There are cities which call to us, the cities which speak the language of history. However, when it comes to Bishkek Kyrgyzstan, the road takes us back to recent times, the Soviet rule. If you’re looking for an intact symbol of Soviet rule, the place that still lives and breathes in the remains of their ideology, then Bishkek is a number one city to visit. The capital city of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek is a large city that may not appear to be fascinating but you will see it’s not the buildings that make up the city, it’s the people.
The story of Bishkek begins with the fortress, and Kokhand rule as the secret behind its importance lies in the location and the fact it was one of the important stops on the Silk Road. However, the story of the fortress is also related to the fact this city changed its name twice before it was called Bishkek. Originally known as Pishpek, it served as yet another symbol that proved the rule of neighboring countries over the Kyrgyz tribes.
The city we see today began with the Tsarist era, as the Russian Empire saw the land as an opportunity to spread out. However, given the state of the area at that particular time in history, redevelopment took more money than expected only to be handed out to peasants. Yet, it all changed with the Soviet coming to power.
In a strange twist of events, the city became the capital of Kirghiz ASSR, and the name was changed once again, to honor Lenin’s associate Mikhail Frunze, who was born in the area. This lasted until the Soviet Union fell apart, and the new era began. In this period of time, the city got the name we know it by today, Bishkek. Even though there is a modern twist to the tale when it comes to the way it looks today. Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan breathes the way the Soviet Union did, as the traces left are in its core, which despite the political shift, has never changed.
Things To Do In Bishkek
A nostalgic place for all those who look forward to experiencing retro fun. This city center park has a large fountain in the center and a lot of green space with several walking paths throughout. Additionally, Panfilov Park has an amusement park with rides in which they preserved the vibrant color and spirit of the city. Experience an afternoon with carnival rides and a city view from the top of the Ferris wheel. It is a great place for both tourists and locals. Panfilov Park is located near the state history museum and parliament building.
Monument to Baatyr Kaba Uulu Kozhomkul
Demonstrating Kyrgyz admiration for strong athletes, Monument to Baatyr Kaba Uulu Kozhomkul represents a muscular man carrying a horse on his shoulders. Located in front of the Palace of Sports, this giant of a man who inspired many generations of Kyrgyz athletes was a historical figure, regarded for his strength and physical abilities. He was a common farmer who became a national hero.
Monument to Manas the Great
The man who supposedly is the father of the nation according to the Persian scripts is the man depicted here. In 2011 the statue of Manas was placed in Ala-Too square to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Kyrgyzstan’s independence. The art does seem to have what it takes to please both the Soviets of the past and the present, which makes it worthy of a visit.
Mikhail Frunze Museum
Frunze was most famous for capturing Khiva and Bukhara from the White Army during the Russian Civil War. He also established diplomatic relations between the new Turkish Republic and the Soviet Union. He was born in 1885 and died in 1925.
The original Mikhail Frunze Museum opened in 1925 and was held inside the thatch-roofed hut where Frunze was born. In 1967 a new building was built over the hut for more exhibition space, which now has over 6,000 exhibits. Although most of the descriptions are in Kyrgyz and Russian languages, the museum is worth visiting, especially to walk through Frunze’s first hut home.
Bishkek’s huge Lenin statue remains the only major statue of Lenin left in Central Asia. The statue once stood as the centerpiece of Ala-Too Square but was moved in 2003 to a smaller square. After gaining independence from the Soviet Union, most of the new Central Asian republics demolished their monuments to Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. However, Bishkek decided to keep the statue as an important reminder of the history of the country.
The square was built in 1984 and a huge Lenin statue was positioned in the center. It was designed to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Kyrgyz SSR. Ala-Too square was known as Lenin Square until 1991 when Kyrgyzstan gained its independence from the USSR. In 2003 the statue of Lenin was moved to a smaller square in the city, and a new statue called Erkindik (Freedom) was installed in its place. Later in 2011, it was replaced by a statue of Manas, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Kyrgyzstan’s independence.
On March 24th, 2005, the square was the site of the largest anti-government protest of Kyrgyzstan’s Tulip Revolution. After several weeks of unrest throughout the country, protesters clashed with government officials. The protesters took control of the square and stormed the White House. They forced Askar Akayev, Kyrgyzstan’s first president, to flee the country and later resign from office.
While it’s not located in the city, it certainly belongs to it. Konorchek Canyons will mesmerize your senses. It is the perfect spot for nature lovers and photographers alike. The Canyons are the landmark of Kyrgyzstan and definitely a work of art for which nature owns the praise.
Day Trips From Bishkek
There might be enough to visit in Bishkek city itself, but if you’re looking for a weekend getaway, there are more than a few places you can easily get to from Bishkek. Hiking and Skiing are probably the most popular options. However, it’s the National parks like Ala Archa National Park and the spots like Alamedin Gorge or Archa Gorge in the Shan Mountains which make it a worthy choice.
Traditional Kyrgyz Cuisine
While you are visiting be sure to try some traditional Kyrgyz cuisine. A great place to try Kyrgyz food is at the Osh Bazaar several restaurants throughout the city. A traditional meal includes meat mutton, beef, or horse meat), potatoes, dumplings, and vegetables. Cold dishes called zakuski (smoked fish, pickles, or onions) may be served first. Borscht (beet soup) may be eaten next, followed by meat or fish with bread. Favorite drinks such as black tea and vodka are part of the custom.
How To Get To Bishkek
Getting to and from Bishkek KG is very easy. Bishkek airport, Manas International Airport (Bishkek airport code is FRU), offers several international flights, which makes it easier for tourists looking to get there by plane. Almaty to Bishkek is one of the most popular international flights to Bishkek. Another popular route is Bishkek to Osh. Yet, some choose to explore additional options such as various bus routes within Kyrgyzstan. Additionally, if you want to see more of the countryside taking the train from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, or another city in Kyrgyzstan is a great option.
The weather in Bishkek Kyrgyzstan varies from -8°C (17°F) to 32°C (89°F) and is rarely below -14°C (6°F) or above 36°C (97°F).
The hot season or summer, from May to September, is dry and hot. The average daily temperature is 25°C (78°F).
The cold season or winter, from November to March, has an average high temperature of 7°C (45°F). On average, the coldest day of the year is January 13th. The average high of this day is 1°C (34°F) and the average low is -8°C (17°F).
Tourism in Bishkek and Central Asia is increasing. There are a growing number of Bishkek restaurants and Bishkek Hotels. I stayed at the Solutel Hotel. It was an excellent 4-star hotel with large rooms, a fitness center, and included a buffet breakfast. If you want to relax and unwind, the Mystic Spa is the perfect place. Bishkek nightlife is not like North America or Europe. There are only about 10 nightclubs throughout the city.