Astana – A Day in the New Capital

Building, building, and keep building Despite of the bitter cold due to the fierce snowfall in this sub-Arctic new capital, I forced myself to go around. As in Almaty, bus network was quite extensive in Astana. The buses were, again similar to Almaty, mostly second hand buses from Germany decorated by graffiti from the former German owners. Astana, behind the frozen bus glass window, looked completely white in my eyes. This capital might be the most artificial city in Central Asia, even I have heard that Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan – another gas and oil rich nation in the region, was comparable. Nobody would expect this place to become the capital of modern Kazakhstan. About a decade ago, Astana was just a wasteland in the middle of nowhere. The location where Astana is, far in the north in the heartland of Kazakhstan, is known for enjoying its extreme weather in scorching hot summers and bitterly freezing winters. Nobody would decide to have a capital here. Many thought Nazarbayev was crazy with his decision. But actually he had his own calculation. The city center. It’s freezing minus thirty something Astana, of course was not called as Astana before Nazarbayev’s decision [...]

December 8, 2006 // 0 Comments

Almaty – Borat’s Land

Night is coming in Almaty “All people writing about Kazakhstan are telling bullshit!” – Nurslan Kazakhstan was surprisingly much more expensive compared to it was in my short visit in 2004. That time I stayed in Kazhol Hotel and it cost 26$/night. For my student pocket it was enormous amount. But staying in cold, dirty, dark room of Kazkontrakt was indeed uncomfortable and I decided to go back to Kazhol. Kazhol now turned to be a very neat and smart hotel, after renovation. The tiles on the floor were glittering, as it was emphasizing the golden age Kazakhstan enjoying at this moment. The price also skyrocketed. The cheapest room now costs 69$. It was much beyond my budget. I was told by some travelers that the cheapest option in Almaty was dormitory of the bus terminal (10$). But imagining staying in ‘dormitory’, especially in a bus terminal, the idea itself reminded me to many bad experiences of mine in Tajikistan. I preferred to invest just a little bit more, for my safety and comfort. But the problem is that ‘a little bit more’ was much more powerful than I thought to blow out my pocket. I walked to a big [...]

December 3, 2006 // 0 Comments

Almaty – Welcome to Kazakhstan

It’s freezing, dark, and full of cars. My Kyrgyz visa expires today and there is no other thing I can do but to go to Kazakhstan. Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan are separated by Chuy River, located not far north of Bishkek. I took a minibus as it cost only 800 Som to cover the 4 hour journey to Almaty. The Kyrgyz – Kazakh border is also a strict one. The people of the two countries are very closely related ethnically, linguistically, historically and culturally. The Kazakh were called as Kyrgyz and the Kyrgyz were called as Kara Kyrgyz (Black Kyrgyz). Kazakh and Kyrgyz also share many poets and national hero. Creation of Kazakh and Kyrgyz in the Soviet time was actually slicing the same people of two different variants: mountainous (the Kyrgyz) and steppe (Kazakhstan). But now the border crossing has reflected that Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are indeed two different countries. The border post of Kyrgyzstan was made from oil tank transformed to be a small office. The border guards only took a glance on the passports of the border crossers as Kazakh and Kyrgyz, the most people who cross the border, don’t need visa to cross. It took me more [...]

December 1, 2006 // 1 Comment