Official language: Kyrgyz, Russian
Time zone: UTC +6
Currency: Som (KGS)
According to the most popular theory, the city owes its name to a stick used for stirring kumis, which is a kind of alcohol made from mare’s milk – the only hard liquor that Muslims can drink.
When winter turns into spring, the whole Bishkek is bathed in greenery. The parks and squares become the most popular spots to relax, sunbathe, play table tennis, or simply spend time together.
Should there be a contest for the most peculiar service, elderly ladies from Bishkek would surely win the first prize! They sit on the pavements offering to weigh tourists on bathroom scales at a decent price of few cents.
A city full of contradictions. Although low buildings make it seem small, in fact, the city is really huge! There are a lot of sumptuous buildings, but instead of being astounding, they seem cheap and tasteless. Anywhere you turn, your eye catches remnants of the Soviet era, e.g., Lenin’s monument, Lenin street, older people bitterly recalling “better times”. The most precious values of the city lay beyond its borders: beautiful landscapes of mountains meeting impeccably clear, blue sky.
When is the best time to visit Bishkek? Plan your trip for the time when Ramadan comes to its end - that is when the Orozo Ait festival takes place. The locals visit each other to celebrate together, there is a fair at the central square, so you can buy handmade crafts: jewelry, hats, and even yurts.
Enormous Osh Bazaar in the city center is divided into sectors with given products. Tourists rather rarely seek carpets or home appliances here, so we’d rather recommend visiting the part with scarves and shawls. In separate stalls look for fresh fruits. The best souvenirs from Bishkek? Definitely spices, dried fruit, and traditional regional sweets! If you get hungry while at the bazaar, treat yourself to a local snack: kashk (also known as qurut) – small saltish balls made of sour milk and yogurt. Save some more time to visit the bazaar, as it’s obligatory to negotiate the prices.
Where to eat? There are several restaurants worth recommendation but you won’t find true traditional meals in any of those. Kyrgyz cuisine is a mixture of European and Asian recipes prepared with the use of locally available products. If you’re staying at a local family’s house, ask your hosts to prepare a traditional meal - in no time you will find the table laid with fresh bread and butter, homemade jams, dairy products, and nuts.