The Northern Route of the Silk Road
While most of the branches went directly West, entering Europe through Iran, Iraq and the Eastern Mediterranean, one northern route of the Silk road route took a detour north after Bukhara and Samarkand, following the Amu Darya River towards the Aral Sea. This also bypassed Khiva, a city in Uzbekistan, which has an unsavoury reputation for its slave trade, painting a darker picture of the historic Silk Route.
After the Aral Sea, this branch crossed over to the Caspian Sea’s northern shore over the Volga Delta and up to Astrakhan. From here, it made its way into Russia and the Crimean Peninsula as one route into the Black Sea – taking the traded goods to the Balkans and even Italy. Other breakaway sections also included a road that went down into the Caucasus by land and then met the Black Sea that way or came over to the region via the Caspian Sea, landing in Baku and going up to the Georgian ports.