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Day 12 Family time

Our final day. What a great adventure we have had. Cannot believe this all came about because we like inviting people to our home. And Aina, Sultan, Omar, Altynai, Amir and their extended family could not have been more welcoming.

Birthday dinner later but no particular plans today. We had suggested we stay this final night in an hotel to allow the family to get the house back to normal before work and school tomorrow. So the morning was sent packing carefully and cleverly to fit everything thing in and safely. We had apricot and black currant jam to take home from Aina’s Mum. Honey and home dried fruit from Aina. Amir was very ‘helpful’ with the packing, all the while with that mischievous smile on his face. Omar helped lift furniture and Altynai tried out her English.

Early afternoon Aina took us to the hotel where we chilled and ate cake!

We were then picked up by Aina to join her entire family at a restaurant for an early birthday celebration. Happy birthday for tomorrow Aina.

This was a fantastic restaurant. If you go to Bishkek you must go to this restaurant. It is on the outskirts of the city but taxis are cheap remember. Supara. An eco restaurant. Basically a series of open huts and yurts set amongst the normal trees and vegetation of that area on rising ground. Would that the weather was good enough to build such a place here. Lots of activities for the children. We never saw Altynai and her cousin. They were on a slide and other playground rides all manufactured from natural products. There was also a central courtyard where musicians played local music and people took family group photos.

And the menu is extensive. And fascinating! I put myself in Aina’s hands as usual and ate what I was given. Including some horsemeat which I realised I had not tasted.

We also met Aina’s brother who we had not met before and spent some time discussing the differences in culture with him and his wife. They had spent some time in Dubai working.

And then it was time to say goodbye.

What an adventure……

Day eleven – Going it alone….

Our last but one day. What a great time we have had! We still speak not a word of Russian but we now feel brave enough to travel into Bishkek and wander round the city on our own.

Aina took us into the city centre and pointed out the two places we particularly wanted to visit. And then left us to it!

First place the Mikhail Frunze museum. Ian had never heard of this person but it seems he was at one time a potential successor to Lenin but due to being at odds with Stalin died early, under suspicious circumstances.

 

 

This was an …interesting ….. museum. Loads of memorabilia loosely related to Frunze with his life story and history told from a Russian perspective. He was a Bolshevik and involved in the Russian civil war. He was born in ‘Pishpek’ and the house of his birth is found on the ground floor, as the museum was built around it. Ian was fascinated by this museum. I enjoyed parts of it but enjoyed people watching the elderly ladies who policed each floor. There were very few visitors to the museum whilst we were there but I did not feel it was well advertised!

Time for coffee after this visit but finding a coffee shop was easier said than done. We were a little way away from the main shops and restaurants. But it was a lovely day and a rather smart restaurant garden beckoned. We asked if they did coffee and the waiter said that they were clearing up from an event the previous evening but please come this way. And he placed us at a table out of the way of all the frenetic activity. The coffee was lovely and we spent a good 30 mins soaking up the atmosphere.

Now for the State Museum of Fine Arts. No pictures as they were not allowed! First we had to find it but with the help of google maps we arrived at a very square concrete building with the most fascinating collection of textiles and paintings depicting life old and new in Kyrgyzstan. I loved the felt and woven room screens and wall hangings. And the paintings of ordinary Kyrgyz people. Including Kok Boru! There were lots of tourists here and we tagged on to a guided tour in English. Both museums were lacking in English translations, although more so Frunze’s museum!

Well past lunch time now and we had decided to return to the coffee shop we had passed some time earlier in our holiday. But this was quite a challenge. Where was it? We knew it was near the UN building, and we needed to go through an ‘underbus’ (Aina’s word) to get to it but we disagreed which way we needed to go and of course there were several branches of this cafe. But after a few false starts and a long walk we found it!

After a leisurely lunch we headed for the Post Office to see if they had a philately counter but when we got there, nobody spoke English so Ian decided not to attempt to explain. He had thought that being a relatively recently independent country it might be possible to collect all the stamps but he will need to look into that back home.

So we went to find a taxi back home. This was an adventure. It cost 200 SOM to come into the city previously. I showed the taxi drivers at a rank the address and immediately one guy asked how much? I asked him what he wanted. 800SOM says he. What says I! We only paid 200 previously. We settled for 400. All of £4 remember. All with virtually no English.

Home uneventfully in time for a lovely family meal and evening with Aina, Omar, Altynai and Amir. Altynai demanded Ian read the English books we had taken them. Would he say no?!!!

Day ten – no such thing as a free lunch!

