In my most recent News for Penises posting, I reported on an unfortunate horse penis joke made by a Scot working in the gold mining industry of Kyrgyzstan (a country with an ancient and still vital horse culture), and that recalled for me a high school fascination with the central Asian republics of the USSR: at one point, we were required to memorize the list of the 15 Soviet republics (presumably, this was part of a Know Your Enemy move), and I was especially taken with those in central Asia and the Caucasus as impressively remote and exotic places, with (in addition) truly breath-taking mountain scenery. The central Asian republics also came with the romance of the Silk Road to China. And then Kyrgyzstan stood out because of its challenging name.
None of this was relevant to the tale of the horse penis guy, but still I was moved to dig up information about Kyrgyzstan and its immediate neighbors and about the path from Kyrgyzstan back to familiar places in Europe and on to various parts of China. Eventually I’ll have things to say about Turkic languages, so it won’t be all travelogue.