Sunday, May 29, 2011

Astana... just the beginning!

Well here I am in the Kazakhstan capital, Astana. The slogan is 'much more to come'. Which means this is going to be one hell of a city one day. If it isn't already!
So I arrived here yesterday. One of the blessings (arguably) of Kazakhstan is it's size. However, it makes the train and bus journies seriously long. It was another overnight train from Semey to Astana, and with one back to Almaty I decided to split the journey. I took a bus to Pavlodar, in the north of Kazakhstan. It was one hell of a bad and bumpy road. Pot holes galore, through what they call the steppe here - basically, miles and miles of mostly flat land and short grass. Ie - nothing!
Palace of Peace and Accord.
Then a rather warm train journey to Astana. There seems to be a custom to heat the trains up to around the high 20s, and when I opened the window the conductor came along and promptly shut it for me!
Arriving in Astana I took a bus and then a long walk to a hotel. Hotels are a bit expensive here, the room is nice, good shower, but noise is a big issue. I travelled to the main sight area last night where I visit a sparkling and peaceful mosque, then a mall and finally the Byaterek. This is a giant ball 97 metres in the air (to signify 1997 when Atsana became the capital). I took a lift up to the top for views of Astana, where building is going along at quite a pace. Yes everywhere it is non-stop progress here.

Painting of Nazabaev with Heads of state, in the Palace of Independence.
President Nazabaev has molded the country in his own vision. And Astana is the centre piece. Perhaps it is ego, I don't know, but all the money coming in from the incredible mineral and oil wealth this country has, has been pumped into Astana. Clearly parts of the country are missing out. Today I visited the President's museum, full of gifts he has recieved and many recreated rooms such as his office and important conference rooms. 

Lights in one Astana's many many fountains.
 Then there is the President's Cultural Centre, everything revolves around this man. The centre is interesting with history of Kazakhstan, traditional dress, history of Kazkahstan since independence in 1991.
 Finally today I visited the Palace of Independence. Not really a palace, but a huge conference hall with paintings and ethnographic displays closed to public at the moment. Here I saw the plan for Astana, a model of the final vision to be completed around 2030. The grandiose nature of present Astana is something to behold. The buildings are huge, they sparkle, it is nothing like the reast of the country. It is Dubai in central Asia. However, when it is finished.....
The Bayterek.
So the question is - is this a good thing? I don't honestly know. It gives the people pride in their city, a lot have demonstrated this to me. But this resource wealth... will it go somewhere that will sustain Kazakhstan once the resources are done? This is the question on my lips....
And of Nazabaev... more next time!

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