Farm to Table: Kyrgyz Style

The Karakol Animal Market deserves its own post, because it was just that cool.

I mean, this is probably my favorite photo of all times. Doesn’t this sheep cuddle make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside and make you want to nuzzle someone or some thing!?

And how awesome is this photo-bombing Kyrgyz man?!

Only 15-20 minutes outside the town of Karakol, this craziness takes place once a week, every week.

What is it? A market where people bring their animals to sell, or come to buy them. Everything from fat-tailed sheep, to goats, to cows, to horses.

And it is madness. People and animals EVERYWHERE. Oh, and with animals comes animal poo. Be thankful you weren’t our shoes this day. Be very thankful. And remember to roll up your pants should you ever find yourself at the Karakol Sunday Animal Market.

I found the horse section particularly frightening given the instruction we received never to walk behind a horse, and the fact that this is physically impossible when the horses are packed into a field facing every which way. And they did not always look so happy to have people prodding them, checking out their teeth and feet.

And because Kyrgyzstan is the vertically unchallenged beauty that she is, the whole scene is backed by this stunning snow-capped mountain view.

The parking lot alone was fascinating, as you get to see things like men napping with their calf tied to the car…

and people dragging their sheep by its front legs…

or people carrying piles of sheep…

If you’re wondering about the going rates for these animals, we were able to figure out that fat-tailed sheep go for about $100 to $150 a pop. The bigger the butt, the better. Or, as Aiperi put it, we appreciate these animals from behind. Here I am “appreciating” a sheep ass. Badunk…A-Dunk.

It’s not just animals here, but anything you could want for said animals, from grains to feed them, rocks for them to lick (I guess they like the salt?!), ropes to tie them up with and veggies to serve with them. Sorry vegetarians!

And since this is a Kyrgyz animal market, you can also get your vodka and cigarettes (at 7:30 am, and presumably for a while before we arrived). No former Soviet nation animal market is complete without a vodka and ciggie bar!

Almost as fun as the animals, was the people watching. We couldn’t get enough of the old men in the traditional Kyrygz hats. And their epic facial hair. While men were much more heavily represented, we did find some women in traditional garb checking out the goods.

This was undoubtedly one of the coolest experiences we had in Central Asia. Talk about a unique (and not super touristy) spectacle. We were lucky enough to witness not one, but two back to back Central Asian animal markets as we were in Kashgar, China the following Sunday. Stay tuned for that post, coming soon!

Practical Info

The animal market is held every Sunday. Timing is about your only decision here. I think the action starts in the wee hours of the morning. We left the Green Yard Hotel at 7 am and arrived at the market before 7:30 am. I think this timing was ideal, as it was late enough to be light out and not so cold, but early enough that we beat the tour bus which arrived as we departed. Allow 1-2 hours for your visit.

There were vendors selling liquor plus fresh fried dough, some grilled meats and roasted fava beans. We bought a satchel of the latter, and they were salty and yummy.

May 11, 2014 (Sunday)

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