Trans Eurasia travel

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City bazaars

The Gulustan Bazaar in the centre of Ashgabat, usually referred to as the Russian Bazaar, is the main daily market. It is housed in a concrete Soviet structure, based around ten pillars, each supporting a section of roof. Fruit, vegetables and groceries fill the space beneath. Meat and milk products are kept cool in glass-fronted refrigerated cabinets bearing cheerful but odd English-language logos: 'Fanta Fan Club'; 'Thanks for your shoping'. The space is decorated with a large white sculpture of indeterminate subject. Around this central area is a line of shops, offering more expensive imported goods, alcohol, CDs and videos. Clothes stalls surround the main market space to the south and east.

The Tekke Bazaar, on the western edge of the town centre, is focused on fruit and vegetables. In the summer months melons are piled high into little hills along one side of the market.

The Kopetdag Bazaar lies along 1995 Kochesi, east of the Hotel Nissa. It is popularly known as the 'Old Fair', or often simply as the domiki ('little houses'), since the stalls comprise chalets, in front of which are metal-framed tented spaces in which the wares are displayed. Most of the stalls sell imported clothing and footwear, though a couple of places offer Turkmen handicrafts and carpets. The vendors mostly seem thoroughly bored, and spend much of their day chewing at sunflower seeds. The market is open from 09.00-20.00.

The Alemgoshar Bazaar is a good suburban market. It sits in the southeastern part of the city, and is more widely known as the 'Sto Fontanov' ('100 Fountains') Bazaar, after a fountain ensemble which lies close by, in the strip of parkland running beside the adjacent 1934 Kochesi. The 100 fountains themselves, built as part of the commemorations in 1981 to mark the 100th anniversary of the foundation of Ashgabat, are less than exciting: 100 little tiled circles, from the centres of which water presumably once spouted, sitting in a basin. Nearby, 100 plane trees are another product of what seem to have been celebrations by numbers. The bazaar is centred on a fruit and vegetable market, with several rows of clothes stores behind. It is in theory open 07.00-22.00, though winds down by mid-evening.

The Guneshli Bazaar, 'Sunny Market' is much better known by its Russian name, Optovi, the wholesale market. It is located on a scruffy plot at the southern edge of town, on the corner of 1945 Kochesi and 1946 Kochesi. Traders offer imported packet food, household goods, alcohol and boxes of cigarettes from stalls housed in metal containers. The place is open 08.00-20.00, except Mondays.