Tashkent. It sounds so romantic: visions of the Silk Road, of khans and mosques and heady trade and history. But really, the city no longer has much to offer.

Today I went to the Chorsu Bazaar, the one thing that any guidebook seems to recommend without hesitation.  Okay, I thought, another bazaar. They’re always interesting: colorful fruits, spices, miscellany.

I have never seen a bazaar like this.

It’s enormous. I got lost in it for hours – literally lost, and I usually have a pretty damn good sense of direction. The bazaar is centered around a gorgeous blue dome, and you can wander around it (truly, around it) for ages, in concentric circles or down diverting lanes, or out into the densely packed stalls under hand-tied cloth overhangs.

The bazaar sells everything you could possibly imagine. Yes, the richly colored plums and cherries and apricots and parsley and dill. Yes, the almonds in their shells, the piles of spices and berries and fresh herbs and root vegetables. But also the little prickly things they use to put patterns in their bread; plastic buckets in primary colors, so perfect for carrying home fruit from the market; toiletries; cosmetics; baby strollers and cribs; water and juice and soda; dresses and shirts and underwear and socks; hair ornaments; neckties; shoes, from dressy leather to plastic conveniences; remote controls; jewelry; everything. Everything.

So it was worth getting lost. Mostly.

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