Discovery Kyrgyzstan
 
Discovery Kyrgyzstan travel guide #10/2008
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THE ROYAL WOODS

Arslan Bob is said to be named after an 11th century hero who met his death nearby, betrayed by his wife to his enemies. His footprints, handprints and bloodstains are said to be still visible at the spot. In the Djalal-Abad region of Southern Kyrgyzstan lie the walnut groves of Arslan Bob.

The story goes that a modest, earnest and hardworking man was charged by the prophet Muhammed with finding a beautiful and comfortable place - a paradise on earth. He traveled through many lands until he found a picturesque valley with a foaming mountain river but which lacked trees. Inspired by his reports, the prophet sent him a bag of seeds of many different types of fruit tree - including, of course, the walnut tree. The hero climbed to the top of a mountain and spread the seeds over the valley transforming it into a "garden" which he tended for many years.

In Russian, walnuts are known as "Gretski" or "Greek" nuts, because Alexander the Great sent plants back to Greece from his campaign in Central Asia. It is not clear how the trees arrived here. They originated in Malaysia. Nuts from the area were exported along the Silk Road in its heyday.

 

 

Here the trees, with their dome-shaped crowns atop two meter thick trunks, can reach a height of 30 meters and are found growing wild on mountain slopes and along river banks at an altitude of between 1000 and 1800 meters above sea level. Arslan Bob itself lies at 1700 m. The whole region resembles an orchard with many different varieties of fruits to be found.

The village itself is traditional and mainly Uzbek (conservative dress is recommended). It is a good base for some fine walking and climbing in the surrounding Babash-Ata mountains during the peak season (June-September). Day treks are possible to spectacular waterfalls with caves which used to be used by the devout for prayers, or to the Ketmen-Kol lake and nearby valleys. The 15th century Arstanbap-Aty mausoleum is also worth a visit. Serious climbers can tackle the 4427m Babash-Ata peak.

Discovery Kyrgyzstan #3

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