Before travelling to Central Asia the image I had of any place that ended in a ‘stan was one of desert landscapes, army tanks, soldiers and protesters. Regardless of whether the country in question was Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan. But to be perfectly honest I’d only heard of a few of these countries in pass a couple of times in passing.
Travelling through Central Asia has proved to me once again that I should never trust the assumptions I have of places I’ve never been to before and discovering these countries has not only been an eye-opener, but a joy.
These are a few things I never knew about this part of the world.
• They have mountains. Big ones. And they’re beautiful and harsh.
• There is Edelweiss in Kyrgyzstan. And this is also the birth place of tulips, not Holland.
• It snows in the Pamirs in summer.
• It is possible to eat meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
• It is possible to drink vodka for breakfast, lunch and dinner (but not advisable).
• Drinking tea is fun, no matter what time of day.
• But one thing, above all, the people of Central Asia is possibly the friendliest people in the world. This has been the one continuing thread throughout the area. From Kyrgyzstan, through Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan we have been welcomed with open arms, drinks, food and huge smiles, no matter how poor our hosts or how much of a surprise our arrival was.
If the spectacular scenery, tasty food, smooth vodka and beautiful but challenging cycling are not enough reason to visit this part of the world, come for the people.
— Catharina Robbertze