Bishkek – the capital of Kyrgyzstan
Nice green city with a number of parks, soviet time monuments and combination of old houses, and soviet buildings. Many of exciting sights located outside Bishkek, including ruins of ancient cities and beautiful valleys of Kyrgyz Ala-Too.
The capital, Bishkek city, is situated in the Chui valley in the north of the country. It was founded in 1878 and originally was called Pishpek, which is the name of the wooden paddle with which the Kyrgyz make their kymyz (kymyz – fermented mare’s milk), the national drink. Later, during the Soviet Union period, it was named Frunze after the famous Russian General Mikhail Frunze. At the time of Independence in 1991, it was renamed Bishkek.
The city has been influenced by the Russians from the beginning, and actually more or less built by them. Most of the buildings you see today are built in a typically Soviet architectural style, and the trees in the parks, boulevards and alleys are watered by a system of canals built by Russians. Those boulevards and parks make this a pleasant city to live in, as they provide total shade in summer, when temperatures may reach 40 degrees Celsius (105 F), and the open canal system also helps to keep the summer bearable. Bishkek is known to be one of the greenest cities in Central Asia as a result of this planning.
Bishkek cannot claim to be one of the major cities of the world, like London, Paris or New York. It is, however, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan and does have a number of important and interesting buildings, monuments, parks, museums, galleries, theatres and other places worth seeing or visiting.
- Ala-Too Square is the central square in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The square was built in 1984 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Kyrgyz SSR, at which time a massive statue of Lenin was placed in the square’s center. The statue of Lenin was moved in 2003 to a smaller square in the city, and a new statue called Erkindik (Freedom) was installed in its place.
- Osh Bazaar is a true oriental bazaar that you will not see anywhere else, because it reflects the true nature and coloring of the nation. Entering this market, you find yourself in the past, here, as many years ago, it would seem, nothing has changed, crowded market, envelops buyers with the cloud of spicy aromas. Dozens of unique spices and seasonings: basil, dill, parsley, coriander, celery, onion, garlic, thyme, cumin, red and black pepper, dried tomatoes, barberry, black, zira, bunium, sesame. About six dozen species and varieties of spices and seasonings can be counted on the shelves. Vendors vying offer raisins and dried apricots, almonds and pistachios, walnuts and peanuts.
- Victory Square. The 9th of May, 1945 is the Victory of Soviet Union over Fascist Germany in the Great Patriotic War started on 22nd of June, 1941. The Memorial was constructed in 1985, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Victory. Three curved arcs represent a yurt. There is a statue of Kyrgyz woman inside the construction. She (mother, wife) is standing under a tunduk in the form of a funeral wreath at the eternal flame, waiting for her son / husband, who never returned home from the front. According to the tradition the memorial is must-to-visit place for all the wedding ceremonies.
Ala Archa National Park
Ala Archa National Park is an alpine national park in the Tian Shan Mountains of Kyrgyzstan, established in 1979 and located approximately 40 km south of the capital city of Bishkek. The park, which includes the gorge of the Ala-Archa River and the mountains surrounding it, is a popular destination point for weekend hikers, horse trekkers, skiers as well as mountain climbers looking for challenging ice, rock and mixed routes. The park is open year round, although the most popular season is late summer and early fall.
In Kyrgyz, the Archa, which gives the park its name, is a juniper, which Kyrgyz people have traditionally held in special esteem, using smoke from its burning brenches to chase away evil spirits. However, the archa is not supposed to be planted near the home, because it is believed gradually to sap the energy from human beings living close-by.
