Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (Frunze)

My cab arrived at the hotel here in Bishkek at about 8:00 am this morning. I was walking around downtown Bishkek at 8:01 am. Every guidebook talks about the shifty nature of this city, but I didn’t see it at all. Everyone has been very nice so far. This place represents every irrational fear Glen Beck has ever had: Muslim Asian Russians are everywhere! The city is a very interesting central Asian demography. Most ethnicities around the world have a diaspora that is represented in major U.S. Cities (Somalis in Minneapolis, Chinese in San Francisco, Armenians in Los Angeles). This is a great way to familiarize yourself with a culture before you throw yourself into that culture by traveling to a country that you do not understand fully. I have to say, I was completely ignorant to the Kyrgyz people and their culture prior to showing up here. It has been a fantastic time observing people interacting. The demography here is so diverse that you really would not be able to say whether you were in China, the U.S. or Russia from looking around.

The city is built in soviet style, with huge marble buildings and giant statues everywhere. I’ve seen more soviet artwork and monuments here than in Moscow. It’s almost like this place has been in a state of arrest since 1989. I walked good hour and a half to see the Kyrgyz version of the white house, which is near a beautiful park, and the main square that was ground zero for the April 7th 2010 revolution. Further down the road was the National State Museum that has some great (and exclusively Russian language) history of the Kyrgyz Republic. A new wing of the museum was dedicated to last year’s revolution, housing stories and possessions of the people killed during the riots. They also have the actual tear gas canisters that were used, along with bullet casings and arm bands worn by the rioters (see photos below). I kept walking to the amusement park and sat around and observed people having fun and enjoying the weather (it was about 85 degrees today).

After I was tired, and with my foot nice and swollen, I made my way back to the hotel and took a cab to Osh Bazaar. It is one of the largest markets in KR, and the vendors come quite a distance to sell their wares. To be honest, there weren’t too many things that weren’t for everyday household use. If I had wanted a new teapot or a new extension cord, I would have been very happy though. It was very impressive to see how big the market was though. It kept going, and kept spilling out of the sides of the physical boundaries of the market.

Considering I started my day at 4:00 am this morning, I’m surprisingly awake still. I feel lucky that this day feels like it’s been really full and enjoyable so far.

One highlight from the State Museum that I found hilarious: there is a mural depicting Ronald Reagan as a cowboy riding a missile while wearing a grinning skull mask. As you can see from the pictures, it looks as funny as the description sounds. Enjoy the photos…

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