Skip to main content


New Website, New Blog, but the Old Blog Archive remains: September 28, 2023

After many years of wanting a real website, this month I finally have a website designed by the very knowledgeable Rey Rey Rodriguez ( TheMindOfReyRey ). My old blog,  Vacation-Travel-Adventure  continues with the same address but it is located in the "Archives" tab on my new website . The new blog which is a continuation but with much better resolution for 4K screens, it is now at .

Bride Kidnapping and other Stories in the Mountains of Kyrgyzstan: September 26-28, 2014

With our guide, Artiom, Dan and I left Bishkek to explore the mountains near the south shore of Issyk Kul. We stayed two nights with Jamagul (Friday Flower) and Myram (Celebration). They offer their home to Artiom's guests and hikers that happen by.

Jamagul and Myram are seasonal shepherds. Each spring, they bring the cows from their village up to the mountains. The process is reversed in late September.

The first morning, Dan and I got up about 7 a.m. and were able to watch the rounding up and milking of the cows. Each of these cows now has a calf. The calves are kept in a shed at night, but the cows are allowed to find a comfortable spot in the forest. Before beginning the milking, a calf is placed with its mother to briefly suckle and stimulate the flow of milk. The calf is quickly pulled off the udder and Myram milks the cow. Once the pail is full, the calf can return to its mother's udders. Then they repeat the process of matching a calf to its mother and milking the cow.

While at their mountain home, Myram milks the cows and uses the milk to make dairy products like kajmak (an almost solid cream the consistency of cream cheese). Myram said she prefers living in the mountains and loves her life of milking cows and making dairy products for sale. She said that in the winter, the cows do not give much milk.

One evening at dinner in Myram's tiny kitchen, she told us about how she came to marry Jamagul. She was 19 years old and attending the University in Karakol; Jamagul (whom she only knew by sight) came up to her and explained that her mother wanted him to bring Myram home. Myram thought that sounded strange, but she went with Jamagul and his friends.

Jamagul drove Myram to his parents' house instead. When Myram walked inside, Jamagul's women relatives pounced on Myram and tried to tie a white scarf on her head. With the scarf on her head, Myram began to cry that she wanted to leave. She tried to leave, but Jamagul's grandmother laid down in front of the doorway and said Myram would have to climb over her body to leave. With that, Myram gave up and became Jamagul's wife. After 4 children and over 34 years together, Myram said she's glad Jamagul kidnapped her; she said she has been very happy. 

Jamagul said that it was love at first sight for him. He was 23 and he knew of Myram because they lived in the same village. He thought she was pretty and decided to kidnap her because he was too shy to simply ask her. 

Since not all of these kidnapped bride relationships work as well as that of Myram and Jamagul, several years ago the government made it illegal to kidnap brides in Kyrgyzstan. Unfortunately, this crime still exists and the kidnapper is rarely prosecuted.

Huge "royal" weddings have become the object of many young people's desires. The arrangements seem almost competitive because each wedding must be bigger and fancier than the one before it. As many as 1,000 guests might be invited which means that many animals must be slaughtered for the feast. Limos are rented and photographers/videographers hired. The bride and groom will wear western wedding clothing during the day of photos, but by the last party, they will be dressed in a Krgyz style like royalty. Who wouldn't want to look like a princess or prince? 

Most marriages are arranged by the parents. The wedding cost is split between the groom's family and the bride's family, but most Kyrgyz are not wealthy. Myram said that her first three children did not have huge weddings and it has been since about 2000 that expensive weddings have become popular. Her 16-year old son has already been telling his parents what he wants for his wedding. In order to "save face" families do keep the wedding competition going. They will sell all their livestock, possessions, borrow money just to "save face." Funerals and birthdays also require extensive feasts and many guests.

We also discussed the pension system in Kyrgyzstan. Myram said that if she had had 5 children, she would have been able to retire at age 50. Since she had only 4 children, she must wait until she is 58 to begin getting her pension. Pensions (presumably for village women and/or unemployed) are also tied to the amount of children they produce. Having 5 or 10 children, gains a progressively larger monthly pension. No children and you're pension is worth less than $20 USD a month.

Because they had a small store on this site when the Soviet Union collapsed, the Kyrgyzstan government gave them the land that the house is on. The surrounding land is leased from the government for grazing.

Jamagul and Myram's house in the mountains does not have running water so they fetch water from a spring next to the river across from the house and the toilet is a squat outhouse, but they are surrounded by the natural beauty of the mountains that rise up around them.

Our bedroom had 3 twin-sized platforms with foam mattresses. Several blankets filled with sheep's wool were piled on top of the foam mattress. I piled more blankets on top and slipped into the middle of the pile. Unlike the Princess and the Pea, I had a very comfortable, warm night floating on top of those mattresses.

The guesthouse, in Barskoon Canyon, is at about 2700 meters which is just below the tree line of 2900. The first morning, we drove beyond the pass of 3819 meters/12529 feet to almost 4000 meters/13123 feet  and did some very short hikes to see the scenery. Unfortunately, after spending several hours at that elevation, I began feeling the symptoms of high-altitude sickness (headache, nausea, extreme fatigue). We drove back to the guesthouse where I fell into a deep sleep for several hours.

Our last morning at the guesthouse, we again got up at 7:00 am, but the cows had already been milked and breakfast was made. They were beginning to pack up their personal possessions to make the move down to the village before winter weather came. Just a few days before we arrived, Jamagul was picking currants and slipped on the rocks. Unfortunately, he fractured his left forearm which meant that he was not able help much in preparation of the move. They are planning to pack up and move the herd down to the village the day after we leave. Jamagul will drive the car, packed with their possessions, down to the village. Myram and another woman will drive the 30 cows and calves down the road to the village. She said it will take about 6 hours. The road is quite good because of the gold mine that operates on a mountain top, but that also means that she and the cows will be competing for road space with huge trucks hauling supplies and fuel up and rocks and dirt down the mountain.