Sunday, July 31, 2016

Get out of Bishkek and head to the Tian Shan Mountains - 12 Chimneys!

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in the summer can get quite steamy. Hazy, Hot, and Humid are common words associated with the Kyrgyz capital during the warmer months.

The pool scene at Bishkek's Hyatt Regency was getting a bit stale, so we opted for a trip to the famed Tian Shan Mountains.

The Hyatt Bishkek used to employ a security guard who was jack of all trades. If you wanted to arrange any type of excursion, he knew who to call. For a generous tip, he would set the whole thing up, soup to nuts.

Fast forward to the van ride surrounded by sparse Kyrgyz countryside. Potholed dirt roads teetering along the edge of impossibly tall mountains made a few of us reminiscent of lazy days at the Hyatt Bishkek pool.

The further from Bishkek we got, the more nomadic the lifestyle became. Traditional yurts replaced houses and animals roamed freely, irrespective of fences.

Finally, we arrived at our destination - The 12 Chimney's Restaurant. Maybe it was the 7 Chimney's or the 5 Chimney's, it doesn't really matter.

We drank local Kyrgyz beer and even covered ourselves in wool blankets, as the temperature had dropped precipitously - all while surrounded by a fine collection of taxidermy.

High in the Kyrgyz Tian Shan Mountains, the air was crisp while the quick running stream looked clear enough to drink.

This part of Kyrgyzstan has remained much the same throughout history. The Kyrgyz people have always been great stewards of their land - pay them a visit if you please.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

American Tourist Visits Brutalist Kyrgyzstan Historical Museum - Bishkek.

Below is a video of the Historical Museum in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. I shot this video after touring the museum, an experience I would recommend to anyone visiting the Kyrgyz capital.

Before even entering the Kyrgyz Historical Museum, I was awed by the structure itself. The building can be described as Brutalist or Modernist. The United States as well as the Soviet Union embraced Brutalist architecture in the 1960's and 1970's. Brutalist architecture was efficient as well as impressive in size and scale.

The Kyrgyz Historical Museum sits on a plaza of marble, fountains, and flower gardens. Honor guards stand at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in front of the Kyrgyz Historical Museum, while a larger than life statue of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin watches over the rear.

Walking closer to the entrance of the Kyrgyz Historical Museum, I felt diminished by the building's overwhelming presence. After lugging the heavy door open, I made my way to the reception desk. Interestingly, foreign visitors pay more than Kyrgyz citizens, but the fee was still a bargain compared to other types of entertainment.

Much of the Kyrgyz Historical Museum is devoted to the formation of the Soviet Union and the triumphs of the Decembrists. Flags of the Soviet Republics still hang from one of museum's rooms.

When Kyrgyzstan became a Republic of the Soviet Union, the country developed considerably. Railways still run from Bishkek to Moscow, and a large ethnic Russian population calls Kyrgyzstan home.

Although the Kyrgyz Museum pays tribute to its recent history as part of the Soviet Union, the much longer history is the Kyrgyz people is also on display. A full size yurt (domed style shelter) and lots of elements of traditional Kyrgyz culture were of interest to me.

As an American, the nomadic culture of the Kyrgyz people reminded me of the history of American Indians. Indeed, the early Kyrgyz people share much in common with their Wampanoag and Narragansett brethren.

As one of the fastest growing international tourist destinations, Kyrgyzstan's historical museum will undoubtedly see an increase in traffic. If you can't read Kyrgyz or Russian, it is advisable to hire a Kyrgyz tour guide, as none of the signs or displays are in English.