The last of our visits to ex-Soviet Union states, but another whose flag I have to confess I would not have identified if asked before we arrived…
With no visa required to enter Kyrgyzstan, we were over into Osh (the country’s 2nd city) in good time to get to the famous Sunday market in Osh. This was one of our favourite market experiences so far, not just for the variety of stalls but for the unpressured atmosphere, which actually led us to buy more than we might otherwise.
We loved some of the displays, like these red berries left out to dry, though we saw nobody buying them.
The people of Central Asia are very inventive when it comes to converting tree branches into brooms.
And we couldn’t resist the charms of this spice lady – we just hope Australian customs let us in with her selection of pre-packed spices (we knew it’d be hopeless to try bringing in her (far more attractive) fresh and loose spices.
We decided to go to the pictures in Osh and chose the film Kurmandjan Datka purely on the basis of this intriguing poster (which won out over the kids’ stuff and the romantic melodramas, of which we’d seen enough on the various trains and buses we’d taken).
Little did we know that Kurmandjan Datka was THE national heroine and this fantastic epic costume drama is this year’s Kyrgyzstan entry for the Oscars (foreign film category). A fantastic film which moved us to tears even though it was in languages we could not understand – if you get a chance before the Oscars this year, see this film. Brilliant.
We’d never have thought that watching a movie could help us understand more about the country, too. The main street in Osh is now named after Kurmandjan; they moved Lenin Street one over (and his statue moved with it).
And on Kurmandjan Datka Street there is a park with this three-story yurt, modelled on the kind of place the Datkas (Kurmandjan and her husband) lived in the 19th century.
It felt fitting that Anita should have her pic taken next to such an inspiring woman as Kurmandjan.
Solomon’s Throne is the rocky landmass that towers over Osh.
It’s a tough climb (over 500 steps), and I was caught off my guard when I reached the summit and was challenged immediately to a game of draughts by a feisty 15 year old on a school trip up there.
The game drew such an audience that I clean forgot to visit the famous chapel/house at the summit. But sometimes international relations are more important than sight-seeing. Kygryzstan won the day this time (though I’m sure she changed the rules several times in the course of the match).
Bishkek, the capital, has wonderful mountain views (on a clear day, at least).
It’s not the most photogenic place otherwise, with much of the architecture reminding me of my visit to East Berlin in 1985. That said, it has lots of tree-lined avenues and park areas, which were dramatically beautiful in the autumn sunshine.
Not much else to bring you from Bishkek, though, so we’ll just throw in this benign looking lion in one of the parks.
And note finally my relief at leaving Central Asia, if only for the awkwardness of sitting at table to eat or drink tea. These tables look wonderful but it’s hard for someone of 6’2” to curl up with ease for dinner on them…
And how could I forget: we took part in the weekly English language pub quiz held at our hostel (part run by a Brit). There we met some great people (Bee from the States over there to train teachers; Ken from Illawarra, who lives just a few miles from our future home in Kiama and a bunch of others who came along to practise their language or meet others). Did I mention our team won the quiz??