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Thread: Ask me questions about Kyrgyzstan

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    Roma_Victrix's Avatar Gatorade, is it in you?
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    Icon6 Ask me questions about Kyrgyzstan

    Go ahead...ask away.

    I was a US Peace Corps volunteer living there for a number of years. I even had the privilege of having a little fling with a Russian girl there. Although Kyrgyzstan is somewhat fragile due to periodic revolution and corruption, it is still the most stable democracy in Central Asia with a free and open press, more or less fair elections, and a true grassroots civic spirit.



    Compare that to neighboring Uzbekistan, where protesters are killed and journalists are jailed for speaking out against its autocratic ruler (who calls himself a president). The Andijan Massacre of 2005 is still very fresh in people's minds there, an event that strained relations with the US to the breaking point. Needless to say, the Peace Corps doesn't operate there anymore.

    I won't pretend Kyrgyzstan doesn't have it's fair share of problems. For instance, the now warped tradition of "bride kidnapping" out in the countryside where women can be snatched on the street, browbeaten by the potential groom's family to marry the suitor, and all but forced into marriage if her own family finds the guy acceptable enough. Personally I never witnessed it and didn't know anyone there who got married like that, but it does happen. In the old days it was more or less custom for guys and gals to at least share love letters first!

    For those who are geographically impaired, here's a little map to show you where Kyrgyzstan is in relation to its neighbors.



    Now some Kyrgyz people are rather traditional:






    Others are just plain goofy:



    But most Kyrgyz youth are as modern as they come.





    So if you've ever wondered about Kyrgyzstan and what it's like, now's your chance to ask!

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    Default Re: Ask me questions about Kyrgyzstan

    I like the taste of good alcohol and food in restaurants with friends, but I also enjoy traveling by train with few people to where ever the rails may go. Is it possible to enjoy those virtues in Kyrgy, or will I be attacked by road "Scandinavian" merchants who want to sell me Chinese produced crap?

    What is the cost of visiting, what financial setup should I prepare to set up before going to Kyrg? I'm northern European, so I guess I could take the train or get a plane ticket to start with, but what are the costs of staying in terms of living, food and bribing officers of the "law"?

    What a great post btw. I feel truly privileged.

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    I must tell you here of some amusing tricks the Comte d'Eu played on us. I had made a sort of house for myself in which my knights and I used to eat, sitting so as to get the light from the door, which, as it happened, faced the Comte d'Eu's quarters. The count, who was a very ingenious fellow, had rigged up a miniature ballistic machine with which he could throw stones into my tent. He would watch us as we were having our meal, adjust his machine to suit the length of our table, and then let fly at us, breaking our pots and glasses.
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    Default Re: Ask me questions about Kyrgyzstan

    What do they think about rest of Turkic people ?(of course other then some certain neighbours) We actually have a relatively big Kyrgyz village in Turkey, they applied Turkey to be accepted in country in 1982, its called Ulu Pamir.

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    Default Re: Ask me questions about Kyrgyzstan

    @ Kjertesvein: Well, good sir, you may fly into Kyrgyzstan (and from Bishkek you can fly to places like Osh) but don't rely too much on rail, considering how drastically reduced their rail system has become since the collapse of the Soviet Union and independence of Kyrgyzstan in 1991. Most people get around in the cities and along great distances by either taxi or "marshrutka" mini-bus. If wearing a seat belt is very important to you, I'd suggest reserving a front passenger seat, since most vehicles DO NOT even have seat belts in the back seats. On numerous occasions I've rode many hours through winding mountain passes without wearing a seat belt at all, which sounds crazy and scary, but something you can get used to doing.

    I wouldn't worry too much about being accosted by natives trying to sell you stuff. There are many foreigners living and working in Kyrgyzstan, especially around the capital Bishkek, so foreigners of all stripes aren't exactly a novelty anymore. Most Kyrgyz will be very curious about you and ask all sorts of questions, some of which might seem rude to you since they seem to pry into private matters (e.g. stuff like how much money do you make, are you married, how many kids do you have, how old are you, how much do cars cost in the United States or whatever country you are from ). Don't get upset about this at all, it's just their way of striking conversation and being friendly, although the consistency of similar thematic questions found in this sort of conversation with various Kyrgyz people is humorous.

