For our third day in Almaty, we had a tour scheduled for the afternoon. In the morning, we decided to visit Green Market, a bazaar in Almaty. This bazaar had multiple levels, and indoor and outdoor components. There were sections with clothing and housewares, but we decided we were most interested in the food.
The food section was absolutely full of stuff I would have purchased if I lived in Almaty, but that I thought would be difficult to transport back to Astana. Of particular interest to me were all sorts of pickled vegetables and long, uncut sushi rolls. A rather large part of me wanted to buy one of the sushi rolls and eat it burrito-style, but maybe it was a better idea to not risk that. I also saw some interesting looking berries (currants, maybe?) that I didn't think would last the trip home.
We did buy plenty of spices. We were on this trip before receiving the remainder of the stuff we had shipped, and I was beginning to lose hope of getting ahold of the spices I had shipped. We bought curry powder, sumac, saffron, cardamom, and dried chili peppers. We also bought cape gooseberries, a fruit I came to love in Egypt, and have only seen once in the US, at a farmer's market. One thing I regret not buying was something that looked like large, red cape gooseberries. I didn't buy them because I wasn't sure what they were, but I've discovered a lot of interesting fruits over the years by buying things I didn't know about. Oh well. Here are a couple of pictures of the bazaar--I didn't want to go crazy taking pictures there because I thought that might be sort of annoying to the locals.
We bought an assortment of food from street stands for lunch in the hotel (stuffed fried breads, dumplings, the rice dish plov), and got ready for our tour.
Our English-speaking guide showed up at the hotel with a driver and a van. Our plan was to go to Big Almaty Lake and the Sunkar falcon farm, with a somewhat larger, late lunch somewhere along the way. Quickly, I could see that we were leaving the city and heading into the mountains.
The mountain roads were narrow and full of switchbacks. I thought they were most appropriate for one vehicle at a time, but naturally, there were times when we encountered other vehicles heading back down the mountain, at which point both had to proceed carefully. In addition, there were some very large icy patches in some areas. Kudos to our driver for getting us there and back in one piece! The scenery was spectacular.
Scott, our friends with whom we traveled, and the tour guide all walked to the edge of the lake. I gave up at a certain point because it was a steep path and I think my knees have aged about twice as fast as the rest of me. I decided to continue enjoying the view from where I was.
Soon, it was time to head back down the mountain. Again, I worried about the icy patches, but the driver's skills were up to the challenge. We even saw some interesting scenery on the way back down. I don't remember the story behind the yurts, but they were interesting, even if not inhabited by actual nomads. Then we stopped at a cafe and had a delicious meal including grilled meats and soup. Then we went to the Sunkar falcon farm.
Truthfully, I don't know too much about the Sunkar falcon farm. I know that they have a variety of birds of prey, that the birds they have were born in captivity, and that the birds are trained to hunt using traditional techniques. I don't know if they are breeding additional birds in captivity, precisely where the existing birds were born, or whether they ever actually get to hunt. It was interesting to see the birds and the show they put on, though.
Some of the birds lived in large cages, and some were in the open, kept on tethers so they couldn't fly too far.
We all walked around for a while to check out the birds, and then we saw the show. For the show, trainers showed how the birds could be used to assist in hunting. The trainers showed birds at various levels of accomplishment, and rewarded each of them with a chick for their efforts. It was an amazing show, but at times, these birds with their extremely sharp talons swooped a little too close to my head for comfort. I spent a lot of time ducking. The show started with this amazingly beautiful owl, who initially landed about two feet away from me on the bench, and started squawking discontentedly while looking right at me. I was too nervous to take a picture when he was so close, but here are a couple pictures of him in action.
The show then progressed with other birds, each one pretty fierce.
We then headed back to town, had a light dinner, and tried to get a good night's sleep. The next day would be our last day in Almaty, and we would face another night on the train to go back to Astana.