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Saturday, April 09, 2005


Imagine if you will

That you had pretty much decided that you weren't going to Turkmenistan for your vacation because the very hard-to-get visas hadn't come through (or, you came to your senses).

As an alternative, you decided to go to Barcelona, maybe Madrid and Bilbao. You were going to eat delightful tapas and drink rioja. You would stay in a 19th century hotel near the Ramblas. Maybe you'd go to the beach. You ordered your Rough Guides from Amazon and they had arrived.

Then, at 6:00 Friday afternoon, the day you were going to buy plane tickets to Barcelona, you get the word: Turkmenistan visas came through.

It's like you had planned to a trip to Hawaii, but got rerouted to Dallas. It's like, well, you'd planned a trip to Spain, but are going to Turkmenistan instead. It's a hard concept to get your head around.

We're going to fly into Tashkent, Uzbekistan (we laughed when we got 4 year multiple entry visas for our trip in 2003. "When will we ever go back to Uzbekistan?"). Cross the border and drive across the country over 10 days. Then, we'll take a "ferry" from Turkmenbashi across the Caspian back to Baku.

So instead of Gaudi's masterpieces, we'll see the central asian version of Las Vegas. Instead of Mediterranean beaches, we'll see a flaming sulfur crater in the middle of the desert. Instead of Picasso's Guernica, we'll see a 10 meter high gold statue of Turkmenbashi that rotates to follow the sun. Good times.

Initially, it was hard to abandon the idea Spain once it lodged in my brain. But when will I ever have the chance to see one of the world's most closed and bizarre societies at the height of its "glory?"

Spain isn't going anywhere.

Congrats on the approval. Just sawthis on the bbc and had a good chuckle. Azerbaijan will indeed seem a wonderfully progressive place once you're through with Turkmenistan.
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