Trans Eurasia travel

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Serhetabat (Kushka)

Known in Soviet times as Kushka, this town on the Afghan border had the distinction of being the southernmost settlement of the Soviet Union. It sits 90km south of the Tagtabazar turning, a linear settlement of mostly Soviet apartment blocks. The origins of the place as a tsarist garrison town explain the small Orthodox church and the handful of pre-Soviet buildings. Two interesting monuments stand on military property in the hills to the east of the town, overlooking it. A large white-painted cross, with a black border, was erected in tsarist times to mark the southernmost point of the Russian Empire. Similar crosses were placed at the points furthest north, south and west. There is a Soviet monument nearby, to the idealised young war hero Alyosha, which has been given a half-hearted Turkmenising makeover. The Russian inscription has been painted over, with a Turkmen commentary added about the importance of tribal unity.

The Afghan border lies some 5km south of town. The customs post on the Turkmen side is open roughly from 08.00 to dusk. Although the tsarist-era railway does cross a couple of kilometres into Afghan territory, cross-border rail traffic is freight only, and rail passengers can go no further south than Serhetabat.