Thursday, March 7, 2019

Kyrgyzstan: A Week at Anna and Sergei's Guesthouse in Tamga

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View of the garden at Anna and Sergei's guesthouse, Tamga
On the rugged, south side of Lake Issyk-kul, lies Tamga.

Once a thriving town servicing the famous sanatorium - where cosmonauts and sports people trained and recuperated in the heyday of the Soviet Union- today it is a dusty Kyrgyz village.

And well worth visiting.

On an Uzbek Journeys tour we spend one night there, in Anna and Sergei's charming guesthouse with the loveliest garden I know in Kyrgyzstan.

For many years I have enjoyed Anna's scrumptious meals made with vegetables, fruits and herbs straight from the garden, accompanied by homemade wine. Sergei, handy man extraordinaire, has repaired clients' spectacles, made a walking stick and fixed zippers on suitcases.

Late last summer, I decided to spend a week there - what a treat!

Sergei and Anna are childhood sweethearts - he was Father Frost and she the Snow Maiden at a school New Year's play. Sergei, who trained as a beekeeper in Soviet times, was born in the house: his parents worked at the sanatorium.

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The tree house - a private spot to sip tea and read
It reminds me of childhood holidays. The garden is full of secret places dotted with small pavilions, where you can lie down and read for hours in absolute quiet. Fragrant flowers bloom in spring and autumn, and the apple trees are laden.

There is a tree house - complete with wifi! I played table tennis with other guests - many families from Kazakhstan and Bishkek come every year to this special place. There are a couple of bicycles and a sauna - make sure you wear the special Kyrgyz embroidered sauna hat!

Every morning Sergei drove guests to the nearby beach - golden sands lapped by the shimmering, clear water of Issyk Kul lake. He picked us up again for lunch and was happy to take us back to the beach later in the afternoon. There are other nearby excursions which Sergei can arrange:
  • the remarkable Fairy Tale Canyon, about 10 kilometres away;
  • the Tamga Tash stone decorated with Tibetan inscriptions;
  • day hikes;
  • waterfalls in the Barksoon gorge.

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Your hosts Sergei and Anna
I pottered about the village every afternoon. The small Dr. Zhivago - style homes have gardens burgeoning with fruit and vegetables.

Frequently the owners rushed out to give me plums and apples, saying that there was too much fruit for their families and neighbours.  The nearby cemetery - Orthodox and Muslim sections - is testimony to Tamga's former status as a thriving Soviet community.

If this is the sort of break you need, I encourage you to stay with Sergei and Anna. The south side of Issyk Kul is quiet, far from the high rises that dot the more popular north side.

Rates are so reasonable - about US$30 for two people with breakfast and dinner included. There is no menu - rest assured that whatever Anna cooks is delicious. Her zapekanka, a cottage cheese pie, served occasionally at breakfast, is a stand out. During my week there, Anna never prepared the same meal twice.

Sergei can arrange transport from Bishkek (about 4 hours 30 minutes) and Karakol (1 hour 30 minutes).  More photos below of the guesthouse and the village.

Contact details:

Email: sergei-hutor@mail.ru
Tel: +996 770 567 508/ +996 770 436 734
Address: 8 Podgornaya street, Tamga

Related posts:
Kyrgyzstan: Monumental Art in the Provinces (Images of mosaics in Tamga sanatorium)
Kyrgyzstan's Bus Stops
Kyrgyz Blues
Holidays in Soviet Sanatoriums

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The beach at Tamga
 
tamga kyrgyzstan accommodation guesthouse, tamga kyrgyzstan issyk kul beach, kyrgyzstan art craft textiles tours
Huge tray of apricots drying in Anna's garden
tamga kyrgyzstan accommodation guesthouse, tamga kyrgyzstan issyk kul beach, kyrgyzstan art craft textiles tours
Tamga's main street
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Another sweet nook in Anna and Sergei's garden
tamga kyrgyzstan accommodation guesthouse, tamga kyrgyzstan issyk kul beach, kyrgyzstan art craft textiles tours
A grave in Tamga's Muslim cemetery


Monday, February 11, 2019

Buy Original Ikat Items by Dilyara Kaipova - Uzbekistan's Foremost, Modern Textile Designer

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Kaipova's "The Scream" on the loom in Margilan, Ferghana Valley Image: Dilyara Kaipova


For lovers of ikat textiles, this is a rare opportunity.

Dilyara Kaipova, whom I think is the most innovative artist working in Uzbekistan today, has made (on her *hand treadle* sewing machine) some wonderful cushion covers and scarves from her exhibition fabrics, exclusively for sale from Uzbek Journeys.

Supply is very limited as the pieces are made from the last lengths of her fabrics.

All pieces are handwoven from 100% organic, natural-dyed cotton grown in the Ferghana Valley, in eastern Uzbekistan. Working with masters in the ikat weaving centre of Margilan for over five months, Kaipova produced classical, hand-woven fabric infused with Mickey Mouse, The Scream, Alien, Batman, and, as Uzbekistan prepares to build a uranium power plant, her Anti-Nuke protest.

Kaipova has noted, with respect, that although those masters thought she was a little loopy, they worked enthusiastically with her, creating these magical works.

