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  • You're watching Vagabrothers,

  • and this is Uzbekistan.

  • Backwards, post- Soviet Republic,

  • home of Borat, the middle of nowhere.

  • Yeah, it's all of those things, but it's also a lot more.

  • I'm Marko. I'm Alex.

  • You're watching Vagabrothers,

  • and this is Uzbekistan.

  • For millennia Central Asia has been at the center of the world, a crossroads of civilizations.

  • And Uzbekitan is home to the legendary cities of the Silk Road, the ancient trade network that connected the

  • Mediterranean with the riches of Asia, making the middlemen wealthy enough to build cities like these.

  • From Samarkand to Bukhara, Tashkent to Khiva,

  • this land beckoned conquerors from Alexander the Great to Genghis Khan,

  • explorers from Marco Polo to even Battuta and countless merchants

  • from Britain to Beijing who wove East and West closer together through roads of silk.

  • I'm excited for this series because I've always been super interested in the history of globalization....

  • how trade, technologies, and conquest turned humanity from a bunch of isolated pockets

  • into the global world we live in today.

  • And nowhere is more central to that story than here.

  • From the time of Alexander the Great to the spread of Islam and the Mongol invasions that came later,

  • this place has made and broken many empires.

  • I'm super excited to follow in the footsteps of these great conquerors and

  • understand why this place was so crucial.

  • Right now is the perfect time to visit Uzbekistan.

  • The country was largely closed off to

  • foreigners since the end of the Cold War,

  • but with a new president there've been tons of reforms.

  • Visas are easier to get, and this place is going to be very popular with tourists very soon,

  • but still an undiscovered gem.

  • We're about to go on a trip to discover the best of Uzbekistan:

  • vibrant markets, stunning scenery, and

  • reminders of the spectacular rise and shocking fall of civilizations.

  • Forget what you think you know about the "stans."

  • You're watching Vagabrothers, and this is Uzbekistan.

  • Uzbekistan

  • Welcome to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan.

  • And Toto, we are far away from Kansas.

  • Quite literally on the opposite side of planet from our home in Los Angeles.

  • It's been a long journey to get here.

  • We have an awesome itinerary lined up.

  • This is going to be an epic vlog series,

  • and we are super stoked to be in Uzbekistan.

  • Don't know much about the "stans."

  • Have not really been out to this part of the world before,

  • but I personally am a super excited about the Silk Road.

  • I love the story of how East and West came together,

  • and few places in the world are

  • associated with that story as the ancient cities of here in Uzbekistan.

  • I'm excited to eat. The food here is incredible.

  • I've had Uzbekistan cuisine before, and it's delicious.

  • Apart from that, like Mark said, this is a super unique corner of the world.

  • It's where empires have been made and destroyed.

  • And I can't wait to get out of Tashkent

  • and into the rest of Uzbekistan because we have a pretty wild itinerary,

  • not to mention that our ancestral namesakes came through here.

  • Alexander the Great, Marco Polo.

  • So we've got some footsteps of great people to trace,

  • and I think that we should start with some lunch.

  • How about that?

  • Let's go

  • First day here in Tashkent. This is the capital.

  • It's not the oldest or most historic city in Uzbekistan.

  • And a lot of it was destroyed in the 60s during an earthquake,

  • but this is the main square.

  • Here we have the statue of Ahmir Temur.

  • He is kind of like the Genghis Khan of Uzbekistan.

  • Behind us we have the Hotel Uzbekistan,

  • which was like the main place to stay during Soviet times.

  • According to legend every room in the Hotel Uzbekistan was bugged back in the day

  • because that's just the way the Soviet Union was in those times.

  • There's a lot of changes happening in Uzbekistan.

  • For example, there used to be a statue of Karl Marx right there.

  • He was swapped out for the statue of Amir Temur.

  • Temur was basically the Genghis Khan of Uzbekistan

  • and is part of the national identity they are forming in this relatively new country.

  • Alright ladies and gents right now we are at the Cosmonaut Station.

  • We're in the metro, and interesting little fact... a little historical fact,

  • this was actually closed to photography and videography until only three months ago.

  • It's been closed to photography for over 40 years for a very interesting reason.

  • But let's hop on a train, and we'll tell you why.

  • It's definitely funny being like the only tourist in the entire city of Tashkent

  • because that's how I feel right now, but especially being on the metro.

  • We're the only people who are not from here who are on here.

  • So it's kind of fun.

  • Just embracing that and just smiling at people.

