Bishkek Early Spring Jumble

Today it’s official: Spring has arrived.

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Southern end of Ataturk Park (off Axunbaeva), one of my favorite places for a city stroll (if you can avoid the couples corridor and the weekend crowds that come for the decrepit amusement rides)

Legs stiff from sitting with my computer all day (I edited a research article about VitaminB12 supplements for disease prevention in pregnant ewes today in addition to the normal projects…and I never want to read a scientific report on ewes again) I shut down my laptop and went out for a walk around four.  The temperature was 17C – that’s 62.6 degrees Fahrenheit, which is fair short weather in Minnesota (shorts and a sweater…).  Having rather de-acclimated from my hometown climes I was in a longsleeve dress, a wraparound sweater, a leather jacket, and thermal tights.  Some people on the bus I took to the park were still in their full winter wear. It seems none of us fully trust the fickle Bishkek spring, expecting a gust to blow in with snow or rain.  But the weather outside was truly lovely – tender grass shooting out of snow-soaked ground, just bare branches against a warm blue sky, the earth smelling of mud (and strewn with candy bar wrappers and Popsicle sticks that had apparently been hibernating all winter).  Bishkek is not lovely – but I’m glad it’s spring.

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We once tried one of the amusement rides (the low-slung rollercoaster) at Ataturk Park (I think we both dared each other to do it); after the shaking and lurching and groaning of decades-old steel supports I will never set foot on any of them again. But, uh… try it if yo want a fun soviet story.

After wandering through the park I took a few back streets to E’s office in the university.  And it’s always in the backstreets that Bishkek gets weird, that it gives away it’s shell as a city.  The area south of Axunbaeva and west or Mira (along with a lot of the central city itself) used to be filled with quaint old Russian houses made of wood.  But the city has boomed in the past few decades.  Some of these houses have been knocked down for new apartment complexes, but most times the title deeds and planning regulations are so complex that they either stay, or get replaced with single-family homes for the noveau-riche.

ugly architecture


This actually is a *house*, not anything else. No idea where they found the design or just…why?

And (as very evident in the photo below), some of these new homes are weird.  There are imitation French castles, giant boxes with an odd jutting turret, ugly fabricated American McMansion-copies and a host of other strange, aesthetically-jarring designs half hidden behind unfinished cinderblock walls. Most of them look like they had very little architectural planning; oddly enough, almost all of them have the same red, brown or forest green metal roofing. And half of them are mixed in among cute quaint soviet grandmothers’ homes.

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Right next to the 1980’s space-age shopping mall/residence pictured above.

Which, I suppose, is partially why Bishkek as a city always feels so uneven, so broken and unblended, to me.

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Graffiti, broken tarmac and new apartment buildings rising out of Bishkek’s former Frunze airport

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