Just a few days go, a friend of mine asked if I intend to write here more about my trip to Kyrgyzstan. I would love to but I promised myself not to do so before my postcards from Kyrgyzstan reach their recipients. This has happenend now – only five weeks after having sent them.
One of the postcards I sent from the post office in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, got into my own hands when I arrived back in Bern. That is because I had sent it to the department I work for. And this it what it looks like (the postcard, not the department):
First, you will recognize the seal that says “PAR AVION”. Concerning the fact that this card was travelling for a whole month you could conclude that Kyrgyzsian planes are flying very slow. Or that the mail of Kyrgyzstan gave this card to fly with the Solar Impulse.
Next you will recognize the Cyrillic letters in the first line of the address field. Actually, I can not read them (although I wrote them), but I know that this is Russian for “Switzerland”. As a journalist and caring mother who really prepares for a trip to foreign countries I found out that on each letter or postcard being sent from Kyrgyzstan the address has to be written like that: COUNTRY – NAME – STREET – CITY. And the name of the destination country has to be written in Russian with Cyrillic letters. English will not work because how should the mail man know where to send the card? Not many people in this country know English.
Fortunately, I found a web site that explained this rule and also showed some country names written in Cyrillic.
Unfortunately, it was not possible to leave the postcards at the reception desk of the hotel we stayed in so the employees would take care of them. They indeed asked us to which countries our cards were intended to be shipped, and the destinations Switzerland, Turkey and Germany were also considered valid (whatever criteria therefore exist – are there like forbidden countries? If so which are those? Prussia or the BRD GmbH?), but the postcards had to be given to the Kirghiz mail by ourselves. This does not mean that you buy some stamps somewhere (e.g. kiosk, automat) and drop the franked postcards into a public mailbox afterwards. Things like this do not exist in Bishkek.
Instead the clerks at the reception desk explained to us how to get to the main post office in Bishkek (“main” sounds fun – I guess there is only one). This is located at the rather most central square of the city and looks like this:
From the vague information I found in Google Maps and based on the fact that there was a huge sign on this building saying “Telekom” I reasoned the post office would be inside there, too. Slowly we (me and my son) sneaked off to this eerie monster of architecture. And then entered a random, unlabelled door. There sat, in a box made from wood and glass, a janitor. Acting more like a bouncer. He approached us and I tried to explain to him that we would like to send postcards. The bouncer indicated his wish to have a look at our postcards (again the check in which countries the cards were supposed to be shipped to and if – see above – this would be possible). After a short inspection (the relevant part of the address was written in Russian so no time lost there), he asked us to enter another unimpressive, wooden door.
And there we were – in the post office. Except one more person (a customer who wrote adresses on enveloppes) there was noone.
The office where we were allowed to hand our postcards to an employee of the Kyrgyz mail – it had its special kind of beauty:
Somehow, we also made it out of the building:
Okay, I don’t want overact – the whole process from entering until leaving the house took less than 10 minutes. But time always seems to be so much longer when you are at foreign places.
I guess now you want to know something about the front page, the picture of the postcard. Forget it. First, some things about the stamp (see above, in the first picture): it shows a very typical Kirghiz headdress: the kalpak. And by “typical” I mean that the Kyrgyz really wear this, e.g. in the streets. Okay, only men, not the Kyrgyz women.
Finally, a few words regarding the front page of the postcard. This is what it looks like:
The postcard shows the Victory Monument located at the Victory Square in the city centre of Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek. We never managed to stand under this monument due to the fact that whenever we showed up there was a bunch of people celebrating a wedding and taking lots of pictures:
The monument was erected to commemorate having defeated Nazi Germany. More details can be found in the link list below which will also be the end of this post. (It’s a new whim: link lists at the end of a post instead of links directly in the text. I learnt this from my current employer, the Swiss National Science Foundation SNSF. It’s about accessibility and also keeps you from being distracted from my text. I like it.)
- The Solar Impulse – just in case you don’t know this solar power driven, earth orbitting plane.
- Informationen about sending mail from Kyrgyzstan auf kyrgyzjer.com
- Further informationen about the main ost office in Bishkek taken from the guidebook “Kirgistan: Zu den Gipfeln von Tien Schan und Pamir” from Dagmar Schreiber and Stephan Flechtner (German)
- Beeline on Wikipedia
- The kalpak, the traditional hat of the Kirghiz
- My account on couchsurfing.com
- Aral Blijniy on OpenStreetMap
- Aral Blijniy in der Offline-Karten-App MAPS.ME (eine sehr empfehlenswerte App!)
- The city of Sokuluk on Wikipedia
- Short info about the Victory Monument in Bishkek including location details on gpsmycity.com
- Detailed information about the Victory Monument including location details and many pictures on traveladventures.org
- Swiss National Science Foundation SNSF