Tag Archives: Kyrgyzstan

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 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 seven – Kyrchyn and the ethno village

Up at 8, out for 9 and off to the ethnovillage in the Kyrchyn gorge. This is a long trip as it situated some 30Km up in the mountains. The road is winding and dusty but just about has room for two way traffic but there are also animals on the road either roaming free or being driven by a farmer. We had Amir with us today and he had a bit of a strop which caused us some angst but we eventually arrived at the beautiful sight of hundreds of yurts well spread over a large area in a bowl shaped hollow at the foot of magnificent mountains. 

After parking it was a long rough walk across natural countryside to the village. Aina took the easy way with Amir, on horseback as there were numerous men offering lifts to whichever part of the village you wanted to go to. We found out later they were charging 200 SOM although Aina knocked it down to 100SOM! This is roughly £1

Incidentally the bus fare from the Hippodrome to the Ethnovillage is 50-70SOM! 60-80p

Meanwhile we headed for the mid point of the mass of yurts and were then at a loss as to what to do or where to find the events we wanted to see. It was explained to us that the yurts were arranged in villages one from each of the 9 provinces of Kyrgyzstan and that each one would put on a performance periodically throughout the day. Our  companions, a woman friend of Aina’s mum and Asgar a young man from Kazakhstan also staying at the guesthouse directed us to one of the yurts to partake of food and Kumiss (fermented mares milk – not to my taste but of course I tried it). There we were encouraged to take photos of each other reclining it on the carpets and of course some beautiful embroidered pictures came out for sale. Mostly these were of Putin, their  PM and Trump! We were not at all interested in these but there was a small picture of a Kyrgyz archer but I didn’t buy it because I really wasn’t sure what the custom was here. 

As we left the Yurt it was obvious something was about to happen so we stopped. It was a beautiful and interesting musical play of a courtship of a young man and woman and village life, we think! Dancers in beautiful costume and little girls playing Ordo, a game played with sheep bones and looked the same as knuckle bones of my youth! A narrator sang the story and members of the village acted out the play. This lasted for about an hour and we stayed for it all sitting in an audience with a small party of Japanese tourists. 

We then meandered slowly up to the northern most point where Aina and the UNDP yurt was situated. Lots of dressed up people to watch and a big bazaar. We had a few words and then found out that the sporting activities were in another group of yurts some 1/2 km to the east. We walked over and then sat on a hill avoiding the cow pats and horse dung and settled to watch hawk and golden eagle hunting/ baiting. One Arab was virtually disqualified because he was not swinging the lure to entice the hawk but letting it rest on the ground. The referees were very kind though and just timed him out really. 

The eagles were another thing. The first two ‘enticements’ ended with the eagles flying off in the wrong direction. There seemed to be distractions such as dogs and would you believe it a drone! But once they sorted that out we saw some fabulous flying! 

It was now about 2o’clock and we had had no lunch! There was no food or drink in this area and we reluctantly decided we would need to take the half mile hike to the bazaar when we came across a very enterprising man selling pastries and cakes  from the back of his van. Just 60 SOM for two large pain de chocolate type pastries. So we were able to stay some more  and went to watch the archery.

This was fascinating! In the event we saw, the competitors stood with their backs to the target, all in national costume, loaded the bow and then turned the top part of their bodies to fire. There were handsome representatives of all the  home countries as well as a lady in Tyrolese gear from Germany. We stayed a while watching and then moved on. We decided to pass on the boules taking place in some open walled yurt shaped structures.

So we took the long walk back to the main camp. Where are those horses when you need one? (I had walked 7.5km by the end of the day). We headed for the bazaar to seek proper lunch and found a corner selling Plov. Nothing like Sultans but dead cheap at whole £1.50! And a huge portion. Ian went looking for drink and came upon compote which he was given free. 

It was huge bazaar with just about everything nomadic. Skins of all varieties, craft products, food products especially dried fruits, clothing, lots of drinks including the local concoctions. These were not to my taste although we were assured they were very thirst quenching.

Being very foot sore by now we wandered off south looking for seating and came upon an arena where, once I sat my bum down, I discovered was to observe events on a huge central stage where a number of demonstrations and competitions around the concept of narrations from different areas was in progress.

We sat and listened for  awhile. The stage was a long way from the audience which was a shame but the music was mystical and the performance was held in an amazing venue with the mountains in the background, and stone and wooden ethnic stage and decorations. 

We were then attracted by noise to the tail end of some kind of horse acrobatics but we only saw I person standing on his horse. Shame. 

So we continued our walk around the different camps. We enjoyed a good 15 minutes watching a different village music and dance performance sitting on a slope amongst several families dressed in different ethnic costumes. Shortly afterwards Aina rang to say we needed to head back up the archery at the other end of the village because they have organised a one way system for access. It was a long way! And all the horses had disappeared again! But we got there, watching a dog race on the way. 

