Monday, November 25, 2013

Land of the Black Hats

I'm so excited to see that the latest post on Strange Maps is about Karakalpakistan! I was there ten years ago. It was really amusing to read this quote about the Tashkent Hotel: "Even those trying to talk up the tourist potential of Karakalpakstan ruefully admit that the Tashkent Hotel in Nukus is 'abysmal […] certainly a prime candidate for the worst hotel in the world.'" Hey, guess where I stayed? (There was one other hotel in town, which was full. So I got to stay in, and throw up in, the Hotel Tashkent! Ah, memories)

Anyway, part of me wants to be offended that Frank Jacobs deems the map of Karakalpakistan to be "strange," when really there is nothing strange about it. It's just an out of the way place that few people in this corner of the world are aware of. On the other hand, he has shone a spotlight on an obscure corner of the world that I care about! So all is forgiven.

Also, KKPStan is a pretty weird place, with  both the world's worst ecological disasters (okay, one of them) and the largest surviving stash of soviet decadent art. That strangeness just isn't visible on the map--at least not the map on Jacobs' post. Like everyone else, his map (snatched from this site) uses the Aral sea as it appeared decades ago, and not the pathetic remnants we have today. In that sense, the map used in the post is less strange than the place really is.