a man pride of his profession, eager to show us how bread is made in a local street side bakery

People of Kyrtyzstan

It’s not only the landscape or food that defines a country. It’s the culture, and for culture you need people. If they are friendly, the country is friendly, if they are busy and cold, you will have a hard time feeling at home.

The people we met in Kyrgyzstan are some of the most friendly, but also proud people I met in a long time. We spent most time on the countryside and it wasn’t uncommon that a farmer, seeing us stop from a distance, got on his horse and came over, just to ask who we are, where we are going, the conversation with our driver and the guide riddled with laughter. It’s not only curiosity that made them come to us, it was also to find out if we need help.

One day we stopped by a little farm only to be welcomed by a bowl with mare milk for each of us and later some fresh cream with bread. But it’s not all nostalgia and horse riding, the farmer showed our guide a video of him self riding a bike and then was given the keys and gave it a spin.

We only wanted to ask for the way... and got treated with mare milk and fresh cream Photo by Toni Schnydrig
We only wanted to ask for the way… and got treated with mare milk and fresh cream
Photo by Toni Schnydrig

There are kids everywhere, and they are, like most kids curious. Unlike children at home, most of them were not shy at all to approach us, specially when they realized our guide was able to chat with them in their language. Although the questions usually were the same, it never got old to watch the scene :)

it isn't easy to do street photography when you stick out like a sore thumb :)
it isn’t easy to do street photography when you stick out like a sore thumb :)
Seen at Son Kul, a small lake in the heart of Kyrgyzstan.
Seen at Son Kul, a small lake in the heart of Kyrgyzstan.

It might not be a rich country and after the fall of the UDSSR, much went downhill. But talking with them, watching them, I never had the impression they felt like being looked down upon. They were proud we visited their country, open and by all means not shy at all.

I guess it takes years of practice to look up from your work while you continue to hammer the metal without hitting your tumb :)
I guess it takes years of practice to look up from your work while you continue to hammer the metal without hitting your tumb :)
They get 25 Som per sheep and month for taking care during summer - that's about 50 cents

Dust of Kyrgyzstan

When we met our guide, he told us on the first day “Kyrgyzstan is quite a dusty place right now. We didn’t have rain for months” We looked around and yes, the cars in the city were a bit dusty but not that much.

The first day we got out of town and on the dirt roads, we understood. Just look at the picture below. It’s not a big truck or the Land Cruiser creating the dust cloud. It’s just a bike.

It's just incredible, how much dust one single motorbike can create!
It’s just incredible, how much dust one single motorbike can create!

Dust was simply everywhere. On the visor of the helmet, camera lenses, cloths, in the mouth, nose, and by the end of the day all over our faces. There simply isn’t a way avoiding it. God was I glad to have decided to take the Olympus EM-5 with a zoom lens with me and not a system where I would have been forced to swap lenses!

But I also discovered that dust is perfect at hiding grey hair. I mean, I haven’t looked this young in years! And aren’t my eyebrows pretty!

Dust, just ideal to cover grey hair
Dust, just ideal to cover grey hair

When covering the road in a 5 cm thick layer, dust however is hell, specially when driving downhill, much worse than sand as it makes you loose grip very easily. A slight bend with the road, banking to the wrong side can be enough to make you kiss the ground, as I learned on the last day of the trip.

And of course it fills the bike’s air filter, reducing the horse power of the YamahaXT even more (it only has about 40 to start with). I was the first one running into the problem and as the problem only occured around 3000m above sea level we were not sure whether I have a problem with the carburator or the filter. And so we removed the filter completly and I had the honor to lead the pack up the pass. Weeeee!!!! :)

This pretty much made clear where the problem was. Every other day, we removed the filter and washed it with gazoline and later Diesel, which was actually the better solution (but takes longer for the filter to dry and then built in again).

Lovely routine - cleaning the air filter
Lovely routine – cleaning the air filter

Biggest advantage of the dust you ask? The clogged nose, when you have to visit a toilet :)

Kirgistan Philipp-42

Lodging in Kyrgyzstan

The speciality of our tour organizer Mutzoo is, to get you close to the people. So no fancy hotels. The most comfortable stay was in a guest house in Osh at the beginning and end of our tour. Guess to give us some sort of soft landing.

The next level of comfort were guest houses. They had a shower and toilets to sit on. All other nights were either spent in a yurt or with families who let us sleep in their rooms, either on beds or on the ground on mattress. When we spent the night in Yurts or Homesteads, there was often no tap water, the host family had to cary it from a river or source an the toilet was .. well a lil cabin wit a hole in the ground.

Sounds primitive? Maybe is. And yet it feels right at home when you combine it with the incredible hospitality of the people. In one case I even had the impression they emptied their living room and one bedroom to make room for us. The hosts might not be prepared to welcome a group of 7, but they always made it happen, even if Mama goes to sleep outside, next to the kitchen.

Yes, you can stay in a hotel when you travel. But if you want to get to know the locals, the culture and the way they live, don’t do it.

