Last time I mentioned about the ancient city under Issyk Kul lake. They call it “Chigu Chen” – the capital of the great empire “Usun”. They say that Usun is the origin of Kyrgyz and Kazakh nationalities. Unfortunately, that city was destroyed and left under water and was discovered in recent years, not earlier than 1985.
Archeologists found variety of things that the citizens of Chigu used in every day lives, including tools made of stone, ceramics, metal; souvenirs out of different animal horns, agricultural tools and so on. Although the city was not able to remain as whole, there is some very accurate information in Chinese historical books. For example, only in those book you can find out about the wooden palace for the special wife of Usun king.
That woman was actually a Chinese princess. In order to tighten the friendly relations between two countries, they organized this kind of marriage. The Chinese princess was not used to nomadic lifestyle and got sick easily. The Usun king loved her much and built a special palace in Chinese style for her. There are some books as well, which tell more about this beautiful story.
Do not think that the lake Issyk-Kul is the only sight to see in the region. Except for the pristine water, beautiful beaches and glaciers around, there is something else worth checking out. It is an open air museum in Cholpon Ata town.
What makes the place unlike the rest of beauties in Issyk-Kul, it is the masterpiece, created not by the nature, but by the ancient people themselves, who once lived in those regions. The territory is full of ancient monuments, such as stone paintings. It is the real art gallery, once created by Andronic or Arian tribes and was continued by Saka tribes later on. The amount of those petroglyphs reached two thousand and remained whole till our days.
The rock paintings there represent the values, beliefs and traditions of ancient people. For instance, you can see the pictures of people hunting, verses that seem a lot like a prayer and a lot more heritage. The mysteries of paintings of different animals, some of which do not even live in the area, still remain unsolved.
As every other counrty around the world, Kyrgyzstan also has many natural gift, which make it proud and famous among its neighbors. One of those gifts we will talk about today is the lake Issyk Kul…
The lake is located at the the province with the same name “Issyk Kul”, which literally means “warm lake” from Kyrgyz. The reason lake never freezes because of the fact that the level of saltiness is pretty high. Issyk Kul hides a lot of wonders in itself, one of which is that many rivers flow into the lake, but there is no river, which flows from it. Despite this fact, the level of water in the lake always remains the same!
Another wonder is that very ancient city of Chigu Chen was discovered under the lake. Incredible and hard to imagine that once a whole city of people used to live in the place, which is now covered with water… The following video gives one of the best images of that beautiful and mysterious lake:
While learning about the Great Silk Road, there come so many simple questions that are actually worth attention. One of them is: “If the Silkway was that long and there were no such vehicles to travel as fast as today, then how and where did the travelers spend the nights on the way?”
Fortunately, there are some answers even with specific proofs. Thanks to the masters of those times, who built such strong “hotels”, that were able to survive till our days. They are the caravanserais, that served as inns for the travelers of this great route. The one in Kyrgyzstan’s Naryn province is called Tash Rabat. It is situated in the middle of nowhere, so far away from civilization.
Some argue that Tash Rabat may have been a Christian or Buddhist monastery before it was turned into a caravanserai, but there is little evidence to support this theory. However, it is incredible how great it still looks going through so many centuries. It was built only with stones, which may be the reason why it is so stable and got the name Tash Rabat, which means “Stone Door”.
It would be a nice experience to visit that ancient caravanserai, however, the extreme isolation among the mountains and hard weather conditions make it difficult to reach whenever the person wants. However, in suitable weather, it will be a nice trip back to history and there is a possibility as well to stay in one of the yurts nearby for a night.
We stopped at the southern part of Kyrgyzstan last time. Southern Kyrgyzstan is so rich with amazing places, filled with Silk Road spirit, that it is impossible to leave it without visiting certain places.
The country is pretty small and many may think that it does not really have anything that important, which is worldwide. How wrong this opinion would be… For instance, a lot of people may not even have an idea that Kyrgyzstan has the-biggest-in-the-world walnut forest! So, it is the largest walnut exporter on Earth!
Impressive, isn’t it? The forest is in Osh’s neighbor district – Jalal-Abad and it is called “Arslanbab”. Located on and around mountains, the forest is so huge and rich with great walnut trees. They can live up to 1000 years and are full of harvest every year.
