Why Travel the Silk Road, and Why Now?
The Silk Road was not a single road; it was a far-flung web of lonely camel tracks leading from the East to the West and back again. Mother of all road trips, the Silk Road became the conduit for spreading belief systems, new forms of architecture, agriculture, music and art to the world.
A particularly challenging branch of the Silk Road, it ventures up and over the Pamir Mountains, some of the most rugged and beautiful on Earth, soaring upward where the Himalayas, the Tien Shan and the Hindu Kush meet. A few travelers can retrace this route with group tours, such as MIR’s summertime offering, The Pamir Highway: From the Tien Shan to the High Pamirs.
Even easier is traveling to the Silk Road’s highlight city, Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Until recently, it took hours of travel on a bumpy highway or on a very uncomfortable train from Uzbekistan’s capital city, Tashkent, to Samarkand. Now, a fast, comfortable high-speed train, the Afrosiab, whisks travelers 214 miles to the fabled oasis of Samarkand in just two-and-a-half hours. The Afrosiab gets its name from an ancient town near Samarkand. Perhaps best of all: the Afrosiab is air-conditioned!
The Savitsky Museum shelters one of the world’s largest collections of Soviet-era avant-garde art in the desert backwater of northwest Uzbekistan: Nukus, Karakalpakstan. Russian artist Igor Savitsky fell in love with the area in the 1950s and made it his home. Distressed to learn Soviet officials were banning and destroying Soviet avant garde paintings, Savitsky concocted a plan to convince authorities to let him buy many of those paintings – some 40,000 – for his new museum in the desert, in Nukus.
It worked. All those paintings were saved from destruction, and today preserved for those who admire not just the artwork but the man behind the Savitsky Museum. An award-winning documentary, The Desert of Forbidden Art, grabbed world attention with its riveting story of Savitsky’s rescue of so many pieces of banned art.
It’s a critical time to visit Nukus and see the Savitsky Museum’s avant garde art first-hand, since it continues to be threatened with closure and other financial difficulties. It is a modern-day Silk Road treasure, considered by some one of the world’s best museums.
All the more reason to travel the Silk Road now, exploring and appreciating its ancient and modern history.
- Join a small group tour, designed by experts and the best value on the market
- In comfort and style on a rail journey by private train
- Travel when, where and how you want, on a custom & private journey
Ready to go and wondering what to pack on your Silk Road trip? Check out our expert recommendations.
(Top photo credit: Martin Klimenta – Precisely-placed blue-hued tiles adorn these domes in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.)
PUBLISHED: November 12, 2014