Tuesday 2 September 2014
I have the dorm to myself tonight. The French chap is leaving late – around midnight – to catch an early morning flight home from Bishkek airport. It might seem weird that so many flights arrive and depart in the middle of the night, but remember that it’s September and 35 degrees Celsius. Imagine what the daytime temperature could get to in the middle of the day in July – flights are generally scheduled at night because it’s much cooler. That said, it also plays into the hands of the taxi drivers as the marshrutka to the airport stops running around 8pm and starts again about 6am.
To be honest, today was a bit of a ‘filler’ day – one where I had no real plans and which I was basically just milling about waiting for tomorrow and the trip to Song Kol, the lake high in the mountains which is apparently quite pretty. Therefore I’m not going to bore you with details of today, suffice to say that I ate reasonably ‘local’ food and walked around a bit of the Northern edge of the city centre that I hadn’t yet explored.
In a way then it’s good that I’m on my own as I have to be elsewhere in the city centre at 7am for the trip pick-up. At least it’ll be cooler then. As I’m coming back to this hostel on Thursday, they’ve allowed me to keep my stuff in the locker, so I only need go with my afro-hippy day backpack, which helps.
By ‘local’ food, I do partly mean ‘street food’ – I had a ‘meat doner’. Now, Central Asian culinary delights are few; rather, the whole region, like many in the former Soviet Union, has become a bit of a melting pot of culture and styles from across the Soviet world, as people were migrated from one region to another. Thus you can get Uzbek ‘plov’ in Latvia just as easily as you can get Georgian shashlik here in Kyrgyzstan. In addition, the Tajiks from just South of here are a very culturally Turkic people and as such are particularly fond of meat grills like the doner. As a result, across Central Asia, it’s very easy to get a doner kebab/shwarma/gyros. And very tasty too, not as unhealthy as the British variants.
But British cuisine can be like that at times – take what other cultures have to offer, and make it a) more unhealthy, and b) less tasty. No idea how we do it.
More ‘local’ in a specific sense was the ’beshbarmak’ I had from a restaurant just off the main street. It’s really quite simple – noodles and mutton in a watery vegetable stock. In Kazakhstan they tend to prefer horsemeat to mutton, though having never tasted horse I wouldn’t know the difference. Also, not knowing off the top of my head what the Russian is for either horsemeat or mutton means I may well have. It tasted like mutton though.
As an aside, the word ‘beshbarmak’ means ‘five-fingers’ as you’re supposed to eat it with your hands rather than cutlery. I didn’t. I’m obviously not native enough yet.
Still haven’t had laghman, although as that’s another noodle-based dish I don’t imagine it being much different.