Snow in London

By Rob Packer

This is getting ridiculous. I’ve seen the year’s first snow all over Central Asia (in Bishkek, Chong Kemin and Samarkand) but have always said that snow in London is rare. It still is compared to most places in the CIS, but on my first day in Central London for a few months after a tea afternoon with an ex-colleague and her enchanting 18-month son, it started snowing and I was treated to the rare sight of London and Tower Bridge in the snow. And I think I might even see snow in Colombia, and yes, the meteorological variety: a friend has suggested a trip to the Sierra Nevada, i.e. the Snowy Mountains.

Snow on Shad Thames

Tower Bridge

The City shrouded in cloud. Almost unrecognizable: Tower 42 (still the NatWest Tower for me) and the Gherkin.

City Hall

Tower Bridge with Snowman

HMS Belfast

Lights on HMS Belfast

The corporate life in More London

Samarkand in the Snow

By Rob Packer

I have the ability this week to show up in a place where the first snow of the year is falling. At the weekend, I was in the Chong-Kemin valley of Kyrgyzstan just after the first snow fell. Now I’m in Samarkand where Tuesday’s rain became Wednesday’s snow. It goes without saying that snow was the last kind of weather I was expecting. I’m sure the BBC’s weather website, which is the most accurate you can find for Kyrgyzstan, said that the average temperature was around 5°C or 10°C. Added to that, if you say “It’s Tashkent!” in Russian in Central Asia, it means it’s really hot. Neither of these mentions snow, so I’m glad I brought my walking boots.

The Registan with snow falling all around.

After a lot of trudging through the streets of Samarkand from the old city of Afrosiyob, which work badly in bad weather, I arrived at the Hazrut-Hizr Mosque, which has a wooden portico nothing like anything I’ve ever seen in a mosque before: a wooden, ribbed ceiling. Read more of this post

Snow and Jam

By Rob Packer

What do you do in Bishkek when the first snow falls in a mountain valley? You head there to play in it. This wasn’t the plan that we had when we headed to the Chong-Kemin valley for a Kyrgyz getaway this weekend, but it turned into one of the things that made it so great. If you get the snow just as it falls, you get to experience it powdery and crisp before it gets churned up by people, cars and animals to become a brown, icy mess.

Getting out of Bishkek always seems like a trial as it runs to a developing world schedule (things leave when they’re full), which has the potential of being a nightmare when you want to get out early enough to make the most of the Saturday because you’re leaving for Uzbekistan on Sunday night. This weekend’s trip out was surprisingly simple and involved a quick marshrutka to Kemin followed by a taxi ride in the only kind of car I trust in snow: a 20 or 30 year old Soviet one. As if to prove the point, the 20-minute ride to Chong-Kemin only involved one unscheduled stop to readjust the cardboard box supporting the bonnet.

Watering his horse in the snow.

A semi-frozen river.

A fantastic old photo of the owner’s grandparents.


We arrived at Ashu Guesthouse in Ashu village early enough for lunch Read more of this post

My first snow in Bishkek

By Rob Packer

My predictions came true. When I was first moving to Bishkek in October, I did what most people do and checked the weather forecast. Sunny and 30°C at the end of September was not what I expected to see. I’d been told it would be cold and had to work it out for myself that at some point in the near future, the temperature would drop off a cliff.  There were a couple of cold snaps in October and an item on the forecast each time that Bishkek would see its first snow in the “next few days”. Each time, I’d look out the window in the morning and there’d be no snow. So when the temperature climbed over 20°C last week and the whispers started that snow was on the way, it sounded like those whisperers were crying wolf. They weren’t and the weekend’s days of rain changed overnight. This is the view that greeted me out of the window this morning:

Bishek Snow 1

The view out the back window

Bishkek Snow 2

And of the building site at the front

I think the last time I saw proper snow was in 2003 when I lived in Berlin, rather than the melted-by-lunchtime variety that I’m most used to from growing up in the UK (I know there were snowstorms in 2008 and 2009, but in Hong Kong we were breathing easy that it wasn’t the typhoon season). Predictions for the rest of the week are that I’ll be slipping on the ice as it starts to form and getting an earful for not having warm enough clothes.

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