Almaty, Kazakhstan

  • Post category:The Stans

We said farewell to Karakol and began the long drive to Almaty.  We chose to go over the Kegen border point.  It closes from October to about May each year.  It was a quiet border but the highlight was the immigration official showing us his border stamper – it had a Silver Fern on it.  He was a rugby fan and a fan of the All Blacks.

The areas either side of the border were wide open steppes with views to the mountains on the horizon – and plenty of gravel roads.

We stopped at the Charyn canyon for a late lunch and a view of the “Grand Canyon”

Almaty is another city with wide streets and plenty of parks and sculptures.  Almaty means Apples and there were many references to apples including the apple-car installation near our hotel.

Although there is a metro here the lines are not very extensive, so we ended up walking everywhere we wanted to go.

The visit to the Fine Arts museum was well worth the effort.  The collection was eclectic, but there were little gems throughout.  The statue of the horse made entirely from knucklebones captured Andrew’s imagination.   The 1595 painting by Lorenzo Strauch was also stunner.  The red faced infant on the pale body grabbed your attention and you couldn’t stop looking at him!  But there were various styles represented

The inside of the Greek Orthodox church, Zenkov Cathedral lived up to the ornateness suggested by the colourfully painted exteriors.  It is a wooden building that has no nails.

From here we proceeded to the large food market.  We do like visiting these markets.  Although they are often quite similar they all have a different feel to them.  The importance of horse as a meat was evident with the large area devoted to sellers of horse.  All the herds of horses we have been seeing weren’t just there as riding animals!
The majority of our meals were from two Georgian Restaurants: 1. we like Georgian cuisine and red wine a lot and 2. these restaurants were nearby and had very good food.
Daredzani was more up-market and had English speaking waiters and menus.  Patsatsina had no English and we got a good meal and wine using advanced pointing and mime techniques.
The large public space, looking through to the landmark Hotel Kazahkstan was busy on 2 of the 3 nights we were in town, with lots of people either going to a concert one night or to a movie premiere the other.  The sun reflected in the big screen and the movie scenes provided and interesting outlook.

Our hotel Novotel Almaty City Centre was nicely located for us, sitting directly beside the cable car.  We chose not to ascend the mountain because of constant low cloud and smog.  The weather app called it “smoke” :  no fire, but some pretty murky conditions.  The snow capped mountains surrounding the city did look lovely when we could see them.

Andrew had a cold so we headed to a pharmacy the hotel directed us to.  They spoke zero English and while we spent some time translating the Russian on the boxes via a Translation App we ended up buying him the pharmacists 1st suggestion of fizzy paracetamol.  We looked in a few more pharmacies before trying a modern one with a younger pharmacist.  The minute we asked English, she tuned out, ignored us and played on her phone.  Lucky for us the medicines were displayed around the counter, behind glass.  And we spent a few minutes translating various names.
When we found a possible day & night type medicine and asked to see it, she was very helpful to show us 5 other alternatives.  Andrew didn’t shake the cold for about
another week.

Our 3 weeks in the Stans was interesting, challenging and ultimately very satisfying travel.

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