Tag Archives: Kyrgyzstan

Day Five – Opening Ceremony

We slept late but joined the family at breakfast. Buckwheat porridge for Ian, I had zucchini pancakes which tasted just normal although a little sweeter. Boiled eggs. Lots of fruit. Then we got chatting to a young man from Kazakhstan who works for a TV station. Askar.

We took a walk down to the lake shore over very dry shrubland past grazing cows watching where we stepped. The shore of the lake was sand and the water so clear and blue. I took a wee paddle of course and sat on a swing seat to look across the lake. The evening we arrived we could see the mountains on the south side but today the lake seemed to stretch endlessly into the distance. It is 70 km wide! 

Called back for lunch we had a delicious soup of meatballs and chick peas. I also had Manty followed by  more delicious fruit. We then set off for Chalpon-ata where the World Nomad Games are being held. Aina’s father took us and dropped us off as near as possible. We had hoped to see some intellectual  games such Mangala but they were some distance back the way we had come in an hotel. We had just missed the wrestling so we took a look at the Hippodrome next door and then went looking for something to drink. We managed to while away three hours that way over coke and some of the local brew maksym. (There is a fab advert associated with this drink!) Askar had an amazing knowledge of all matters Central Asia. 

At 6pm we were admitted to the hippodrome where we met up with Aina and her UNDP colleagues. I had my photo taken with a snow leopard and with Leonardo de Caprio. We looked for some food and chose from the pictures as most of the notices were in Russian/Kyrgyz but managed a nice hot dog and beefburger and two sprites for a whole £4. We then went on the stadium in preparation for the Opening Ceremony. It was getting quite chilly! 

The ceremony was fabulous. Only professional pictures and video can do it justice. Stories and scenes and music from Kyrgyz history. Colourful and spectacular. 

Then we had the entrance of the athletes. Some surprising countries taking part including Nigeria, Austria, Columbia, Ecuador and the UK. Well, a Scots regiment and some Highlanders. 

Once the President opened the Games, there was a mad rush for the exits. Not in time though. Thousands of people locked in to allow the dignitaries to leave in peace. Quite a crush. Dunno what health and safely back home would say! . (Every time any VIP is on the road all the traffic gets stopped. There seem to be a lot of VIPs). Got out eventually. Bit of a traffic jam but got home eventually. 

Day Four – Lake Izzyk-Kul

Up nice and smart today as we are off to Altynai’s induction to school. She starts next Tuesday, but today the parents get to meet the teachers and see the other pupils and the school and classroom. School runs from 1st Sept until 29th May. Umar has his induction also but goes first with his Dad. He looks very smart and takes some white roses. 

Altynai is very neat also with a bunch of flowers for her teacher. In her hair she wears the tartan bows I brought. When we arrive we are directed into a tennis court where all the teachers are waiting to greet their pupils. Every teacher is introduced, several pupils demonstrate dance, the Head teacher gives  a stirring speech about the value of education – all in English! The school itself has mottos also in English. I have been reminding Altynai about her English and she has been quite shy about using it but I guess she will soon have no choice! 

After a lunch of Plov, we all set off to Izzyk-Kul. This was a long trip across the level plain and then through a gorge surrounded by many and very varied mountains.






After four hours we saw Lake Izzyk-Kul, the second largest lake in the world. Can you see it through the trees? It is a salt lake formed from tectonic movements which is being filled  from glaciers and rivers but with no outlet, hence the salinity. It is 170km long and 70km at the widest point. Narrower here you can see majestic snow capped mountains on the southern shore. We are going there after the Games. Lots of horses roaming the pastures, and the roads, as these are a crucial part of the Kyrgyz people’s way of life.

Another half an hour and we arrive  at Aina’s mothers guest house. Here we have a suite, bedroom, lounge, bathroom and drying room. Spotless and comfortable and with room to properly sort out suitcases. We had just had a good repack when we got called to dinner. I was given a noodle soup although I could not see any noodles, and Ian a vegetable soup which turned out to have cabbage in but was delicious. This was followed by the usual delicious fruit, locally grown.

Then Aine suggested visiting some local hot springs. These are piped from a source deep underground to several different outlets. So Aina, children and ourselves spent an hour in a swimming pool at 37degrees. Very tiring. But very relaxing. I have no idea how anyone would find these springs as it was accessible through a number of non descript buildings. On the way out we met ten coaches bearing police for security at the Games starting tomorrow. Feeling all warm and relaxed we retired to bed.

Day Three Independence Day

Today is Independence Day! For Kyrgyzstan. Lots of celebrations in Bishkek but first, time to get the family organised. And no rush so a bit of a lie in. The family are always careful to keep quiet and not disturb us until we wake. Which is generous as our bedroom is between them and the bathroom!

We had a leisurely breakfast and then into Bishkek. Umar elects to stay home alone to carry out a number of chores such as cutting up and laying out  any fruit ready from the garden. Today it is apples.

Bishkek is still not frightfully busy although there is lot of pomp and ceremony. We head for the main square when there is a concert ongoing. Young and old are singing or dancing. And there are lots of national costumes round about.

After a while we move on in pursuit of other celebrations firstly looking for sports demos  but this is not happening where advertised so we move on for some topiary. The children have great fun climbing around and posing on the various animals . Next to this is a small play park with the rides made out of varnished wood. 