A Yurt may look primitive on the outside - but it is a very comfy place once you enter!
A Yurt may look primitive on the outside – but it is a very comfy place once you enter!
Hot and cold water in the bathroom.  the cold is to the left, the warm on the right, heated by an oven fed by cow pats.  Just juse a pot to mix it into a bowl and then you can rinse your body with warm water. (Photo by Toni Schnydrig)
Hot and cold water in the bathroom. the cold is to the left, the warm on the right, heated by an oven fed by cow pats.
Just juse a pot to mix it into a bowl and then you can rinse your body with warm water.
(Photo by Toni Schnydrig)
Yes.. the guest toilet is the one to the left. Simple to recognize as it is the one freshly painted ;) (Photo by Toni Schnydrig)
Yes.. the guest toilet is the one to the left. Simple to recognize as it is the one freshly painted ;)
(Photo by Toni Schnydrig)
Dining room. What a lovely room to have dinner on a warm late summer evening!
Dining room. What a lovely room to have dinner on a warm late summer evening!
Kitchen and the old lady's sleeping room to the right. Not sure she slept there because she prefered or made room for us...
Kitchen and the old lady’s sleeping room to the right. Not sure she slept there because she prefered or made room for us…
A liter of water gets filled into the bucket on top and then you press your hand against the little pin to release a dribble of water.  Works just great for washing hands or brushing your teeth
A liter of water gets filled into the bucket on top and then you press your hand against the little pin to release a dribble of water.
Works just great for washing hands or brushing your teeth

One word about public toilets in the city though… I really recommend to do your “business” in the hotel or restaurant. You know… there isn’t much privacy on these!

Public toilet - use at your own risk. And no, there are no doors at the stalls. But hey, there is water in the bucket if you want to wash your hands once your done... Photo by Toni Schnydrig
Public toilet – use at your own risk. And no, there are no doors at the stalls. But hey, there is water in the bucket if you want to wash your hands once your done…
Photo by Toni Schnydrig
Pride in his profession

Food of Kyrgyzstan: Simple yet delicious

I don’t know about you, but for me, one of the questions that bugs me all the time when I travel to a place I have never been before is: How will the food be? For Kyrgyzstan, we heard the wildest rumors about sheep head on a plate with it’s eyes staring at you. You know, Indiana Jones like, just with a sheep head

Luckily, we were positively surprised. In Osh, the big city our journey started, you could of course get what ever you liked and we were introduced to Mante (gigantic Dim Sum) endless noodles with yummy sauce and of course Schaschlick, Meat on an iron stick roasted over open fire.

On the countryside, things were more simple but alway more than we could eat and delicious. Lots of salad, potatoes, cabbage, carrots and some meat. We never asked what kind of meat, one has to know when it is better not to know ;) Oh and bread, always loads of yummy bread and jam.

Breakfast was either semolina, pancakes or eggs, served with jam, and tea. Always very good too, but I have to admit, when we had a choice, we asked the the folks if we could have something else than semolina… after all, we’re no lil kids anymore :)

Cooking was often done on an open fire fueled by… cow pads. Yes. I know. Guess that’s the reason why these kitchens were outside the house then ;) But surprisingly, this didn’t influence the taste. Or maybe it did… and we thought its a new strange spice?

Cow pat fire place. Guess there is a reason why it is outside the house.
Cow pat fire place. Guess there is a reason why it is outside the house.
almost done.. just cover it with a sheet of plastic (?!) and a metal cover and let it cook for an hour without touching
almost done.. just cover it with a sheet of plastic (?!) and a metal cover and let it cook for an hour without touching
Dinner as usual.. a banket for the riders
Dinner as usual.. a banket for the riders

Water…

Well be wary, don’t drink it from the tap as it is probably not been treated to our standards…. After three of us got the runs, we suspected that the water dispenser at the first hotel probably was simply refilled with tap water. And if you have to get water out in nature, treat it chemically, we used Micropur.

Water from the river - don't use it without some treatment!
Water from the river – don’t use it without some treatment!

Or simply cook it :)

The daily coffe break after lunch, prepared on a lil gasoline cooker always was the highlight of the day.
The daily coffe break after lunch, prepared on a lil gasoline cooker always was the highlight of the day.
Early in the morning

Early morning

Early in the morning, when the world is still quiet and the commuters are just getting up, the train station slowly awakes.

A few travellers hustle through it, on the way to the early morning train that will get them to the airport while the shops slowly start to open their doors.

It’s a quiet, peaceful rare moment.

another grey, rainy morning

Melancholy

There are these days when I wakes up and just feel… grey.

It’s still dark in the room and I wonder why I feel that way. So grey and bland. And then I finally get up, almost more tired than when I went to bed and have a look out of the window and I know why I feel that way.

It’s another rainy day.  I don’t know, but I imagined July to look different :)

another grey, rainy morning
another grey, rainy morning
Jack Sparrow

Meet Jack

I call him Jack Sparrow. I hope Disney doesn’t mind me using the name, but hey, he’s just that, a sparrow, so I think it will be ok.

So a few days ago, I had some bread left over and decided to put a slice of it on the balcony, just to see what happens. And well, the next day it was gone! I did it again, and every time, it was gone, but i had no clue who it was.

So I decided to lure them with some healthy flakes and see if I can take pictures of them. And hey, it’s a whole family :). I guess I’ll continue to feed them now and then because the are …

Awwww… aren’t they cute?!

Checking for his family if it's safe
Checking for his family if it’s safe
We have to work on the table manners
We have to work on the table manners
Meet Jack's wife, checking if it's safe to bring the kids along
Meet Jack’s wife, checking if it’s safe to bring the kids along
And the family
And the family arrives!
The laziest kid in the world!
The laziest kid in the world! Sitting in the food and too lazy to pick it up….

Pictures and thoughts from someone exploring photography

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