We left Tashkent this morning to drive to the Fergana valley. On our way, we dropped in at a contemporary ceramist’s studio. Over tea with macaroons and biscuits, he explained how his grandfather – a well known ceramist – had dedicated his life to documenting traditional motifs and ceramic techniques. Sections of his handwritten diaries could be seen in the family’s private gallery. This young man started learning from his grandfather when he was six years old. He said grandparents are more patient than parents! His own father is a renowned ceramist and had exhibited around the world. As we stepped into their gallery, we were introduced to many styles of ceramics – the Tashkent style, Steppe style, contemporary designs inspired by embroideries, traditional blue pottery and more. This ceramist clearly loved his work, spoke at an unhurried pace, and was rather tolerant as we gushed over his pieces.
We headed out to the Fergana valley crossing the Tian Shan mountains. It was a beautiful scenic drive through snow-laden mountains. We got off at Kamchik Pass and took the customary picture with the mountains in the background. What was even more exciting was to know that this route was a part of the actual Silk Road.
Our first stop in the Fergana valley was in a town called Kokand. The Khan at Kokand had amassed a huge territory that crossed Tashkent and beyond. He also built a palace of gold (not kidding) of which only 27 rooms remain. Our guide was an elderly lady with teeth of gold but knew her stuff. Each room of the palace had stunning ceilings with intricate patterns, each room with its distinct style. The main reception room had seven kgs of gold leaf on the roof. An overdose of gold was the theme for the day!
From Kokand, we hit the road again to reach Fergana town towards late evening. Tomorrow was to be a big day – we were off to meet ceramist masters at Rishton.