Translated by: Gréta Kojsza
Kyrgyzstan is often referred to as the Switzerland of Middle-Asia. The mountains must be the main reason of it, because we didn’t see any other similarity between the two countries. Kyrgyzstan is not organized or tidy at all, you hardly ever find a proper road and nobody likes tourists wondering around all by their selves. A tourist is accepted if it rides a horse or at least a guide is directing it through the area. A country where tourisms develops rapidly and corruption is told to be rolled back. A country which is called Kyrgystan, by everybody except us, Hungarians. Well, this time as well: Kyrgyzstan is subjective.
Holy Mother of God! We are literally grateful that we’ve survived Kyrgyzstan. I’m serious. Their driving style is madness… I can’t even put it into words. They seem to be wealthy, because as soon as you enter to the country you can see all varieties of Lexus, Land Rover, BMW and any other kind of luxury land rovers. I don’t even see this amount of expensive cars in Hungary. They go full tear, even in inhabited areas. The roads are not wide enough, and to tell truth, they don’t give a damn if they can pass by a biker safely. You’ll find it out after anyway… It happened several times that they passed (I mean rushed) by just a few centimeters away from us. (Once one of the drivers pulled the car on Eni intentionally and the rearview mirror of her bike broke due to the Kirgiz joke. They didn’t stop of course, but it took a few minutes for Eni to stop shaking.) A lot of them drive drunk, mainly on the weekends. How nice of them… They often shout out of the cars like ‘Get the hell out of my way, you f***ing tourist!’ (The tourist, who brings his money in their country.) In general, the roads are in horrible conditions, except some shorter sections and the road M41 between Bishkek and Osh (it has its own jolty parts though). Somewhere we were riding in the dusty and slaggy path right next to the road, as it was faster and easier that way. The secondary roads are usually unmasked and rocky.
The landscape and architecture
Kyrgyzstan is a wonderful country! The snowy, 4000 meters high mountains are visible already from the capital city. 70% of the country is highland, but what does it mean exactly? Three, around 7000 meters high mountains can be found in the country (Lenin 7134m, Pobeda 7439m, Khan Tengri 6995m), which can be climbed without an alpinist permission. However you need an allowance to approach them, because they are all situated at the border. It costs only 30-50 Euros. The country possesses twenty three 6000 meters high, eighty 5000 meters high mountains and God knows how many, that reaches 4000 meters. So anybody who feels like climbing mountains no one climbed before, you’d better go to Kyrgyzstan! Issyk-Kul, after Titicaca, is the second largest endorheic lake and its name literally means Hot-Lake, because it does not freeze in the winters either. Its deepest point is around 600 meters. Wherever you go, you’re surrounded by crystal clear brooks, green hill-sides and garbage unfortunately… The only clean places are situated up in the mountains, far away from people. Bottles of vodka or beer, dirt and litter can be found everywhere. Such a mess! Cars are washed in brooks and rubbish is thrown out of the vehicles’ windows. Waste removal exists solely in bigger cities. A lot of families set up yurts for the summer, and live there in the mountains until winter arrives. They keep horses, cows, sheep, process milk and other dairy products. Sheep are kept for their meat, the most common type of sheep is the dorper. They make ‘qurut’ (dried yogurt, the taste is a bit strong, but we liked it), kumis (fermented milk, very sour with smoky after taste) and cream out of horse milk. According to the Kirgiz, they’re durable due to ‘kumis’, though they pronounce it ‘kömöz’. Some of them set up yurts for touristic reasons, right next to their own, which are often more decorative. A vast of yurts can be found stand by main roads heading through mountains, where everybody sells dairy products and horses wonder around all free on the green fields (and in the middle of streets too). I wouldn’t say that the cities are beautiful. They’re quite disorganized and dirty. In Bishkek, we didn’t feel like being in the capital city, but in a bigger village. The center looks urban with multi-lane streets, traffic lights and blocks of flats. We saw plenty of mosques, but they were much more low-key, than the ones we had seen during our journey.
Well, the Kirgiz cuisine didn’t become our favorite one. They eat a lot of meat, but they don’t pay too much attention on spices. In Center-Asia, finding your way out of the trinity of saslik-plov stuffed meat balls seems impossible. Their dishes are quite heavy and greasy. Samsa, Muslim breads and nán are common. Jam, ground coffee and other global goods can only be found in bigger supermarkets. Their beers are delicious and they’ve got a wide variety of vodka. Even better, Russian vodkas can be bought for 7 euros per liter. (Tobacco and alcohol are extremely cheap, so we guess that a huge part of the male population has problems with alcohol. But it’s simply our personal opinion. According to them, there’s nothing wrong with it.)
Do not forget, that it is our subjective opinion, based on our experience. We don’t want to stereotype. In our views, Kirgiz people are not that kind or interested. They stare at foreigners and may say ‘otkuda:’, which is the shorter version of ‘Where are you coming from?’, but they don’t initiate conversations at all. I can only recall a few occasions, when they turned to us with real kindness. Most of the time, they were really neutral. A lot of men wear unusual, white felt hats or baseball caps that we didn’t see anywhere else. Pants and coats are common, their style is quite obsolete. In cities people obviously dress in western clothes, women wear skirts, long dresses. Their features are more Mongolic than the Uzbeks or Turks. Everybody is Muslim, but in a lighter style... Kind of ‘You might have a spritzer, don’t you?!’
Kyrgyzstan can be the best destination for the lovers of mountains and nature. You can have horse-riding excursions or hiking trips in fascinating spots. It can be an interesting time travel for tourists who decide to visit this country. But it’s so sad to see that their only resource, the nature is not protected at all. Because of their life-threatening driving style, we do not recommend the usage of bikes in this country.
If you’re in Kyrgyzstan, don’t miss:
-local dairy products
-swimming in a local lake