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Karakol Livestock Market

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According to the Lonely Planet the livestock market in Karakol is one of the city’s major attractions. It starts around 4am and runs until 10am or so. Our local guide Erkin told us the earlier we go the better and the more we will see and experience. 4am is really not my time of the day for getting up and so I decided 6:30am will be early enough for me. My roommate Isabella didn’t wanted to get up since she experienced already enough at the livestock market we visited in Ashgabat.

I decided to have a quick breakfast before I go but as soon as I sat down I met my fellow traveler Andrew who wanted to go as well. He had already ordered a taxi and so I skipped breakfast and went with him. The livestock market was only a 10 min drive away from our hotel. As we came closer the street became significantly more crowded. The locals had all sorts of vehicles to transport themselves and their livestock.

The market was crowded too. It took only 1-2 min until I lost sight of Andrew and continued on my own. It was so packed that it was impossible to walk without getting in physical contact with the locals. Actually I didn’t have much interest in the livestock but getting in touch with the locals and experience the rural life in Kyrgyzstan for which it was perfect. The market was divided into different sections depending on the type of livestock for sale. There was a section for sheep, one for cattle and one for horses. I didn’t see any goats or camels as we spotted them on the market in Ashgabat.

The sellers were standing with their livestock in the respective section waiting for a buyer to come by. Some of the sellers looked bored and killed time by reading magazines which they have placed on the back of their sheep. Others were chatting or taking curious looks at me which I returned to them. The buyers took their time to walk across the market, inspecting different animals and negotiating prices. While doing so they appeared pretty calm and relaxed. There were no loud discussions or screaming people.

It took me about an hour to walk across the market and chat with the locals using my hand and feet. Afterwards I returned to the hotel to have breakfast. Since it was still early in the day and we didn’t plan to leave before lunch time, I went for another walk around in town. The buildings in Karakol either look like basic houses which you usually find in rural areas or like relicts of Soviet architecture. It all looks very depressing and obviously there isn’t much money in town to make major improvements.

From the front desk of the hotel I had received a basic map of the town including the location of several points of interest. Based on this information and what I heard from my fellow travelers I decided to visit the Lenin statue, the Russian Orthodox Holy Trinity Cathedral and the Dungan Mosque. The Lenin statue is a relict of Soviet times. According to our local guide Erkin it was just not removed because there isn’t enough money in town and people don’t really mind the statue. For the visit of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral I covered my hair since all women in the church were wearing a headscarf. It seemed to be a special event going on since the ground of the church was completely covered with grass which was interesting to see. The Dungan Mosque was built for the local Dungans which are Muslim people of Chinese origin. It looked very much different than the mosques we have seen during the past weeks. It’s made of wood, painted in turquoise color and looked more like a Chinese temple than a mosque.

Around 1pm we drove towards Jeti-Ögüz where we will spend the next two nights in yurts. On the way there we stopped at a mountain named “broken heart” but you needed lots of imagination to actually see a heart in this piece of rock. The yurt camp was really lovely. It was situated in the middle of a valley, very close to a river. Driving up there was pretty slow so a couple of people decided to walk. At the yurt camp we had three yurts for us, one yurt as dorm for the girls, one for the boys and one mixed gender.

To have some privacy I decided not to spend the next two nights in the yurt but put my own tent up. After I have done so right next to the river my fellow traveler Andrew scared me by explaining the risk of a flash flood coming down the mountain which made me moving my tent a couple of meters away from the river.

Dinner was prepared by the couple owning the yurt camp. It was served in a special dining yurt where we sat on a pillow on the ground and enjoyed the home-made food and hot black tea.

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