OK, are you ready for a blog-tour around Almaty, Kazakhstan today? Let’s go!
1) Republic Square. I think every city has this kind of place. You know—a spot where you can do something and have your wish granted. Or in some cities, if you drink the water from a certain well, for instance, you’ll get a chance to visit the city again. In Almaty, there’s a monument with this ‘bronze book of wish fulfillment‘ with the imprinted palm of President Nazarbayev on it. What you need to do is to place your palm there, make a wish, and… well, InshaAllah, it will come true 🙂
2) Panfilov Park & Zenkov Cathedral. If you know me well enough, you know that I won’t miss a chance to visit public parks. Almaty is blessed for having lots of public parks that are well taken care of, with flowers, trees and benches. Panfilov Park is well-known as the “wedding park” for the locals, because a lot of couples do their pre-wedding photo shoot here. The jewel of Panfilov Park is the ever-colourful Zenkov Cathedral.
3) KokTobe. I am a fan of cable cars, so a ride to the mountain of KokTobe was just amazing. I went there during sunset; and being able to see the last ray of sun disappearing in the sky with that wonderful orange-pinkish light made me really content.
There were loads of thing you could find in this recreational area: from people selling souvenirs to different kind of games; cafes and restaurants to roller-coaster ride. Yes, roller-coastering your way down the mountain. How cool was that!
4) Green Bazaar. Local market is always an interesting place to visit; because you can see the locals doing their daily activities, shopping for fruits, vegetables, meats, and many more. Of course, you can also find fresh horse meat here. The best thing I found in the Green Market? A kind of smoked cheese that looks like a bunch of enokitake (enoki mushroom); that can be munched while we’re sipping beer or wine. But the highlight of the day was to see Jim shopping for spices, assisted by our new Kazakh friend, Bota—who continuously asked the seller (on behalf of Jim) on which spices should be used for which dishes.
5) Medeu. This is the mountainous area where the olympic-sized ice-skating stadium was located. I went to Medeu at around ten one night with Jim and Sean, accompanied by our new Kazakh friend, Zhamilya, and her boyfriend Alex. It took us 20-30 minutes to reach Medeu by taxi. Though there were several cafes or restaurants in Medeu, we met several groups of people who actually brought their own ‘picnic’ baskets; a bottle of wine (or vodka), plastic glasses, as well as some chips and… hookah! (Alex had also brought a bottle of drinks and some plastic cups with him. Cheers to Almaty! *clink*). Apart from having a midnight picnic while enjoying the breathtaking view, you could also stroll around Medeu on the back of a horse (they have tall and huge horses here!). Medeu is really cold, so you better wrap yourself in overcoat and boots!
6) Arbat. Arbat is the most artsy stretch in Almaty, where you can find people playing instruments, dancing, or sketching. You can have yourself being sketched there as well! If you’re crazy about accessories and cute stuff, people are selling everything from lucky charms, earrings, necklaces and bracelets to cute matryoshka fridge magnet. There are several hip cafes, restaurants and boutiques here. The street is lively with youths and young couples.
7) Almaty’s Museum of Art. Consider it my lucky week in Almaty. During my stay, Almaty’s Museum of Art hosted “Treasures of France” exhibition—where they displayed French art and culture from Renaissance to this day. For the first time, about 400 works from 40 largest museums of France, such as the Louvre Museum, d’Orsai Museum, Versailles Palace, National Museum of Modern Art – Pompidou Centre, and the French National Library, are exhibited in Kazakhstan. I went to the museum with two new Kazakh friends, Ulan and his sister, Zika. The entrance ticket is KZT 500.
We spent almost 5 hours there, just looking at loads of paintings and sculptures from one room to the next. I adored the Laloue paintings and the photoworks of Henri Cartier-Bresson; they were magnetic, I kept finding myself being drawn over and over again into their works. There were also some “booths” where we could listen to some French music via headphones. Zika and me danced along to the songs from our headphones—mindless of how other visitors were staring at us doing this “silent disco”. Too bad we weren’t allowed to take pictures of the exhibition.