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Pale gold and black Mickey Mouse design - traditional Uzbek chapan (coat) Image: Dilyara Kaipova


Originally a puppet maker, award-winning Dilyara has had solo shows in Tashkent, Bishkek and Tbilisi. She is now collaborating with designers in Europe and Russia.

Her first textile project "Captain Ikat" explored how traditional arts - in this case ikat fabric - can absorb and be devalued by symbols and cliches of mass culture. Yet the paradox is that these same cliches can also invigorate and transform national traditions. The fabric, even when woven with designs of Mickey Mouse or Batman, magically still came alive.

There are several posts about her on this website:

The Fantasy World of Uzbek Textile Artist Dilyara Kaipova
Dilyara Kaipova Conquers Bishkek at the Asanbay Center
Dilyara Kaipova Strikes Again at the International Applied Arts Festival, Tashkent

The BBC (Uzbek language) has written about her and the Alliance Francaise, Tashkent, arranged a hugely successful show in 2018.  (An interview, in Russian, in which Dilyara discusses her work and philosophy is available on YouTube).

And now you have a chance to pick up a small masterpiece made from the last metres of her ikat fabric. Plus you would be supporting a rare and original artist.

Designs: (Large size images below)
  •    The Scream (Edward Munch)
  •    Mickey Mouse
  •    Alien
  •    Anti Nuke
Cushion covers are 35 cms x 35 cms/13.7 inches x 13.7 inches. Zipper closing, matched to main colour.

Price: US$30 each

Scarves are 148 cms long x 38 cms wide (58 inches x 15 inches).

Price: US$60 each 

How to buy: Please contact Uzbek Journeys and I will advise about payment and postage, based on your location. I am happy to send additional photos and answer any questions about these small masterpieces. The colours are fabulously vivid.

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Stunning ikat scarves from Dilyara Kaipova. Image: Dilyara Kaipova


dilyara kaipova handloomed ikat designs buy, uzbek ikat modern designs, art craft textile tours uzbekistan
Alien ikat cushion cover. Image: Dilyara Kaipova


Antinuke ikat cushion cover. Image Dilyara Kaipova

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Antinuke ikat cushion cover. Image Dilyara Kaipova

dilyara kaipova handloomed ikat designs buy, uzbek ikat modern designs, art craft textile tours uzbekistan
Mickey Mouse ikat cushion cover. Image Dilyara Kaipova


The Scream ikat cushion cover. Image Dilyara Kaipova


dilyara kaipova handloomed ikat designs buy, uzbek ikat modern designs, art craft textile tours uzbekistan
Masters in Ferghana making the fabric prior to weaving. Image: Dilyara Kaipova

dilyara kaipova handloomed ikat designs buy, uzbek ikat modern designs, art craft textile tours uzbekistan
Dilyara Kaipova







Related posts:
The Fantasy World of Uzbek Textile Artist Dilyara Kaipova
Dilyara Kaipova Conquers Bishkek at the Asanbay Center
The Story of Uzbek Ikat Production: Step by Step 


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Kyrgyzstan: Have the Mountains Fallen? Two Journeys of Loss and Redemption in the Cold War

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As interest in Central Asia grows, more books are appearing in English about the region.

One of my summer break titles was Jeffrey B. Lilley's excellent book Have the Mountains Fallen? examining the lives of two Kyrgyz writers.

Azamat Altay fled to the West and was charged as a traitor in his homeland of Kyrgyzstan in Soviet Central Asia.

Chingiz Aitmatov became a hero of Kyrgyzstan, propelled by family loss to write novels about the everyday lives of his fellow citizens.

While both came from small villages in the beautiful mountainous countryside, they found themselves caught on opposite sides of the Cold War struggle between world superpowers.

Altay became the voice of democracy on Radio Liberty, broadcasting back into his shuttered homeland, while Aitmatov rose through the ranks of Soviet society, a quiet rebel whose prose masked ugly truths about Soviet communism.

Yet just as they seemed to be pulled apart by the divisions of the Cold War, they found their lives intersecting in compelling ways, joined by a common mission to save their people.

Have the Mountains Fallen? traces the lives of these two men as they confronted the full threat and legacy of the Soviet empire. Through narratives of loss, love, and longing for a homeland forever changed, a clearer picture emerges of the struggle for freedom inside the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Former Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva wrote: "It is impossible to understand today's Central Asia without knowing Kyrgyzstan, and impossible to understand Kyrgyzstan without reading this book. This is an insightful story of the terrible challenges that faced two courageous men and their dedication to preserving their nation, even 'when the mountains fall.' It is a thought-provoking book about the long journey of the Kyrgyz people to independence".

Here is an excellent interview with the author,  Jeffrey Lilley, on Voices on Central Asia's website. Order your copy through the major online bookstores.

Related posts:
Central Asia in Art: From Soviet Orientalism to the New Republics
Jamilia: A Kyrgyz Love Story by Chingiz Aitmatov
Holidays in Soviet Sanatoriums 
Kyrgyzstan: The Herzen Museum - Forgotten Art in a Forgotten Corner of Central Asia