Day 16. Monday, August 14. Rest day in Kokand.
Another rest day…another intriguing town…but another day of bike, blog and body priorities. Thankfully, though, by lunchtime I was ready to wander off from our hotel for a bite to eat, some pharmacy shopping and a bit of sightseeing.
While an ancient settlement, present day Kokand began as a fort in 1732 and became the Uzbek capital in 1740. Of all the sights, I was particularly determined to see this afternoon the Palace (pictured above) built between 1863 and 1874 by the Uzbek ruler Muhammad Khudayar Khan. Eugene Schulyer, a late 19th century American diplomat, explorer and scholar, described it as being “much larger and more magnificent than any other [palace] in Central Asia.”
Built with 114 rooms and seven courtyards, the Khan intended his mother to live within its walls. But she refused and chose to live out her life in a yurt in the grounds.
Forces of the Russian Empire captured the city in 1883, and created Russian Turkistan. After a couple of brief Uzbek attempts to regain their freedom during the First World War, Bolshevik forces burned down the city and massacred over ten thousand citizens in 1918. Only 19 rooms of the palace survived. They and the remaining exterior have been restored and are astonishingly beautiful.
What a way to begin at last some sight-seeing! Still chores did have to come first, as the photo below attests. Note my sparking clean bike, festooned with repaired tubes. Plus new rear wheel tape – thorn pricks had caused the first four punctures yesterday; the fifth was caused by the heat melting the adhesive of the old tape, thus exposing the tube to a spoke socket, which caused it to blow out.
Lastly on my rest day, here’s the link to my blog about this trip on the website of Ground Effect, the Christchurch company which makes my favourite cycling kit. Some of this you will have read on these blog posts…but there’s more about preparing for the trip and about two special cycling friends who encouraged me to go for it.
Plus some more photos of the Palace..and one out on the street.