We stayed in a beach resort on the north shore of Issyk Kol close to the city Cholpon Ata. It was the former holiday resort for The Red Pioneers during the Soviet period (we were told). It was more than a hundred separate houses, some lumber cabins, some more modern, some two storeys linked row houses. All was spread over a large area with short distance to the beach and with trees and grass, quite idyllic. And no cars.
The Jeti-Öguz Rocks are two spectacular rock formations in a valley on the south side of Issyk Kol. They each have a legend explaining them and both are about cruel Khans A Khan once saw this beautiful girl and wanted her in his harem. He sent soldiers out to get her. She was engaged to another and loved him dearly. The soldiers killed her fiance and took the girl. Her heart burst and the Broken Heart Rock came out of the ground and it even has red clay in the middle as blood.
A Khan had stolen a wife from another Khan who wanted her back. The bad Khan knew his adversary had the right to get her back. An advisor said that he had to give the wife back, but in what condition was the Khan’s choice. So at a marriage ceremony after they had slaughtered seven bulls for food, he stabbed the wife. Her blood mixed with the bulls’ blood and the Seven Bull Rock formation was a reality.
But actually three boys on two horses made just as big an impression on me. They came without saddles in a fast trot up a steep hill, and two of them rode on the same horse. It was obvious they had done this before Please note the landscape on the picture to the right
Karakol – two places for worship.
Holy Trinity Church is a big wooden Russian Orthodox church. Karakol was founded in 1869 as a Russian military outpost and a church was built right away. Then a strong earthquake i 1889 laid both the town and the church in ruins: So it was rebuilt and was finished in 1895. It was said it ws built with no nails, screws etc. I find that hard to believe but I didn’t check. It was important to build the church as they held their services in a yurt in the building period. I would not be honest if I called it beautiful or even nice but it was remarkable. After the Bolshevik revolution 1917-1922 the church was used for other purposes. It was a school. a gymnasium, a sportshall, a theater, a dancing hall and even a coal storage. So in 1991 it was reconsecrated and became important to the people. We had the same experience in Almaty, after more than 70 years of atheism in an antireligious society the people both old and young flocked to the churches in both cities. I talked with the local guides about this and they had no explaination, except that it seemed that the people need the church.
The Dungan Mosque was built in 1904-07 and was one of the few that survived the Soviet period, even if it was used as a storage. It is definitely not a typical mosque, it is built of wood and no dome. The Dungans were Moslims that lived in Northeastern China and escaped from the Chinese oppression to Karakol. The woodcarving was impressive and was between the 42 wooden pilars all around the mosque. But the minaret was not of the same standard.
Naval station. The Soviet marine had a naval station in Karakol and the Russians still have a lease contract. They tried out torpedoes and guidance systems as far away from the ocean it is possible to get, and may be also from spies. The station is still a closed area, but the guides did not know if it was any activity there. They had heard that even the Indian Marine was interested in testing in Issyk Kol.