As I walked into the hallway of a four-storey block of flats in Osh, Kyrgyzstan I was instantly transported back to Nottingham – specifically to a run down estate in the St Ann’s neighbourhood where I had been sent as a reporter to find the owner of a dangerous dog.
“Errrrm, is the dog still alive?” I remember asking my newsdesk at the time.
“We’re not sure,” was the reply, with an encouraging off-you-go-then-nod.
I remember walking up the concrete stairwell, trying not to breathe through my nose to avoid the stench of urine seeping in, wondering if a huge beast with a frothing jaw lay behind each door as I tentatively knocked it. I tapped a tad lighter on those with the ‘Beware of the Dog’ signs.
The memory flashed vividly as I walked into the Osh building, only this time it was minus dog threats and urine stains. But the chipped paint of the bare hallway, the rickety, tiny lift that left me running for the concrete stairwell all smacked of a British council estate.
We were staying at Osh Guesthouse, on the top floor. Three days later, in an almost identical building, we were staying at Bishkek Guesthouse, on the seventh floor. Fast forward three days and we were staying in our very own apartment in Bishkek, in yet another low rise block of flats.
But it was this apartment, that inspired me to launch a new ‘Through the Keyhole’ picture series on this blog. Because once we left the communal concrete lobby of the seemingly soulless building, we entered a new world of wonderfully kitsch, retro decor.
A world where the windows are framed with carpet lined hexagon borders, where the shower is really a ‘mini swimming pool’ with steps going down into it, and the ceilings are wooden panelled.
And that is what makes blocks of flats so intriguing to me (as previously mentioned here). They are like big boxes of drawers – each one holding its own stories, secrets and style when opened.
And that’s what Through the Keyhole is going to be all about… Just as Lloyd Grossman did all those years ago, I hope to show you little nuggets of life behind doors across the world.
If you a backpacker or travelling and want to rent an apartment in Bishkek for a short-stay then contact Zaqir at Bishkek Guesthouse at firstname.lastname@example.org or call +996552152207.
This apartment, as pictured, is very centrally located at 41 Manas Street, Bishkek. It has a double bedroom, a very large lounge with another double bed in it, a bathroom, kitchen and ‘smoking room’ (!). It cost 1,900 Kyrgz Com per night between us – about £25.