For the people of Kyrgyzstan, Arslanbab is even more famous as a perfect resort! They not only use the fruit of it, but also enjoy its scenery with beautiful waterfalls and peaceful atmosphere. Its cool weather is what attracts the visitors in hot summer days and spend calming and comforting vacations.
Let me take you to the south part of Kyrgyzstan today! There is a special city, which is said to have been existed for over 3000 years already.
Osh is the second largest city in Kyrgyzstan. According to the artifacts found in the territory, the city existed back in the fifth century B.C. There are several legends about the origin of the city – including claims to have been founded by Solomon or Alexander the Great.
The Ak-Buura River runs through the city from North to South, and to the west is Sulaiman Too (“Solomon’s mountain”), which dominates the city.
At the top there is a nice museum in the cave, and a mosque built in 1497 by the 14 year old Babur, who had recently been crowned King of the Ferghana Valley; he later went on to become the founder of the Mogul dynasty in India; the mosque was destroyed and rebuilt twice, and is another center for pilgrimage.
Osh is definitely a town where you can walk around for hours, without too much sightseeing, just to get to know the culture and feel the place for yourself.
It is very exciting to know that no need to travel far inside Kyrgyzstan, in order to see ancient sights. For instance, not more than hour away from the capital, there is a city, called Tokmok. Not everyone may have heard about it, but Burana Tower is pretty famous around Central Asia.
Situated in South of Tokmok – the tower is the proof that the ancient city of Balasugan had existed there. It was one of the capital cities of the Karahanid kaganate in the 10-12th centuries. The history of the town was a short one. In 1218 Balasagun yielded to the front line troops of the myriad Mongol horde and by the middle of the XIV century ceased to exist.
The name of the tower – Burana, comes from the Arabic “monar”, minaret. There are different legends about the purpose of building this tower. One of the most famous one says that a mighty local khan ordered its construction as a refuge for his only daughter, for a fortune teller had foretold her death from the bite of a karakurt – a poisonous spider. Despite the father’s efforts to foil the fates, the prophesy came true and the daughter perished from the bite of the spider brought inside the refuge together with black grapes. The tower became the mausoleum of the khan’s daughter.
Just an hour away from Bishkek, there is a wonderland, which can make you forget about the chaos of urban life. That place, which can take your breathe away with its beauty is called Ala-Archa. It is the national park, under the security of Kyrgyz Republic.
It was founded in 1976 on the area of 20thousand hectars. It is sitauted on the alpine mountains, which are often visited by the alpinists for trainings. If you are strong and patient enough to walk the way of 3 kilometers up the hills, then you will be able to see a nice surprise: one of the most beautiful waterfalls of Kyrgyzstan.
This is the very place, where you can enjoy the peaceful green scenery all year round. How? Because it is the land of the highest fir-trees, which hardly ever change their colors. Maybe this was the reason why even the ex-presidents of Kyrgyzstan spent their vacation here. Even now, you can come with a big group to stay for as much as you want, thanks to the cozy cabins right inside the woods!
My first Kyrgyz fellow used to repeat how heavenly their lands are all the time: during his cultural presentations, introductions to Kyrgyzstan and just whenever he missed his country. Some people just accept it as a typical boasting or advertising of ones place, but I wish they could just take a closer look at that country and change their minds…
It is so interesting that many places in Kyrgyzstan are given literally heavenly names. Examples can be Tien Shan (Heavenly/celestial) mountain ranges, Suleyman (name of the prophet) mountain and so on. It is better to see once, since I have no more words to be able to describe the beauty of this country.
I thought it would be fair to tell the story behind my visit to Asia before the actual experiences. So, this is how it all started:
I often saw foreign students in my home city and even in our neighborhood. Once I got a chance to talk to some of those adorable students from Central Asia. Their modesty and innocence was so unique for me and when they said the country they came from, everything made sense. I had a hard time to even pronounce the name of that tiny country – Kyr-gyz-stan ! ! ! I could feel some values that many of us lost from their polite speech and interesting stories. I am definitely thankful for those “keys” to the great doors of Silk Road!