Monday, March 10, 2014

100 Experiences of Kyrgyzstan

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Roadside kumys stall - made from fermented mare's milk. Image: Silk Road Media
New York Times journalist Steven Kinzer once wrote that "Kyrgyzstan is arguably the world's least-known country". Perhaps it is. Yet this tiny, alpine nation in which there are still more horses than cars, is well-worth exploring for its stunning panoramas, gentle people and strong nomadic traditions.

Silk Road Media has recently published a delightful book - 100 Experiences of Kyrgyzstan.  Written by Ian Claytor, who has lived in Bishkek since 1995, this compact edition (16.25 cms x 15.5 cms) is crammed with 220 pages of stunning photography and informative snippets about, well, 100 different aspects of Kyrgyzstan.

The grandeur of Kyrgyz nature is inspiring. The Tien-Shan mountains run northeast to southwest through the country. Even touring in summer the mountain range remains snow-capped. Famed for its peaks, the Karakol region in particular is a base for serious mountain climbers. The sections in Mr Claytor's book about mountains, lakes and valleys are gorgeous. I look forward to exploring more canyons and gorges when I am back in spring.

Image: Silk Road Media
Kyrgyz landscape, Son Kul. Image: Silk Road Media
From the book I learned more about Kyrgyz cuisine and traditions. I had seen pieces of Kyrgyz patchwork - kurak. But did not know how the kurak items were imbued with mystical significance such as bringing good luck and prosperity and guarding against the evil eye.

For example, the kyrk koinok - a shirt for babies to wear after 40 days - is made from 40 pieces of fabric that the mother traditionally collected from neighbouring yurts and sewed together.

I have tried kumys, the drink made from fermented mare's milk. I had not, however, heard the proverbs about kumys such as "Who drinks kumys will live a century" and "Kumys is man's blood, air his mind". I also learned that when preparing the kumys, it is beaten with a wooden stick known as a bishkek, from which the capital city derives its name.

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Kyrgyz kurakImage: Silk Road Media
Anyone who has been to Kyrgyzstan will swoon over the splendid photographs in this book. If you are planning to visit Kyrgyzstan, then this may just be the book for you. Not as a guide book, but as a pictorial companion.

I am smitten with Kyrgyzstan and will spend another 2 months there in 2014.  If indeed "Kyrgyzstan is arguably the world's least-known country", I'd probably like it to stay that way...

You can pick up a copy of 100 Experiences of Kyrgyzstan at Amazon.

Related posts:
Kyrgyzstans' Bus Stops
6 Quirky Things abut Kyrgyzstan
5 Reasons to Visit Kyrgyzstan
Elechek - Kyrgyz Traditional Headdress Part #1
Kyrgyz Blues

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Image: Silk Road Media