You’re watching Vagabrothers, and this is Uzbekistan.
Backwards, post- Soviet Republic, home of Borat, the middle of nowhere. Yeah, it’s all of those things, but it’s also a lot more. I’m Marko. I’m Alex. You’re watching Vagabrothers, and this is Uzbekistan. For millennia Central Asia has been at the center of the world, a crossroads of civilizations. And Uzbekitan is home to the legendary cities of the Silk Road, the ancient trade network that connected the Mediterranean with the riches of Asia, making the middlemen wealthy enough to build cities like these. From Samarkand to Bukhara, Tashkent to Khiva, this land beckoned conquerors from Alexander the Great to Genghis Khan, explorers from Marco Polo to even Battuta and countless merchants from Britain to Beijing who wove East and West closer together through roads of silk. I’m excited for this series because I’ve always been super interested in the history of globalization…. how trade, technologies, and conquest turned humanity from a bunch of isolated pockets into the global world we live in today. And nowhere is more central to that story than here. From the time of Alexander the Great to the spread of Islam and the Mongol invasions that came later, this place has made and broken many empires. I’m super excited to follow in the footsteps of these great conquerors and understand why this place was so crucial. Right now is the perfect time to visit Uzbekistan. The country was largely closed off to foreigners since the end of the Cold War, but with a new president there’ve been tons of reforms. Visas are easier to get, and this place is going to be very popular with tourists very soon, but still an undiscovered gem. We’re about to go on a trip to discover the best of Uzbekistan: vibrant markets, stunning scenery, and reminders of the spectacular rise and shocking fall of civilizations.
Forget what you think you know about the “stans.” You’re watching Vagabrothers, and this is Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan Welcome to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. And Toto, we are far away from Kansas. Quite literally on the opposite side of planet from our home in Los Angeles. It’s been a long journey to get here. We have an awesome itinerary lined up. This is going to be an epic vlog series, and we are super stoked to be in Uzbekistan. Don’t know much about the “stans.” Have not really been out to this part of the world before, but I personally am a super excited about the Silk Road. I love the story of how East and West came together, and few places in the world are associated with that story as the ancient cities of here in Uzbekistan. I’m excited to eat. The food here is incredible. I’ve had Uzbekistan cuisine before, and it’s delicious. Apart from that, like Mark said, this is a super unique corner of the world. It’s where empires have been made and destroyed. And I can’t wait to get out of Tashkent and into the rest of Uzbekistan because we have a pretty wild itinerary, not to mention that our ancestral namesakes came through here. Alexander the Great, Marco Polo. So we’ve got some footsteps of great people to trace, and I think that we should start with some lunch. How about that? Let’s go First day here in Tashkent. This is the capital. It’s not the oldest or most historic city in Uzbekistan. And a lot of it was destroyed in the 60s during an earthquake, but this is the main square. Here we have the statue of Ahmir Temur. He is kind of like the Genghis Khan of Uzbekistan.
Behind us we have the Hotel Uzbekistan, which was like the main place to stay during Soviet times. According to legend every room in the Hotel Uzbekistan was bugged back in the day because that’s just the way the Soviet Union was in those times. There’s a lot of changes happening in Uzbekistan. For example, there used to be a statue of Karl Marx right there. He was swapped out for the statue of Amir Temur. Temur was basically the Genghis Khan of Uzbekistan and is part of the national identity they are forming in this relatively new country. Alright ladies and gents right now we are at the Cosmonaut Station. We’re in the metro, and interesting little fact… a little historical fact, this was actually closed to photography and videography until only three months ago. It’s been closed to photography for over 40 years for a very interesting reason. But let’s hop on a train, and we’ll tell you why. It’s definitely funny being like the only tourist in the entire city of Tashkent because that’s how I feel right now, but especially being on the metro. We’re the only people who are not from here who are on here.
So it’s kind of fun. Just embracing that and just smiling at people. Tashkent’s underground is beautiful, but photography was banned for decades because during the Cold War this was built as a bomb shelter because nuclear warfare was never far away. It was also a very strategic military installation. So that makes us the first people to film this and put it on YouTube ever! As we know the reason that this place is called the Cosmonaut Station is Uzbekistan and the “stans” in general were the home to the Russian or Soviet space program. There were lots of cosmonauts, which were the Soviet version of an astronaut. And the best news is there’s plenty of stations. This is only one, and we have more to explore. We’ve just arrived to the station Alisher Navoi, and he was like the William Shakespeare of Uzbek language, but this is probably one of the most beautiful metro stations I’ve ever seen. I’ve heard about the metro stations in St. Petersburg being very, very beautiful, but this is the closest that I’ve gotten there. but I just love the Islamic architecture, the domes, all of the lines. If you’re into photography, if you’re into symmetry and the rule of thirds, you can have a lot of fun here. And I think it kind of represents how this is a new country, and in the 1970s during the Soviet times they were really trying to build a sense of national identity by combining the grandiose Soviet architecture with historical figures from the past, whether that be like in the Cosmonaut Station there were the ancient medieval Islamic astronomers with Soviet astronauts.
