04 June 2006

Turkestan Solo

Turkestan Solo by Ella Maillart is most definitely one of the best travel books I've read about Central Asia. Written in the 1930s, it's obviously not current, but Ella has the knack for describing things without her own opinions coming through on every page.

The books starts in Bishkek, then she travels to the Tian Shan on the Chinese border. She talks about the cities and towns we've visited several times, like Tokmok, Balykchy, Choplon-Ata, and Karakol. She goes on to Almaty, then into Uzbekistan to Samarqand, Bukhara, and then up the Amu Darya.

One of the most interesting things about this book was to get a little picture of life in Soviet Central Asia in the 1930s before Stalin wiped out a lot of the political and religious elite a few years later. The 1930s were the beginning of the 5 Year Plan and the effort to start growing a lot of cotton in Central Asia.

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