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A Tour of Kyrgyzstan

posted Sep 19, 2018, 12:09 PM by FriendshipForce NHSeacoast   [ updated Sep 20, 2018, 4:51 PM ]
At the invitation of the Open World participants from Kyrgyzstan who visited the Seacoast New Hampshire last fall, three of us, Gary and Beth Cilley and Angela Matthews, traveled to Kyrgyzstan to visit each of them, explore their country and culture and attend the World Nomad Games. What an experience! We often noted that each day's activities topped the one before. In the capital city of Bishkek, we arrived just in time for their Independence Day celebration; visited the Fine Arts Museum; the home of their most famous author, Chingiz Aitmatov; and walked through the beautiful city parks.

We were then on our way to Cholpon-Ata, the site of the World Nomad Games, with stops along the road at Burana Tower, all that remains of a mosque that served a city of 10,000 people and at the Nomadic Museum, funded in part by USAID. At the Games, we watched the Opening Ceremonies (the trick riders and their horses got the biggest cheers), traveled to the Ethno Village at Kyrchyn Gorge and saw the US Kok-Boru team (think polo using a head-less goat carcass in place of a ball) lose to one of the Russian republics 18-3.

Next we were driven to Emil's guesthouse in the Jyrgalan Valley. In addition to the outstanding food, we visited a waterfall at 8500 ft. above sea level, went horse trekking, fished in an alpine lake at 10,500 feet and visited an English class in the village school.

Our next stop was Karakol and the hospitality offered by Almaz and his family. We had a walking tour of the city which included a Dungan mosque. The Dungan are Chinese Muslims who were persecuted in China and immigrated to Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Russia. That evening we enjoyed a Dungan family dinner with guests from all over the world. One course after another kept coming. Dungan hospitality requires that at least 8 different dishes be on the table at any time. We visited the Museum of Karakol, the animal and food markets, and prepared (and ate) the local bread. We strolled through Karakol River Park, the brainchild of Almaz and opened a year ago with funding from USAID. Following a sunset cruise on Lake Issyk-kul, the second largest saline lake in the world, with Almaz and his family, we were treated to dinner (more fantastic food) at their home.

As we had traveled along the northern shore of Lake Issyk-kul getting to Karakol, our journey back to Bishkek was along the southern shore. Our patient driver took us to a waterfall and rock formations that reminded us of the US Southwest. We had lunch in a yurt camp along Issyk-Kul.

Kyrgyzstan September 2018

Many, many, many thanks to our Kyrgyz hosts for sharing their country and culture with us. A trip we will never forget.