Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan

Day 1 and 2: We flew in from Istanbul on Turkish Airlines to join the tour in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan). Happily this meant that we avoided the delights of having to fly from Spain to London, then take the Aeroflot flight from London to Bishkek. We were met very efficiently at the airport at 3am and transported to our hotel in Bishkek, along with 2 others from the group on the same flight

Sleep was therefore a bit short as we were up by 10 next morning for a briefing meeting over a late breakfast. We met the group - 12 travelling souls with whom we were to be closely linked - and the leader Amanda Drake

We stayed at the Demi Guest House in Bishkek. The hotel is behind a secure gated and walled compound. We had a fabulous and slightly unreal room - it was probably the master bedroom of the building before it was made into a hotel. An enormous room, with an enormous bathroom with more gold plated taps and accessories than is the norm. The bedroom was sort of eclectic art deco. I would guess that the hotel had been a private house at some time, and this is the best room by far - you want to ask for it if staying here. It has air con. The breakfast was fine, but nothing special. Reception speaks English. Cold drinks available in the lobby. Wifi works in the bedroom and is free. All in all I would recommend this hotel - it is probably as good as you will find in the city at the moment. You need to make your own mind up on the location - it suited us, as we had transport provided for the group, but some may find the location inconvenient.

After lunch there was a trip round the city. Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, is what one might expect from a former Soviet provincial capital - a mix of grandiose buildings and open parks, interspersed with the markets and mosques of the orient, that the Soviets never really stamped out. Interestingly, as in the other Central Asian republics, many vestiges of old Soviet days remain, including a statue of Lenin - something you would not see in the Baltic republics.

Bishkek is situated at about 800 metres altitude just off an extension of the Tian Shan mountain range, which rises up to 4,855 metres and provides a spectacular backdrop to the city. North of the city, a fertile and gently undulating steppe extends far north into neighboring Kazakhstan. The Chui River drains most of the area.

Bishkek is a city of wide boulevards and marble-faced public buildings combined with numerous Soviet-style apartment blocks surrounding interior courtyards and, especially outside the city centre, thousands of smaller privately built houses. It is laid out on a grid pattern, with most streets flanked on both sides by narrow irrigation channels that water the innumerable trees which provide shade in the hot summers.

The city tour was followed by dinner and early bed after the rigours of the previous night. For the next few weeks meals were mainly "central Asian" food - not altogether gourmet by Western standards, but quite wholesome and they were nothing like as bad as we had been led to believe. I can see the problems that citizens of this area would have if the positions were reversed and they went to Europe.

Next day we loaded up with Vodka, apparently a necessity in this part of the world, and headed out into the great unknown. The transport in this part of Kyrgyzstan was good - a modern(ish) bus with room for all and their legs and luggage.

The guide was Sasha, a soft spoken Kyrgyz of Russian origin - I think her grandparents had to leave Russia at the time of the Red Revolution. In common with most of what we were told by guides, the spiel tended to concentrate on the mythical past of the country, rather than its history over the last 100 years - the years from Russian annexation in the 19th century to independence in the 1990s are rarely spoken about.

Click on any of the thumbnail images to get a larger photo

Our room in Demi Guest House in Bishkek Lunch, and our introduction to central Asia food
  Mythical hero carrying his horse. Lenin still lives here  
       
Kyrgyz soldiers in Museum The changing of the guard at Bishkek with much stamping of feet and high goose stepping
  The market here had much in common with others we saw all over Central Asia
       
      A case of Vodka for the road

 

On to Son Kul

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