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Kyrgyzstan: Przewalski monument

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Przewalski monument | Kyrgyzstan | Asia

[Visited: July 2010]

On my day in Karakol, one of the things I wanted to do as a traveller, was to visit the museum of Przewalski. It seemed easy enough: the well-organized information office had even given me the price for the taxi - time restraints forced me to use one. But of course, things were not that easy - after all, I was dealing with Kyrgyz taxi drivers. They did not even blink an eye while asking more than double the price, and when I offered to pay the regular price, they ignored me. I had wanted to visit the museum late in the afternoon, for better light conditions, but as driver after driver were just asking way too much money, the thought came to my mind that I might end up not seeing anything if something did not change. Either I had to budge and pay too much, or I would have to be lucky enough to find someone more honest. But help came in another guise. A girl crossed the street, asked me in English if I needed help, and I explained what was going on. She decided this was her responsibility, arranged an Lada that was virtually falling apart from sheer age and perhaps lack of maintenance for the right price, but with one catch: she thought it was better to pay beforehand and insisted I did so. That was a mistake of course. As soon as we had left her behind, the driver went straight to a gas station, while I found it hard to believe that he really did not have enough fuel to drive the few kilometres to the museum. Then, he tried picking up other passengers, and when I made clear that this was unacceptable, drove very slowly. We arrived a mere twenty minutes before the museum closed.

Picture of Przewalski monument (Kyrgyzstan): Main hall of the Przewalski museum with globe and map

The Przewalski museum, memorial, and grave are all located in a park full of trees. I walked the long lane with tall trees on all sides, until I reached the turnoff to the modest museum on the right hand side. A classical building, with the head of Przewalski centrally sticked to the frontal wall, turned out to be bigger once inside. In the central hall, a huge globe, with a map of the region spanning one entire wall, were a direct confrontation with what Przewalski was: a traveller. Born in 1839, he started dreaming about travel as a child, and managed to make his dreams come true. A Russian army officer, he turned out to be one of the tsar's foremost explorers after four major expeditions in Mongolia, Tibet, Xinjiang and China between 1870 and 1885. It was on one of those expeditions that he discovered the famed little horse bearing his seemingly unpronouncable name.

Picture of Przewalski monument (Kyrgyzstan): Eagle guarding the Przewalski monument

All his expeditions are well marked on that large map on the wall, and I realized that he had been exploring areas I was still about to enter later during my own trip. Reading the few English (well, English...) translations coming with some of the exhibits in the museum, and seeing the equipment his expeditions used, I once again realized how travel has changed in a matter of just over a century in every possible way. How different, I wondered, did the area around this monument look back then, to begin with? After the museum with its displays of old books, diaries, animals, used equipment, and so on, I was thrown out of the place but fortunately allowed to walk freely in the park. I decided to head straight to his grave. At the far end of the tree-lined lane, and the end of the plateau on which the park is established, a friendly looking monument has been erected on a small square. His head, again, sculpted on the frontside of the oblisk-like monument, a big eagle on top with its head looking down at him, as if in amazement. On the far side of the small square, a tomb. The resting place of Nikolai Przewalski.

Picture of Przewalski monument (Kyrgyzstan): The Przewalski museum is housed in this classical white building
Picture of Przewalski monument (Kyrgyzstan): Przewalski monument and tomb in the background
Picture of Przewalski monument (Kyrgyzstan): Tomb of Przewalski in park
Picture of Przewalski monument (Kyrgyzstan): Exploratory travels of Przewalski
Picture of Przewalski monument (Kyrgyzstan): Przewalski horse explained in the museum
Picture of Przewalski monument (Kyrgyzstan): Background information on Przewalski in the museum
Picture of Przewalski monument (Kyrgyzstan): Detail of the museum of Przewalski
Picture of Przewalski monument (Kyrgyzstan): Arch over statue in the park of Przewalski
Picture of Przewalski monument (Kyrgyzstan): Part of the Przewalski monument

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