After a little over a year, I landed in Bishkek again and it is very different from before. Back then it was grey and cool, this time the sun was hot. Back then I came fresh from Germany, this time I came a bit used up from Georgia. Back then everything was new, this time I already knew it. Back then I was picked up, this time I made my way alone.
But already at the airport I met a very nice woman who not only sold me a SIM card but also helped me with the taxi apps. It’s a bit tricky, Yandex, the most popular app doesn’t work on my iPhone. It was the same in Georgia. I suspect political background from Apple, as Yandex is Russian. Or my phone is dumb. One local app had no taxis at the airport. Another local app had, but it’s cumbersome as everything is only in Cyrillic. I’d rather guess if my destination entry is correct. And the driver contacted me straight away by phone, which I preferred to give to the phone lady. I didn’t see him outside, there was another phone call with gentlemen standing around. And then he came rushing – and spoke good English….
The drive is a bit longer from the airport to the city. He told me he has a Kyrgyz girlfriend, but she lives in Munich and he is thinking of joining her. But German is quite difficult. Yes. But life here is also hard. What about Russia? He was a bit vague: no protests on the walls of houses, no demonstrations. But the male Kyrgyz who live in Russia are afraid of having to join the military. In any case, everything is a bit difficult. Prices are also rising.
On the previous visit, I accidentally went to the famous Osh Bazaar on the day when most of it was closed. So I had to go again this time. There is a lot, or rather everything, on a large area, partly in buildings, partly at buildings, partly on the street. I took a look – and realised that I probably belong to the minority of people for whom a visit to the market is not a highlight on a trip. I’m overwhelmed by all these goods and purchases and I’m actually rather confused at the vast quantities of things there are.
Afterwards I walked through the city centre and thought. It’s very spacious and sprawling, the streets very wide, the space between the buildings too, and the buildings often massive. I feel very small there. Actually similar to the mountains, where I am just a tiny dot between the towering mountain peaks and vast alpine pastures. But it’s a different small feeling – in the mountains I like to be insignificant in the mighty nature. In the city, I have the feeling that “someone” wants to impose this small feeling on me with the architecture. I don’t like that. However, I then spoke to someone from St. Petersburg who feels rather free and airy in the local urban space. That’s how different city architecture effects people.
I also visited Victory Square for the first time. The monument was erected on the 40th anniversary of the victory over Germany in 1985. A woman stands in a symbolised yurt waiting for her soldier husband and possibly son. An eternal flame burns in front of her. Wedding photos are often taken here.
The first two nights I stayed in a guesthouse, the second two with a couchsurfer from St. Petersburg. We talked about Bishkek and Tbilisi (she loves Tbilisi). She thinks Bishkek is the ugliest city she has ever been to. And she has been to many. I join her with this. I walked around and it was a great big contrast to Tbilisi. There I was touched by the beauty, here I was sadly touched by the ugliness. Here are a few pictures:
But what is absolutely positive here are my human encounters! On the first evening I went alone to a restaurant and another single local guest asked me to join her at her table. She has been working in a hostel for 2 months and likes it very much. Everything is always fully booked. We chatted some more.
I went into a bookshop and got into conversation with the owner. She only stocks English books because when she was learning English there were too few. But it’s not easy, too few customers. But she had been invited to the Frankfurt Book Fair. That was great. She really likes small specialised bookshops. In fact, these self-help guides go very well in her store. But then we agreed that these help the authors most, who earn quite well with them. And instead of humanity becoming happier and more successful, there are just more guidebooks. I asked her about local authors who have been translated into English. She doesn’t have the well-known Tschengiz Aitmatov – and otherwise only 3 books. There are few Kyrgyz authors and they are rarely translated. But one of them seems very interesting to me and I bought it.: Arhat by Kazat Akmatov. A connection of Kyrgyzstan and tibetan Buddhism. First reading impression is very good.
Then I also met Askat, with whom we will do a discovery tour in August. That was fun, but he doesn’t have much time at the moment because he works as a guide. That evening, he and a colleague had a group of 30 or 40 people from India and went to a very nicely decorated restaurant with them.
So for two nights I stayed with Olga for couchsurfing and was amazed. She has a room in a house rented by a Russian couple with a child and where other people live. All refugees from Russia who don’t agree. I have rarely come across such a welcoming house. You enter and immediately feel at home. Everything is very nicely furnished and geared towards guests and lovingly organised. However, they have problems. They also started a cultural centre here, but it was too critical of Russia and they were banned from activities. Kyrgyzstan is too much Russia-friendly/dependent. Difficult difficult. Olga is into film business, on the one hand she likes it a lot and it’s just the right thing to do. However, she has already become conspicuous to the state in Russia and preferred to leave. But she doesn’t want to stay here. Ugliest city and all that.
I learned a lot more and we had a good exchange, but I don’t have to describe all that here. Anyway, I was very happy to get this little additional insight. And so I conclude this post with happy girls in the urban water facilities.
I have to come here more often anyway, then I can collect and share even more impressions. But for now, I’m heading for the mountains. There is a small trek waiting for me, which many people do, but which is also supposed to be super beautiful. And so I have to test it out.