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Around Naryn

The Naryn River passing through the regional capital leads east past the airport to Salkyn-Tor, an attractive canyon that is popular as a picnic spot for Naryn's citizens, and that has a yurt camp for visitors. The area is partially protected as being part of the Salkyn-Tor State Park, which covers a considerable area along the Naryn River immediately to the east of Naryn. The road continues east to reach the quiet village of Tash-Bashat. East of here, further along the Naryn River and close to the border with Issyk-Kul Oblast, lies the Naryn State Reserve, one of Kyrgyzstan's six state reserves, which was established in 1983 to preserve coniferous forest and alpine meadows.

There are lots of good options for trekking and camping in this beautiful and largely unspoilt area. About 14 kilometres east of the town past the airport is Salkyn Tor, a pretty canyon with plenty of picturesque camping and picnic spots. A former pioneer camp now operates as a guesthouse during the summer months.

Eki NarynA further 30 kilometres north-east of Salkyn Tor is the village of Eki Naryn ('Second Naryn') in a very lovely pine- covered valley with the Kichi ('little') Naryn river running through it. It has a     wildlife park and plenty of good camping spots. From Eki Naryn you can head west back to Sary Bulak and the main Bishkek road, but you'll need a four-wheel drive. Another very rough road follows the Eki Naryn river for about 130 kilometres to Kaji Say or Bokonbaeva on Lake Issyk Kul.

A weird and somewhat macabre sight about ten kilometres north of Eki Naryn in the Terskey Alatau mountains is the three hectares of fir forest in the form of a swastika. Tash-Bashat (formerly Kalinin) is famous for that one thing only: close to the village on a hillside in the Naryn-Too range is an area of this forest. The forest can be best seen from the roadside just north of the river-crossing, on the road that leads past the village's small mosque.

Legend has it that in the final days of World War II, German prisoners-of-war were brought to the area to work in forestry. One of them, a forestry engineer, was put in charge of planting squads and managed to have the forest planted in the shape of a swastika without the Red Army guards noticing. The engineer and his fellow POWs eventually all died in captivity, but as a sort of posthumous revenge, the swastika forest became visible years later, when the fir trees had grown up. For reasons unknown, the Soviet authorities never had the forest slashed down or burnt.

But competing theories have popped up in recent years. One states that it was planted before WWII when Stalin and Nazi Germany were on good terms and the forest was his way of promoting solidarity. According to another theory, Kyrgyz workers planted the forest at the behest of a sympathetic German agronomist. Everyone in Tash-Bashat seems to have his own theory. The swastika can be seen from the river crossing, in the hills to the southeast of town; but unless you are obsessed with hunting out bizarre quirks of history, this is a long way to come for very little.

Activities - A range of trips around Naryn could be organised, including yurtstays in the Ardaktuu Valley and Tyor Jailoo in the Eki-Naryn Valley. Given a couple of days warning, multi-day horse treks can be arranged. Most horse trips start from Kurtka (Jangy Talap) or Eki -Naryn. Ask about visits to the Tian Shan deer nursery at Irii-Suu (great for kids) and day trips up the Ak-Tam Valley to see petroglyphs.