Back in Bishkek and planning our last two days. What did we still want to do? There were two things on my list. A visit to any local museums and art gallery, with immersion in the culture -we decided to do this the next day to give Aina and her family some peace at the weekend before school and work starts again – and the Osh market! Aina’s Mum offered to take us this afternoon after our lunch out. (I never did learn her name!)

So we spent a relaxing time with the family in the morning before taking a taxi to the Park Hotel where we were meeting Isakov Ruslan Executive Director of Glavtour. A very nice hotel! One of two that this company owns, the other being at Lake Issyk-Kul next door to Aina’s Mum’s guest house!

(Incidentally taxis are really cheap, to British people, in Bishkek. For a half an hour journey expect to pay about £2. But agree a price first. If you don’t speak the language you can get ripped off. And few taxi drivers speak any English so we had the address written down. )

So we had a look at the hotel restaurant menu with a critical eye in preparation for our meeting. It was very comprehensive! A number of Kyrgyz dishes; I felt there could be more, and a wide range of  dishes from Europe and beyond. It would keep me happy for days. Isakov arrived a few minutes late with a young lady we had met the previous night. Her role it seemed was principally interpreter although she was very interested in what we had to say.

We were never sure what exactly they wanted from us but we spent a good couple of hours generally giving our thoughts about what we would expect of them to be enticed to Kyrgyzstan as a tourist. The biggest issue we could see was they outsourced trips to other local tour guides rather than providing a ‘package’ and this seemed to be in response to the tourist looking up the attractions and asking to see them rather than the tour company providing a holiday with these attractions inbuilt. We also spoke about retaining their culture, organising cultural experiences in the different districts similar to those at the Games and including a night or two in a yurt!

Once we had finished our lunch, we met up with Aina’s Mum at her apartment via a taxi. Who got stopped by the police! A very active police force and in great numbers! Not sure why. But we got there although we were confused by the numbering of the apartments and had several three way conversations via Aina. Because her mother did not speak English either!

Once we got together! she took us on a trolley bus to the Osh market.

Now this was an interesting cultural experience once again. I have never met such polite and considerate young men, and women! The minute we got on the crowded bus, a young man got up to offer me his seat. And as we travelled we saw this happen again and again, with not the slightest hesitation. And when there was no young man, a young lady did this instead. And this included mothers with children and small babies. Pushchairs did not appear to be much in use – babies are carried! And I saw lots of babies at the breast with no embarrassment!

So the Osh market! A labyrinth of colourful stalls within, surrounded by local people selling goods from cars, mats, offering services like getting weighted, car boot style, or their local produce. This was melon season and I have never seen such huge, varied and numerous melons. Sultan came home with several different types for us to try whilst we were there. We really were not looking to buy anything much because everyone had already been so generous with their gifts but I did want to experience the smells and sights. I did buy some spices and big bobbles for the girls.

A phone call from Aina to explain that she would meet us at her Mum’s and we took the trolley bus back. Aina’s mum lived on the sixth floor of an apartment block. No lift that I could see! The lounge was taken up with a huge dining table with various teas, fruits and nibbles as permanent fixtures it seemed.

Ian modelling a Kalpak

Difficult to talk but she got on with her chores and we sat patiently apart from a bit of fun with Kalpaks of various styles.

Then another phone call from Aina. We were off to her sister Nelly’s flat for dinner and would we mind another trolley bus trip to meet her there. No way. I love people watching.

Nelly’s flat was beautifully decorated but quite small. We all sat in the lounge on small chairs around a coffee table eating a very nice meat, potato and vegetable dish. The secret is in the length of cooking it seems.

Lots of fresh fruit for desert as well as little courgette pancakes/ omelette.

After a pleasant evening we headed home with Aina minus one child! Altynai went home with her gran for the night with her cousin.

 

Day 9 – Bishkek and posh frock…..again.

Our yurt!

Not a bad night. A certain little Amir stirred several times but very quickly went to sleep again. He was up at 7 though so an early start for us all.

Breakfast in the big yurt and then back to Bishkek.

Fairytale canyon

The original plan was to visit a local majestic formation in the mountains, the fairy tale canyon, but unfortunately Sultan had to fly to Tajikistan that afternoon, and we needed to get back for the children getting out of school.

So we retraced our steps and travelled to the intersection of the north and south roads around Lake Issyk-kul to pick up Aina’s Mum. We stopped for second breakfast at a local spotless cafe for coffee and a break before the longer drive to Bishkek. The mountains had more snow on them today.

The children were delighted to see Mum and we were then reminded that we had been invited to a second reception with the U.K. ambassador at a local hotel. So the posh frock came out again. And we met up with the pipe band and Highland games athletes once again. We were delighted to see the young Highland fling dancer demonstrated the sword dance.

