BishkekJune 5, 2019 in Kyrgyzstan ⋅ 🌫 23 °C
Bishkek is the capital of Kyrgyzstan. With a population of more than 1 million, it felt much smaller. This may have been due to our visit coinciding with Ramadan. The tree-lined streets, beautiful gardens, grand buildings and absence of high rises added to its overall charm. Bishkek's history is quite recent and indeed it only took on its current name after independence in 1991.
We started the day with an exploration of the city, focusing on the 4 main squares. Each has it's own story and our guide provided an excellent commentary as we progressed our tour. First stop was Manas Square. Kyrgyz love their stories and perhaps the most famous of all is the Epic of Manas, a traditional poem of more than 500,000 lines, transmitted orally for hundreds of years. The text is key to Kyrgyz national identity, as it describes the unification of 7 tribes into a single people. There are quite a few versions and there is also no clear evidence this Manas fellow was real, but it makes for good story telling.
As Nastacia was recounting this story, a uniformed man and 2 others in plain clothes approached us. Turns out they were tourist police- not to check up on us but to help us! Very friendly fellows and quite taken by our 2 younger females. Stories of bride-kidnapping came to mind!
The remainder of the tour covered the Ala-Too square, with its change of guard; the Old Sqaure, with its beautiful stone sculptures and the Victory Square- the most modern. A yurt-inspired monument dominates the square, a female figure represents home and an eternal flame burns. The story of their efforts in World War 2 were told through this striking collection of works.
Lunch at a local restaurant provided some respite from the heat, especially the spiced cherry lemonade- so good I ordered a second.
A brief visit to the recently opened mosque (largest in Central Asia) provided another special experience. Beautifully decorated inside and out, the complex of white minarets and domes created a stunning picture.
An equally brief visit to the local markets after a failed attempt at visiting the Fine arts museum and it was time for a rest before dinner. The rain that had threatened earlier bucketed down as we headed back to our hotel after dinner. A warning of says to come.Read more