The park covers about 200 square kilometers, and its altitude ranges from about 1,500 meters at the entrance to a maximum of 4,895 meters at Peak Semenov Tian-Shanski, the highest peak in the Kyrgyz Ala Too range of the Tian Shan. There are more than 20 small and large glaciers and some 50 mountain peaks within the park. Two small rivers, Adygene and Ak-Sai originate from these glaciers’ melting waters. Adygene gorge is a beautifully wooded valley, with waterfalls, springs and abundant trout. A small reservoir on the Kargay-Bulak river was built to study the Amu Darya trout. Other wildlife includes the very rare snow leopard (in Kyrgyz: “Ilbirs”) on the alpine meadows and snowfields above 2,500 m elevation, wild goats, roe deer and marmots.
Burana Tower is a large minaret in the Chuy valley in northern Kyrgyzstan. It is located about 80 km east of the country’s capital Bishkek, near the town of Tokmok. The tower, along with grave markers, some earthworks and the remnants of a castle and three mausoleums, is all that remains of the ancient city of Balasagun which was established by Karakhanids at the end of the 10th century. An external staircase and steep, winding stairway inside the tower enables visitors to climb to the top.
The tower was originally 45 m (148 ft) high. However, number of earthquakes caused significant damage to the structure. The last major earthquake in the 15th century destroyed the top half of the tower, reducing it to its current height of 24 m (82 ft). A renovation project was carried out in the 1970s to restore its foundation and repair the west-facing side of the tower, which was in danger of collapse.
The entire site, including the mausoleums, castle foundations and grave markers, now functions as museum and there is a small building on the site containing historical information as well as artifacts found at the site and in the surrounding region.
A legend connected with the tower says that a witch warned a local king that his newly-born daughter would die once she reached the age of eighteen. To protect her, he built a tall tower where he sequestered his daughter. No one entered the tower, except the daughter’s servant who brought her food. The daughter grew up alone and became a beautiful young lady. One day, however, a poisonous spider was hiding in the food brought by the servant. The spider bit the girl, and she died in the tower, at the age of eighteen.
Cholpon-Ata Petroglyphs, Kyrgyzstan
Cholpon Ata Petroglyphs is a unique ancient monuments, which are located on territory of Cholpon-Ata town. There are Bronze Age settlement and ancient sacred place under open sky with stone painting. Andronic tribes or Arian tribes (in the middle of II millennium – VIII century B.C.) gave us the artists who began creating these peculiar art galleries, which consist of thousand petroglyphs. The Saka tribes (VIII-III centuries B.C.) made their contribution for further development of the rock painting. Saka’s artists created rock drawings in so called Saka-Scythian animal style of art, which attracts attention with their mastership and realistic images. The latest petroglyphs were dated by Turkic period (VI-IX centuries).
Cholpon Ata Open Air museum is the most accessible and visitable part of North Issyk-Kul accumulation of the petroglyphs. That site was gigantic temple under open sky, which occupied western part of modern Cholpon-Ata town, and where ancient people worshipped to celestial bodies and did sacraments and mysteries. The rock paintings took an important sacramental role in realizing rituals.
They were some kind of virtual sacrifice and prayer, printed on the stone. Alongside with the petroglyphs, there are stone circles, perhaps an ancient kin sacred site with an interesting natural phenomenon – geomagnetic propitious fields. There are some grounds for suppositions, that big stone circles (some tens meters in diameter) used as astronomy observatories.
Cholpon Ata petroglyphs are unique in many aspects. First, because of artistic realism of the images, many rock drawings belong to masterpieces of Saka-Scythian animal style art. Secondly, the sizes of some petroglyphs are more than one meter which is really rare. At third, many scenes and subjects are original, typical only for North Issyk-Kul petroglyphs. At forth, a technique of making some paintings, for example a relief image of deer, fulfilled with the usage as natural prominences of the stone.
The central petroglyph in low part of the museum is an embodiment of all unique features. There is a flock of rock goats (teke or ibex). The figures of ibexes, perhaps the biggest in Central Asia presented with unusual expression that allows attributing this petroglyph to outstanding masterpiece Saka-Scythian animal style of art. The figures of hunters and tame-breeding bars (snow leopards) during penned hunt are one the background of the rock painting. This kind of driving off hunt existed in Ancient Egypt, where hunters used cheetah in hunting of antelope. By the way, there is a petroglyph with images of hunting dynamically leopards in the museum. This petroglyph has no analogies in Central Asia.
