Today’s blog is a bit unusual – it’s going to be not about Russia. For the last 4 months, I have been living in Kazakhstan and I would like to share some of my impressions and observations.
First, I’d like to point out that I’ve only been in one Kazakh city so far – Astana, the capital city. There is a belief that a capital is the face of the country – and it’s very true in case of Astana. The city has changed dramatically over the past 20 years. Back in the 90s there was nothing but steppes for miles around. Now it’s without doubt one of the most impressive cities on our planet.
When I first arrived to Astana, I didn’t know much about it – only that apparently, it has impressive architecture and that many people go there for work. I also heard some good and bad things about the attitude of the locals towards Russians, and, I must admit, I was a little bit anxious about that upon arrival.
However, I soon discovered that people in Astana are very friendly, and on multiple occasions I’ve enjoyed the famous Kazakh hospitality. For instance, this New Year we were invited to the apartment of one of my husband’s students where we had the chance to meet his large family and try delicious traditional food that he cooked for us. Also, plenty of alcohol that day – I guess, in some ways Kazakhstan is pretty similar to Russia. Not that I complain.
One thing I’d like to talk about today is architecture. Yesterday I finally had the chance to see one of the most impressive buildings in Astana, whose official name is «The Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, although the locals prefer to call it simply «the Pyramid». The building is impressive in many aspects. As you have already guessed, it is shaped in the form of a giant isosceles pyramid and it reaches 62 metres in height. It might bring associations with Egyptian pyramids, but it gives quite a different vibe.
For a relatively small fee you can get inside and the guide will take you through three different levels of the pyramid. On the first level, you will see a very elegantly designed opera theatre: soft velvet seats, the amphitheatre and breathtaking ceiling.
To reach the next floor, you’ll need to take an elevator. It moves diagonally through the pyramid, which feels a little bit strange. On the second stop you get to see a small, but very interesting exhibition of various traditional costumes belonging to some nationalities living in Kazakhstan.
And, finally, the top floor. Walls there are made of glass, so you get to see the panoramic view of the city. To be honest, on a gloomy winter day it doesn’t look that impressive, but I’m sure it looks spectacular in summer.
On the other side, across from the Pyramid you can see many other interesting buildings. I was especially impressed by the University of Arts that looked like it came straight from the pages of a sci-fi novel. Also, there was a giant, beautiful mosque and a museum, which I’ll be sure to visit on my next visit to that part of the city.
I’ve been living in Astana for more than 4 months now, but the city never ceases to impress me. This year the government is staging an international event called Expo 2017, which will attract tourists from all over the world. Thanks to this, the interest in English language has increased significantly.
Having said that, I can safely recommend Astana as a travel destination. However, if you decide to go here, make sure to come in summer. The winter weather here is rather hellish. Oh, and be prepared for a weak Internet connection. Mobile Internet seems to work fine, though, and it’s not very expensive. If these problems don’t scare you, then Astana is definitely a place for you. Also, many nationalities can now visit without a visa for a short time, thanks to the Expo, making it easier.