In most countries, changing money on the black market is something to be strictly avoided at all costs. (Pun intended.) But in Uzbekistan, it is the best way to get more som for your dollar (and nowadays more and more your euro.) The Uzbek government has set the exchange rate pretty low, so if you take money out of a cashpoint (ATM to North Americans and bankomat to Central Asians) you get done a fair bit. You can of course use official currency exchange places too, but their rate is tied to the government and therefore is also rubbish. It does mean, though, that if you exchange too much, you can change it back again, as nowhere on the black market will they buy your som for dollars. (The dollar is hard currency and most people don’t like to use banks, so collecting dollars is the regular man’s saving scheme.)

Graeme and I got stuck as we tried to exchange back into dollars, as they needed the official customs declaration that we had changed legally in the first place. I had been fully intending to treat Graeme to dinner on our last night together as he had been so generous as to treat us to a hotel in Tashkent. But because I got ill, I didn’t manage to spend any of it and because we couldn’t change it back, we were both stuck with a lot of som. Graeme went to the shop and bought lots of things I would need in the near future, as we might as well buy things instead of just having lots of useless currency leftover.

Uzbek som comes in a few denominations of notes, and no coins at all. 200, 500, 1000 and 5000. Mostly 1000 notes though, as the 5000 notes are practically non-existent and they were only introduced a few years ago. So you end up carrying huge wads of cash everywhere which at first is kind of fun and novel, but it soon becomes a tad annoying. Especially when paying for anything more than a drink in a shop, because the 1000 note isn’t worth much. The going rate is 3000 to the dollar (USD) or 5000 to the pound (GBP). It can take a long time to count out the right money to pay a dinner bill, for example.

You often see Uzbeks pull out a huge stack of cash to pay for anything at all really, just because of the way the money is. You feel rich for a while, when you do the same, but it is maddening, as counting it all out takes ages. Paying for shared taxis is a great example of this. One of our journeys cost 60,000 som for the both of us. Graeme counted out 30,000, I counted out 30,000 and then the poor driver had to double check it. I wonder how much of their lives in Uzbekistan are wasted counting money. Though it must be noted that all shops have those automatic counting money machines you normally see in banks in other countries! This is especially necessary in a country where cash is king.

The funny thing about it all is that there isn’t a 100 som note, probably because it wouldn’t be worth the paper it would be printed on. But! Some things are worth 4900 som, for example, and everywhere you go they have a box of sweets at the till, so that you can have a sweet worth 100 som instead of actual change.

How do you change your money on the black market though? Trust me when I say it’s really easy. The black market will find you. I lost count of how many people we walked past on the street who offered to exchange money for us, especially in Bukhara. Most independent hotels will do it for you too, or get a man to come to the hotel and do it for you. It’s easy, hassle free and absolutely the way to get money when in Uzbekistan. Just make sure you don’t change too much, because it’s a closed currency and you will be stuck with it.

Photo of the Day: Tuesday 22nd July.

Cathedral inside the Kremlin.

Photo of the Day: Tuesday 22nd July.

Cathedral inside the Kremlin.

  • Context: talking about different stores for doing a crossword.
  • Students: number 5. You can buy music here.
  • Student A: Internet!
  • Student B: Hand phone!
  • Students: number 6: you can buy shoes here.
  • Student A: internet!
  • Student B: homeplus!
  • Students: you can eat good here.
  • Student A: grandmother's house!
Source: grumpynochonggak
Photo Set
Photo Set


The secret behind the Rainbow Roses

I know, it seems a joke, the Rainbow Rose you see is real, but its coloring is man-made. While it is bizarre and unnatural, at the same time is incredibly beautiful.

Staining roses with dyes is a common practice to obtain flower colors that are not available in nature. However Rainbow Roses are most unusual because the petals of the same flower display various colors.

The technique for producing Rainbow Roses was developed by Peter van de Werken from River Roses®, a flower company located in Holland. It is an elegant application of basic knowledge of plant anatomy. 

The different colors between petals are a consequence of phyllotaxy (the form by which leaves -or nodes in general- are arranged on the stem). In the case of roses the leaves are arranged in a five-ranked spiral, which means that when an imaginary line connects the various leaves a spiral is formed so that after two full rotations leaf number 6 is on the same vertical plan as leaf number 1. Petals are modified leaves and follow the same arrangement.

To obtain a flower with petals stained in different colors the stem is vertically cut into four equal parts and each quarter dipped in a different dye. The dye moves upwards through the xylem to the petals, which get a different color depending on their position in the spiral.

The technique is actually quite simple and can easily make at home. The only thing that could influence your results is the variety of rose you employ, since not all cultivar absorb all the different colorants perfectly. Here you can see a short video showing the technique (although the results are not the so fine as in the photo).

Reference: [1]

Photo credit: ©Houmr13

Source: libutron

Photo of the Day: Monday 21st July.

Ladies dance.


Photo of the Day: Sunday 20th July.

Komsomolskaya station, Moscow metro.


Tashkent wasn’t beautiful like Samarkand or Bukhara, but we weren’t expecting it to be. It’s the biggest city in Central Asia, both by size and population. It has about 3 million inhabitants. People expect it to be pretty barren as it’s in the desert, but it’s actually very green. It has a lot of parks and there are trees everywhere. It has an excellent irrigation system in place and if you’re not careful you can get soaked by one of the many sprinklers that go off to maintain the lush grass that grows everywhere. Or, because it’s so hot, you can choose to get sprayed by a sprinkler, like I did, to cool off a bit.

Because I got ill, I didn’t get to see the beautiful metro system that is there, but Graeme confirmed it is indeed gorgeous. We spent a lovely couple of days walking round the city though and on our first night we went for a meal at a restaurant called April, that Stefan and Fou had recommended. It had great food and was clearly the place to go as when we asked the concierge to book us a taxi there, she got very animated and told us it was great. It was. If you’re ever in Tashkent, go.

I booked us on a private tour of some Polish war cemeteries just outside Tashkent, as the main reason I wanted to even go in the first place was to walk in my grandmother’s footsteps a little. She had lived there during the Second World War. (Due to being displaced by the Russians.) Our guide and driver came to pick us up from our hotel on Monday and it was a fantastic tour. The guide was young, but very knowledgeable and we learned a lot about Uzbekistan and Tashkent as well as the cemeteries.

The first one he took us to had a memorial to the Polish people who died there, but as no one really knows where the bodies were buried, it was kind of hidden away next to a driving school. It was a bit odd, but the memorial itself is well maintained and we met the Uzbek woman who looks after it. The next one had a small cemetery next to a memorial, with about 40 or so headstones. Each headstone had a person’s name, age and job (in the army) listed. It was so sad to see so many jobs listed just as “Youth”, and the ages as young as 11 or 12. The third memorial, and by far the most prominent and biggest, is by the Polish Catholic Church in Tashkent itself. It thanks the people of Uzbekistan too, for all their help to the people of Poland during the war.

It was sad but very interesting to see, especially as I have such a close connection with the history there, due to my grandmother and great-aunt living in Tashkent with their mother before they moved on and ended up in London after the war ended. In a way it made me feel a little closer to her memory (even though we were very close before she died a few years ago), knowing that I had walked a little on what may well have been the same ground she walked on, all those years ago.



"Their parents kissed."
Submitted By: Chris C.
Location: New York, NY
Source: reasonsmysoniscrying