Day 6 – Osh

This morning we leave the beautiful Grand Fergana Hotel and the bunnies and peacocks that roam its pleasant gardens.

On the way to the Uzbekistan/Kyrgyzstan border, we pass vast agricultural fields.

Plastic covers each row, apparently to preserve moisture? It’s tough to see this massive use of plastic.

But the ride is pleasant, the scenery beautiful.

At the border, porters take our luggage onto vans to be driven to Bishkek.

Thankfully, the border crossing is not crowded or difficult.

The first thing we see in Kyrgyzstan are rows of money exchange offices. I thought that the Uzbek money was called som, pronounced “sum,” but learned that it is pronounced “soom” like “boom,” and the Kyrgyzstan money is pronounced “sum,” like “bum.”

The exchange rate is 11,400 “soom” to a dollar, so lots of bills are needed for just a few dollars worth of goods, but now that I’m in Kyrgyzstan I need to exchange my “soom” to ”sum.”

We arrive in Osh where we will stay for the night. In mediaeval times, Osh was one of the largest cities of the fertile Fergana valley. It stood at the crossroads of important routes on the Central Asian Silk Roads.

As we exit the van for lunch, we see a building on which has been placed this giant plaque. It honors a hero of World War II who lived in the building.

Lunch is in a very pleasant restaurant sitting high on the trees. As usual, we are served much more food than we can possibly eat.

The waitresses wear army caps because today is Victory Day to celebrate victory over the Nazis in World War II.

After lunch we visit a holy mountain, Sulaiman-Too, which has been revered as a sacred mountain for at least a millennium and a half.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site states that the mountains’s “peaks and slopes contain ancient cult sites and caves with petroglyphs, all interconnected with a network of ancient paths, as well as later mosques. The mountain is an exceptional spiritual landscape reflecting both Islamic and pre-Islamic beliefs and particularly the cult of the horse.”

UNESCO also describes the site as “the most complete picture of a sacred mountain anywhere in Central Asia… strong traditions of mountain worship have spanned several millennia and been absorbed successfully by Islam.”

The Sulaiman-Too Mountain forms a backdrop to the city of Osh. We climb up the stairs to the museum’s entrance.

The Soviets had converted the caves into a restaurant, but after the Soviets left, the Kyrgyzstan government created this museum.

The museum displays a very basic history of the area, including the religions of Zoroaster, Buddha and shamanism.

Displayed is a Balbal, an anthropomorphic stone stelae, which was probably created to honor the dead. These stellae span more than three millennia and were produced by various cultures. Our guide tells us that the image holds a sword on one hand and a cup in the other.

We climb high up in the cave on very steep stairs.

And are greeted at the top by petroglyphs and an expansive view of the area.

Dinner is at a restaurant called La Dolce Vita,

where we enjoy a plate of farfalle with a creamy mushroom sauce.

Our guide Nur checks something on his phone with our driver.

Back at the hotel, we come across a photo shoot in the parking lot. So much for Islamic law. Kyrgyzstan seems less conservative than many of the places in Uzbekistan, but we’ve just arrived here today, so it remains to be seen.

The hotel lobby wall is covered with a magnificent stone mosaic of wild horses, reflecting the area’s ancient worship of horse spirits.

Tomorrow we fly to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan.

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