Sausages, eggs and politics for breakfast. (October 2014)


We arrived into Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, in the evening and our guide, Asel, suggested a place to eat not far from the hotel. It was a huge restaurant with a vibrant noisy atmosphere. A replay of the AFL Grand Final was in progress on a large plasma screen in the corner. I don’t think that the locals were all that interested

I must admit, neither were we.

Kyrgyzstan is much poorer than neighboring Kazakhstan. The big difference is that it doesn’t have oil. There is still a huge Russian influence and like most post Soviet era countries, any industry left with the Russians. Soviet made goods have been replaced by those from China – they are cheaper and not surprisingly, better quality.

The condition of the roads are the most obvious example of the lack of public money.

Kyrgyzstan has certainly suffered by the vacuum that was left after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

They are on to their third president since independence in 1990. The first two were thrown out of office, and the country, by popular uprisings. They ruled for themselves and not the people.

The architecture has a very Russian influence. This is understandable considering the Kyrgyz were originally nomads and the yurt was their only dwelling.

Vitali, our driver, was Russian speaking but unlike most Russians, he had a good sense of humour. He was a Major in the Russian Army but has now taken a pension. Asel was from the mountains and a native Kyrgystany. Together they made a great team, which was fortunate as they were with us for our entire time in Kyrgyzstan.

On the morning of our first full day we visited Osh Bazaar. This is the largest market in Bishkek and covers an enormous area with a huge variety of goods.

The meat section contains a bespoke sausage maker. Here the customer can have there own selection of horse meat cuts stuffed into horse intestines. Horse is a delicacy in Kyrgyzstan and sells at a premium.

In the afternoon we visited the National Historical Museum, where two of the three floors are devoted to the glory of Lennin and Marx. There are many heroic sculptures and ceiling murals featuring Russian achievements. However the third floor does have some reasonably good Kyrgyzstan nomadic relics.

The museum was built in 1984 and has a strange Russian Art Deco, come Modernist Style to its design.

The way this museum has been designed and decorated is its own exhibit.

We then drove to Ala-Archa Gorge and back, unfortunately it was shrouded in fog. This did give a rather surreal quality to the snaps.

The fog turned to rain and we scampered off the mountain but not before getting rather soaked.

Here we met a Spaniard who was riding his pushbike from Asia to Spain.

On our third day we drove from Bishkek to Cholpon-Ata. We had Kazakhstan on our left and the snow capped peaks of Küngey Alta-Too Range on our right.

Kyrgyzstan is still a rural country and we were constantly being stopped by roaming herds of sheep, goats, horses and cows that were blocking the road. They were being moved from their summer pastures in the mountains to the winter ones in the valley.

We also stopped to get a bucket of strawberries from a roadside vendor – the last of the summer fruit.

The village people of Kyrgyzstan still live by the traditional ways and arranged marriages are common. There are still cases of bride kidnappings and our guide Asel, a village girl herself, said she only visited her parents occasionally when she was at university as she was of kidnapping age.

On the way to Cholpon-Ata we had a side-trip to the ruins of the Minaret, Mosque and Mausoleum of the Balasaygn City centre. This was originally built in the the eleventh and twelfth centuries. All that remains is Burana Tower, this was rebuilt in the 1950s by the Russians. At the same site there are headstones from the six century depicting distinguished looking gentlemen holding a cup of wine. Plus a few petroglyphs featuring Ibex, the region’s wild goat.

We stopped off for lunch at a local café and had some of the strawberries.

Cholpon-Ata sits on the northern side Issyk-Kul, the world’s second largest alpine lake. Because it’s salty it never freezes.

For two months in summer it’s a popular resort spot for Russians, Kazakhs and the local Kyrgyz.

Apparently during the high season it’s packed with sun seekers, when we arrived it was eerily quiet.

North of the town, in a field of glacial boulders, we saw more Petroglyphs, these were more substantial than what we had seen earlier. Most were from the 8th century BC to the 1st century AD. The site was unfortunately marred by tagging.

Getting there was interesting as we drove up the old airport runway.

Late in the afternoon, as the sun was getting low we visited the very strange Cultural Centre or Rukh Ordo. This is defined as a museum and contains five identical buildings, that represent the world’s major religions. On their spires are the symbols of Islam, Buddhism, Judaism and two forms of Christianity – Roman and Orthodox.

The next morning we had an interesting discussion on the Ukraine over breakfast.

This was initiated by Asel, not by us.

With so much Russian history, culture and influence in the area it’s not surprising that their point of view is decidedly pro Russian.

But then we are influenced by Western ideologies and that’s where our opinions are formed. Being able to see both sides offers an insight into how we are all being manipulated.

Power and influence is the driving force behind these conflicts and that applies to the way both Putin and Obama formulate their propaganda.

After healthy portions of sausages, eggs, more strawberries and politics for breakfast we were on the road again.

The rain had returned for our drive to Grigorevskoe Gorge and there was no chance of getting a better view of Lake Issyk-Kul.

It was the same with the gorge, which was disappointing. It was a rugged mountainous pass, with a fast flowing river. Which would have been very picturesque, given better weather.

Leave a Reply