Sunday, May 22, 2011

Almaty Times.

Hello to all! Here I am in the former capital of Kazakhstan, Almaty. I have had a bit of a rest this week which has been well needed (and well earned I must point out). I suddenly realise that moving on every few days for eleven weeks in a row can take it out of you. In Kyoto I had seven days in one place, here in Almaty I will be here six days, these are the longest stretches in one place I have had since leaving Australia. And there aren't more this long on the horizon.
But I want to write about where I am. For starters, When I told people I was going to Kazakhstan people were often confused, wondering where it was or if it was even a real place - wasn't it fictional created by Sacha Baron Cohen? No, it's a real place, the ninth largest country in the world, in a part of the world that people in Australia generally are not very familiar with.
Central Asia lies between China and Europe, below Russia and above India. There are five countries which used to be members of the Sovet Union, the others are Kyrgystan, Uzbekistan (both to be visited soon) Tajikistan and the rather mysterious Turkmenistan.
Kazakhstan is in the middle of a mining boon, not unlike my home of Australia. So things are moving along here. The President has been in power ever since Kazakhstan gained its independence from the Soviet Union. So I am in an interesting and often overlooked part of the world. Almaty has a stunning setting with a backdrop of some serious mountains. There are monuments aplenty. Last night I visited the Abay Theatre (named after Kazakhstan's most popular poet) and saw some ballet/modern dance fusion in a stunning theatre. 
I have really liked Almarty. I also journied to Kok Tobe, a mountain overlooking the city by cable car. I had adventures at the Kyrgystan Consulate where I was led to believe (before going) that it would be a week long wait for my visa. It was processed in an hour, so I confess this sort of started things off on a positive note. The Zenkov Cathedral was nice, and I visited the Museum of Traditional Musical Instruments yesterday which was ok, but highlighted by a performance on the dombra - a traditional Kazakh guitar - and other instruments for peanuts in an amazing auditorium inside the museum. Great weather last three days too. 
Tomorrow evening I head north to Semey, then Pavlodar and the capital Astana. So far so good, although I have been warned on my personal safety. We will see, I will sleep with one eye open!
The mountains provide a supurb backdrop to the city of Almaty.

Musical Performance - lady strums the dombra!

Dancers at the Abay Theatre.

Independence Monument.

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