The town of Karakol in eastern Kyrgyzstan is an area where Russian culture still remains strong. The wooden Russian Orthodox church is the town's best known building.
Russian merchants built elaborately decorated "gingerbread houses". Many are in need of repair but some have been renovated for use as tourist guesthouses.
The ornate features on houses are typical of parts of Central Asia settled by Russians before the Soviet era. Before they arrived, the native Kyrgyz people were nomadic herdsman.
The Silk Road trading city of Chigu once stood nearby on lake Issyk Kul, but disappeared in the Middle Ages when waters rose. Teacher Kuban Imanaliev finds artefacts in the lake.
St Matthew once visited the area, legends say, and a Nestorian Christian monastery stood here in the Middle Ages. An Orthodox monastery, now an orphanage, came later.
Like all of Kyrgyzstan, Karakol fell on hard times when the Soviet Union collapsed. Many people trade in the bazaar to make ends meet, but poverty remains a serious problem.
Karakol lies in the central ranges of the Tien Shan mountains. It has huge potential for mountain sports and people hope tourism will help revive the town's former prosperity. Pictures and text: Ian Macwilliam