Kyrgyzstan,  Round the world

Kilometer 17 872: how we became polar bears and what’s the proper use of a sheep

Horses and sheep are grazing on the flower dotted meadows surrounded by 5,000 and 6,000 m high mountains. By the yurts – woolen tents which serve as everyday homes for half a year, women navigate their huge buckets kneeling and milking the mares, providing Kyrgyzstan with its horse delicacy and cure for all ailments for the following year – kumyz. Someone is galloping across the pasture and begins his ascend up to the pass. Another someone is sending his eagle out for a hunt. The bird will be back with a hare just in time for dinner.


June in its fullest. Must be gorgeous. When you come to Kyrgyzstan in winter, you’ll be told everyday that it’s not the same and you’re wrong and you should have visited it in summer.

Where should we go skiing this year? – I wondered, breathing on the frozen window pane overlooking the Issyk-Kul lake. I was looking for the answer in the wrong pane. Just behind my back, there was Karakol: excellent slopes, no crowds, no stones jutting out, no overpaying for the ski pass and  equipment rental. Unfortunately, the local mountain hostels have no mulled wine on offer, but there’s something even better. Better than mulled wine? – you’ll ask with disbelief. But, yes! After a day of schussing we go to heat ourselves up in hot springs!




The winter Issyk-Kul is almost deserted. We have the mountain trails only to ourselves and share the lake with wild swans. Strolling along the beach, we pass horses chewing what’s left of tree branches and groups of Kyrgyz men playing their favourite game, which depends on grabbing a sheep while riding a horse and placing it in a goal. Fortunately they train on a fake sheep. They will show off their skills at Nomad Games – a contest which takes place every two years.






Many nations participate in the Nomad Games, Poland also has a proud representation, nevertheless, the only teams who can compete with the Kyrgyz are Kazakhs and Mongols. Let’s face it, what can a poor Botswanan nomad do singlehandedly going up against pros? This must be the feeling Asians get when playing basketball against the Americans or just anybody ski jumping against the Polish team.

January in its fullest. It’s gorgeous.







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