Faces Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan is one of five Central Asian countries that was birthed after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Brainstorming for a moment, I thought of some stereotypes of the ‘stans. Turkmenistan is known as the North Korea of Central Asia. Uzbekistan known for its historical Silk Road cities. Tajikistan is known for the fantastic landscapes of the Pamir Highway, and Kazakhstan, well Kazakhstan is known for Borat. And what about Kyrgyzstan? Nothing quickly comes to mind. There is a beautiful lake and mountains. And more recently, Kyrgyzstan is recognized for the World Nomad Games. But many people are not simply familiar with Kyrgyzstan. Here are some profiles from the World Nomad Games. And check out some of the sports from the World Nomad Games.
One thing that I will remember is the warmth and hospitality of the Kyrgyz people. My previous experiences in the former Soviet Union when in a store or restaurant has been brusqueness and a chilly demeanor. I was continually surprised with the friendliness of the locals.
The owner of my hotel on Lake Issyk-Kul truly represented Kyrgyz warmth. It was a small 20 room hotel owned and operated by a local family. She greeted me every morning and evening with a giant smile. I was part of the press corps covering the World Nomad Games and the Games hosted an event for the press. She personally walked me to the press dinner which was ten minutes from the hotel. And I was really touched when she refused my money after several offers for the laundry services she provided.
Besides being met with a lot of smiles during your visit, you will note that the men often wear a unique hat. This hat is known as the Ak-Kalpak, their national headgear. The hat is constructed from white felt, which is often embroidered. The shape represents the all mountains of Kyrgyzstan. These hats can fold completely flat. The kalpak places an important part in Kyrgyz culture.
Here are some photos of some of the locals in the laidback capital of Bishkek.
And I met some other locals in the Osh bazaar in the second largest city in Kyrgyzstan