Victory Day and Horses in Kyrgyzstan

Community Highlights Asia Victory Day and Horses in Kyrgyzstan

May 9

The yurt camp only offered Nescafe coffee for breakfast. But never fear, we had coffee made with a French press by our now favorite barista, Begaim. She had mentioned that she had brought coffee. Today we found out that she also brought the press. Now that is great service from your tour leader.

I took this photo later in the trip.
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Just before we left I took a photo of couple of the items used to decorate the grounds, a mix of old and new.
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As we were making our way to our next destination of Jety Oguz, we suddenly found our route blocked. It was a parade! Well, it was a parade getting set up. Our van stopped and before the driver could find an alternate route, we scrambled out to check things out.

The parade was for Victory Day, a holiday to mark the end of the war against Nazi Germany. Kyrgyzstan lost 115,000 soldiers during the war. Old people, young people, groups and individuals, military and old Soviet vehicles, the parade had it all. Many individuals held up photographs of family members killed during the war. We spent the next several minutes walking up and down the route taking photos (and having our photos taken). It was a very special and totally unplanned addition to our tour.

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Michael is in the middle, showing the men their photo.
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I took this photograph after this lovely young woman had asked for a selfie with me.
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Soon after, we arrived at the valley of Jeti Oguz. The van pulled over so that we could admire “The Broken Heart”. Begaim told us a legend, which of course involved an ill-fated romance, hence the broken heart.

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We drove a bit further into the town. Jety Oguz translates as "Seven Bulls", which are the red rock formations which tower over the town. We took a walk up a hill to get a better view.

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From there we could see some Kyrgyz cowboys bringing a herd of cattle along the road and then up the hill towards us. This is the time for moving livestock to the summer pastures. As they passed a blanket fell off of a riderless horse. I thought I would be helpful and pick up the blanket so that the riders would not have to dismount to pick it up. Afterwards Aijan told me that I had given her a bit of a scare since I was reaching down behind the horse. I could have startled it and ended up with a good kick.

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Begaim told us that this is often a starting point for trekking.
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When we got to the bottom, we found Silvio having a great conversation with a local man who wanted him to stay for a few days. Everyone loves Silvio.
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We then drove on to Karakol. We made a quick stop at a war memorial where young children were laying flowers, again celebrating Victory Day. Monuments are big here.
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Once we reached Karakol, we first went to the Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. Karakol was a garrison town as part of the Tsarist Russian Empire. A brick church was built on the site in 1869, but it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1889. This replacement was made of wood and was consecrated in 1895. From 1917 until 1991, other than a brief time after the second world war, the church was put to secular uses as organized religion was not allowed in the Soviet Union. It was returned to the church in 1991.

Begaim told us that we would not be permitted to take photos inside the church, but Michael had a nice visit with the lady inside (with Begaim’s help) and maybe because of his charm, we were allowed to take photos.

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We had a brief walk in the town.

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It was finally time for lunch. Once again it was in a private home, this time with a Uighur family. And it was another fabulous spread. They gave us some buns, which I loved.

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And then there was our lunch time discussion. Do I write about that? I guess that is what I am doing. We have been eating so much on this trip. That talk moved on to discussing the size of our stomachs and how we are unable to avoid seeing them in the big mirrors in our various hotel rooms. Then the conversation moved on to large tummies blocking certain views. It was silly, but it showed how comfortable we were with each other.

In the afternoon we visited the Dungan Mosque, another wooden structure, this one built with wooden nails. The mosque was designed by a Chinese architect to serve the Dungans, Chinese Muslims who had fled persecution in the 1880’s. There is a wooden pagoda in place of a minaret. We were not allowed to go inside. The mosque was completed in 1910. The mosque now serves the general population.

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And does the tour keep us busy? We still had another stop before our guest house. This was at a museum dedicated to the Russian explorer, Nikolay Przhevalsky. He was the first European since Marco Polo to visit Qinghai Lake in the Tibetan Plateau, though he never reached his ultimate goal of Lhasa, Tibet. There are species named after him, including Przhevalski’s gazelle and Przhevalski’s horse. He was quite the traveller which impressed our group of travellers. I was glad that we were travelling in mini-vans rather than on camels.

He contracted typhus from the Chu River on the eve of his fifth expedition and died not far from Karakol. The Tsar changed the name of Karakol to Przhevalsk in his honor. In 1991 it was changed back to Karakol.

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From there we drove to Reina Kench Guesthouse.

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Everyone was doing their wash, so I joined them. Our balconies soon looked like a laundry. I then went to download my photos and could not find my mouse. I suspected that I had left it in the yurt, probably under the blanket since I was using my computer when I was snuggled under the big covers. I remembered thinking that I should do a final check of my room (a standard thing when I travel). But we had to remove our shoes before entering our yurts, and I was too lazy to do that. One time I do not do my final room check and I lose something. Oh well, there are worse things to lose.

After a brief rest we were given a tour by the owner’s daughter. After independence the family was granted the land, which had been part of a collective farm and had been in very bad shape. They raise various animals including sheep (with giant bums), Angus beef cattle and Kyrgyz horses. The horses are used for racing and in the competition like polo where a goat head is chased around a field (called kok boru in Kyrgyzstan). We did not see that, which would have been fun, just the horses.

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Our day was still not finished. We now had a bread making lesson. We learned how to make “boorsok” (Kyrgyz deep fried bread) which we have been enjoyed at every meal. Several of our group participated. I was happy to just document the lesson and eat the results.

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We enjoyed some of their fine beef during supper. With all the boorsok we had eaten, we had to be full. But we still had ice cream at the end. And our tummies probably grew a little more.

This was our last night in Kyrgyzstan. Tomorrow we drive back into Kazakhstan.

Again, my room was next to Michael. And once again, I could hear him coughing away. Oh, please, do not let me catch that.

This featured blog entry was written by Bob Brink from the blog Searching for Magical Moments.
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By Bob Brink

Posted Sun, Jun 09, 2019 | Kyrgyzstan | Comments