    @ Tureuki: I am very interested in the history of Turkic peoples, who like many other large supranational communities of related ethnic groups had a profound impact on the course of history. As for Turkey, I had a wonderful time talking to Turks in Istanbul and speaking to them in Kyrgyz, which funny enough, they understood to a great degree and more often than not could respond to me in Turkish! Turkic languages are very mutually intelligible in that sense. However, Kazakh is way closer to Kyrgyz in terms of pronunciation and similar words.

    Cheers fellas! Feel free to ask me any more questions that are on your minds. And lest I forget: Happy New Year!

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    Default Re: Ask me questions about Kyrgyzstan

    Good thread. Personally, I would like to visit there in future. It is very curious that Kyrgyz language has many common/similar words with common inner Anatolia Turkish dialects. I remember watching a document about Kyrgyzs and commenting;"meh, exactly what my mother speaks this and that words/phares", considering Istanbul Turkish dialect is a language seperate itself. I think because structure of Turkic languages (wovel harmony etc...) still languages are intelligible with each other after 1000 and more years of seperation.
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    Default Re: Ask me questions about Kyrgyzstan

    Thank you, White-wolf, and yes, the Turkic languages are very mutually intelligible. They can be understood more or less across various national borders all the way east to the Uighur Turks of Xinjiang, China. They're far more mutually intelligible than the Germanic languages, since an Englishman would run into many more difficulties of understanding the spoken word in say, the Netherlands, than would a Kyrgyz man traveling through Kazakhstan and conversing with the locals.

    Kyrgyz people often told me (in a general consensus) that they could understand about 40% of what Turkish people spoke without bothering to learn Turkish at all.

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    Default Re: Ask me questions about Kyrgyzstan

    What type of food and drink do they like to serve there that is good ?

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    Default Re: Ask me questions about Kyrgyzstan

    As Jo asked, how was the food? If there is one reason I want to visit different regions of the world (besides historical reasons) it's cause I want to try as many different ethnic foods as possible.

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    Default Re: Ask me questions about Kyrgyzstan

    Hmm...the lagman soup in Kyrgyzstan is really good; it usually contains long thick noodles with chopped carrots, beef, onion, peppers, herbs, a dab of cream, etc. Their shashlik kebabs are always fantastic; most of the time they're beef, but sometimes you can get turkey. Definitely dip those in the red chili sauce they give you! Their manti (kind of like a dumpling filled with meat and diced potato) is sometimes really good, especially with tomato and red pepper sauce, but not always good since some families like to go heavy on the sheep fat in them. I found that type of manti very hard to swallow, but I'm picky.

    Some people like besh barmak (literally "five fingers"), but it's a rather bland dish, just minced meat and noodles. The natives are fond of it, so just nod your head politely and eat quickly if you're forced into eating it.

    Samsa, on the other hand, is always good. It's a flaky pastry dish with meat, potatoes, carrots, and other ingredients baked inside. Another fried bread is boorsoq, which can be seen in the picture above in the first post, held by that pretty lady in the traditional hat.

    If someone there asks if you'd like some kumis, be wary of that, since it's a really potent drink. It is alcoholic, but that's not the reason why it's so potent. It's made from fermented mare's milk, and it is VERY sour. Drink it at your own risk! Most of the time, however, you'll be drinking lots of sweet tea, brown or green.

    You can also get all the standard Russian foods there, like borscht soup (Kyrgyz shorpa soup is very similar, but perhaps has more meat). For some reason, people there love to eat sweet dishes that are akin to our creme of wheat and rice pudding. You should also consider eating lots of plov, it's fantastic. It's just a rice dish with carrots and meat, but when it's prepared correctly, it's to die for. I perhaps miss that one the most!

    One thing that I'm really not fond of is the Kyrgyz people's love for mayonnaise. Seriously, they put it on everything, even pizza! In fact, if you're looking for really good food, go to Mexico, or Italy, or Japan. Kyrygzstan isn't known for its fine cuisine; it's known for its gorgeous and breathtaking landscapes of steppes and mountains that rival the Alps.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Ask me questions about Kyrgyzstan

    Shashlyk is a rare part of sheep meat afaik. I think you mean shish kebabs. And shorpa I think simply means soup.
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    Default Re: Ask me questions about Kyrgyzstan

    I think Shash=Shish, so Shashlyk is pretty much like saying Shishlik in Turkish, they don't say kebab.

    May be they don't have much soup variants so they call most known soup simply soup ?

