Aug 29 2006

Back in Bishkek – Review

Category: TravelRandall Kelley @ 19:42

Tonight we are back in Bishkek. That is still in Kyrgyzstan. But that is not for long. We fly out tomorrow for Tashkent, Uzbekistan. We have to leave the hotel by 4:30 in the morning so we won’t get to take much advantage of the really nice place we are in. When last in Bishkek we stayed in the oldest hotel in town, the leftover Soviet hotel. Now we are in the newest in town. A huge difference, but they cost the same, go figure.

I don’t want to stay up late, so I will just post a couple of pictures (if the speed is good a few) from earlier in the trip as today was pretty uneventful.

We drove back to town, met a couple more co-workers from Sheila’s company, and went to lunch. Then to the hotel for some down time, which we did not get at Issyk Kuhl.

Lunch was at a Turkish restaurant close to Sheila’s office and the main square. It was great food. We did shoot a couple of shots of town, but haven’t had time to download them, so later for that.

We saw the parliament building (weak parliament) and the “White House” where a year and a half ago “the revolution” took place. It looked more like an office building than a “White House”. I guess the revolution consisted of about a hundred people storming the white house, and the guards not being willing to shoot. The President packed up and left, and the opposition leader took over. Of course now no one is satisfied with him, so who knows what is next.

Here is a picture Rita and I think show how it was driving up to Khorog with the Afgan villages just across the river. The villages seemed nice, but all the had connecting them was a donkey path, and we saw no electrical wires on the Afgan side.

Afgan Village

Here is one we found that gives a feel for what the roads sometimes got down to in conditions. We made numerous fords along the way where there were no culverts and mountain streams crossed the road at will.

Ford Creek

This is the family that hosted our overnight stay at their house in Murgab. At least the ones we saw. The father informed us he also had 6 boys. We liked this picture not only for it being our hosts, but it is typical of one thing we see a lot here. That is the older women dressed traditionally with the younger ones in western attire. And it isn’t always young girls or boys, often younger women of similar age are walking together with some in the old and some in the new.

Murgab Host

Speaking of fashion, here is something we noticed in Khorog while walking around town. Do you think he is a fan, or did he just snag it because it is American?

50 Cent T

Lots of animals on the road, horses, cows, yaks, and in this case goats. This shot Rita took out the window she opened just before the “Window Nazi” began swearing profusely in either Russian or Tajik (or both).

Goats in the road

And here is a shot coming down the mountains that I got off by rolling my window down 4 inches. Of course the “Window Nazi” rolled it up (front controls) and locked it before I could get a second shot off. The irony is that Sheila was in his car the first two days and got sore eyes because it was hotter and he wouldn’t let her roll hers up. Once again, go figure!

The long and winding road

Oh, and it’s beshbarmak, which is the name of the end dish (5th course) of boiled lamb meat in noodles. The 4th course comes with jambash, which is the sheeps head. And the fermented mares milk is called koumys, and they sell it in roadside stands, yum!

Here is some info in Issyk Kuhl (where we were the past two days) plus a bonus fact: It is very deep and the Soviets tested their top secret subs there during the cold war.

Issyk Kul (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Issyk Kul (also Ysyk Köl, Issyk-kol) is an endorheic lake in the northern Tian Shan mountains in northwestern Kyrgyzstan. It has a length of 182 km, a width of up to 60 km, and covers an area of 6,236 km². This makes it the second largest mountain lake in the world behind Lake Titicaca. Located at an altitude of 1,606 m, it reaches 668 m in depth. The lake is slightly saline and remains ice-free in winter. It is fed by springs and snow melt-off, and it has no current outlet. Its southern shore is dominated by the ruggedly beautiful Tian Shan mountain range. The lake level drops by approximately 5 cm per year.

During the Soviet era, the lake became a popular vacation resort, with numerous sanatoria, boarding houses and vacation homes along its northern shore, many concentrated in and around the town of Cholpon-Ata. During this period the lake, with its salinity comparable to Ocean waters, served as a secret testing ground for torpedoes.

The city of Karakol (formerly Przhevalsk), administrative seat of Issyk-Kul oblast, is located near the eastern tip of the lake and is a good base for excursions into the surrounding area. Its small old core contains an impressive wooden mosque and a wooden orthodox church that was used as a stable during Soviet times. A 14th century Armenian monastery was found on the northeastern shores of the lake by retracing the steps of a medieval map used by Venetian  merchants on the Silk Road.

Sevan trout, an endemic fish of Lake Sevan in Armenia, was introduced into the lake in the 1970s. While it is an endangered species in its “home” lake, it has a much better chance to survive in Lake Issyk-Kul where it has ravaged the indigenous species.

The Legend of its Creation 
In Islamic legend, the king of the Ossounes had ass’s ears. He would hide them, and order each of his barbers killed to hide his secret. One barber yelled the secret into a well, but he didn’t cover the well after. The well water rose and flooded the kingdom. The kingdom is today under the waters of Issyk-Kul. This is how the lake was formed, so legend says. Other legends say that four drowned cities lie at the bottom of the lake; in fact, substantial archaeological finds have been made in shallow waters of the lake.

Our best,
R&R

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