Here you have Islamic architecture, a writer. And then there’s also one down the street, which is all cotton theme, which is one the major exports here in Uzbekistan. Well, we have arrived to the Islamabad center of ploof. Ploof is like pilaf. It’s a rice and meat dish for fruits and nuts. Behind us is 440 kilograms, nearly a thousand pounds of rice, beef, and mutton and it smells so good. This dish you see cross Central Asia, everywhere from Persia all the way to India. But here in Uzbekistan, it’s a really special treat. They serve it on special occasions. This place opens only for lunch. They serve up a thousand pounds of this stuff and when it’s gone, it’s gone. So you got to get it while the getting’s good, and it smells delicious. So enough talking. Time to eat. The food has arrived. We have this excellent bread with this yogurt, which is great for helping with digestion. But the main course right here is the ploof. It’s got lamb meat on top, horse sausage, quail, yellow carrots, chickpeas, raisins, and awesome waitresses.
So it’s time to dig in. It’s not every day that you eat a horse sausage, but you know when in Rome…. and this is certainly the way they do things here. Ploof or pilaf is one of those dishes that is cross-border. Many different nationalities kind of claim it as their own, but the reality is that it’s a dish from this region, from Central Asia, and it’s spread to other parts of the world from here. There’re two different creation myths for pilaf. One is that Aristotle, the teacher of Alexander the Great, told Alexander that if he used these specific proportions of meat, rice, vegetables, and fruit, he could keep his soldiers full all day, therefore removing the necessity to stop and feed them throughout the day, allowing his army to move further, faster. The second is that Avi Senna, who is a tenth century polymath scholar and considered the father of modern medicine, created the dish.
So there’re two different creation myths. Either way you look at it, there’s one takeaway… that it’s absolutely delicious, and at this restaurant they do it very, very well. Okay, so we popped off the metro at Chorsu Bazaar. This is the oldest bazaar in the city. It’s from 880 AD, so it’s over 1,200 years old. And as we said, a lot of these cities were trading cities from the dawn of civilization. We’re going to take a look around the market, see what’s for sale, and build up our appetite. Just step inside of the market, which is housed in this giant penageodesic dome. Smells like meat in here. This is the meat market. It’s quite literally a meat market, but there’s all sorts of stuff. There’re pickled vegetables. There’re sausages. There’s crazy meat cuts. People are kind of like yelling in that quintessential market voice, you know, that’s like trying to get your attention to come and buy something, but it’s cool. It’s definitely different. It’s a new corner of the world, different style of food. It smells like vinegar and meat in here. California. California, yeah.
Uzbekistan? Yeah. Okay, so here in Central Asia, there’s a lot of milk dishes, and they become cheeses or almost yogurts, but then there’s various forms. It’s kind of a wine; you have the little new one, the aged one. This is the super aged, so there’s no liquid left. This is like a cheese ball. Whoa, very sour acquired taste, but probably going to be good for digestion. I’ve never seen so many different types of nuts and fruits on display ever, anywhere. But this is an almond. Let’s try it out Umm, very good. There’s so many colorful fruits and vegetables on display, and this is very vibrant… people speaking different languages that I’ve never heard before and this is one of the reasons why travel is just so fulfilling and enlightening because it really just takes you out of what you know and puts you into something that you’ve never experienced before. We’ve made our way into a bakery, and we’re surrounded by bakers. It’s really cool. They’re making the traditional bread here in Uzbekistan, which is pretty simple. It’s almost like a bagel and then they top it with sesame, and they cook it in these big ovens behind us. It’s crazy.
There’s like bread stuck up against the wall, but very cool experience. What a first day! Finishing up here in the old town of Tashkent. And I think that these old buildings behind us is a flavor of what’s to come, but we had a really great introduction. Some good food. Lots of flavor. Yeah, and the metro was insane. I think that we’re in for a treat here with architecture, with astronomy, and with just diving deep into the unknown. This is a part of the world that’s fascinating. We’ve read a lot about it. Both of us just finished reading this thousand-page book called the Silk Roads. Yeah, I’m really excited. I think that we have a lot of cool unexpected experiences coming our way, and I can’t wait to get further into it. Tomorrow we’re heading to Samarkand. This is the jewel of the Silk Road UNESCO World Heritage City for being the crossroads of culture. If you like this video give it a thumbs- up, subscribe to Vagabrothers, and share this video with your travel buddies. Tell everyone to come with you to Uzbekistan and share these videos. Stick around for the rest the series. Don’t go anywhere. There’s a lot more videos coming at you. And as always stay curious, keep exploring, and we’ll see you on the road….the Silk Road.