I begin my acquaintance with the city of Asia, of course, from the market. One of the main entrances is located at the corner of Jamansariev and Bektenov streets. The market is a whole block of a big city. Here the interests of those who want to earn and those who want to learn something useful for themselves intersect. There is also a site/parking lot for city and suburban buses at this entrance. It is not easy to walk around the surroundings of Karakol and Karakol itself, but taxi prices outside the city are reasonable, so this is a very useful location.
If you started your walk late and got hungry, the market is also a great place to visit, because many of the local snack bars serve a local specialty – cold soup called “ashlyan-fu”. You can taste it at the market without any hesitation, because its composition and method of preparation make it almost guaranteed to be gastro-safe. Plus, it’s a very refreshing dish for a hot day.
I start moving southeast, according to the local classification – “up”, along Jamansariev. And the ground is indeed slightly inclined in that direction. Although, as a person from a more than hilly town, the landscape seems “as flat as a table” to me.
On the way, there are houses in the style of “90s castles”, modern mansions, and quite a few abandoned or almost abandoned ones – you can see that the house is inhabited, but there seems to be no care for the building itself. The local climate is quite mild for buildings, so as a homeowner – “if you don’t want to invest anything in the building – don’t invest anything in the building“.
As a historian, when I see such houses, I immediately feel an intuition for artifacts. There are plenty of such artifacts in Turkic culture, and families in the regions of Kyrgyzstan do not treat them as antiques, perceiving them as just junk. One house with an inheritance left over from previously living families, with preserved farming structures – one of those that looks shabby, carries a lot of such things.
There are many houses and yards that function as active economic entities. There are many types of small businesses. You understand that Kyrgyz people do not sit idly.
Moving onto the main street of Toktogul, I see a real pavement under my feet. This is not a reconstruction, but the real old paving of the street that has been preserved. On the left-hand side is a low building in the neoclassical style – the local history museum. When you enter, you notice an unusual feature for this place – the building has thick walls, so it is cool inside. Many are used to calling local history museums trivial collections that repeat school textbooks. Soil maps, predator mounts, tools of pre-literate history “culture of ribbon ceramics,” followed by models of houses with dolls sitting in Russian sarafans. Simple work objects. Some elements of early industrialization, followed by a collection of Soviet artifacts related to politics. The first time I saw a completely different approach to a historical collection was in Kazan. And here too, Turkic culture and the selection of objects for the local history museum are more than worthy. Not all valuable items were taken to Moscow? In any case, “old times” are represented by exhibits, many of which I would value at tens of thousands of dollars each. Moreover, the curator does not follow you around the halls, and the ticket, like much else here, is very inexpensive. Yes, public transportation in Bishkek, if translated into Russian equivalent – 9 rubles per ticket. Electricity for households is 7 times (!) cheaper than in Russia. The local history museum also has excellent numismatic and photographic collections.
What else can you visit separately to get acquainted with the region’s features?
- The Przhevalsky Museum, before reaching the pier, with a valuable collection of documents. It is surrounded by an excellent park.
- An excellent zoo that you simply do not expect to see in a city of this level, which is also high-altitude. It is primarily designed to introduce children to the local fauna, not “a collection of exotic animals.”
Further up the paved street is the “Ethnomir” store with the most knowledgeable and, by the way, not very expensive collection of souvenirs. The only thing that surpasses it is the variety of magnets and boxes in the form factor of felt yurts in the Soviet-era TSUM building. In this store, you can inquire about excursions – walking, horseback riding, or by car.
Next on my route is the Trinity Cathedral. A 100+ year-old huge wooden log cabin made from the trunks of mountain giants. The cathedral’s territory occupies a square block, but entrance is only from one side – from the north. There are many local Russians in the cathedral, mostly quite provincial in their manner. The sermon is highly politicized, but this is probably a common theme for the organization of the Russian Orthodox Church in these years. Why do those “sitting on Issyk-Kul” need to hear several times about Ukrainian schismatics in a circle and several times during the service praise the Russian army – I confess I did not understand the relevance.
Closer to Toktogul, opposite the TSUM (Department Store), there is a square with a monument to Tagai Biy, which my companion called “the pirates of the Caribbean.” The next block along Toktogul and higher up are squares, a fountain, administrative buildings, and a fairly large theater (unfortunately, locals do not use it properly, except for school events, although it is a unique object for such high-altitude). At the intersection of Gebze and Tynystanova, there is a monument to Lenin. He is perceived positively here because he interrupted the policy of “expelling from the land in Semirechye,” which caused the 1916 uprising. Kyrgyz people depict Lenin with small facial features and a stocky figure (but the Karakol version looks more inspiring). Near this place in the square, there are steppe figures that are perceived as sculptures of deities made by ancient peoples of the Steppe. But it is more likely that these are not deities, but figures of defeated warriors, installed by the victor as a tribute to the fallen hero and as praise for oneself for being faster, more agile, and stronger.
I descend Abdurakhmanova for several blocks, and on the right-hand side, there is an amazing building of a Dungan mosque. In terms of functionality, it is a mosque, but in terms of architecture, it is a Chinese building. Dungans are Chinese who converted to Islam and settled here after a conflict with the government.
The ring with biyas in the middle of the square at the northern end of Tynystanova – I turn left onto Przhevalsky Street, where on the right-hand side after a block – there are the most revered establishments for both locals and visitors. The pinnacle of the restaurant business here is Dastorkon, where there are impressive Kyrgyz and European cuisine, plenty of space, and excellent service. Here I try beshbarmak and am satisfied.
A more democratic establishment in terms of service format (in addition, the hall here is clearly small, and the toilet is ridiculous), but with a decent cuisine with huge portions – the neighboring Altyn Kumara.
If desired, you can complete the circle and return to the block of the big market, which is not far from here.