Kyrgyzstan - Asia
Bishkek is the capital and the largest city of Kyrgyzstan.
Somewhat confusingly, Bishkek is also the administrative centre of Chuy Province which surrounds the city, even though the city itself is not part of the province but rather a province-level unit of Kyrgyzstan.
Founded in 1878 as the Russian fortress of Pishpek, between 1926 and 1991 it was known as Frunze, after the Bolshevik military leader Mikhail Frunze.
The name is thought to derive from a Kyrgyz word for a churn used to make fermented mare's milk (kumis), the Kyrgyz national drink.
Bishkek, is situated at about 800 m altitude just off the northern fringe of the Ala-Too range, an extension of the Tien Shan mountain range, which rises up to 4,800 m and provides a spectacular backdrop to the city.
North of the city, a fertile and gently undulating steppe extends far north into neighbouring Kazakhstan.
The Chui river drains most of the area. Bishkek is connected to the Turkestan-Siberia Railway by a spur.
Bishkek is a city of wide boulevards and marble-faced public buildings combined with numerous Soviet-style apartment blocks surrounding interior courtyards and, especially outside the city centre, thousands of smaller privately built houses.
It is laid out on a grid pattern, with most streets flanked on both sides by narrow irrigation channels that water the innumerable trees which provide shade in the hot summers.
History Originally a caravan rest stop (possibly founded by the Sogdians) on one of the branches of the Silk Road through the Tien Shan range, the location was fortified in 1825 by the Uzbek khan of Kokhand with a mud fort.
In 1862, the fort was conquered and razed when Tsarist Russia annexed the area.
The site became a Russian garrison and was redeveloped and named Pishpek from 1877 onward by the Russian government, which encouraged the settlement of Russian peasants by giving them fertile black soil farms to develop.
In 1926, the city became the capital of the newly established Kirghiz ASSR and was renamed Frunze after Mikhail Frunze, Lenin's close associate who was born in Bishkek and played key roles during 1905 and 1917 revolutions and during the Russian civil war of the early 1920s.
Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Kyrgyzstan achieved independence in 1991, and the city was renamed Bishkek.
Today, it is a vibrant, rapidly modernizing city, with many restaurants and cafes and lots of second-hand European and Japanese cars and minibuses crowding its streets.
At the same time Bishkek still preserves the charm of a Soviet Central Asian city, with Soviet-period buildings and gardens lovingly maintained, instead of being torn down and replaced by newer structures.
Bishkek is also the country's financial centre, with all of the country's 21 commercial banks featuring offices in the city.
During the Soviet era the city was home to a large number of industrial plants, but most have been shut down or operate today on a much reduced scale.
One of today's Bishkek's largest employment centres is Dordoy Bazaar, which is one the major entry point for Chinese goods imported into CIS countries.
In 2002, the United States obtained the right to use the nearby Manas International Airport as an air base for its military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, naming its base Ganci Air Base.
Shortly after the Air Force had used this name (to honour New York City Fire Department Chief Peter J. Ganci, Jr. who died in the World Trade Center terrorist attack on 11 September 2001) it was found that an AFI (Air Force Instruction) dictated that foreign air bases could not bear the name of any heroes from the US.
Since then the air base has been officially called Manas Air Base (after a legendary Kyrgyz hero), yet local people and the media still tend to use the name Ganci.
Russia subsequently (2003) established an air base of its own (Kant Air Base) near Kant some 20 km east of Bishkek.
It is based at a facility that used to be home to a major Soviet military pilot training school; one of its students, Hosni Mubarak, later became president of Egypt.
There is public transportation available, including buses, trolley buses, and public vans (known as marshrutkas).
Unlike Russian cities, where smaller Gazel minivans and larger PAZ buses are used as marshrutkas, Bishkek's marshrutkas are Mercedes.
Taxi cabs can be found at every intersection.
They are fairly inexpensive, the standard rate of 70 soms from any part of the city to any part (approx. USD1.70).
There is no subway in Bishkek. Streetcars (trams) which are so ubiquitous in post-Soviet cities are not available either.
However, the city is considering designing and building a light rail system.
Commuter and long-distance buses
There are two main bus stations in Bishkek.
The smaller old Eastern Bus Station is primarily the terminal for minibuses to various destinations within or just beyond the eastern suburbs, such as Kant, Tokmok, Kemin, Issyk Ata, or the Korday border crossing.
Long-distance regular bus and minibus services to all parts of the country, as well as to Almaty (the largest city in neighbouring Kazakhstan) and Kashgar, China, run mostly from the newer grand Western Bus Station; only a smaller minority of them runs from the Eastern Station.
The Dordoy Bazaar on the north-eastern outskirts of the city also contains makeshift terminals for frequent minibuses to suburban towns in all directions (from Sokuluk in the west to Tokmak in the east) and to some buses taking traders to Kazakhstan and Siberia.
As of 2007, the Bishkek railway station sees only a few trains a day.
It offers a popular three-day train service from Bishkek to Moscow.
There are also long-distance trains that leave for Siberia (Novosibirsk and Novokuznetsk), via Almaty, over the Turksib route, and to Yekaterinburg (Sverdlovsk) in the Urals, via Astana.
These services are excruciatingly slow, since the trains first have to go west for more than a hundred kilometres before they enter the main Turksib line and can continue to the east or north.
The city is served by Manas International Airport located approximately 25 km (16 mi) northwest of the city centre.
The Osh market, west of downtown, is a large picturesque produce market.
For a more information about Bishkek see Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This page was retrieved and condensed from (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bishkek) see Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, February 2008.
All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License (see Copyrights for details).
This information was correct in February 2008. E. & O.E.
Hui Chin and I did enjoy our stay in Kyrgyzstan and Bishkek.
Unfortunately I used a 2GB SD Card, the second on this trip and while the pictures seemed to be here, with proper icon and properties, but they can't be viewed.
I have tried many different programs, including some powerful file recovery software, without any success.
I seemed to have lost 1000's very rare and interesting pictures in Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, Urumqi and Turpan.
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