Discovery Kyrgyzstan
Discovery Kyrgyzstan travel guide #10/2008

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Karakol is at the eastern end of Lake Issyk Kul. The largest town and the administration center of the Issyk Kul province, the town was founded by Russian settlers in the 1869. The name translates as «black hand».

In Soviet times it was called Prezhevalsk after the Russian explorer who made several journeys into Central Asia and almost reached the gates of Lhasa in Tibet, but who contracted an illness - TB (Consumption) or Typhoid, there seems to be some confusion, and settled in the area over looking the lake to die. There is a museum dedicated to him on the site of the house that he had built.
Originally named Karakol then in 1886 renamed Prezhervalsk - Lenin gave it back it’s original name in 1926 only to have Stalin rename it Prezhevalsk again in 1935. Finally in 1991 it was renamed Karakol once more.
The Holy Trinity Cathedral is a fine example of a Russian Orthodox Church which served as a dance hall under the Soviets, and a school during the Second World War. Built on the site of an earlier church, óêóñåóâ in 1876, the current building was constructed between 1890-5. During the construction a yurt served as a church for local population. The building consists of wooden walls on a stone foundation, and it is highly decorative. The five onion domes, which used to adorn it, were destroyed in the Soviet period. Inside are a number of icons - including some saved from Svetly Myz, and a copy of one of Saint Troitzy by Andrei Rublev ( who lived in the 13th ñentury). It has now been returned to active service as a church and some reconstruction was begun in 1961. It is now being renovated anew.
There is also a Dungan (Chinese) mosque in the town built by a Chinese architect and 20 artisans between 1907 and 1910. It was built entirely of wood, without a single nail. The Dungans first arrived in Karakol as refugees in 1877 and created a small community. The Bolsheviks closed the mosque from 1933 until 1943, but it was then reopened and has operated as a place of worship since then. The Mosque is set into its own territory and the distinctive decoration (it is painted in bright colours - red, green and yellow - and bears reliefs depicting various types of flora and mythical animals such as dragons and the phoenix) gives it an original character. There is a veranda by the entrance to the large central space.
There is the Regional Museum with a fine collection of musical instruments and the Sunday Animal Market attracts a large number of visitors. With its large number of colonial style buildings («chocolate box cottages»); shady, poplar- lined streets; lively market; the oldest hippodrome in Central Asia. and overlooked by the Terksey («Shady») Ala-Too Mountains it can give an impression of a nineteenth century Russian Village.
However, Karakol is perhaps best known these days as a center for trekking with a large number of well established routes in the valleys nearby. Nearest to the city are Djety Orguz with the Seven Bulls rock formation and the Valley of Flowers. Many trekkers visit the Ak-Suu (Tepliye Klucheki), Altyn Arashan and Karakol valleys. Karakol is also the last city on the way to Enilchek and the mountains Khan Tengri and Peak Pobeda.
There are a number of small guesthouses and hotels in Karakol and several local companies can offer services in and around Karakol. Ask for details.

Discovery Kyrgyzstan #3

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