When I first walked through Bishkek, I was exhausted. Over 20 hours of sitting on planes and trying to get comfortable in airports, followed by about 2 hours of wandering around the city and getting hopelessly lost with my 15+ kg bag on my back made for a sleepy, spaced out traveler. So, it wasn’t until the next day and the ones that followed that I really was able to ‘take in’ the city.
“It’s very… rural,” said the Kyrgyz man who made the same transfer as I in Novosibirsk.
He said it like it was a bad thing.
Bishkek is a fairly small city. There aren’t skyscrapers or an abundance of high rises. Most of the impressive architecture is reminiscent of Soviet times. Grand squares and avenues are marked with fountains and grandiose statues of both Soviet and Kyrgyz heroes; monuments to a time fast slipping away.
Now, the roads are pot-holed and in poor repair. My second day in the country I watched a city bus lose a wheel and crash awkwardly to the asphalt (yeah, guess what I’m not riding here?).
And yet, despite the state of disrepair, I can feel myself growing increasingly fonder of this place.
As I write this, I am sitting next to a path lined with towering oak trees. The buzz of traffic is a muted hum; the rustling of the wind through the leaves and the chirping of birds playing in the branches are the dominant sounds. There are oak trees all over this city, shading the sidewalks and assailing pedestrians with a barrage of acorns. I’ve managed to avoid getting hit, so far…
On the benches just down the path from me, couples cuddle and stare into each others’ eyes, oblivious to other park-goers walking past. Back the way I came, two wrinkled, old Kyrgyz men are smoking and matching wits in a game of chess as a cluster of youths look on. White is winning.
Yes, I am falling in love with Kyrgyzstan, one day at a time.
Tomorrow, I’ll return to the Tajik embassy and pick up my visa, unlocking the next stage of this adventure. As I step through the gate, I’ll look left and shiver, for in the distance looms the Kyrgyz Ala-Too Range, an extension of the magnificent Tian Shan (Celestial Mountains). That’s where I’m headed.
- Hiking to Refugio Frey and Beyond - January 20, 2020
- Christmas Letter 2019 - December 18, 2019
- My Walk Out of the Woods - June 30, 2019
Umm… you saw a bus do WHAT. I hope no one was hurt! You were right not to hop on one yourself… oh my. But the pictures are gorgeous. I’d love to see some of the busier parts of town.
I eventually got around to riding the bus, luckily the same thing didn’t happen! Definitely a sign to invest some more money in infrastructure >.<
Wow, I loved that post. The rural spots are always my favorite as well. Cities are good for a minute until you feel overwhelmed by it all. I loved that shot of the Pigeon Warrior, btw. The mountains also look cool. Looking forward to part 2!
I also love small cities. They people are more personal and the surroundings untouched. Bishkek certainly looks interesting from your photos. Happy travelling!
Sounds like quite a fascinating place – I am going to have to check out your archives for more posts on this trip. Thanks for sharing!
A Place Like Me In A Girl Like This
Your descriptions make me feel like I am there as well. Sometimes I think it is a shame that more people don’t make it to smaller cities and towns, there is so much beauty to be seen off the beaten path. Can’t wait to here more about the mountains!
I’m not gonna lie, I’ve never heard of Bishkek and I know essentially nothing about Kyrgyzstan. But you’ve caught my attention because I love smaller, rural cities like this. I may just have to visit some day!
Were the people friendly? And how was their English?
I loved it there! Even ended up going back for a couple days at the tail end of the trip 🙂
The people were super friendly. I was able to get by alright with English most of the time, but if you speak Russian (or Kyrgyz!) that’s a huge edge.
Interesting post and place! A travel destination I’ve never even heard of! I’m looking forward to reading part two…from when you hit the mountains!
Brandon Fralic (@bsfralic)
I’d say those snowy peaks are ala-too far away :p
Looking forward to your mountain adventures! It must feel wonderful to be back on the Open Road.
Haha nice. It is! The motorcycle part fell through spectacularly, there’ll be a post soon 😛 Still, looking forward to the trip!
Jealous! Love the photos! Have a great time in Bishkek! P.S. Your photo reminded me that I have Kyrgyz hats from my friends .. they are very comfortable & warm!
Thanks, Rachel! Maybe I’ll end up with a Kyrgyz hat or three 😉