Sunday, December 08, 2013

Short Journeys - Kazakhstan (out now)

Hi all,
I wanted to get the next blog on the top ten destinations out today, but I have been doing so much writing of late my brain is a bit fried to be honest. I have been working on the latest two additions to my new 'Short Journeys' range, and I finally managed to upload 'Kazakhstan' yesterday. I was hoping to have it ready by the end of November, but the time just wasn't available. So today I present it to you. Kazakhstan, a beautiful, amazing and rather unvisited country in Central Asia. The 9th biggest country on Earth.
The cover I went with in the end. :) 

Here are some photos and some snippets from the book to hopefully whet your appetite!

There are a lot of reasons to travel to Kazakhstan, outside from visiting a place which is well and truly off the tourist route and being able to wow your friends when you get home. Ok, that’s not a good enough reason on its own, but I hope to give you many reasons to go to the ninth-biggest country in the world.
Kazakhstan is a country with a long history, a diverse people, and a country which is just growing more and more as every day passes in the 21st century. There’s something beautifully ancient about the country, something delightfully modern at the same time. A country building a future across a wide land, in a location between Europe and Asia, with a mix of Russia and the Ukraine added to the Kazakh people.

Park in Almaty

Kazakh Museum of Musical Instruments

Almaty is a city of contrasts. In some areas the roads are sweeping and wide, and then there are leafy parks, with statues. Wander through the right park and you’ll find flowers blooming and artists with easels set up as they paint what they see. I visited a couple of museums; one was the Museum of Kazakh Musical Instruments where my friend and I basically had a woman play various Kazakh instruments just for us in a small auditorium. There are malls too, shopping strips and not a single McDonald’s to be found, only a place called ‘McBurger’, definitely not a registered American fast food chain.
There are buses all around the city, as well as trams and trolley-buses – buses which run off electricity coming from wires above the roads, something between a tram and a bus. I had never seen such a bus before I went to Russia, but they are still very popular across Eastern Europe today. Then we have the metro, which was not open when I was in Almaty. The metro however is open today, two years later, in good news for all living in and visiting Almaty. 

Semey: - Dostoevsky Museum
Lenin and Marx next to each other in Semey.

Dostoevsky Museum.

Are you a fan of Dostoevsky, perhaps the most famous Russian writer of all? I have been ever since I first visited St Petersburg and decided afterwards to read ‘Crime and Punishment’. Fyodor Dostoyevsky periodically pissed on the rulers of Russia here and there, and was sent for a few years in exile to Semey, in Kazakhstan, where he lived in the house the museum is housed in with his wife and child. He also started work on ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ whilst he was in Semey.
The house is beautifully done, and I had my friends with me with was good because no-one there spoke English. However, it should be remembered that though the house is full of period dressings, tables, clocks and the like from the time Dostoevsky was in Semey (mid 19th century), I think I am right in saying that nothing was actually there at the time or indeed owned or used by the great writer.

Palace of Peace and Accord

Two giant... samovarry things!

Ahhh, only in Astana.

What I particularly loved about this part of town was that (as is often the case in Russia) the pipes were all above ground. Now I’m not sure exactly what they were carrying, presumably gas, maybe water, but as they run along the road they add to atmosphere and look of the place considerably. That’s the main vision I have in my mind from this part of town.
The bus ran along this highway into ‘town’, the centre of which I have talked about but is much harder to define. In the older part of town, which at some point gives way to the ultra-modern new part of town filled with Norman Foster (a British architect) buildings, there is almost a feel of Astana, albeit a much flatter one.

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