Aina needs to fetch her work laptop. She works for the UN. So we go to a coffee shop for my first cup of coffee since we arrived in the country and a slice of strudel. Altynai has stayed with us and despite not remembering any English we manage to communicate. Strawberry ice cream! She and Ian then rebond over a game of hide and seek around the coffee shop followed by stories. The people here are very child friendly.  Following a walk in one of the lovely parks, we go to the opening of a new kindergarten, a new venture for one of Aine’s friends. A lovely place where they intend to teach English and this is demonstrated by the posters with fruits for example which have the names in three languages, Kyrgyz, Russian and English. We are invited to join them in tea, compote and nibbles. I liked the pumpkin samosas. Time then to go home for a real treat. 

Sultan has decided to cook Plov a kind of pilaff with rice, lamb, yellow carrots, onions and cumin. This takes awhile to cook but it is absolutely delicious. This is accompanied by tomato, bread and chilli water! Melon and watermelon  for pudding, both really delicious. But then they are fresh. Sultan told us about men’s club meetings when they make and eat Plov together although nowadays women come sometimes. 

Day Two – Sauna and Trout.

Ian slept well although I had a bit of a restless night. More due to time change than our bed I think. Over a leisurely breakfast of bread bought from the baker on the street corner, Kyrgyz honey with seeds, natural yoghurt, various cheeses we chatted more. Altynai and Umar ate rice porridge and buckwheat porridge respectively.  Literally as it sounds, grain with milk cooked in the microwave with added sugar. They are off to school for an induction day. One very pretty little girl was beautifully dressed.

Then Aina proposed a leisurely day rather than a long drive or flight to another part of the country so we drove up in the mountains to a spa hotel, to enjoy sun, swimming and sauna. No sun though, just clouds; the weather had changed from mid 20s to just 18 degrees and in the afternoon it rained!

So we spent four hours relaxing, swimming, having a massage. Now the latter was a different experience from back home. No preamble, please remove your clothes, no privacy to do so or towels to cover up, and a massage that started and ended with the feet. No great time spent on neck and shoulders. Having said that, it was good! Aina had a chocolate wrap…..

Time for lunch thereafter at 4pm although we have had plenty to eat and I had not felt hungry earlier. We stopped in at a trout farm/restaurant where Umar had been previously where you catch your trout which is then fried for your lunch. Luckily (?) the fish were not biting so we selected from the menu. A very interesting but tasty lentil soup for Ian whilst Aina, Umar and myself shared kebab and salad. Washed down with tea of course, jasmine this time. Ian had two cups of coffee none being in evidence on previous days. The trout farm had special enclosed rooms for Groups. 

Home to pick up Altynai and Amir from nursery, and time to relax before going out for dinner. Not so much relaxing as playing with a little rogue on a sit on car! Amir spends his time bombing round the place, getting into everything he can reach, with a wicked grin on his face.

Dinner in a very posh restaurant, still not expensive, but with the best kids play area I have yet to see, with a series of dressing up and pretending rooms. These kept all three children amused whilst we enjoyed dinner. Ian had mutton chop with seared veg and cheesey potatoes, Aina had sushi, and I had grilled trout with orange marmalade. Well, we had intended trout up at the fish farm. The little ones had pizza. 

Aina told us the Kyrgyz people never ate fish until the Russians came and introduced the concept. Despite lakes full of fish, and people starving, they never thought to eat the fish.

And so Day two ended.

Travelling to Kyrgyzstan

And so our adventure begins. An overnight stay at the Holiday Inn next to Edinburgh airport, highly recommend this for a reasonably priced but comfortable stay, off to the long term parking and at the airport in really good time. All very smooth so far. Onto a plane with Turkish airlines and left on time. Loads of films to choose from although I was not in the mood and went for a downloaded episode of my current serial The Good Wife.

So what is our adventure going to be like? A good question. We don’t know a lot as yet. We are staying with our host in Bishkek for a couple of days and she has suggested exploring Bishkek and then off to the World Nomad Games some 70 kms away and will be taken from there to view the beautiful mountains and lakes. 90% of Kyrgyzstan is over 1500metres I read on Wikipedia. That’s higher than Ben Nevis!

Trip advisor tells me there is not a lot to see in Bishkek. Having been invaded by a series of people’s since the Mongols, and latterly being a communist country under the Russians, the buildings are very utilitarian, it says and not many truly historic monuments remain. There are some interesting looking bazaars which I am really looking forward to seeing. And smelling I guess as there are bags of spices and loads of breads.

The mountains and lakes appear glorious. There are a number of blogs on the internet from travellers who seem unanimous in their praise of the beautiful sights and friendly people. And some hot springs it seems. (I also noticed that there is a high chance of earthquakes in Kyrgyzstan, something I have not yet experienced. Not sure if that is a wish or a fear!)

The World Nomad Games look to be the big pull in the country. Really looking forward to these. Again loads written about them and loads of photos.

And finally what will living conditions be like? Aina commented on all my nick nacks round the house so I am expecting a fairly simple style of living. Will the toilets be European? Will I remember to take my shoes off before entering every house, yurt, home stay? Will Ian, 😊! The food seems to consist of lots of meat, beef, horse, lamb, goat, chicken, noodle broths, bread and it’s a good thing we are not vegetarian- apparently there is no catering for vegetarian very few vegetables on offer. Lots of fruit though. Then we have Kumiss to look forward to, fermented mares milk.

I am looking forward to staying in a yurt at some point. There will demos at the games on constructing a yurt. That too I am looking forward to as well as a Master Chef competition between 6 countries. Cooked on an open fire, the advert says.

But all of that is 14 hours away after two five hour flights and a four hour stopover.

Exciting, scarey, possibly challenging. We shall see.