16 Februar 2014
Welcome to Turkmenistan, Timezone GMT +5
I have „won“ a trip to Ashgabat in Turkmenistan with a stay of 3 days on a work flight. All I remembered was that there are not many choices for vegetarians, specially in winter. My suitcase was packed with healthy goodies, hoping to find a kitchen in our hotel. I was lucky- since this month, we are in a new, luxurious, clean hotel with a fully equipped kitchen in the crew lounge! And when I heard the comments of my colleagues who had gone out for dinner, I was happy that I had raided through „Veganz“, my favourite vegan health food store in Frankfurt Bornheim before my flight.
Also I brought my inline skates, as the weather looked promising. Below zero, but sunny and dry, almost no snow or ice on the roads and boardwalks. And the main aisles of Ashgabat have magnificent boardwalks for skating, almost as smooth as marble! Just don´t turn off to the smaller streets, many trap holes there J
When I tried to skate to the „Tolkutchka market“ which is a bazaar happening on Sundays and Thursdays, I found out that „5km“ can also mean something like 30km or more... I skated about 1,5 hours to get there, and I went really fast except fort he last bit when a strong wind hit me head on. It was worth it though, as I saw a really traditional bazaar with traditional Turkmenish people and their goods. The Turkmenish people I met were really open and helpful despite not speaking English. My little bits of Russian helped a lot, and it was fun to „communicate“.
Many people have almost Mongolian faces, just a bit darker, very pretty to look at. And sure I was the only one who has ever skated through the city for three days in a row, they probably already looked for the skating terrorist ;)
The buildings look new and the fassades are all grand, but I rarely saw any people going into or coming out of these magnificent buildings. There are not many people walking the streets. Lots and lots of fountains are spread through the city, and as the water is heated, they are also running in winter, with people busy hacking the ice away from the edges. Some of the bus stops have airconditioned glass areas, hot in winter and cold in summer.
Average Turkmenish people don´t earn or own a lot, at least heating and electricity is completely free, as the oil and gas funds of the country are enormous. Every second inhabitant of Ashgabat must be a kind of guard, as on Tuesday there were people in uniform every few hundred meters on every major road, whisteling at me if I wanted to cross the road directly, or if I was going „too fast“ in their opinion, some even tried to grab and stop me (but I went around them).
It was an intersting journey and I feel privileged that I was allowed to see a dictatorship where opera and theatre are forbidden, and even trying to bring a Red Bull into the country is a major offence and mentioned in our crew information as a „no go“! After those three days, I was glad I could leave Absurdistan behind and go back to the rest of the world instead.