From Turkey to Greece, through the Balkans to Scandinavia, to Georgia and Armenia and now on to Kyrgyzstan. It’s not a usual route, nor one I had planned. Visiting Central Asia in the winter is perhaps not the most efficient choice either, but I’ve come to Kyrgyzstan to visit my mom who now lives in the capital Bishkek.
As cities go Bishkek is neither pretty nor brimming with sights to see. The streets are potholed and littered with rubbish, but it does have incredible views out towards the mountains. And it has my mom and her partner Tony. It also has snow – real snow, the white, glittering, sparkling kind, with falling snowflakes and below freezing temperatures. I’ve never seen snow like this before so resolved to embrace the experience.
In my week in the the city I went to a yoga class in Russian, spent an evening at the banya (public bath) steaming and scrubbing myself with other local and very naked women, visited some markets (more on that to come) and played in the snow.
On a drive out of the city one Saturday, we passed a few people tobogganing down a small hill. It looked like fun so when one of the boys hiring out his toboggan invited me to play, I said yes – nodding profusely rather since I don’t speak any Russian. His sled was a pumped up tractor tube under which he has tied a sheet of plastic. I sat in front and he steered from the back. And it was fun. We slid down that hill pretty fast, inducing child-like giggles in me. Now, that’s a snow sport I like.
Tobogganing outside Bishkek.
When in the snow, one should make a snow angel no? I attempted one, but as soon as I felt how cold and wet the snow was I changed my mind and it became an upside down snow beetle instead. Who knew snow was so wet?
Now comes the pinnacle of my snow sport experience so far: snowboarding. I have never tried boarding of any kind, but I had to do something to make my brother jealous. One of my mom’s colleagues put me in touch with her snowboarding friends who rustled up boots and a board for me. We headed out to a ski resort outside the city and Anton showed me how to strap in my feet and gave me a quick run down of how to move. I stood up, aimed down a tiny slope and slid my way to the edge. I shuffled closer and started moving. Yes, I thought. And then I fell. Of course, this was going to happen a lot.
Turns out snowboarding is not for sissies and I spent the rest of the afternoon falling, onto my bum, onto my knees, onto my hands, onto to my back and, at one point, onto my face and rolling down the slope. I laughed. I had to, I looked that silly. I also cried – once out of frustration at myself for not getting it right, and once in pain when I fell and twisted my knee.
I’m still making my mind up about this snowboarding thing, but the best part was being up in the mountains under a beautiful blue sky. The sun sparkled off the powdery snow and the only sounds were the swishes of people zooming past on snowboards and skis. We do live in a magnificent world.