdad, Damascus, and Cairo.
Crossing the Caspian Sea to oil-rich Azerbaijan, Holly explores Baku, one of the world’s fastest developing cities, before catching the train to Tbilisi in Georgia. Devoutly Christian, Georgia has been the fragile eastern-most outpost of Christendom for centuries, a kind of borderland between east and west along the old Silk Road.
Holly visits a beautiful ancient monastery, where the monks have been making excellent wine for well over 1000 years! From Tbilisi, Holly heads on to Konya in Turkey, capital of the ancient Seljuk Empire in the 12th and 13th centuries. From here a chain of caravanserai were built for Silk Road traders to stay in as they crossed the country.
So far, Holly has sped across Central Asia in a whirlwind of planes, trains and buses, but now she slows down to the ancient Silk Road pace, travelling in a camel caravan, before eventually arriving at her final destination, Istanbul, terminus of the Silk Road in Asia, and gateway to Europe beyond.