We had heard that there’s nothing too special to see in Gilgit, the capital of Gilgit-Baltistan. As we had anyway seen enough of mountains, glaciers, suspension bridges, sacred stones and fortresses in the past few weeks, we were not even researching what we could see there (sure there must be some interesting things here as well). Instead, we simply enjoyed relaxing at our guesthouse and meeting the local people.
Hunt for a postcard
Our (Johanna’s) main mission for Gilgit was to find one certain post card. It has been a long tradition of hers to send her mom postcards with a picture of three women. Postcards are a disappearing resource in this digital world so finding one nowadays is surprisingly hard – especially one with three women on it! On one evening in Karimabad, Johanna saw our friend “Shit Pee“ writing the perfect post card with a beautiful picture of three girls. It turned out that he had bought it from a bookstore at a Madina Market in Gilgit. So now that we were in Gilgit, we HAD to find the bookstore!
Madina Market is a small yard consisting of a few bookstores. It’s located next to the bigger NLI Market. We found the NLI Market easily but finding Madina Market wasn’t easy. We asked around and searched for it at least for an hour. During that time, we made some friends already. We were invited to drink some tea at the back of a clothes store and got an invitation to visit the home of one nice policeman, too. The policeman’s offer we turned down, though, as he lived rather far away.
So finally, we found the Madina Market and went through all the bookstores there. But none of them sold postcards. Later our guesthouse’s owner knew to tell us, that the particular bookstore, selling post cards, had been closed because it was Sunday.
So, the next morning we walked the few kilometers to Madina Market, again. This time the right bookstore was open. We went through all their postcards and finally, when we had almost given up searching, there it was! A black postcard with three women from Kalash Valley. Dear Johanna’s mom: We hope you really appreciate the card when it arrives!
Our new best friend
On our way back from our first day’s postcard hunt, a man stopped us on the street and invited us for chai. He didn’t live far away so we agreed to go with him. Jamil lived in a house with a nice garden with his wife and three daughters. While Seri enjoyed his sweet milk tea and cakes in the garden, Johanna was invited in to hang out with the women. It turned out that Jamil was planning to travel to Islamabad and further to Lahore on the same day as us, so we made a plan to travel together. We agreed to go together to the bus station to get the tickets the next morning.
After the tea, Jamil brought us back to our guesthouse and wanted to show us some sights on the way. We visited two parks and had a look at Gilgit’s airport, where a crashed airplane is parked. Quickly he took a bit “fatherly“ role over us, taking us by the hands while crossing the street, for example.
The next morning, we met him as agreed. He had postponed his travel date because some tensions had arisen in Islamabad and asked us to do the same. We didn’t want to stay longer in Gilgit, so we disagreed, but he still came with us to the bus station. While drinking chai together at the bus station, Jamil told us that he will never forget us. That we are his best friends and that he loves us. Feels a bit unusual for us Europeans, but yes, why not, we will never forget about him either!
After we got our bus tickets sorted out, Jamil announced that he will come to visit us at five and stay for two hours. And so, he did – with a giant bag of bananas as a present for us. We ordered some chai from our guesthouse’s restaurant and drank it together on our porch. Jamil offered to throw us a huge wedding party in Pakistan, as we told him that we never had one. Maybe next time, we agreed.
As the evening got cold, he politely asked us, if we would allow him to leave home already a little bit before than planned. It seems that paying one a visit is a thing you do out of respect. When he left, he gave his traditional Gilgit hat to us as a present. We thought we can’t take the man’s hat, but he insisted saying that he has many more at home. Unfortunately, we didn’t have anything except for our time to give our new friend in return.
The Madina 2 Hotel
Some other travelers had recommended us to stay in the Madina 2 Hotel while in Gilgit. When we arrived, we realized why. The prices were very affordable, but the rooms were comfortable. The hostel also had a nice garden where we could enjoy our breakfasts in the sun. Therefore, even though Gilgit itself was a relatively stressful city, our stay there still felt relaxing.
After three nights we left Gilgit. Our initial plan was to travel to Islamabad, but during these three days the situation there had changed. There were manifestations against the government and because of that many roads, as well as schools and offices, had been shut down. No-one knows how the situation is going to develop and we didn’t want to go there to find out. Therefore, we decided that we will continue our way from Islamabad directly all the way to Lahore. This meant we had over 22 hours in a bus ahead of us.