  • Tashkent's underground is beautiful,

  • but photography was banned for decades because

  • during the Cold War this was built as a bomb shelter because nuclear warfare was never far away.

  • It was also a very strategic military installation.

  • So that makes us the first people to film this and put it on YouTube ever!

  • As we know the reason that this place is called the Cosmonaut Station is

  • Uzbekistan and the "stans" in general were the home to the Russian or Soviet space program.

  • There were lots of cosmonauts, which were the Soviet version of an astronaut.

  • And the best news is there's plenty of stations.

  • This is only one, and we have more to explore.

  • We've just arrived to the station Alisher Navoi,

  • and he was like the William Shakespeare of Uzbek language,

  • but this is probably one of the most beautiful metro stations I've ever seen.

  • I've heard about the metro stations in St. Petersburg being very, very beautiful,

  • but this is the closest that I've gotten there.

  • but I just love the Islamic architecture, the domes, all of the lines.

  • If you're into photography, if you're into symmetry and the rule of thirds,

  • you can have a lot of fun here.

  • And I think it kind of represents how this is a new country,

  • and in the 1970s during the Soviet times

  • they were really trying to build a sense of national identity by combining the grandiose Soviet architecture with

  • historical figures from the past, whether that be like in the Cosmonaut Station

  • there were the ancient medieval Islamic astronomers with Soviet astronauts.

  • Here you have Islamic architecture, a writer.

  • And then there's also one down the street, which is all cotton theme, which is one the major exports here in Uzbekistan.

  • Well, we have arrived to the Islamabad center of ploof.

  • Ploof is like pilaf. It's a rice and meat dish for fruits and nuts.

  • Behind us is 440 kilograms, nearly a thousand pounds of rice, beef, and mutton and it smells so good.

  • This dish you see cross Central Asia, everywhere from Persia all the way to India.

  • But here in Uzbekistan, it's a really special treat.

  • They serve it on special occasions. This place opens only for lunch.

  • They serve up a thousand pounds of this stuff and when it's gone, it's gone.

  • So you got to get it while the getting's good, and it smells delicious.

  • So enough talking. Time to eat.

  • The food has arrived. We have this excellent bread with this yogurt, which is great for helping with digestion.

  • But the main course right here is the ploof.

  • It's got lamb meat on top, horse sausage, quail,

  • yellow carrots, chickpeas, raisins,

  • and awesome waitresses.

  • So it's time to dig in.

  • It's not every day that you eat a horse sausage,

  • but you know when in Rome....

  • and this is certainly the way they do things here.

  • Ploof or pilaf is one of those dishes that is cross-border.

  • Many different nationalities kind of claim it as their own, but the reality is

  • that it's a dish from this region, from Central Asia,

  • and it's spread to other parts of the world from here.

  • There're two different creation myths for pilaf.

  • One is that Aristotle, the teacher of Alexander the Great,

  • told Alexander that if he used these specific proportions of meat, rice,

  • vegetables, and fruit, he could keep his soldiers full all day,

  • therefore removing the necessity to stop and feed them throughout the day,

  • allowing his army to move further, faster.

  • The second is that Avi Senna, who is a tenth century polymath

  • scholar and considered the father of modern medicine, created the dish.

  • So there're two different creation myths.

  • Either way you look at it, there's one takeaway...

  • that it's absolutely delicious,

  • and at this restaurant they do it very, very well.

  • Okay, so we popped off the metro at Chorsu Bazaar.

  • This is the oldest bazaar in the city.

  • It's from 880 AD, so it's over 1,200 years old.

  • And as we said, a lot of these cities were trading cities from the dawn of civilization.

  • We're going to take a look around the market, see what's for sale, and build up our appetite.

  • Just step inside of the market, which is housed in this giant penageodesic dome.

  • Smells like meat in here. This is the meat market.

  • It's quite literally a meat market, but there's all sorts of stuff.

  • There're pickled vegetables. There're sausages.

  • There's crazy meat cuts.

  • People are kind of like yelling in that quintessential market voice, you know,

  • that's like trying to get your attention to come and buy something, but it's cool.

  • It's definitely different.

  • It's a new corner of the world, different style of food.

  • It smells like vinegar and meat in here.

  • California.

  • California, yeah.

  • Uzbekistan? Yeah.

  • Okay, so here in Central Asia, there's a lot of milk dishes,

  • and they become cheeses or almost yogurts,

  • but then there's various forms.

  • It's kind of a wine; you have the little new one, the aged one.

  • This is the super aged, so there's no liquid left.