“The shower is over there” , my couchsurfing host, Erdem, shows me his apartment. ” A bathroom!? INSIDE the house?” I have not seen this for a long time. Erdem takes a beer from the fridge and puts it in front of me. Then he shows me the WiFi access. I ‘m in seventh heaven. We are in his apartment on the 16th Floor of the Djal Artis, one of the tallest buildings in Bishkek.Erdem has to return to work. And while I’m surfing the Internet, cat Peter plays with the bands on my backpack.
Already on the airplane, I enjoy the view on the Kyrgyz mountains and rivers. I also enjoy the beautiful weather and the excellent service of Turkish Airlines … they even have lunch and movies, for a 2.5- hour flight. Dear Lufthansa, this is how it’s done. Even the taxi drivers cannot spoil my good mood, when they are throwing themselves like vultures on the tourists leaving the airport: “Bishkek? Taxi?” – “No, later.” I wanted to run some errands at the airport, currency exchange, phone card, call Erdem. In the end, the taxi drivers won.
On the way to Bishkek we chat a bit. Ali speaks a little English. He is originally from Turkey, but proudly shows me his Kyrgyz identity card. He lives with his family near the airport and has a farm. He runs this unofficial taxi business with his old VW Passat stationwagon. The car he got, like many Kyrgyz, directly from Germany. In fact, there are many VWs, Mercedes and BMWs on the Kyrgyz streets, also some Japanese cars and Russian Ladas. Link in Siberia or Mongolia the cars have the steering wheel either on the right or on the left side.
Ali helps me buy a Megacom phone card for 200 Som – at a stand in the ditch. He even borrows me the money until he takes me to a currency exchange place. About 64 Som are one euro. My Mongolian money I had reexchanged in Ulan Bator into dollars, which was a good idea. Because later I ran into money problems again. MasterCard is not so popular around here and you have to find the right telling machines. Once you found one, don’t be happy too soon. The screen might be showing “Transaction processing” and you already hear the cash counting up. This is the moment where the thing can still break down and the flap doen’t open. After you’re done cursing, you can walk inside the Russian speaking bank and try to explain what just happened…
Travel Tip: Just don’t be such an unlucky person.
No, this didn’t spoil my good mood. Neither die the fact that Ali demanded 1000 Som for the ride, almost twice as much as the usual price. (Two days later I caught another ride with him and paid just as much).
Erdem ‘s girlfriend Arianne shows me the city and the bazaar. She explains to me how the minibuses, Maschrutkas, work (10 Som per trip). They buzz around the city like flies and stop when you signal them with your hand.
Travel Tip: Speaking Russian helps a lot. Surprisingly, many people here speak German, especially at the university. In some schools, only German is taught as a foreign language, not English. This is what two 13 -year-old girl tell me, who I asked for directions.
The Bishkek downtown area is more pleasant than the dusty Ulan Bator. Gras strips and trees separate the road from the sidewalks. There are restaurants and cafes on the street and from time to time a fountain. Sometimes you even feel like you are in a small town in Italy.