Bishkek is a clean city. During Soviet times people of the Soviet Union had little of their own. What they did have was immense pride in their public spaces and cities. They appreciated communal areas and parks. This is still true today in Bishkek. Not very street and building is gleaming and state of the art, but you really will not see any graffiti and you will never see rubbish lying on the ground.
Please do not start any new and bad traditions while you are here.
There are bins (trash cans) all across the city. They are not that clean themselves, but they are used and emptied all the time. In fact, many people wrap the rubbish up in a bag before they put it in the bin.
The Mayor's Office has a website often citing clean up campaigns. And the Police. These guys are all too happy to give fines and or arrest you. Just imagine if they saw you throwing down a wrapper or dropping a bottle.
The first photo says (in Russian): NO LITTER. The third photo is in Kyrgyz and says something like 'How do you want to make history?'. Meaning do you want to leave evidence you are a complete idiot. Please look at the photos if you don't know the words. And please keep it clean.
The flag of Kyrgyzstan is a lot more complicated than you think. The symbol within and forming part of the circle represents the “Tunduk” – a vey important part of Kyrgyz life and culture. At a basic level the Tunduk is the central apex of traditional nomadic ‘Yurts’ or very fortified tents. In order to support what is a really a house that can be moved, the central wooden poles must be able to take tremendous amount of weight and last for years. It is also where sunlight passes into the yurt when the weather is good. It’s a symbol in itself to somewhat explain the heart of Kyrgyz society.
The current flag was adopted on 3 March 1992. The Kyrgyz Republic actually became an independent state on 31 August 1991. Given that Kyrgyzstan became the very last of the former Soviet Union republics to secede form the former USSR – it’s not a big surprise they waited a while to come up with a new flag. What they did come up with really does symbolise their history and culture.
The flag is compromised of a red background with golden lines in the form of the Tunduk surrounded by 40 uniformly spaced rays radiating outwards. It also represents the sun in its entirety. "Kyrgyz" means red and the colour also symbolizes bravery. The sun represents wealth and peace. The 40 rays of the sun represent the 40 separate Kyrgyz tribes unified by the national hero, Manas, against Mongols invasion. Manas is recounted in an epic 500,000 word poem that is thought to have been written in the 1600-1700’s. Although many believe Manas did exist and his burial place is known; he is more legend than fact. This owes itself quite a bit to the fact that traditional Kyrgyz life was nomadic and reliant upon oral historians, who have now also passed into history.
The typical Central Asian hospitality, that can in no way be compared with the way guests are greeted in the western world: Never you will come across a yurt without being invited for a cup of the national drink Kymyz (horse milk) and a when you first get acquainted, and at the second meeting you're very often already considered as a family member!
Horse-back riding is one of the most important parts of Kyrgyz culture, and a Kyrgyz saying even tells us: "If you would have only one day to live, you have to pass this day on a saddle.
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.
Kyrgyz men love to play chess. There as a corner in the central park where there are always dozens of, mostly somewhat elderly, men waiting for a worthy opponent, or just enjoying the match between others. Just go and take a look at one of the boards, you'll surely be invited to play a game (so was I as you can see in the picture). The great thing about chess is ofcourse that the rules are the same all over the world, so anyone can play, regardless of the language you speak!