Statues, Monuments and Museums: A Post-Soviet Tour of Bishkek
Bishkek Travel Blog› entry 41 of 83 › view all entries
Although I went to bed a little before 11pm it took me until 8:30 to finally get up. All that walking must have worn me out. Today was another day of walking, but not nearly as much. I did a proper city tour today, starting from Alexandra's flat walking south and back along Chuy to the Philharmonia to get some pictures. I detoured at the large Beta department store just to see what they had and I was impressed at their selection of furniture, clothing and groceries, including hard-to-find things like North Face jackets, various facial cleansers, Sensodyne toothpaste, imported chocolates, tahini and breakfast cereals. I did not find peanut butter or hand sanitizer, but they seemed to have everything else and prices weren't as high as I would have expected. After purchasing a tiny apple-carrot juice box, I made my was eastward along Chuy, passing imposing government buildings and shops.
Ala-Too Square is the large open area on either side of Chuy Boulevard, and formerly known as Lenin Square (of course). His pose-striking statue was moved in 2003 to behind the State History Museum and replaced with a statue of Erkindik, or "Freedom" in Krygyz.
From the TsUM store I turned north to Victory Square where three large arches met at a crown-shaped wreath above a woman with arms outstretched next to another eternal flame, commemorating World War II. A wedding party was waltzing beneath the arches and another was on its way.
The Frunze House-Museum is just that, a two-storey museum containing the actual cottage young Mikhail supposedly was raised in. Everything was in Russian but photographs illustrated nearly every momentous occasion in the man's life, featuring letters, books, military paraphernalia and chronological picutres of the mustachioed man. The top floor contained a larger than life-sized statue of the man, probably in his upper 30s amidst Soviet flags and banners. The second floor was a bit more mysterious, containing mostly information on cosmonauts, Lenin and post-mortem (he died in 1925) war history, although I found a corner niche with a family photo near a plastic model of a submarine.
The pinnacle of my post-Soviet Union sightseeing was hands-down the State Historical Museum. Again nothing was in English, but the highlight of the museum is the museum itself. Grand marble staircases open up to the largest exhibition centering around Lenin that I'd ever seen. The entire second floor offered 360 degrees of none other than Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, and a stern bust greeted me as soon as I had ascended the stairs. Not only were books, letters, newspaper articles and photographs crammed in the display cases and on wall exhibits, enormous bronze statues depicting battle scenes and victorious moments in Lenin's life covered the entire floor.
By then it was 2:30 and I was starving, so I headed back to Chuy to find an Indian restaurant I'd read about but it must have closed so I settled for pizza and managed to eat the entire 8 slices by myself, washing it down with coffee that tasted like it came from a truck stop. I ventured back to a bar I'd seen earlier in the day called Krasny Amerika (Red America) and tried an Arpa beer on tap for 40 som. Towards dusk I strolled through Panfilov Park, which was nearly deserted except for a few families letting their children play on the decaying rides. While I didn't go to the art museum, I considered the day a fait accompli in terms of Bishkek tourist attractions, and checked with the guidebook to verify that I indeed saw all the major sites in the city.