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    Default Re: Ask me questions about Kyrgyzstan

    Quote Originally Posted by Roma_Victrix View Post
    Hmm...the lagman soup in Kyrgyzstan is really good; it usually contains long thick noodles with chopped carrots, beef, onion, peppers, herbs, a dab of cream, etc. Their shashlik kebabs are always fantastic; most of the time they're beef, but sometimes you can get turkey. Definitely dip those in the red chili sauce they give you! Their manti (kind of like a dumpling filled with meat and diced potato) is sometimes really good, especially with tomato and red pepper sauce, but not always good since some families like to go heavy on the sheep fat in them. I found that type of manti very hard to swallow, but I'm picky.

    Some people like besh barmak (literally "five fingers"), but it's a rather bland dish, just minced meat and noodles. The natives are fond of it, so just nod your head politely and eat quickly if you're forced into eating it.

    Samsa, on the other hand, is always good. It's a flaky pastry dish with meat, potatoes, carrots, and other ingredients baked inside. Another fried bread is boorsoq, which can be seen in the picture above in the first post, held by that pretty lady in the traditional hat.

    If someone there asks if you'd like some kumis, be wary of that, since it's a really potent drink. It is alcoholic, but that's not the reason why it's so potent. It's made from fermented mare's milk, and it is VERY sour. Drink it at your own risk! Most of the time, however, you'll be drinking lots of sweet tea, brown or green.

    You can also get all the standard Russian foods there, like borscht soup (Kyrgyz shorpa soup is very similar, but perhaps has more meat). For some reason, people there love to eat sweet dishes that are akin to our creme of wheat and rice pudding. You should also consider eating lots of plov, it's fantastic. It's just a rice dish with carrots and meat, but when it's prepared correctly, it's to die for. I perhaps miss that one the most!

    One thing that I'm really not fond of is the Kyrgyz people's love for mayonnaise. Seriously, they put it on everything, even pizza! In fact, if you're looking for really good food, go to Mexico, or Italy, or Japan. Kyrygzstan isn't known for its fine cuisine; it's known for its gorgeous and breathtaking landscapes of steppes and mountains that rival the Alps.



    Quote Originally Posted by white-wolf View Post
    Shashlyk is a rare part of sheep meat afaik. I think you mean shish kebabs. And shorpa I think simply means soup.


    Thanks guys !

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    Azog 150's Avatar Civitate
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    Default Re: Ask me questions about Kyrgyzstan

    Awesome thread. Central Asia is somewhere that has always appealed to me if only because it doesn't get much international attention and its not exactly high on the list of places for Westerners to visit or are knowledgeable on, despite it taking up a very large geographical portion of the world. For this reason it is high on my list!

    Do you know what living costs are like compared to, say, Thailand? Is it an easy place to get the whole traveler/backpacker experience? How far will the use of the English language get you?
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    Default Re: Ask me questions about Kyrgyzstan

    Quote Originally Posted by Azog 150 View Post
    Do you know what living costs are like compared to, say, Thailand? Is it an easy place to get the whole traveler/backpacker experience? How far will the use of the English language get you?
    Good God, man, it's way cheaper than a vacation in Thailand! Kyrgyzstan's capital and largest city Bishkek has some really nice restaurants, parks and neighborhoods, but it is nowhere near as developed as Bangkok, for instance. If you're from the UK and have a pocketful of British pounds sterling to exchange into Kyrgyz som, you'll basically be king of the castle. I had nothing but American dollars to exchange, but I believe the current exchange rate for UK currency is something like 80 som for 1 pound, and 80 som can at least buy you a full meal or even a cab ride around Bishkek. Outside of Bishkek, it's even less expensive. For instance, a 30 minute taxi ride from a nearby village of Talas province into Talas City will consistently cost you only 30 som. That's less than a pound! Watch out though, because some natives, thinking you're rich because you're foreign, will try to charge you double for what they charge the locals.



