Town Between Two Kinds Of Mountains

Naryn Travel Blog

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On the road to Naryn

After another good breakfast (cream of wheat, rolls, honey, raspberry preserves) the first thing I did in the morning was go to the bank to change more money, having miscalculating how much I’d need before exiting the country. I got to the bank before the exchange booth was ready, and a girl instructed me to wait in a stairwell for a few minutes. Soon a guard came along, closed two jail cell-like doors and bolted me in the stairwell along with a couple other people. They opened another door and a high-pitched alarm sounded for about 10 minutes while they retrieved money from the safe. By this time there were about six of us locked up in the bank’s stairwell. Eventually we were released and I successfully changed my money and caught a taxi to Naryn.

 

In the taxi I met Azamat, a young guy with excellent language skills, including slang.

Partially frozen stream in the mountains
He was carrying a large cake back to his relatives in Naryn, but he was from Tokmok. He’d worked in Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Bishkek. We talked the entire way to Naryn, occasionally breaking to admire the beautiful mountain scenery en route. The mountains were tan and rocky, with some pine trees in parts, eventually giving way to views of even taller, white mountains looming over the city. The entrance was magnificent, similar to the narrow entrance to Petra in Jordan, but with the city and mountains in the background. Azamat and I exchanged email addresses and he went on his way, but unfortunately the poor guy dropped the cake as soon as he left the cab.
Naryn River ice cold

 

I found a place to stay from a posting on the door of the Community Based Tourism office. The second number I called happened to be the closest to where I was, and turned out to be quite nice. A middle-aged woman had an extra flat devoted to tourists, and since I was the only one at the time, I got an entire apartment to myself, complete with space heaters, a nice bathroom with a shower, a kitchen and a living room. I was hungry, so after dropping my stuff I went down the street to Café Nur for a quick lunch and then across the Naryn River bridge to the city museum. There I met Samar, who gave me a guided tour in passable English. The museum contained old artifacts of the region, portraits of famous people, traditional implements, a chronicle of Naryn’s history and some bizarre clippings and photos about a local man who was almost 9 feet tall and had the handprint the size of a dinner plate.

Sun- and snow-kissed mountain ridges
After the tour, Samar and I talked for awhile and I learned he had worked in Turkey for 9 years and his birthday was the day after mine.

 

After another goodbye, I walked over a footbridge and on along the main river towards the center of town. I passed a University of Central Asia campus, a large government building, theater and a bazaar that was closing up for the day. I met more schoolchildren who followed me, but these were respectful and friendly and we communicated in broken Kyrgyz and Russian. It was dusk at this point but I wanted to see the city’s mosque, so I continued on after the boys went home. It was probably in the mid-20s, but the wind wasn’t too strong. The mosque was large and seemed a little out of place, but impressive. I wondered how many people attended Friday prayers.

Requisite Lenin statue

 

I caught a wet, dusty trolleybus back to the center of town and entered the post office to find Internet. Up one flight of stairs and across a deserted room, a door in the corner was the gateway to one of the slowest connections I’d experienced. When I left it was pitch black and I was thankful that my cell phone had a built-in flashlight.

 

From there I walked to a restaurant where on the concrete dance floor I saw a few uniformed police officers getting down to some bad 80s music that was still popular in these parts. Tables were draped in gold lame and the ambience conjured the Soviet Union circa 1981.

The mosque at dusk
For dinner I chose “Italian spaghetti,” which was nothing like any spaghetti dish I’d ever had, but was acceptable because I was hungry. Two guys from a couple tables away invited me over for a shot of vodka to celebrate a birthday. Marat was supposedly turning 23 today and his friend Mirbek was the more talkative and English-speaking of the two. I hadn’t tried Kyrgyz vodka and only found it fitting to indulge. After I ate my dinner and was drinking my beer alone, they invited me back over and we had a few more shots before calling it a night. Marat was supposed to meet me the next day to drive back to Bishkek, but I had a funny feeling he wouldn’t be keeping his promise. I got back to the apartment in time to wash a few articles of clothing, see if anything interesting was on television (no) and brush my teeth before the electricity shut off for the night around 11pm.

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On the road to Naryn
On the road to Naryn
Partially frozen stream in the mou…
Partially frozen stream in the mo…
Naryn River ice cold
Naryn River ice cold
Sun- and snow-kissed mountain ridg…
Sun- and snow-kissed mountain rid…
Requisite Lenin statue
Requisite Lenin statue
The mosque at dusk
The mosque at dusk
Non-snow-covered side in the morni…
Non-snow-covered side in the morn…
Naryn
photo by: Biedjee