Thursday, July 3, 2008

More Afghanistan Musings

Taking a break at the summit 8,514 9599 feet. A review of topographical map data showed the mountain was a tad taller than earlier reports...hence the correction.

How’s this for entertainment? We go mountain climbing. Ok, lots of people go mountain climbing, but do they do it with guns and on the lookout for insurgents? Kabul is at 5,900 feet above sea-level, which is supposedly the second highest capital city in the world or darned close. The mountains that ring Kabul are an additional 2,500 – 3,500 feet higher. We typically climb with our Brit buddies, some Afghans and some of our own troops. Now if we were being forced to do this as part of training, we’d bitch the whole way. For fun? That’s different.

This is the view of Kabul below with mountains ringing the valley.

Darulaman Palace and the Queen’s Palace were built around the turn of the last century by the Germans. Originally the plan called for linking the two palaces with a bridge that would span the beautiful gardens below. Unfortunately, WWI intervened and the Germans became somewhat preoccupied on other fronts. The beautiful garden is also long gone, destroyed like the palaces in the decades of war that have ravaged this country.

Darulaman Palace (The King's Palace)

The Queen's Palace

People selling things are everywhere. Produce vendors are on almost every street and for the most part the produce looks pretty good. I had some local melon yesterday at breakfast and I eat local eggs almost every morning. The tomatoes are particularly good.

Mellon Vendor

Kabul is crowded. The city has grown six times its prewar size. Prewar population was 700,000…current population is 4.5 million. These “cliff houses” are actually the more traditional form of Afghan housing. With almost everything on the valley floor spoken for, people have built up the steep hill slopes that rise from the middle of the city.

Cliff Houses

Goats. You see them everywhere, even in the middle of busy traffic circles.

More later. I’ve got a busy day of writing and visiting other blogs tomorrow. It was nice that our Muslim “weekend” coincided with our 4th of July Holiday this year. But for us it is just a single day off. On Saturday the new Muslim work week begins.


girl with the mask said...

GREAT pictures- really, really interesting. Wow.

preTzel said...

Gorgeous pictures and your writing draws me there. (On a side note: Don't eat goat cheese or drink goat's milk. Well, you can if you want but I think it's disgusting and reeks of the male goat. Blech!~)

Be safe. Enjoy your one day off. :)

J. L. Krueger said...


And I'll try to keep more interesting pictures coming.


Too late! I have already eaten both. Even in a war-torn land there can be found things of beauty and interest.

Ello said...

Hey JL!
I just caught up with your posts and am blown away by your experiences there! This is better than any travel book I could buy and what great pictures. The one over Kabul is simply amazing!

How are you holding out over there? What are you eating everyday? Looking forward to your next post!


Charles Gramlich said...

Great pictures. I really get a feeling of otherworldliness here. How crowded the buildings are in Kabul. Amazing.

J. L. Krueger said...


I hope you are feeling better.

I'm holding up well. I have not gotten the "crud" that most guys get in the first week or so. Nor have I developed any "plumbing problems" like most of the other guys. I was sleeping on a normal schedule the very first jet-lag issues.

I eat food. ;) The Army has dining facilities maintained by KBR. They offer a variety of options, most of which are high-fat and high-carb. So it becomes important to be discriminating on selecting food. They do serve great salad fixin's and LOTS of fresh fruits and melons.

For a change of pace, there is a good Thai restaurant on Camp Eggers. We can also go across town to the NATO Headquarters where they have some European options (Greek, Italian, Spanish).

My third option is to have my driver obtain some local cuisine. The kabobs and naan are favorites. In the winter when the Taliban and other bad guys go to ground, we can venture out more freely to sample the local foods. Our drivers also procure fruits, melons, and other fresh produce for us in the markets.

If for some reason we are trapped in the safe house, we have a month's supply of MRE's.


It is most assuredly crowded. When the Taliban were in charge there weren't many vehicles, or even bicycles. The guys who've been here since 2003 all say that it was much easier to get around back then compared to today.

The Muse said...

How beautiful! I'm a little afraid of heights so I don't climb much, aside from the hill behind our house.

Do take care of yourself.

Happy 4th of July!

Travis Erwin said...

Happy 4th to you and yours and thanks for doing what you do.

J. L. Krueger said...


Well, too bad the security situation isn't peachy. The Hindu Kush is within relatively easy striking distance from Kabul and those mountains are MUCH higher running near 20,000 feet. THAT would be a challenge!

Thanks for the Happy 4th wish.


Thanks also...needless-to-say our fireworks were not the "in the sky" kind. Kabul was mostly quiet, but there was a bit of activity in mountains around Kabul.

Everyone else,

New pictures will be up tomorrow...along with some new musings.

Mary said...

I've never before seen a combination of light and texture like that in your mountain photos. It's beautiful! :)

Ello said...

Good Thai? At a military camp? That kind of boggles the mind! ;o)