In October, Kyrgyz guides Maksat Aitkulov and Adilet Muratov came for a study tour in Europe. After a long preparation with lots of paperwork, the boys finally managed to secure a Schengen visa. This did require travelling first to Lithuania and then on to the Netherlands.
Immediately upon arrival, Peter Hofman took them on a road trip through Europe. In the Ryce Travel camper van, we visited partners in Austria, Italy and Switzerland. In Vorarlberg, we explored the ski villages of Lech, St. Anton and Stuben. In Zillertal, we went to Kaltenbach, Mayrhofen, Gerlos and Königsleiten.
It was a world of difference for Maksat and Adilet to see how commercial the ski resorts in Austria are. State-of-the-art gondolas, snow cannons and luxury accommodations made of wood. They don’t usually see anything like that in Kyrgyzstan.
After an overnight stay in Zell am See, the trip continued to Saalbach Hinterglemm, Kitzbuhel and Kirchberg. In Kitzbuhel, we visited our partner Winklet Sporthütte. They have sponsored us with surplus ski equipment for years. In Itter, we met Leo Fuchs. He is the owner of Fuchs Skiverleih, but Leo also sits on the board of the Wilder Kaiser Brixental ski area. In this capacity, he had a drag elevator for sale. Includes toboggan tires and other infrastructure. This one was offered to us for sale, and next month, the equipment will arrive in Kyrgyzstan. After the Austrian Alps, we drove on to South Tyrol. The drive through the Dolomites was fantastic, and of course, a visit to Venice was not to be missed. After several hours of strolling through the narrow streets, the boys were tired from all the impressions. A short rest at Lake Garda, then continuing with the tour.
Via Lake Como and Lake Lugano, we drove to Switzerland. Here we had a tour of the ski area of Crans Montana. Together with former participants of the Kyrgyzstan trip, we enjoyed an elaborate cheese fondue. Just experiencing an all-season destination like Crans Montana impressed Maksat and Adilet greatly. There are many opportunities in their home countries, but they are not always taken advantage of. Of course, it remains tricky because visitor numbers cannot be compared.
More than 200 million people probably live within a 1,000-kilometer radius of Switzerland. No more than 10 million people live within a 1,000-kilometer radius of Karakol. In which the border with China is inaccessible. Moreover, residents have a lot less to spend. Still, it is good to look at the options available in Switzerland. Why should the Kyrgyz reinvent the wheel? They can learn from the good (and bad) things of the Alps.
The return trip to the Netherlands was via Stuttgart in southern Germany. They have the bright idea of buying a Pistenbully. This will allow local boys to set up a cat ski business in Kyrgyzstan. A local investor has already expressed interest in bringing such a Pistenbully to Kyrgyzstan. They asked us to look into the possibilities in Europe.
In an area with more than 60 Pistenbullys, we feasted our eyes. You can read more about the Pistenbully project in this post. With a stop at the Kyrgyz community in Cologne, we drive back to the Netherlands. Again, there was still quite a program ahead of us.
We agreed to meet with many partners and friends. Of course, a visit to Amsterdam, Leeuwarden, Hoogeveen, Rotterdam, Utrecht and the Afsluitdijk was not to be missed. We saw polders, greenhouses, windmills and dikes. We ate cheese, stroopwafels and kale. In short, we experienced many highlights of the Netherlands.