Day 19. Thursday, August 17. Rest day – Khujand
Khujand gifted me a very gentle time today as sweet as its name suggests. Rather than striding out on a vigorous five-hour walking tour of the city, as most of my fellow riders did, I sauntered around my hotel’s neighbourhood for a few hours or so. There was plenty to see and some local people to chat with, albeit in sign language and skeletal English.
I began where I left off yesterday evening, in the expansive park next to my hotel. Named after a local resident, Kumal Khujandi, a renowned local Persian Sufi poet from the 14th century, it includes a mausoleum in his memory.
People flock to the park in the evenings, including brides for their photos, as I discovered yesterday evening…and lots of kids and parents.
But in the heat of the day, I had the place to myself. From there I drifted to the neighbouring attraction – the town’s famous, ancient fort. Well, I quickly discovered in the bright light of day it was a replica of a small part of it, and still under reconstruction. Successive waves of invaders in the 18th and 19th century had laid it low, with the Russians in the 1860s finishing the job, a succinct sign told me.
Still what’s there now is a grand evocation of one corner of it, housing a museum of city and country history from the stone age to the current regime – on just two floors. Since Alexander the Great had a big (positive) impact on the area around 300BC, the lower floor of the museum tells the story of his extraordinarily brief but world changing life (33 years; conquests from Europe to India) in just nine massive marble mosaics – below are two, his birth and death.
Cowed by A the G’s astronomic ambition, finding the first latte or similar of this trip was the only challenge I could muster. Lo and behold…a slow, random walk through several tree-shaded streets, past ubiquitous watermelon sellers…
…delivered me to Coffee Moose. My order for iced latte quickly turned into sandwich and cake too because Mahdiya, my server, was so hospitable in excellent English…even offering me her phone’s hot spot so I could surf as I ate.
I quickly came across a piece in the Guardian that will help me keep my feet to the pedals, whatever minor exertions and little tests lie ahead. My trip is a short spin around the park compared with Torbjørn Pedersen’s 10-year journey (without a break) to visit every country in the world without taking a flight.