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Christian Stehling: Local friend in Kyrgyzstan is one you can rely on

Christian Stehling came from Germany, and he has never planned to move to Kyrgyzstan.

«The fate decided that I will be living in Kyrgyzstan,» he told. Christian Stehling is the Senior Advisor at GIZ program «Professional Education in Central Asia.»

Before I actually came to Central Asia around four years ago, the whole region, not just Kyrgyzstan, was a rather white spot on the map for me.

Christian Stehling

— This is changing however. Back home I encounter more and more people, who are becoming aware of Kyrgyzstan. Recently, I was queuing at the airport in Germany and I heard two travelers discussing Kyrgyzstan as their next destination, calling it «the Switzerland of Central Asia,» due to many mountains that resemble the Alps.

— What surprises you in Bishkek?

— I was (and I am) positively surprised how vivid and dynamic Bishkek is. There is almost always life in the streets, and new cafes, bars, shops etc. are opening up all the time. From home, I also do not know the concept of having an amusement park with carousels right in the city center, which is pretty cool.

— What reminds you of your hometown in Bishkek?

— Not much, actually. I am from Frankfurt (Main) and I am afraid both cities are very different. The only thing in common might be the relatively huge amounts of foreigners working in both cities.

— What do you miss here?

— Nothing, really. Seriously, everything that I personally need is basically here.

— What is your favorite place in Bishkek?

— Within the center, I would say Erkindik Boulevard has a really nice set up. But I am as well very fond of the micro districts in the south of Bishkek. There is a certain spirit to the buildings and the atmosphere they are creating. Also «Arkan Tokoy» Park is a quite interesting place for having a long walk within the Bishkek.

— What do you like in the national cuisine, and what are you afraid even to try?

— I love lagman in all its variations and in summer, I cannot start my day without my daily dose of aralash. I am not a huge fan of mutton though, at least not when it has that specific mutton smell. I also hate coriander, which is way too often put over everything in the local restaurants.

Finally, I only like pure animal fat if it is grilled really crispy.

Christian Stehling

— What has fascinated and disappointed you in close acquaintance with the local population?

— I am quite fascinated how the locals are on the one hand getting along in the modern world, while on the other hand are still keeping up certain aspects of a nomad culture. For instance, I know some people, who have a house or apartment in the city, but also spent a lot of their time at their yurts in summer time. And after living in Bishkek for several years, I must say that I never had a negative encounter with a Kyrgyz whatsoever.

People here are in fact very friendly and respectful. It is however not as easy as elsewhere to make local friends. But, and this is the upside of it, if one makes a local friend, that is a very precious one you can rely on.

— What would you change in Bishkek?

— The traffic and to be more precise, the unfiltered fumes of the cars. Air pollution can be really bad in Bishkek.

Mashrutka drivers can sometimes drive not safely, their mutual and excessive honking and their driving style is pure madness.

Christian Stehling