Friday, October 8, 2010

10 Things You Didn't Know About Kyrgyzstan

Two months out, and I really should begin my blog. So, I present Kyrgyzstan to you, in the form of interesting scraps of information:

1. Scrabble-wise, Kyrgyzstan is worth 29 points, and that's without any double letter or triple word bonuses. This is directly relevant to us all, because the official rules of Scrabble have recently changed to allow proper nouns such as place names. Yes, civilisation as we know it is collapsing. That's why I'm leaving it.

2. In Kyrgyzstan, instead of putting milk/sugar in one's tea, one adds a few delicate drops of jam. JAM. In TEA. A couple of very devoted friends have experimented, with mixed results; I myself lack the courage at this point in time.

3. Borat, that champion of Central Asian culture, is not from Kyrgyzstan, but you were close. Kazakhstan is right next door.

4. The national game of Kyrgyzstan is Buzcashi, in which men on horseback vie over a headless goat. This may be quite a telling feature of Kyrgyz culture - I'm really hoping to see it. (Did I say that in a sarcastic tone? You decide).

5. 94% of the country is 1000 metres above sealevel - 75% of the land is covered by mountains, including some of the world's tallest peaks. In amongst all the mountains are 40,000 rivers and 2000 lakes. That's some serious nature, folks. I'm taking my hiking boots.

6. One of the longest epics in the world comes from Kyrgyzstan. It's called Manas and tells the story of the migration of the Kyrgyz people under the leader Manas: I haven't read it, but he sounds like an odd mix of Moses and Achilles. Here is an extract; how's this for Homeric tension?
When he was hit with a club,

Without a moment's pause,
Your falcon really let loose.
Without a thought for his own life,
Without a moment's pause,
Without a thought for his soul,
His face looking like wheat smeared with oil,
His eyes clouded over like an evening fog,
His eyes became red like fire,
He really became thirsty for blood.

7. The largest walnut forest in the world is located in Kyrgyzstan. Random, true, and improbable fact.

8. Kyrgyzstan was a crucial stopover on the Silk Road trade route, in particular the city of Osh.

9. There is a Kyrgyz tradition of kidnapping a woman for marriage, a practice which came back into vogue after the fall of Communism (when it was outlawed). Perhaps I need to get in the habit of carrying a brick in my bag.

10. While the flag of Kyrgyzstan may look like a baseball, it's actually a tunduk (seen from below) which is the roof of a yurt, the nomadic hut of the Kyrgyz people.

Well, there's a start: I'll aim for a more erudite post next time!


  1. I reccomend the brick! I think your parents would rather be at your wedding!!

  2. Kyrgyzstan Maria sings "Tea...a drink with jam; and bread".

  3. Why bring a brick, when you could score a husband :)

  4. What sort of jam? Raspberry would be lovely (in a fruity tea) but something like fig would be just too, hello, I am a contrary taste in your tea, about things. Bridget

  5. @Beth: I think the brick is a go.

    @Jac: Kyrgyzstan Maria also wore clothes made out of curtains, which I understand is the height of fashion in Bishkek...also, there are lots of mountains in which to twirl about...

    @Paul: we are not amused (well, only a little bit)

    @Bridget: my concern with Raspberry Jam is Bits. Think of all the little pips. Also, I don't think one finds sophisticated varieties of jam in Kyrgyzstan. Hmm, except maybe Walnut Jam?

  6. Ahhh...I went out with a (really cute) Kyrghiz boy for a few days when I was holidaying in Antalya (more than 15 years ago) and briefly toyed with the idea of visiting his country to check if I could live there.

    Thank God it was just a passing thought, I do not think that I can drink tea with jam (I hate jam anyway) or watch men play ball with a goat's head.

    But he was cute.