Saying Yes to Soviet Westerns, Cellos and Vodka. A night out in Samarkand.


Before I left Australia I had decided to say ‘Yes’ to any offer or invitation that came my way, as Danny Wallace did in the fun read ‘Yes Man’. The idea was to see what adventures this may lead me too, to get out of my hotel room, and to get out of my comfort zone. The only condition was that it had to be legal and not involve over inflated price gouging by older Russian ladies with so much make-up on they would resemble ‘the Joker’ if they cried (one step forward ladies of the night at the Hotel Uzbekistan bar in Tashkent).


I was walking back to my hotel in Samarkand after a heavy day of enjoying the Registan and the other many delights of the historical city, when a van pulled up beside me and a thin grey haired man struggled to carry (or drag) a large Cello and other paraphernalia into a large modern hall opposite. I offered to help and he gratefully accepted. After moving his equipment he was eager for me to accompany him into the building, which was a music academy and concert hall combined.

I said yes and he climbed onto the stage and gave me a magical short performance on his cello, which was stunning (he was to appear on stage at the Registan in the independence celebrations) before inviting me backstage, where he settled in front of a TV and asked if I wanted to see a Western. Of course the answer was 'Yes', a Soviet Western it was filmed in the deserts of Azerbaijan. It was a clearly a classic, the action consisting of battles between Russian cowboys and rather Central Asian looking 'Indians', with very little Russian dialogue, and it improved with each glass of Uzbek Vodka, as we drained a bottle.

Yes, that is a photo of the Uzbekistan president on the TV. I never asked why, as it all made sense at the time…