Thursday, October 12

Bishkek 57

Zhupka bread
We spend our final day in Kyrgyzstan - indeed, Central Asia - in the capital city, Bishkek (population 1m) formally named Pishpeck pre 1991, when it was mostly ethnic Russian. Today, Russian is the main language and Kyrgyz losing ground with young people in part, I think, drawn to Russian pop music. There are frequent daily flights to Moscow (as I sit in the airport, 6am). The pull of Russia is everywhere.

Run down or decrepit Soviet block towers stick out like a sore thumb with very cool Soviet symbols atop, in a city that is trying to modernise itself rapidly: cars disobeying traffic rules, 24 hour ATMs and new hotels; Coca-Cola of course. There is a KFC.

We go to the bazaar which is dense and enormous filled with copycat Nike and Polo, vibrant fruits, nuts and cheeses and all cuts of meat smelling of fresh blood to make one gag. Despite being barely passable and unmarked, the passage ways have their own sense of order. A woman on loudspeaker broadcasts who-knows-what, silenced briefly for the Muslim call to prayer. Neon advertising. Blade Runner.

Soviet tower block