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Published: September 16th 2014
Sept 10th. After a very pleasant flight on Air Astana from Bishkek to Almaty, we arrived at an excellent Guesthouse called 'Guesthouse on Sadoyva' ( highly recommended ). Almaty sightseeing was the plan for today, so off we went first to see the Russian state puppet theatre where we were able to watch a Puppet show. Quick jaunt around the main shopping bazaar called the Green market where we were able to resist any purchases.
Next door to the bazaar was the Central mosque - a recently built mosque that had stunning blue mosaics on the domes. The centrally Panfilov park is beautiful, and dominated by the candy coloured Russian Orthodox Zenkov Cathedral. Built in 1904 entirely of wood (even the nails were made if wood), the Cathedral was one of the few large Tsarist-era structures to survive the devastating 1911 earthquake. The park also contained a series of War Memorials including an impressive huge stone affair showing 15 soldiers from each province emerging from a map of Russia, and an eternal flame guarded by two motionless soldiers. Finally we visited the turquoise coloured St Nicholas Russian Cathedral which had impressive gold onion domes. Also wooden, and a survivor of
At the east end of Panfilov Park is the Museum of Khazakh musical instruments where we saw a great collection of ancient musical instruments. I went back later that evening to attend a performance of these same instruments.
Sightseeing continued by visiting the independence square, monument of remembrance, and the Dawn of Freedom Monument which commemorates those 100's killed in 1986 during the first independence revolutions. Doytsk st shopping was next on the agenda - Almaty was such a contrast to Bishkek for the number of late model high quality cars in the streets - Mercedes, RangeRovers, Bentleys, BMW, Landrovers, Audis etc were just everywhere, so there is clearly some oil money flowing thru the community.
Tonite it was culture time, so John toddled off to attend Madam Butterfly at the very grand Almaty Opera Theatre and I -having already had the 'pleasure' of seeing this opera - attended the Khazak music show at the museum.
Today, we set off to visit the Shymbulak Ski Resort - apparently the preeminent ski resort in Central Asia. We took a local bus the 10kms up to Medeu which is the
location of one of the largest Ice Skating Rinks in the world - a massive 10,500 sq. m rink about 1600m above sea level. Was obviously not in operation as it was mid summer, but still impressive to see the scale. From Medeu, we travelled via a 4km pretty new gondola to 2240m to the main Ski Resort centre, and from there two cable car rides to 3180m. We were just below the snow line, a chilly 10degrees, and with spectacular views of the mountains, the Pik Komsomola Glacier 4315m, and Almaty city far below.
This evening, it was back to the Opera House for a night of Russian Rock opera - which turned out to be Ballet ??!? and then tour local BBQ restaurant which we discovered cooks the best kebabs - or shashlyks as they are called locally- in Almaty - there was lamb, beef, chicken pieces,duck, kidney, lamb chops, mushrooms, fillet, goat ! It was brilliant.
Visited the Arasan Bathhouse in Almaty - the 'grandest Bathhouse in Central Asia', according to LP. If watching dozens of blokes of ALL shapes and sizes in an extreme state of undress leaping from hot steam
rooms into frigid plunge pools and then being thrashed by a wad of birch sticks before being lathered up in soap by a willing assistant is your thing, then you would have enjoyed this mornings outing !
Our last event was attending a Khazak 'spiritual' music performance at the Musical Instruments Museum. This turned out to be a huge disappointment when we saw the three bearded white gowned sunglassed 'gurus' take the stage, and proceeded to sway, smile, and twing little bells, pat little drums, and whirr little bowls !! Saved only slightly from complete disaster by the appearance of a black gowned long haired pianist who tinkled the ivories with great skill, and would have been more at home with a blues band.
That's it - time to leave Almaty, so off to the station to catch our Overnight Train from Almaty to Shymkent (Tulkibas).
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