Bishkek is a relatively new city, created just 100 years ago. You’d think in such an ancient country like Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek would have incredible stories from centuries past, but in reality it was created as a Russian outpost in the early 1900’s. Maybe not so interesting historically or culturally, but it’s got plenty of Soviet relics left around the city for you to explore, and some great museums! Above is the city’s parliament building their “White House” below. I was scared of the police in Kyrgyzstan after some experiences in the surrounding countries, but surprisingly no one bothered me here. I even put my camera through the White House fence to take the shot!
I came to Bishkek twice, at the beginning of the trip and again at the end. Both times I used this clock tower on the right as a reference point when I was walking around. This seemed to be the city center and a major intersection of two congested roads. A fountain here had some young couples running through, and for some reason there was a row of young women sitting outside using laptops. The left hand photo shows Ala-Too Square. Other than some shops and restaurants, it didn’t seem too spectacular to me. What I liked most was the snow covered mountains in the background!
Above are some photos of people in Bishkek. Bishkek did seem to mostly have a younger crowd of Kyrgyz and a high number of Russians. One of the hotels I stayed at seemed to have completely employed a younger Russian generation except for a Kyrgyz girl in the restaurant. Since the Russians built this city, I would expect them to still have a high population here.
While in Bishkek I had stumbled across the American University on accident. I even had gone inside here to ask for directions before I even realized what the place was. Just a block away is this large Lenin statue. The Lenin statue was of course originally built during Soviet times, but has been moved around Bishkek after Kyrgyzstan got independence. It seems like this spot here is his final resting place, where he gets to point at the American University for eternity.
Actually I have no idea what this place above is. I was trying to get to the Frunze house and someone at the American University directed here. They obviously didn’t understand what I was asking for. I didn’t stay inside, just took a photo of the entrance and talked to someone about the Frunze house. I kind of regret not looking around since I was already here. I got more wrong directions from this place and headed on my way
Next stop was the the city’s massive historical museum. Both from the outside and once I was inside, I could tell this was a great museum, but like most of these in Central Asia there was no English translation. Knowing only about 10 words of Russian I was pretty much on my own to figure things out. Somethings were obvious, old Soviet medals, rifles and other items with dates. Other things I had no idea what they were for! The museum definitely liked having large paintings like these below or the metal figures representing the Soviet Union. Nearly half of one of the floors was made up of these guys on the lower right!
What I wanted to see most in this museum was their famous murals painting along the ceilings. I had already heard that Mother Russia a beautiful woman wielding a sword seen on the the left, but the Nazi on the right was described differently. Most disappointing was the missing Ronald Reagan painting. I heard he was along the ceiling not too far away from the Nazi. Supposedly Reagan’s face was replaced with a skull and he was riding a nuclear missile with an evil smile.
I couldn’t find more details about these statues above, but my understanding is they are part of the Worker’s Party memorial. I could be completely wrong, because no matter how hard I look nothing came up. Strangely I got more results from North Korea than Kyrgyzstan when I googled Bishkek Worker’s Party.
I finally found the museum I was looking for which was about Mikhail Frunze. Frunze is a famous Russian military commander who was born in Bishkek. He was one of the most important generals during the Russian civil war, and was in charge of the entire Eastern front after winning multiple victories. He later entered politics and remains greatly admired today for both his military achievements and leadership as a politician. His humble beginnings began right in this small house in Bishkek. The house is completely enclosed in a building that’s a museum now. There are some annoying women that work here and seriously follow you around only a few steps behind you to make sure you don’t take photos or maybe even walk off with special souvenir. I was able to sneak off these two photos above, one of the outside of Frunze’s home, and the second showing his living room.
There were a few other museums and monuments, but you can only visit so much before you get burnt out. Most of my remaining time in Bishkek was the normal everyday traveling experiences. You should try to limit this to the day, because when the sun goes down in Bishkek, the city gets extremely dark. Even the downtown areas are poorly lit. Driving or walking around at night is a unique experience here. If here weren’t so many people walking around but you’d think it was two in the morning when it’s actually only 10pm or so. I missed any reasonable shots of mobs of people, but these two photos show what most of Bishkek looks like at night. Because of my camera settings, the photos appear much brighter than they are in real life.
Bishkek had a large range of shops and restaurants. Like my initial impressions of the city at night, my first impressions of their restaurants and shops were not so good either. This humble shop or magazine as they call it in Russian, was one of the first photos I took in the city. While Bishkek is definitely not known for fancy restaurants and cafes, I later on found they do have some reasonable options. I did a terrible job of photographing this restaurant on the right since I didn’t want to look creepy, but it seemed to be one of the higher end ones in the city. Since I’m half Lebanese I had to eat at a restaurant that said Beirut in large letters above it. It was definitely a nice place and had excellent food. I never went out to drink in Bishkek, but I did see several bars here and there like this one on the right. This guy couldn’t resist the urge to drink even though it was still morning time!
I had passed by several BP Gas Stations while in Kyrgyzstan and never thought anything of it. It wasn’t until towards the end of my trip that I noticed that BP stood for Bishkek Petroleum instead of British Petroleum! Neighboring Kazakhstan has some extremely cheap gas because of all their resources. Despite their own Bishkek Petroleum brand gas was relatively expensive here in Kyrgyzstan.
When passing through one of the city parks, some man pulled out a peacock and placed it on display. I thought he might do a magic show or charge kids to have their photo taken together, but it seemed like he let anyone come up and play for free.
In the city park Dubovy, I came across these stone statues above and the monument on the right. The statues seemed to be a mix of Russian and Kyrgyz culture. There were signs with more information but of course I wasn’t able to read anything! On the right is the monument for Kurmanjan Datka, a politician and military leader during the late 1800s. She’s considered a very important person in Kyrgyz history, and even appears on their 50 Som bill. She ran away from an arranged marriage which was unprecedented at the time. Her reputation for her fiestniess got the attention of the ruler of Altai, who married her. After he was married people followed her, nicknaming her queen of the south. She’s also known for her initial resistance to Russian’s annexation of the region, but ultimately convinced her people to accept it rather than war.