UK ‘athletes’ demonstrating once again at the Ambassador’s reception.

We also met several people we had seen at the previous reception and got into conversation with the Chief Executive of a local tour company about the potential that Kyrgyzstan has in the tourist market. As a result we were invited out for lunch next day to discuss this more!

Day eight – a night as a Nomad!

This morning after breakfast we were to spend a final morning at the Games before heading to the south coast of Lake Issyk- Kul staying overnight in a yurt camp. 

Askar, Aina, Ian and myself headed for Games. Today on the programme Sumo wrestling, Kyrgyz wrestling and more Kok Boru! We settled down to see Kok Boru first as I rather enjoy the sport, but the Russian state could not get good horses and thus refused to play. Kyrgyzstan therefore got a bye. So we tried the Sumo next. This was crowded but was quite fun to see. Not as big wrestlers as I had seen before on the television though. It was quite tiring watching in the sun so I retired to my favourite cafe where I have become so well known after two previous visits that the guy mentioned my Scotland origin. He told me that he had applied to the UK to work in Reading but his visa had been turned down. He suggested this was because they were worried he was young enough to want to stay on as an illegal immigrant. Not sure why anyone would want to leave Kyrgyzstan with its culture and life style. I could see the Sumo as well from here so I watched til the final way over and then tried to find Ian. Mmmmm. 

No sign of him but I guessed he would head for the wrestling next but what a crush! There was simply not enough room for all the spectators. I managed to get in with great difficulty but with four lines of spectators there was no way I was going to see anything. 

So I went shopping! Well I had a good nosey at all the craft stalls outside the ground. I had previously bought an Temir komuz which I now need to practice playing. I bought nothing on this occasion although there were lots of temptations but I have been given so many gifts I don’t know how I will pack them all! 

I reached the Hippodrome only to walk into Ian. He hadn’t even managed to get into the wrestling! So we returned to the Kok Boru which was about the start with the second game. Kazakhstan v Krasnoyarsk. This was a fiercely fought match with a piebald goat, if there is such a thing. Many a time the carcass was stolen by one side or the other, and riders were falling off horses or climbing on to the opponents horse to wrestle for the goat. Unfortunately we had to leave after two thirds of the game to move onto the next stage of our holiday. 

Back to the Guesthouse, another lovely lunch…….. and three songs from our Kazakhstan friend as a farewell.

Saying bye to Aina’s Mum.

We paid for our four nights dinner, bed and Breakfast, 7000 SOM in total for the two of us (about £80!!!) and off to the south side of Lake Issyk-Kul. 

 

This was another long and very picturesque drive. Some very contrasting terrain and huge mountains. Not many photos I am afraid but then a camera never really does them justice. I had a sleeping boy on my lap once again. The roads were very rough. Apart from Bishkek and near the Games, the roads give the appearance they have never been given their final surface. And the further off the beaten track, the rougher they got. 

After about two hours we reached the Yurt Camp which was rustic and beautiful. About ten yurts in a circle with various outbuildings made out of wood and branches; a meeting room, toilets and showers, playground. Kitchen, bar and reception come souvenir shop in small barn like structures. A beautifully decorated large yurt as the dining room. Our yurt held the four of us with mattresses on the floor and not much else other than electric sockets and a light. I quickly learnt to hang my things on the struts of the wall. Two wooden doors closed the yurt and a heavy canvas flap could be unravelled to give added protected against the snow and the wind. 

As it was an hour to dinner we explored the shore of Lake Issyk-Kul. It’s very pebbly here unlike the north shore. We saw a number of yurt camps along the shore. There were lovely shades of colours in the mountains as the sun was setting. We sat for a while in the lovely wooden meeting room. 

Dinner was served in a central yurt. Beautifully decorated on the inside with semi circle low tables and cushions to sit amongst. On the floor! Not the easiest pose for me but very much in character of the yurt. We had a potato dish with onions and the occasional piece of meat accompanied by bread and salad and with watermelon and sweets for dessert. Served with tea of course. We sat with five Japanese students who were enjoying their last vacation before their final year at uni. They had had to take a taxi to reach the camp as there is no alternative. Taxis are very cheap though. 

There was not a lot to do after dinner other than admire the amazingly bright stars! No light pollution here. So we retired to the yurt, the four of us, to get a little boy to sleep and to relax and read. Amir was definitely tired and became a little naughty. He got a row from his Mum and promptly threw himself onto my bed ….. and fell asleep! 

The downside of staying in a yurt? The outside loo. And needless to say, I needed that facility more often that night.