So a long drive home through spectacular scenery. No pictures though as I had a sleeping baby in my arms. Amir was totally exhausted from all the excitement. He had had lots of rides on horses one way or another. 

Home then for another delicious meal from Aina’s Mum. This time another delicious soup, kippers much tastier than those we usually have, chicken breast, mashed potato and salads, and finally fresh fruit. 

The evening was spent in earnest discussion between a friend of Aina’s mum, with no English and who used to work with the Soviets, Askar from Kazakhstan translating very rapidly and Ian. I was mostly nodding off! 

Day 6. Kok Boru, wrestling …. and posh frock

Up early as Aina needed to get up to the ethnic village at 9 so we arrived at the hippodrome in good time to see the opening ceremony of the Kok Boru. This is a game of three periods, twenty minutes each although clock stops when the game stops. We watched the first game between Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan thrashed Mongolia 29-5. The game starts by the goat carcass being dumped in the centre of the field and three players from each team gallop to pick it up off the ground. This carcass weighs 35kg and is very awkward and heavy to hold. The Kyrgyzs seemed to win every time and Mongols just couldn’t keep up. The trick once winning it seemed to be to get a secure hold of it over the saddle and then sling it over the arm as you approach the well so it can be thrown in. At least once I saw the player follow the carcass into the well. Not a deep well I am pleased to say. The Mongolians sometimes manage to get it off the ground but either dropped it or got it wrestled off them.

After the game we went for a coffee but had to wait easily half an hour for it. They seemed in no rush. It was nice when we got it and we bought a pastry to accompany it. A sit in the glorious sun and then we moved towards the Sports Complex for wrestling but were diverted by a huge crowd gathered around an outside stage. This turned out to be arm wrestling, male and female, by body weight. Obviously a very popular sport considering the crowd. We watched for an hour. I was surprised at the fact that they can hold a pole with the other hand, wrap their leg round the table leg if they wanted, and use their whole body if need be. Many bouts were over in the blink of an eye. Some collapsed in one way or another. Some took a while. The contestants were often very vocal on their winning a bout. Countries such as India and the USA didn’t do too well. It was mainly the *stans who did best. This went on all day and we saw the medal winners leaving about 5 although we had moved on by then. 

We moved on to the last type of competition on today. Belt wrestling.  This is a type of wrestling where the competitors wear a loose waist belt and their oponent grabs the belt with both hands and then attempts to wrestle the opponent to the ground. They get one point for doing so but 2 points if they pin their opponents shoulder blades to the ground. Again there were bouts for males and females, equally, and of different weights. We really enjoyed this and the place was packed. We stayed for some time til we realised it was 3 o’clock and we were very thirsty and had had no lunch. So we left and drank coke and ate Caesar salad. 

A return to the arm wrestling for the finals and then we waited for Aina to come from Kyrchyn where the ethnic village is situated.  We are off to the UK Ambassador’s local villa for a reception! She was late because they closed the road for VIPs again. That must be so annoying for the people here. 

We had planned to change in the hippodrome loos, and put my posh frock on that I packed just in case! but when Aina arrived she had rung ahead and arranged for us to change at the Ambassador’s villa.

So we drove another 30 mins to the east to a nice country villa and helped ourselves to one of the bathrooms. Then we discovered the reception was being held out in the garden where the temperature was quickly dropping. I told Aina that a glass of wine would soon help me to keep warm.  Two glasses did it even better!

It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening. We spoke to lots of interesting people. And kept our shoes on! We had a quick word with the Ambassador, a very friendly guy, before he got called away. We also had quite a chat with Baroness Stern who appears to be a sponsor of Kyrgyzstan. We also talked to a media guy, various people who worked at the embassy including a Scottish girl from East Kilbride, but the best fun was chatting to the UK team who had been invited to the reception. Nellie(Neil) and another three guys from the Highland Games Association who had given a demo of caber tossing and hammer throwing, and a small group of pipers from the 19th Regiment Royal Artillery. The Pipe Major commented on the great time they had had that day visiting the ethnic village and how …. bizarre ……it was for a serving officer of the British Army to be welcomed into all the yurts including Afghan ones. Neil was a hoot with colourful language, knocking back whisky and dwarfing me but chatting away like I was one of the guys. I felt quite at home.

The evening ended with a demo of the pipes and the Highland Fling performed by a very anxious looking young man. Ian had a conversation with him and he confessed to having been very nervous  doing the Fling at the ceremony at Kyrchyn, but in truth he had no need to be as his performance was excellent. Ian also chatted to one of the athletes who turned out to have been taught History by one of Ian’s former colleagues!