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Published: October 9th 2007
We write you this entry from Bishkek, where we finally arrived last Thursday. As you can imagine, we were a bit nervous at the airport in Mashhad! The guy at the check-in first looked for Kirghiz visas in our passports, but this time we had the magic letter (see previous entry) that allowed us to board the plane! We also had the pleasure to see our Kirghiz "friend" there, but we weren't very motivated to talk to him! At Bishkek airport, we received one-month visas without problem in 15 minutes!
Thanks to Vali (who has just received his official tourist guide card - not so easy to get in bureaucratic Iran), we spent a wonderful last day in Iran. He took us to the small village of Binalud, where we could meet some local people and visit a well restored caravanserai (covered, which is rare). Then we went to see Imam Reza's footprint in Boq'eh-ye Qadamgha. In this small village, we had the chance to see an impressive procession of men wearing black clothes and flagellating themselves on the rhythm of a drum! We learned that this kind of procession takes place in many cities every year on the 21st
day of Ramazan (Holy day) in honour of Imam Ali's death. We finished the tour in the little town of Neishabur, where we could see two other famous poets' tombs.
Even if traveling in Iran was not always easy, we really appreciated this country. We won't forget the friendliness of the people we met, the beauty of the architecture and the many things we learned about the culture and the history of this country! We also want to thank Vali and his family for making things easier during our last week. If someone passes through Mashhad one day, don't hesitate to stay at his homestay: Vali's Homestay, firstname.lastname@example.org; phone 09151001324.
In the next 2-3 weeks, we will discover another country! It's a new culture to discover, another language (or two) to learn and even another alphabet! But Cyrillic alphabet is easier to read than the Iranian one... and Greek knowledge helps! In Bishkek, Russian language is dominant, but outside by far not everyone understands it. Therefore, we try to learn a bit of Russian and Kirghiz. Both still need some serious improvement... Kirghiz is a bit easier for us because it is a Turkic language! The numbers for
example are very similar to Turkish and a few words are almost the same as well.
Even if most of the population is Muslim, Kyrgyzstan is very different from Iran. Relationships between men and women are much more relaxed than in Iran and religion seems to be less present in the every-day's life. At least in Bishkek (the only place we've been so far), you can barely realize that it's Ramadan and women wearing headscarfs are very rare! Bishkek reminds us a bit of Western Turkey where Muslim religion is not dominating life either. After two months of heat, we have cool temperatures here. During the day it's comfortable, but freezing during the night (around 0)! And it will be even colder in the mountains!! But it has been very sunny as far and it seems to be the perfect weather for hiking... But once in the mountains, we'll see if we are still motivated to sleep in a cold yurt (kind of traditional Kirghiz tent)!
Waiting for the Uzbek visa (we just got it a few hours ago - Tuesday PM), we spent 5 days in Bishkek. A pleasant city with a mix of Russian and Asian
heritage. The Guesthouse where we stay, Nomad's Home, is a very friendly place hold by two young Kirghiz women where travelers from around the world meet. As far, we discovered the city by foot, visited two very nice bazaars, the State Historical Museum (with a lot about Lenin!), and all sport stores to find trekking shoes for Annamaria! We also met the very kind (and Fribougeoise!) Deputy Country Director of the Swiss Cooperation Office in Kyrgyzstan. In fact, this country is one of the priority countries of Switzerland's cooperation programs! Many projects financed by the Swiss are going on in order to improve the live of the people especially in rural regions.
We also had a first impression of the beautiful Kirghiz landscape. Monday we decided to go for a walk in the hills just outside the city (nice view of the mountains on one side and of the city and pollution on the other side). After a first not so convincing stop in the suburbs we took another minibus, which seemed to go closer to the mountains. By chance, it was one of the 5 buses per day going to the entrance of Ala Archa Park (30 km
south of Bishkek)! After 1 hour, we landed up in a peaceful place on the border of a river surrounded by high mountains. We spent a couple of hours walking and pick-nicking before going back to the city!
We are now really looking forward to reach Karakol tomorrow. From there we should be able to do some serious hiking and horse-riding. Let's hope it won't start snowing....
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