Monday, March 26, 2012

Movie Monday: Train trip from Almaty-Astana PLUS Astana pics

Happy movie Monday.  Last week I took the night train from Almaty to Astana, here is a little video I made of the trip:

****Bonus: ASTANA pictures****

Astana is a bit of an odd city. Unlike other cities in Kazakhstan, there are only a few of the Soviet era buildings in town.  The rest of the city is made of new shining glass buildings. When looking at the architecture around town, you can find echoes of architecture from almost every city in the world. There are buildings that echo New York City, Beijing, Paris, and many others. For me, this lent the city a certain feeling of insincerity.  On the other hand, there was public art everywhere which makes the city feel pleasant and livable.

one of several shopping malls

Yup, there are people ice fishing on
the frozen river.

The Palace of Peace and Accord

Palace of Peace and Accord

I think my favorite place in Astana is the Palace of Peace and Accord.  Even though it is a pyramid (and the obvious cultural reference there), somehow the design feels natural and balanced. While unimposing from the outside, the pyramid is quite large.  Inside you will find the opera house, a winter garden (just below "the cradle" at the top of the pyramid), and an amazing interior design that is filled with symbolism. Natural light from the top of the pyramid (which is tinted to look like a yellow sun in a blue sky - symbols you will find on the Kazakh flag) penetrates through all of the levels, even into the rays of the sun on the concert hall's ceiling (pictured bottom left).

Everything in the facility is beautiful - the one exception being the finishings of the opera hall where, for some reason, you find frayed carpet, uneven steps, and a mesh ceiling that looks not quite finished. It is also a little unfortunate that no effort is made to make the park outside of the palace usable in the winter months.  Snow hasn't been removed from any of the paths and on a foggy morning, I was left with the distinct impression of being isolated from everything and everyone in a windy, snowy, wasteland.

A short list of things to do in Astana:

  1. Walk the river trail.  It was clear of snow and quite busy when I was there, and very, very beautiful.
  2. Palace of Peace and Accord - entrance costs 500 tg and includes a tour.  Tours are also available in English.
  3. Baiterek Tower
  4. Palace of Independence (across from the Palace of Peace and Accord).
  5. The Duman Aquarium (across from the mega shopping mall) the aquarium features a fish tunnel, a 5D theater and a large play area.
  6. City Park.  In the summer there are carnival style rides, a water park, and miles of walking paths.
  7. Shop.  I have never seen so many malls located so close to each other.  There are 4 major shopping centers within a mile of each other on one street.
  8. Visit the "Map of Kazakhstan- Atameken" ethnopark.
  9. Ride the buses.  There is no better way to get to know a town.  A bus ride in Astana costs 60 tenge and the conductor will collect the fair from you.  Here is a link to Astana Bus route maps:
  10. Circus (you will find it next to the mega shopping center)

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