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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Almaty, Part 4

We had almost a full day in Almaty that day because our train didn't leave for Astana until the early evening.  We decided to make that our museum day.  After a leisurely breakfast, we headed for the Central State Museum.

The Central State Museum had interesting collections of all sorts of stuff.  The exhibits started with fossils, and ended with relics from the fairly recent past.  Unfortunately, photography was not allowed.  Also unfortunately, there was very little English signage aside from "Don't touch, please!" so I had to fill in the gaps with my own imagination.

One of my favorite exhibits was the one with traditional dress and jewelry.  The jewelry tended to be large, heavy looking, and ornate.  There were what appeared to be rings with two shanks.  I loved the concept, although it seems that wearing one would somewhat limit hand motion.  I also enjoyed an exhibit of gifts given to President Nazarbayev by foreign dignitaries.  I was entertained to see that Yasser Arafat had included a keffiyeh as part of his gift on a visit.

We had the somewhat unfortunate luck of competing for viewing space with a loud group of teenagers who appeared to be at the museum as part of a school trip.  One of them decided to demonstrate his English proficiency by going up to one of our friends and unloading a string of swear words and a racial epithet.  I hope these were not words that were included in his school's English curriculum.

We had Chinese food for lunch, and then headed to the Museum of Kazakh Musical Instruments.  In addition to the obvious large collection of traditional instruments, there was a great exhibit with a large interactive screen where you could pick as few or as many instruments as you wanted to hear what they sounded like separately and together.

Museum of Kazakh Musical Instruments

We walked around Panfilov Park some more and looked at the WWII monument.

At that point, it was about time to think about heading to the train station.  We went to a bakery to buy some snacks to take with us, since nobody was so impressed with the dining car cuisine that they felt the need to eat it again.

Once we got to the train station, we noticed a lot of people selling large apples.  Our tour guide had told us about those the day before, so we were very curious.  Unfortunately, they only wanted to sell large buckets full.  While we were pondering the idea of hauling an awkward amount of large apples to Astana, our Russian teacher appeared!  It was fun to see her unexpectedly, and it also turned out that she wanted some apples.  She talked to the apple vendor for us and we ended up splitting a bucket of apples between her, our friends with whom we traveled, and us.

The train ride back wasn't terribly restful, but all of us felt that we slept better on the way back to Astana than we did on the trip down.  Maybe the trip to Almaty accustomed us to motion and odd noises while we were sleeping?  Before trying our luck actually sleeping, we played card games and battle ship.  I'm amazed that we managed not to lose any of the pegs from the battle ship game!

Our final impression was that Almaty was a much more livable city than Astana.  Part of this had to do with location, of course.  Our hotel in Almaty was fairly centrally located, and we were able to walk to cafes, restaurants, and sites.  We would probably enjoy Astana more if we lived downtown, rather than on an isolated compound.  The other issue, of course, is that Astana is still a young capital and a work in progress.  I've heard from people who have been here longer that Astana's amenities have increased over the years.  (Astana will never have mountains, however!).  Here are a couple final Almaty pictures:

My thoughts exactly!  Let's pretend that I captured the entire "y" at the end of Almaty, and did not capture a stranger who was also taking a photo.

A very elaborate doorway to a store with assorted imported stuff from France.

I remember the Hard Rock Cafe t-shirts my classmates used to wear in the '80's.  I had no idea the chain was in Almaty, too.  We did not go in.

An entertaining artful rendition of Astana which we saw in Almaty.  It seemed pretty inaccurate to us, aside form the Bayterek Tower.

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