Here I am. In Almaty. City of fountains and cafes. I have been thinking about coming to Kazakhstan for past few months and finally I got here.
I’m not sure what was more overwhelming. Seeing a dear friend whom I haven’t seen for ages. Or panoramic view of this great city against beautiful background of West Tian Shan Mountains.
And let me say. There is no Almaty without mountains. In clear weather they are seen from every point in the city and are truly a spectacular landmark.
I have been staying in the hotel with a breathtaking view especially over a sunset. I like to say. Some people just too lucky with such balcony views.
This old capital city is still a cultural hub of the country. Almaty are laid back. Easy going place to spend your time on till-wee hours parties in best clubs. Eat in sophisticated restaurants and drink in chic bars.
If You like to spend your days walking over sleek parks. Having coffee and nice chat. Relax in hammams. It is a city for you.
For first few days I have sunk into atmosphere of this City of Apples. Enjoyed fun excursion with some friends to Chimbulak. A super new ski resort just 20 minutes away from the city center for some outstanding mountain views and hot tea.
Another day. Fountains and coffee spree. Almaty has more then 125 fountains and some of them really peculiar. Like the “Oriental Calendar” Fountain. Whose 12 sculpture figures represent the 12 animals of the Kazakh 12-year animal cycle. It is almost like a Chinese Calendar with little changes. Kazakh version has a snail instead of a dragon. And a leopard instead of a tiger.
I have plunged into atmosphere of ‘Zielony Bazar’ where first question is always a relationship status interrogation. As a single woman prepare yourself to be asked about husband/boyfriend everywhere. At any time. By everyone in this multicultural country. Where wedlock is the most popular state of being.
I have spent an amazing day in Arasan Baths. Which are finest baths in Central Asia. Saunas Turkish and Finnish. As well as Russian banya. Private rooms for massages. I highly recommend a Thai one. Best Thai massage I had outside of Thailand. Cracked all my bones. Just the way I like it! All that accompanied by relaxing music and delicious ‘czaj’. Made me willing not to leave.
Another not to miss is a walk along green alleys of Panfilov Park. Where you can see most photographed building in Almaty, Zenkov Cathedral. Which is one of the few tsarist-era buildings to survive the 1911 earthquake. Despite the fact it is built entirely of wood and constructed without nails. What makes it even more unique.
Visit the Central State Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan where one can truly understand how multinational this country really is. Or stop at Great Mosque to see a rare mihrab. At night admire dazzling lights of the city from Koktobe hill while smoking apple – mint nargile.
Almaty is truly a cosmopolitan city. Where people invite You to attend VIP parties in posh bars. Sunday pool parties. Fashion shows and trendy photography exhibitions. I can easily imagine myself living a good life here. And although I never say no to glass of fine champagne. It’s not what I have come here for.
I want to discover and experience more authentic and rough Kazakhstan. Some of my Kazakh friends where surprised by my plans. They were telling me that it is faster and more convenient to fly to Milan then get to Kolsai Lakes. Even if. I do not mind. I love those kind of adventures and I’m already excited about rest of my trip. Bring it on!