Surprisingly, on the journey along the Great Silk Road the couple Marie and Claude Jove from a small French village in Burgundy was inspired by the "Book of the Diversity of the World" about the Marco Polo adventures, which was written in 1296 and reissued in 1955. About their adventures in Kazakhstan, they told the business weekly website Kapital.kz.
The Silk Road, Marco Polo and the Country of Apples
Spouses Marie and Claude Jouve live in the medieval castle Pontus-de-Tiarde in the village of Byss-sur-Fle (Burgundy), where they are engaged in its restoration. In addition to revival of fortress walls, they also restore the once-lost ancient vineyards, peach and apple orchards, try to preserve medieval winemaking recipes. They are in love with the history and that is why they very carefully studied the origin of all these gardens. In the process of studying the history of gardening and the appearance in France of apples, they came to the conclusion that almost all the most delicious and sweet varieties have "roots" in the Kazakh land.
«For us it was an incredible discovery and the second bell, which pushed us to an adventurous journey from France in the wake of Marco Polo to the Kazakh lands. Initially, interest aroused "Book of the Diversity of the World"», — shared the couple.
In general, according to them, Kazakhstan was at the hearing very often, but it was not planned to visit it until Zhanar, a girl from Kazakhstan, came to the village with a volunteer mission to help rebuild the castle.
«Then all the puzzles converged into one bright picture. We presented how it would be great - to get to Kazakhstan, to feel the spirit of ancient history, visit the mausoleum of Aisha-bibi and Babadzha-hatun, the Mausoleum of Haji Ahmet Yassaui, stroll through the cliffs of Tamgaly Tas, go down to the cave Ak-mosque and look at the boundless Kazakh Steppes, of which we only read and dreamed of seeing first hand. We made a decision: we must go!» — tell the French.
About the preparation for the journey
We are travelers with experience, for many years we have traveled through the countries on our small caravan-motorhome, and, in addition to European countries, we visited Iran, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia and visited Russia. We began to search for information about Kazakhstan on sites dedicated to caravanning, but, unfortunately, it is very small and it is only in Russian. We did not leave the idea, but we did not dare to go at random, because we did not know the routes, the quality of the roads, nor the rules. They applied to the Kazakhstan embassy in Paris with a request to provide contacts of companies that organize tourist trips around Kazakhstan in motor homes. We were lucky, and we were given contacts of the Association of Caravanning and Camping Tourism in Kazakhstan and its leader Bayan Shapagatova. We were in touch by WhatsApp almost around the clock, asked questions, we were sent coordinates and tips on how to move, where to stop, what to see along the way, how to communicate with people, what language is preferred for communication, and so on. Our route today looks like this: Paris - Orenburg - Aktobe - Kyzylorda - Turkestan - Almaty. Then we plan to visit Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and then return to France.
About emotions, acquaintances, roads and policemen
When our caravan drove from Orenburg to Kazakhstan, we were immediately pleasantly surprised by the quality of the road surface. If to compare, for example, with Iran, where the road is just a name, and with Georgia and Armenia, where asphalt is often interrupted by country roads, then everything is not bad in Kazakhstan. We once just got on a country road, and that's only because we misunderstood the direction that we were advised at Green Land camping in Aktobe. But, as they say, there is no thin without good. If we did not get lost, there would not be a very pleasant acquaintance. On the road, a woman was catching a car, we offered to give her a ride, and the cards were laid out so well that our route coincided and led to the village of Shalkar, in which our new acquaintance Bayan lived. She urged us to visit her house so much that we did not refuse. Plus, it was an acquaintance with local life and cuisine. The hostess treated us with local delicacies - kurt and irimshik - a very strange combination of tastes, but we really liked it, especially irimshik.
If we talk about roads - everything is fine here, but why are there no signs of speed limits, recommendatory signs, that it is necessary to turn on the lights or that on the way to repair the road? It was very surprising. If the police did not stop us and told us that we need to turn on the headlights, we would not know. Then we were just warned and asked not to violate any more, also advising not to exceed the speed. Okay, communication was pleasant! We continued on our way. But then again there was a surprise. For no reason the road ended, or rather, it was closed in connection with the repair. We had to stop, and since there was no sign "Stop is prohibited", we parked closer to the side of the road to see the map and understand where to go next. But immediately the police patrol approached and, saying that we can not stop at the bridge, asked us to present Kazakhstan's insurance. Naturally, we did not have it, information that it should be done is also not available anywhere. We think that it would be nice to put the offices of insurance companies at customs, then there would not be such precedents. In general, the police decided to fine us, indicating the amount of 300 euros. We have already heard about the fact that police in the CIS countries like to take fines without writing out documents. We said that this amount is absolutely unacceptable to which we received the answer: "Well, how much money do you want to give us?" In general, 50 euro got off, but the experience is unpleasant. By the way, in Europe you are nowhere fined at all, for registration of violations there are cameras and automatic issuance of fines that come by mail.
And one more interesting observation: there are no signs of directions, there are no pointers to attractions, although, for example, Tamgaly Tas is an UNESCO object, but it was difficult to find it. We only saw all the names in Russian and Kazakh languages, we saw English only in the center of Almaty. Having stopped by in a small town, the tourist is immediately lost, because he does not know where to go, what to see. Maybe this is exactly the place that you need to see, but there is no information, and the culture of caravanning is not developed at all, there are very few places for camping. After all, traveling at a motor home assumes that the used water needs to be drained off somewhere, and it is also necessary to replenish it, since we use this water for showering, washing dishes and so on. There are a lot of gas stations, there is gas, there is gas, but there is no water ... How do you live without water? (They laugh.)
If we talk about the prospects for the development of Kazakhstan as a popular destination for foreign tourists, there are definitely prospects. We ourselves would like to return here again, Kazakhstan has so much conquered us with its beauty, but already on the plane, because the way is complex and far. And, of course, we will recommend Kazakhstan as a compulsory country for visiting. I would like to wish the authorities of the country to invest more in the development of tourism, in settlements to put tourist offices, to put signposts in three languages. Along the route running along the Silk Road, to build guest houses and hostels with less strict requirements for guests, rather than in expensive hotels. The fact is that people who are keen on caravanning often travel with their pets, in our case it's a dog. And we have to spend the night in a van, so as not to leave her alone, even if there is a place to sleep. And, of course, pay attention to the development of camping tourism, because all over the world this type of travel is very popular.
Waiting — reality
But, despite some inconveniences, we can say that Kazakhstan has exceeded all our expectations. It is very beautiful here, the steppes conquered by their vastness, such landscapes are difficult to find anywhere else in the world. The mountains are stunningly beautiful, they are very different from those we saw in Europe. The mausoleums of Aisha-Bibi and Babadja-Khatun are generally beyond the bounds of ecstasy, such an amazing energy comes from this place, the Charyn canyons are a unique place. People! People are a separate topic, they are very sympathetic, they always try to tell, even if they do not understand, they will still explain and even conduct gestures to the place of interest - it's very pleasant. At the end of the conversation, I would like to thank Bayan Shapagatov, the head of the Association for Camping Tourism and Caravanning, for helping us organize our trip. I think we would not go anywhere if we did not find this organization. Thank you, Kazakhstan, for the warm welcome, we will definitely return!