    Funny that you should mention backpacking. I went mountain climbing, hiking through the pastures, and slept overnight in a nomadic boz-ui (like a Mongolian yurt) with a middle-aged English lady and one of my Peace Corps friends who she taught English with during her month-long stay in Kyrgyzstan. This was in Talas province, which has many national parks for doing that. However, you'd be just as happy sticking around Bishkek and Chui Province, since national parks for hiking and mountain climbing are very close by. Kashka Suu and Ala Archa come to mind; the former has a ski lift, and the latter has a gorgeous waterfall if you're up to the task of hiking up into the pine-wooded mountains for three hours. Make sure not to do that on a rainy day! The trails are not the safest ones in the world, mind you. Always go with a group of friends or at least one other partner should you find yourself in a jam. My dad slipped and fell down a muddy part of the trek and I had to catch him! Otherwise he would have landed face-first into a tree. This is what the latter park looks like:



    However, the biggest tourist attraction in Kyrgyzstan is Issyk Kul, which translates as "The Hot Lake" in English. It's gorgeous all year long, but the best time to go is obviously during the summer when the water is warmest for swimming. You could easily take a boat out on the lake, too. It's enormous, with various towns and hotel complexes lining its shores. From the lake you can get a wonderful view of the most westerly extent of the Tian Shan mountain range. For example:



    As for speaking English, you'll run into a good amount of people in Bishkek who you can speak to comfortably and fluently, especially the hotel service and waiters at nicer restaurants. They almost always speak English, especially the staff at places like the Sierra Coffee Shop (free decent Wi-Fi there, too). However, outside the capital your chances become very slim. In that case it's best to know a native who can act as your tour guide and translate for you into Russian or Kyrgyz. Don't count on taxi drivers knowing English either, although I ran into a couple who could speak very limited English simply because they remembered some from school.

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    Default Re: Ask me questions about Kyrgyzstan

    Awesome! Thanks for the reply.

    I'll hit you with any other questions I think of.
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    Default Re: Ask me questions about Kyrgyzstan

    Can you get around speaking Russian in Kyrgyz and in the beach picture, was the women you tagged? And how many Russians are there around, from what I heard they still sorta run things over there
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    Default Re: Ask me questions about Kyrgyzstan

    Quote Originally Posted by Ace_General View Post
    Can you get around speaking Russian in Kyrgyz and in the beach picture, was the women you tagged? And how many Russians are there around, from what I heard they still sorta run things over there
    The dominant ethnic group of Kyrgyzstan is the Kyrgyz people, but ethnic Russian people also make up 13% of the entire population. They are mostly clustered around the capital Bishkek and the surrounding province of Chui, although they can be found in smaller numbers in all the other provinces, especially Issyk-Kul since it is the #1 tourist destination for summer vacationing on the lake.

    That girl is from a random picture I pulled from the Internet to show how the beach looked with the Tian Shan mountains in the background. I like you guys here at TWC, but I'm not about to start sharing private photos with all of you showing the Russian girl who was my girlfriend for two years!

    Well, yes, the Russians who are native to Kyrgyzstan on average have a bit more wealth than the Kyrgyz, but there are plenty of poor Russians in Kyrgyzstan who I personally met and befriended. You know, farmers, welders, plant workers, blue collar class Russian guys plus their equally poor wives who usually make a living selling stuff on the side or working in a beauty salon.

    There are some Russians in the government, but I'd say the majority of elected officials in parliament and government workers are ethnic Kyrgyz people. In order to be the president of Kyrgyzstan, there is a law that you must show proficiency in the Kyrgyz language. So no, Russians don't exactly rule the roost anymore. The current president Almazbek Atambayev is obviously ethnically Kyrgyz.



    That being said, the Russians in Kyrgyzstan don't bother to learn Kyrgyz except the occasional few words, whereas almost all the Kyrgyz people can speak Russian. However, young Kyrgyz kids growing up in areas far outside the capital have to study Russian in school in order to learn it, because it is not spoken in the home. Yet the same kids are also exposed to Russian television and cartoons, so they at least hear the language being spoken from an early age.

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    Default Re: Ask me questions about Kyrgyzstan

    here is a BBC doc about the Stans,
    The second half of the video is for Kyrgystan
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glTpI4max24





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    Default Re: Ask me questions about Kyrgyzstan

    Quote Originally Posted by neoptolemos View Post
    here is a BBC doc about the Stans,
    The second half of the video is for Kyrgystan
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glTpI4max24
    For my tastes, the documentary didn't dive enough into how the local cultures operate, yet I did enjoy watching random ships and boats stuck in the desert dirt of what was once the sea floor of the Aral Sea (now "seas" plural).

  20. #20

    Default Re: Ask me questions about Kyrgyzstan

    That being said, the Russians in Kyrgyzstan don't bother to learn Kyrgyz except the occasional few words,
    I've noticed the same from Russians in Estonia and Lithuania , Russian people seems to really hate to bother with other languages even if they live in the freakin' country of the same language .

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