Kyrgyzstan (Eastern)

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Naryn, Kyrgyzstan, October 2008.

We could feel we were getting close to China, our co-passenger looked like a Tibetan monk, and the area was the drabbest ever, like something ought to come next, no hot water (problem with the boiler), no electricity (problem with the generator), no sign to the Western-run hotel (problem with the city who took down the sign).

The funny thing they had a notice in each room with their services, which included car parking (very useful for backpackers), soap available on request, use of iron and ironing board, use of first aid kit upon request, but nowhere did they put the basic such as heating and hot water – among the services was also information about the town of Naryn, I wonder what they could say about that pit, Naryn is derived from the Mongolian for ‘sunny’ – “a rare moment of Mongol irony”, writes Lonely Planet.

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Tamga, Kyrgyzstan, October 2008.

Bearing the name of legendary Manas’ wife, Kanikey is the only one who answered my letters. We are not surprised. She looked very smart and alive at 13. Yet she lives in a small, mostly Russian, village, on the southern shore of Issyk Kul, the second-largest alpine lake (1600m altitude) in the world after Bolivia’s Titicaca. “What is your opinion about our lovely Kyrgyzstan?” she wrote us through her older sister, “Do you like to come back?”

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Tamga, Kyrgyzstan, October 2008.

“The landscapes’ traits are very simple and get so much better impressed in our memory: a red shore, greenish waters, a strip of violet fumes, azure mounts, a white crest outlining against the sky and in the vast space an eternal silence; barely a sign reminding man, barely a hut on the shore, a boat on the waves” [reported by Elisée Reclus in the Grande Géographie Bong, Paris, 1913, p.182], Nikolai Alekseevich Severtzov, a 19th century Russian explorer and naturalist, wrote this description while studying the Tien Shan and its lakes, following a route similar to ours – one and a half century later things are pretty much the same, the only moving life dotting the landscape were flocks of cranes flying high, herds of cows and horses with mounted shepherds coming curiously towards us, and 11-year old Gozalya who was looking after a dozen cows while her brother laid in the open fields.

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Tamga, Kyrgyzstan, October 2008.

Nurya, 4, waited with us for more than an hour on the side of the road for transportation to Balykchy (the City of fish), the main town on the western side of Issyk Kul (kul means lake). With her were her mother (below), grand-mother, and great grand-mother (below).

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Tamga, Kyrgyzstan, October 2008.

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Karakol, Kyrgyzstan, October 2008.

Visitors were indifferent to them, pretended English teacher Leila. It didn’t look that way, the students abandoned their cleaning brigade sweeping the leaves of wildish Pushkin Park, surrounded us and started talking animatedly. A particularly pleasant – and pretty – bunch of 17 year-olds, Nurzad had such a nice smile (see above for yourself), well, her name means Shining Sun, Alfiza was just Russian, very sweet, and so was Nazik (Tender), and the King’s daughter, Shahadad.

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Karakol, Kyrgyzstan, October 2008.

This babushka spoke some German, many Kyrgyz end up working in Germany. And she spoke Russian. Leila, the English teacher, confirmed Russian was the second official language of Kyrgyzstan with still many people not speaking Kyrgyz.

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