I went to Kyrgyzstan as part of the EU SENSUM team investigating the use of satellite imagery to map hazards and monitor disaster recovery. We ran a scenario planning game in Bishkek, with Ministry of Emergency personnel from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Aibek, our host from the Ministry, takes us to a night-club. It’s in a vast gaudy concert bunker. We toast each other unmercifully with vodka shots until Aibek encourages us onto the dance floor and we dance with a group of attractive young girls they call the ‘jet-set’.
On my day off I went for a walk in the snow covered Tien Shan – such a romantic name – that I could see from the roof of my hotel. We walked up the Ala-Acha gorge as far as we could. We wanted to see snow leopard, but all we saw were the numerous inquisitive marmots and eagles circling over Marco Polo sheep. Having forgotten my trainers and I had only sandals to keep my feet warm.
Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan is a fascinating city, with its tree-lined boulevards, Soviet ‘brave new world’ architecture and a huge statue of Lenin pointing towards a future long gone. There is a relaxed human feel to the place. Like Van in Turkey, where I go next, Bishkek is a city on the ancient ‘silk-road’ and although not a popular tourist destination, it’s worth a visit.