••• The International Writers Magazine - 21 Years on-line - Pre-Covid Travel
Kyrg Republic, a wonderful contradiction in terms. Episode #1
Bradley J. Thornton
Kyrgyzstan as it is more commonly known to most people, is a wonderful hidden jewel in Central Asia. Traveling there, I was unsure what to expect and moreover, I was not certain how I would be received. After a train ride from Sweden to Denmark, a flight to Moscow and on to Kyrgyzstan, I had already been exposed to four unique cultures, languages as well as a marathon of security and questioning.
As a former Soviet Union Republic, Kyrgyzstan’s main language is still Russian, it has only been since 1991 that the Kyrg language has been adopted officially as a second language. As a disclaimer, I do not speak either and I spent the week speaking in Swedish to my wonderful tour guide, so she could interpet in Russian at the hotel and restaurants. My first meal in Kyrgyzstan was actually lunch, all of the different time zones eliminated my effort to wake up for breakfast.
|The food at my hotel was first rate, my first meal consisted of baked fish with sautéed red peppers, broccoli, eggplant and mushrooms. It was absolutely fantastic and the price of about five Euro’s made it even better.
Now comes one of the many contradictions in terms I have previously hinted at, Kyrgyzstan’s main religion is Islam, even though there are several other’s practiced within the country. You will find Mosques everyware, although the vast majority of people dress the same as you would find in any European country. Drinking is well everyware, in bars restaurants and of course Vodka is the main alcoholic beverage of choice, along with beer. Bishkek is a living breathing example of a glitch in the matrix, there is actually an Irish bar with a sign in Russian of course. Being of Irish descent, I found it amusing to find an Irish bar, in an Asian country where the people inside only spoke Russian.
||Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan is very modern, there are of course parts of it that have tiny run-down food stands, sitting next to large new office buildings and new apartment complexes. Another small contridiction is the former Soviet monuments, tanks and mig fighters that you will see, which are now no more than relics of the past. This monument is of a Russian tank with a plaque dedicated to the people who lived in Bishkek and fought against the Germans in WW2.
There is more to see in Kyrgyzstan than can be done in one week, nor written about in one article. I did have a wonderful time, even though it was winter and the weather was not always as great as I would have liked it. Traveling to Kyrgyzstan is a fun and exciting experience, although it is a little more difficult than Sweden for example, since English is not widely spoken.
Sometimes it is better to have the help of a local or expert when traveling, the same goes for driving in Bishkek. I wanted to rent a car and visit the main square, as well as other areas outside of Bishkek, but my guide advised me not to. Apparently, rules of the road do not apply there, turn signals seemed to be optional and lane changing at will is the norm. For once, I listened to advice and took taxi’s when needed, the price was cheap and I felt it would save a few headaches and or visits to the emergency room.
In Ala-Too Square in the middle of Bishkek, you will find many monuments both dedicated to the glory of the past, as well as the friendship between the nations of Russia and Kyrgyzstan. The Stella of Friendship Nation monument, is dedicated to 100 years of Kyrgyzstan being annexed to Russia from China in 1876. Interestingly, it is dedicated to a friendship with a country that colonized and ruled over them until after the fall of the Soviet Union. I know what you are thinking, sort of a forced friendship, but I suppose sometimes you make do when needed.
In the next episode of The Kyrg Republic, a wonderful contradiction in terms. We will examine more of the food, in addition to some of the many monuments to be found in Bishkek. Along with a few extra tips, every traveler needs.
På Återseende (Till we meet again).
© Bradley J. Thornton August 1, 2020
*Currently the advice is not to travel to Kyrg due to Covid-19 - flights are still happening between Turkey and Dubai and realistically you should avoid any carriers flying to these destinations.