Issyk Kol is a lake in the eastern part of Kirgizistan about 200 km from Bisjkek, a pleasant bus ride. We made a couple of stops both to see things and also for food and bathroom.
The first was at an old tower called Burana. It is actually the only that is left from the city of Balasagun. Some sources say that it was a Sogdian city. The Sogdians facinate me so there will probably be a chapter about them. By the 15th century the city was gone, only the tower, minaret remained. Eartquakes through the centuries have reduced the heigh to 25 meters. It was probably twice that. It was restored after have been used as a quarry!
The tower was impressive and had an internal stairway to the top. I found the small statues that were scattered on the area more facinating. It was only male figures as far as I saw. The style varied a bit but I noticed a couple of details. A lot of the men had a moustache and many had a knife in one hand and a cup or tray in the other. The guide could not explain why, so I had to find out on my own. The historians don’t agree, but it seems that most of them believe that the knife means the person died as a soldier and the cup symbolises that they died defending family and community. They were probably made in the period 600-900 AD. The balbals were widespread in Central Asia and even if the majority were with a male, it was not unusual with female pictures. I spent time with these balbals as they were a new experience for me and I wanted to find out more.