We spent the last 3 nights in 3 different countries - a bit like Japanese tourists jetting around Europe within one week.
On Thursday night we slept in Taskent, but next morning took a flight to Biskek, capital of Kyrgyzstan. This city is in a quite sad sate - terrible looking Soviet-style appartmant-blocks and even uglier factories. The only nice thing about it was the large green areas - so far each city we saw in Central Asia had much more parks than the cities in other parts of the world. To my great surprise, there was a vast selection of Lenin postcards in the local museum and one could still see plenty of city posters with hammer and sickle. These communist symbols are prohibited in Hungary for many years - in fact, one can get to prison by portraying them.
We moved from the capital to Issyk-Kul lake, the premier sight of Kyrgyzstan. This is the second largest alpine lake in the world (after Titicaca in Bolivia): 170 km long and 70 km wide. It used to be a lively spa resort in Soviet times, but strictly for domestic guests - foreigners were off limit due to the military tests executed in the lake.
Next day we already moved onto Kazakhstan. It was a 10 hour bus drive to reach Alma Ata, the largest city of the country. It used to be the capital until 1998, when the capital moved to Astana, but Alma Ata is still the most important commercial and cultural center.
It has nice living quarters, top designer shops (Armani, Dolce Gabbana, Escada, etc) in the main avenue, the Gogol Street, and a very lively coffeehouse scene. I skipped the city tour with the group as I was sick of the bus and moving in group and went on my own to discover the town. I visited the main orthodox cathedral built entirely from wood, and the town's best coffeehouse with excellent selection of cakes and wifi access. It was the "Day of Alma Ata" on the day of my visit, so there were plenty of music and dance programs all around the town, and I saw the mayor as well giving a speech on the main square, surrounded by hundreds of dancers in folk costumes.
Unfortunately our trip ended here and we had a 1.30 a.m. flight back home. I hope you learnt a bit about this interesting part of the world - I will let you know when the photos are posted on my website. Next time I will write you from West Africa, where I will learn all about woodoo from priests, witches, villages chiefs and such in Benin, Togo and Burkina Faso) starting Dec 20.
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