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Bishkek / Kyrgyzstan · 2018   pastel winter

  

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   There is something honest about visiting a cold country in winter. To cherry-pick only those moments and places wherein you can actually pick cherries is the self-depriving over-privilege of the foreigner. A six-months winter is half the identity of such a country, and to get to know it fully means to take it as is, unconditionally and unselectively. Sure, I missed some prime-time hiking and mountain-liking in wintry Kyrgyzstan, but I got to walk on a beautiful and exclusive snowpack carpet and that was… something. I don’t know. I guess I should have gone in summer.

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a glimpse

Steppe in Kyrgyzstan at Burana Tower in winter

 

Burana Tower / Kyrgyzstan · 2018   waiting for spring

Shadow of Burana Tower in winter

 

Burana Tower / Kyrgyzstan · 2018   alone in the snow that stone and I shone

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glimpse: HOSTEL CREATURE | Hostels are anthropological petri dishes, in which all sorts of characters and stories mingle. Sure, many conversations stay at a superficial level along the lines of “where you from mate, sick dude, how long have you been traveling, where you headed?” But some people meet on the same wavelength and dive a little deeper, to more profound topics and even to the depths where lifelong friendships are molded. And then there are the occasional oddballs, refreshing palate cleansers with quirky demeanors and twisted plots. Like the kind of guy entering a dorm in Bishkek late at night with a stern face while insinuating something about a committed murder, but being all jovial and no longer hangry after a midnight snack, now casually clarifying that the murder victim was actually him, killed by a society that had not prevented his near starvation leading to strokes and nerve damage, and alleging that some Balinese villagers worship him and his wife as reincarnations of Hindu gods, before putting on his PJs and a Kermit sleeping mask.

 

 

 

 

 

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places / stories

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Bishkek / A Snowman’s Hug

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Bishkek / Kyrgyzstan · 2018   always sad but never really

 

Bishkek / Kyrgyzstan · 2018   a day of grays and blues

In a different season and country and mindset, the first place I stayed at could have been anything from a funky fun hostel to a whack party hostel, but there was no telling now and that made it tolerable. And the guy who ran it had an amiable air that accommodated all shapes of migratory birds. Right now, the two-story house with its Scandinavian-looking lightwood bunks was a base for the few remaining travelers the cold had not weeded out, like a group of Unimog-explorers with that generic aura of a collective that has become a little too full of itself by each individual craving indie-recognition just enough to believe in the worthiness of the semi-edgy mission and affirming and amplifying the believe of the others. There was laughter and plans-making and food, and it was alright, but I sought the quiet.

 

I moved to a family-run back-alley place that was more of a homestay and where I felt like a fleeting family member. The first day I ran some errands, and the printouts were a success and the new underwear a mistake, and when I came back with a chicken and dumplings that night, I had dinner with the host son and his girlfriend in the kitchen nook. I shared my chicken and they shared something I wish I could recall. When I went to sleep, I was the only guest, but around midnight the light came back on and a grim guy in a grim coat entered my room. He turned out to be the kind of traveler who isn’t really that, and who lives more than he travels, which made two of us even if completely unalike.

 

Eventually, I decided to make Bishkek my office for some weeks and moved to a capsule hotel where the internet was fine, the routine undisturbed by adventure, and the breakfast two very sunny eggs. The coffin I lived in was snuggly and well equipped, and as the only guest I was the staff’s favorite.

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Bishkek was a bit pale in those days and winter seemed to sap the already wan pastel colors. Most of the goliath buildings in the center looked somewhat brutal in their somber functionality – beasts that stood up to the cold without fear.

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Bishkek / Kyrgyzstan · 2018   ecological & economical

The Central Mosque thrusted its minarets into the sky as though to establish a direct link of communication.

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Bishkek / Kyrgyzstan · 2018   mega mosque

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I guess the city is surrounded by mountains on brighter days; in winter they don’t exist much though. Some snowmen hung out at a park lamenting this and waiting for someone to hug them.

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Bishkek / Kyrgyzstan · 2018   icy hug

 

 

 

 

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Burana Tower / Kyrgyz Dares

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Burana Tower / Kyrgyzstan · 2018   half a minaret

 

 

 

A South Korean family that seemed like a nonsensical glitch in this white remoteness asked me to take their picture. I complied and then some when they insisted to return the favor, which was more like me doing them another favor. It was evident by the politeness of their coercion that they thought I was trying to be polite too by declining, and they didn’t seem to have a concept of someone not wanting to be eternalized alongside the landmark they came to see. A gloating southern sun forced my eyes into a tight and permanent squint, so that the photo op took even longer. At last, the dad seemed satisfied with the photographic ransom and let me go.

Clambering up the steep, long, and dim spiral staircase was like being inside a seashell on the ocean floor and one could only hope that no other crab was in there.

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Burana Tower / Kyrgyzstan · 2018   inside a seashell

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After scanning every single degree of the 360° view, I scrambled back down and meandered along the grave markers in the tower’s backyard all the while exchanging perplexed looks with them. When I summited a little hill to see the tower against the mountain range, some adolescent daredevils were standing on its icy brick ledge which was hardly a foot wide. With my eyes fixed on the personified madness, my hands fumbled in the backpack for my camera while my mind fumbled for a moral answer to the question whether I should point the camera there despite the chillingly realistic chance of catching one of them falling to their death. Fortunately, that didn’t happen because I took too long. And because no one fell. Kyrgyz dares are no jokes I suppose, and these guys were awfully comfortable on that unregulated tightrope between freedom and irresponsibility.

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Burana Tower / Kyrgyzstan · 2018   daredevils

 

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elsewhere

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in Central & West Asia