The first place I went to in Osh was their famous Sulaiman-Too sacred mountain. The mountain has been sacred to the people of Osh for hundreds of years and brings Muslim pilgrims from other parts of the Kyrgyzstan as well as neighboring countries. The mountain is also home to the city’s three best museums and an art gallery. On the left is the beautiful Osh Mosque, the largest in the nation. It was built in xxxx at the bottom of the mountain. Below are two photos of the mountains themselves, with the building on the lower left being the first museum that I went to, and on the lower right the famous Babur house.
There are several different trails along in the Sulaiman-Too mountains. Most are paved ones that take you to the museum or Barbur’s home, while others kind of go through the wild terrain and take you to scenic points or show you petroglyphs. Above is a reconstructed wooden hut that was the type of home people lived in. The right hand photo shows a small “culture cave” that is sacred to the local people. When I passed by there were several middle aged women crawling out and one of them struck a conversation with me. She gave me a large piece of Kyrgyzstan bread, which was perfect since I had skipped breakfast!
The petroglyphs seemed to be mentioned a lot in the Sulaiman-Too mountains. There are several signs pointing to their locations and a lot is mentioned about tem in the museums. Sadly there is so much graffiti in the area that they are difficult to find. It’s rare to find an area near the trail that doesn’t have any spray paint on it. I actually found some petroglyphs were people actually spray-painted right over them! The photo on the right was the only area I found where they weren’t damaged.
There were a lot of people here in the sacred mountain when I visited. There was a large group of about 20 young women and another group of about 50 or more kids on a field trip. On the left is a photo of part of one of the groups I came across. On the right is the national flag proudly flying over the city of Osh.
Near the top of the mountain by the flag is the Barbur house. Barbur was a king at the young age of 14. He decided to build this small house near the top of the mountain and ever since it as become a sacred and historic place. It’s quite small, more of a small room but nicely decorated room.
From here you can get some great views of the city. Although its very flat and there aren’t many tall buildings, Osh is still beautiful from above. It’s much greener than I expected and sits in the foreground of some high snow covered mountains.
The first of the three museums I went to is the “Cave Museum” that was built inside the mountain. It was pretty hot outside but cold once in the caves. The caves were split up into a main hallway with small rooms branching off to the sides. For some reason there was a lady walking around in the caves spreading some strong incense.
Some of the displays from the cave museum include this Zoroastrian home on the left, a Zoroastrian table with writing in the center, and traditional Kyrgyz clothing on the right.
The cave museum’s main floor is the entrance. Afterwards you climb a really long flight of stairs with preserved animals on either side of you. This takes you to the top floor where you’ll be blinded by light entering the giant window. There are a few more artifacts here, and then you’ll exit the museum and be back on the mountain. The last thing you have to do is climb down some stairs that go under a small bridge. A photo of that is on the lower right where it’s covered by hundreds of pieces of gum, gross!
At the base of the mountain is where you’ll find the other two museums and the art gallery. These surrounding four photos are from the city’s main historic museum. The cave museum had had a sign on it saying that there was a 10 Som (20 cents) charge for every photo you took. While the cave museum didn’t enforce this the historic museum had everyone going crazy about it. I actually had to pay for every photo I took, but that was less than 10 so wasn’t much money. Above is the one of the largest rooms in the museum. On the right is a photo of a medieval Kyrgyz battle.
The museum had a wide range of items on display, from textiles and vintage photos like these above, to minerals from in the country and information on the Soviet Union.
Next I went to the art gallery. The women at the desk was very kind and gave me a Russian explanation of almost every photo. Although I didn’t understand a word of what she was saying, I still appreciated the personal tour. I did gather that this battle above on the left was between Genghis Khan and Manas. At the time I didn’t know who Manas was, other than seeing his statue all over the city. I was surprised to find out he had battled Genghis Khan. All the paintings in the gallery were unique and interesting. I liked how many of the were simply modern everyday things. When I travel and take photos, I often try hard to find an angle that keeps the power-lines out of the pictures. Instead this Kyrgyz artist’s work was completely made of power-lines.
Alright, last museum! I honestly came very close to skipping this one since I had spent so much time in the other museums already. I had heard about this three story yurt before I arrived, but was kind of disappointed by its appearance in person. Although it was three stories it looked much smaller than I imagined and I didn’t like the plastic covering around the outside. It made it look like a big blow up playhouse. I decided to go inside anyway and as soon as I entered I was happy. The inside of the yurt museum is made of wood and decorated from floor to the ceiling with textiles and artwork.
The yurt museum shows the traditional clothing and textiles used in the country. Above is a painting of some Kyrgz women and a photo of the second floor on the right.
Another great place to go in Osh is their giant bazaar. It extends for a full kilometers and sells just about everything you could think of. For some reason I had difficulty changing Tajik currency after I left that country. I had assumed I could do it in Kazakhstan or at least anywhere in Kyrgyzstan being that the countries border each other. Osh is fairly close to the Tajik border, but even here banks wouldn’t take my money. Instead they told me to go to the bazaar! The small arch on the left is the entrance, on the right is a photo from inside.
Some of the shops seemed to be very slow, with the owners texting or evening unconscious. Others were pretty busy and had a steady stream of customers and window shoppers. I ended up buying some sunglasses from here since I had broken my other pair while hiking on this trip.
While walking around the bazaar I thought I heard people playing pool. It seemed out of place, but sure enough around the corner was this pool hall. In another section of the market this guy on the right started a conversation with me. His background is Russian but was born and raised in Osh. His family business is beekeeping, and they make honey. He’s a really nice guy, and after a good conversation with him he gave me some for free, and telling me “a gift from my heart”.
After the market I stumbled across these watery stairs that led to this old airplane. My shoes were destroyed from the hikes I had done in the Tian Shan mountains and being left with only flip flops, I was able to walk down them. The plane is on display for some reason, and they even have a young photographer underneath who will take your photo with it.
Turns out this is an entrance to Meerim Park. I thought it was just another city park, but when I entered it I saw it was more of an amusement park. It was really packed with families, rides and games. I didn’t go on any myself since most of the rides were for younger kids, but this was definitely a fun place to walk around. I was surprised by how many people were here and how big the park was. I walked its entire length until the end took me to a more natural area. There were a few couples picnicking here in the forests and even several people walking through the river that runs through the city.
Outside of the main city streets, there isn’t too much going on for the average traveler. You could probably find some new restaurants and things like that, but for the most part the rest of the city is made up of homes and small businesses. These two photos above were random shots that I took while driving around.
The presence of the Soviet Union can still be seen here in Osh, but its not as strong as it was in Bishkek for even Karakol. While I expected Osh to be more disconnected from the western world, they still had a lot of western restaurants, coffee shops, and plenty of bars to get hard liquor or beer. On the right is the statue of the Soviet leader Lenin, and above some advertisements I saw for a small fast food restaurant.
I was surprised how relatively modern Osh was. I expected some dusty city with older traditional houses, but instead the city was really nice. Above is a shot a street in Osh with a bench on the right. I think the man on the bench is creeping out those ladies!
I was area of the fighting that took place in Osh a few years before my visit. Dozens were killed and hundreds injured during ethnic fighting. This has since calmed down, but Osh still seemed to be a more dangerous place than Bishkek. I felt completely safe in the city and think it may even be safer than Bishkek. I did see what I assume is this most wanted picture on the left throughout the city though. These guys on the right called me over to them when I walked by on a trail I as on. It seemed sketchy at first but I went over to talk to them anyway. None spoke a word of English, but they ended up being Uzbek tourists who went to Osh to visit the sacred mountain. They wanted me to take their photo and even invited me to have tea with them.