• Kyrgyzstan
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Kyrgyzstan

By Dmitry Petrounin Dmitry Petrounin Section editor Profile
Don't bother arguing for hours, Kyrgyzstan is also called Kyrgyzistan or Kyrgyz. Like most of its neighbours, this Central Asian country is a former Soviet republic. It became independent in 1991. The Kyrgyz population, traditionally nomadic, is made of several minority groups: Russians, Uzbeks, Ukrainians. This small community lives in a varying climate with changing temperatures. Three quarters of the territory is 4,920 feet above sea level, measuring 24,400 feet at Pobieda's peak. Stop under its snowy mantle and listen to a Kyrgyz storyteller praising the exploits of Batyr, the young warrior who saved the country. Although few tourists travel to Kyrgyzstan, it is a unusual and interesting destination.

Our Editorial team's advice

Kyrgyzstan, like all other Central Asian countries is worth visiting. If you are a bit of a coward and "paranoiac", don't go there, for the journey is full of obstacles (administrative hassles, slow transportation network, constant insecurity, etc). This should however not stop you from going out of the capital to explore the countryside, discover its splendid landscapes and the legendary hospitality of the people. Other tip: Kyrgyz, like all other central Asian nations, are sometimes too hospitable that they can land someone in a fine mess. Alcohol consumption is a good example. A good lie could save you from drinking a bottle of vodka in one night! The same apllies for typical dishes: the head of a nanny goat for a starter (dish served to guests in Kyrgyz mountainous regions), you can have better!
To avoid hassles in obtaining your visa and, concomitantly, meet a Kyrgyz family, Espace CATIA offers an interesting programme "the Kyrgyz friend" through which you can obtain an entry visa. This formula costs abouts 45 euros/day (36 pounds sterling) and per person excluding flights (meals and transport inclusive).

pros

  • +Ride along the mountainous landscapes and steppes, the view is splendid.
  • +The population is extremely welcoming.

cons

  • -The constant political instability.
  • -Sightseeing periods are short due to the harsh climate in the mountains.
  • -There is still a lot of corruption.

Traditions

Kyrgyz have always been nomads. Thus, they still make yurt, felt or skin tents. In relation to music, these people widely practise improvised melodic poetry and epics, accompanied by komouz, three-string musical intrument.

Food

Kyrgyz traditional dishes are often made out of mutton. If you go to Kyrgyzstan, try the shurpa, a dish with mutton and vegetable soup or besh bermak, cooked lamp with pasta broth. You will surely also taste plov, a dish of rice served with meat and vegetables cooked in a cauldron. Kyrgyz also love cheese and yoghurt. To drink, you'll have "tchaï" tea you will find almost everywhere and at all hours, and kumiss, drink made from fermented mare milk, a little alcoholized and especially very sour. Lastly and above all the king of alcohol: vodka.

Souvenirs

Coloured patterns carpets or shyrdaks, hats (ak-kalpak)
sort of white felts with ornaments, felt slippers, miniature yurts (felt tents), musical instruments and jewelry are some of the items you can return with. Shops and markets open from 9:00 AM to 6:00-7:00 PM, Monday to Friday.