This peaceful Russian town was founded on 1st of July in 1869 as Russian Military fortification on the Shore of Issyk-Kul Lake. By this time the town had a high proportion of military officers, explorers of Russian Geographical society, merchants and professionals. The town’s Soviet name was Prjevalsk after the Great Russian Explorer of Central Asia and China Nikolai Prjevalski whose last expedition ended here and who is buried on the lake shore near Karakol.
Sights to see here include:
Holy Trinity Cathedral
Present wooden building was built in 1895 and partly destroyed by Bolsheviks in 1930. Services are again being held, since the reconstruction in 1991. This Russian Orthodox Church contains unique icon of Tikhvinian Virgin Mary that is believed to cure people from almost any disease.
This is one of the most beautiful Karakol’s piece of architecture. It was built by dungans, without any nails in 1911. Despite the fact that it was built by Dungans it serves all muslims of Karakol despite their ethnic background. The building impresses with an amount of perfect wood carving. You can find some items of Chinese mythology in the patterns.
Sunday Animal market
A must visit place is a Sunday animal market. You will see lots of people selling and buying horses, cows, sheep and other domestic animals.
Museum of Przhevalski
State Memorial Museum of the Great Russian traveller Nikolai Mikhailovich Przhevalsky located 13 km from Karakol, on the shore of Issyk-Kul Lake. It includes beautiful monument, traveler’s grave, chapel and indoor museum that contains a number of documents, deeds and diplomas of Przhevalsky, the collection of stuffed birds and animals and personal belongings of the scientist.
Tash-Rabat is a carefully restored stone building that once housed an inn on the Great Silk Road. Its date of origin is a complete mystery; however, there is an archaeological evidence to suggest that the site was occupied in the 10th century. There is evidence that it was a place of both rest and worship and would have served to protect caravans traveling to and from China from both the ravages of the weather and of bandits; even before the time of Genghis Khan and Tamerlane.
Son Kul Lake
Song Köl (also Son Kul, Songköl, Song-Köl) is an alpine lake in northern Naryn Province, Kyrgyzstan. It is the second largest lake in Kyrgyzstan (18x29km wide, 13 meters deep) after Issyk Kul Lake. Its name, meaning «following lake», is popularly considered to refer to this relation. It is surrounded by a broad summer pasture and then mountains. Its beauty is greatly praised, but it is rather inaccessible. The best approach seems to be the 85 km road from Sary-Bulak on the main north-south highway. Other routes require 4x4s. There are no facilities on the lake, but local herders will provide supplies and lend yurts. The area is inhabited and safely accessible only from June to September.
Osh is the Kyrgyzstan’s second biggest city located in the south, near the border with Uzbekistan. The city’s population is about 250.000 people with dominantly Uzbek people. They say Osh is older than Rome, and the number of legends tells about Alexander the Great who had passed Osh on his way to India, King Solomon who had slept on the place of present Solomon throne and Bobur the Lion, the person who conquered India. Places to see include one of the best Central Asia’s open markets, overcrowded with Kyrgyz, Uzbek and Tadjik people offering everything from seasonal fruits and vegetables to traditional hats, knives, horseshoes etc. The line of craftsmen still uses ancient technologies for making everyday tools: knives, horseshoes and steel decorations for the houses.
Solomon’s throne – the mountain of King Solomon called Suleiman Mountain. According to the legend this mount appeared after King Solomon took rest on this place. For Central Asia Muslims Taht-I-Suleiman is the third sacred place after Mecca and Medina. On the top of the mount there is an ancient mosque which was built by Bobur in 1510 and has survived till the present time. There is also unique museum in the natural cave representing the oldest cities of Central Asia with the history that dates back at least to the 5th century BC.