If you’re in the little eastern town of Karakol in Kyrgyzstan on a Sunday don’t miss the huge animal market.
Thousands of Kyrgyz gather to trade livestock of all kinds and as this is Kyrgyzstan of course there are hundreds of horses. We had a whole new appreciation of the horse-centric culture of Kyrgyzstan when we did a trek into the mountains near Kochkor.
You know you’re getting close to this unique Central Asian market when you meet people leading away the reluctant beasts they have purchased. Or, when you’ve bought a nice fat-bottomed sheep, just load it in the back of your Lada and off you go.
There are moos, baas, bleats and squeals from all directions. How about a carboot FULL of piglets? Everywhere people are happy passing the time of day. Watch a spot of blacksmithery as the horses are shod.
I stayed at the Yak Tours guesthouse in Karakol, run by Valentin who gave us a ride to the animal market in his motorcycle side car (fulfilling a lifelong ambition of mine). His big old colonial house is comfortable, has a lovely garden and he can arrange trekking tours, excursions and guides.
Valentin’s wife Bobolinka cooks some of the best dinners in Karakol, or maybe Kyrgyzstan, which is reason enough to stay here. Karakol does not offer much in the way of nightlife and food in Central Asia can be a hit or miss affair so home cooking is always the best option.
By Natasha von Geldern
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