Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Unlikely Charm of Bishkek's Parks

I just got a message asking me what I enjoy most about traveling to Kyrgyzstan - a tough question because it's so open ended.  But after visiting Bishkek probably about 20 times over the past five years, my answer is clear.  I love the parks.  This may seem like a random answer, but the parks in
Bishkek are unlike anything else I have seen.

I first noticed the monumental trees, they are absolutely huge!  American style parks tend to be manicured lawns with scattered bushes and flowers.  Bishkek’s parks have trees that are probably 100 years old and they tower over you.  It’s great on a hot summer’s day because the shade keeps everything cool. 

Another great thing is the people!  I know that sounds strange, but hear me out.  Aside from large metropolises in America, our parks don’t really get much use.  Much of the day, they are sparsely populated.  Bishkek’s parks are a bevy of activity, from children playing to young lovers walking hand in hand and kissing, to elderly people sitting around eating ice cream. 

Although the parks have not been adequately maintained since the end of the Soviet era, Bishkek’s parks have a euphoric rustic appeal.  Most of the water fountains leak and the stone monuments are crumbling.  There are leaves everywhere and the grass is long.  But everyone is in a good mood and smiling.  The fresh air and sound of the birds singing provide a wonderful refuge!

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