When Asia met Russia
This country is amazing! There are farmers and farm workers that still live in yurts (animal hide huts), and the countryside is as beautiful as the city. I wouldn't fly on Uzbeki- or Kyrgyz- air, simply because I got to see how they maintain their aircraft. (Their spare parts are taken off aircraft that are in a sort-of bone-yard behind the airport!) The American Pub was a wonderful place to go, and their cooking is mouth watering!! Their beer is something to try as well. There are color-coded / numbered beers (3, 5, 7, 9, etc). A "3" is the average, while a "9" is similar to a "lite" Guinness with the alcohol content to match. For example: a 200 lb man would need about 4 to 6 "3" beers to be drunk, while he would need only 2 or less "9" beers to be pretty well toasted! The architecture is also beautiful. Antique looking and styled in the 70's and 80's. Traveling in and out of the city is funny in one sense: the random "cow." Out of the blue you see, house... house... field... house... playground... cow... house... junkyard... house... cow! I got to see the last statue of Stalin before they demolished it. Also there are still aircraft, gates, and buildings that bear worn emblems of a hammer and sickle. The country is very poor and the south border is NOT advisable to go since there are still mine fields! Traveling around the city is easy even in a rental. Many wares in stores are cheap, so haggling is barely necessary. $20 could feed a family there for at least a week. I helped a local charity build a playground for a children’s tuberculosis hosp. We shared skittles with the children - and they showed us some of their games.
The funniest thing I can...
The funniest thing I can remember is the translation from the old kyrghiz language os the capital's name. Translated, it means 'a stick to shake koumiss'. Koumiss, in its turn, is a sort of a milk people get from a horse.
On the road- Aurora on Lake Issyk Kul to Bishkek
As we traveled back to Bishkek we passed several "road side stands" selling, produce and what I thought looked like dried fish plus other items I could not see well enough to identify, they may have been handicrafts either wooden toys or children's clothes etc.
My driver stopped at one that had baskets of apples for sale. He bought several in a bag, slipped them into the back seat and we continued our trip.
Later he gestured to them and made motions like eating an apple, them pointer to his watch nodded his head while saying "later". I responded "Da spaceba" and nodded, he smiled. As we where passing through the gorge about 10 minutes down the road there was pipe with water running from it. He stopped, grabbed a cup and the apples, filled the cup and took a drink,. Then he washed the apples, came back to the car and handed me one. Again I replied "Da, spaceba" (yes thank you) and we proceed to eat two of his half dozen or so that he bought., the rest where headed to his home for his family to enjoy.
The Kyrgyz people could be very warm and pleasant as long as they realized you where pleasant and accepting of them, their ways and their situation. The moment they sensed that someone was patronizing them, you could not have found anyone colder! They were polite even then but stern and crisp does not even set the stage for their response!
Things to see in Bishkek
Tourists come to Kyrgyzstan to climb and trek, and not to see Bishkek. The city can easily be seen in a day, in my opinion. A couple of hours walking, and you would have seen the most interesting sights. Start with Victory Square, walk up to TSUM shopping centre, and follow Chuy prospekt east for 20mins. Voila.
We long-jumped the last stream, tossing our bags to each other across the rushing brook before leaping, and hiked the last hill to the yurts above. Two yurts stood alongside a cooking tent near one of the corrals used in the summer season. A small figure in red noticed our approach and ran to spread the news.
By the time we arrived a young shepherd greeted Beka with a hearty hug and invited us into one of the yurts. There we collapsed before the shepherd returned with a jug and two bowls and poured out the kymyz.
Beka had chugged his first bowl before I’d tasted mine. About 3% alcohol, kymyz tastes like a thin, plain yogurt but is far, far more acidic and sour. As I watched Beka pound his second bowl like a frat kid shot-gunning a beer I wondered if I’d be able to finish mine.
"Visas, trasportations, hotels in Kyrgystan"
Flights from the United States generally go through Moscow or London and end in the capital, Bishkek. Long layovers are common since Bishkek isn’t a frequent destination, so get a transit visa for Russia unless you want to spend ten hours in the dreary Sheremetyevo airport as I did.
A single entry visa is $36 and to get from the Kirghiz embassy or on the aeroport. Cheap visa support by 12 euros http://www.travelazerbaijan.land.ru/
I stayed in the Bishkek Alton. The Alton is centrally located (#30 Manas Road, telephone: 66-64-12) and relatively inexpensive. The staff is friendly but speaks almost no English. Fancier, more western hotels offer pick-up from the airport and other services, but charge more western prices as well. Young people gather at the fountain in the center of Bishkek's amusement park, located just behind their White House.
Where to eat:
Kurut – tart and tangy balls of dried yogurt
Oromo - mats of dough filled with cabbage, small bits of meat and onions. Rolled into a roullette and cooked in a special pan.
Beshbarmak – bits of mutton meat (or goat, in our case) mixed by hand with sopping Kyrgyz spaghetti noodles and meat broth
Ashlianfu – cold noodles, vinegar, peppers and sometimes egg
Ganfan – consistently good Dungan Chinese-inspired dish of rice in a spicy meat and vegetable broth.
Chochvara - dumpling pockets (much like pelmeni above, but fried), served with a spicy tomato-based broth.
Kymys – fermented mare’s milk, the king of Central Asian beverages. The best stuff supposedly comes from Song Kul Lake in Kyrgyzstan.
The hub of the expat community in Bishkek is Cafe Metro at 148a Chui Road, about a block from the Philharmonic. A good place to find people who know how to deal with Kyrgyzstan’s quirks.