Old Aug 24, 19, 11:10 am
Join Date: Feb 2014
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Part 12: Almaty, Kazakhstan
Hotel: Kazakhstan Hotel, 52 EUR/night incl. breakfast

For my two nights in Almaty I was staying at the Kazakhstan Hotel. The tower is an old Soviet landmark, although the hotel has undergone renovation and now boasts modern rooms and amenities. The lobby does however still look a bit dated, but does has a good coffee shops for a good brew to take away.

As it was still very early in the morning, I was told that I would need to cough up 50 percent of the room rate of my superior double room to get an early check-in, something which is fairly common at hotels throughout the former Soviet Union. As the amount of money involved wasn't too much to begin with, and otherwise it would have meant a wait until 2pm, I gladly went for it as I could do for a little nap after the short red-eye. My room was located somewhere halfway up the tower and boasted great views over the Zailiyskiy Alatau mountain range which forms an impressive backdrop at the southern side of Almaty.

After a great little nap and shower I went out to explore the city. Right next to the hotel you can find a square with a statue of poet Abay Kunanbayev in front of a concert hall. You can also find a cable car here which brings you to a small amusement park in the foothills of the mountains – which I would do the following day.

Almaty – the commercial hub of Kazakhstan and perhaps of entire Central Asia – is not the capital of Kazakhstan. That honour goes to the planned city of Nur-Sultan in the middle of nowhere, which was previously known under the names of Akmola, Tselina – from where its airport code of TSE is derived from, and Astana – which was the name the city had until it was renamed after the long-ruling Kazakh strongman Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Even though the city has been inhabited for many centuries, the modern city of Almaty is a Tsarist Russian construct – and you can easily see this back. The city is leafy and low-key, with broad boulevards and some nice parks. Compared to other Central Asian cities it feels very cosmopolitan and modern too, with many trendy cafes and restaurants to be found for those who are seeking some urban delights. Especially in the southern part of the city centre (on higher grounds closer to the mountains) you can find some great cafes, pubs and restaurants on the tree-lined streets.

Instead of immediately exploring around I decided first to take the metro to the city's main sight – the large Zelenyy Bazaar (Green Bazaar) – as it would be closed the next day and I wanted to be sure to catch the vibe before all shoppers and salesmen would leave for home. Almaty's metro system has been only been operating since 2011 – making it the second metro system in Central Asia after that of Tashkent. Even though it is a modern construct and not as lavish as those systems built under communist rule, it still is a great little system with some beautiful stations deep under the ground.

Trains were mostly empty however despite the dirt-cheap costs of just a few cents for a ride.

I couldn't help but laugh at the name of this particular stop. Why not simply name it 'Mukhtar Auezov Theatre' and be done with it? Plus points however for spelling 'theatre' correctly in proper English.

Once out at the metro stop closest to Zelenyy Bazaar it started to rain cats and dogs so I walked quickly towards the bazaar entrance. The bazaar itself is actually quite large and consists of a big building containing the food market and alleys around it mostly selling clothes and almost anything else you can think of, from gardening tools to kitchen utensils.

The most interesting part of the bazaar is of course the building with the food stalls, which has a lot of local colour and life. The basement mostly has stalls selling fruits and vegetables.

The main floor has mostly meats, cheeses and spices and such.

Make sure you walk a floor up – as you can get some excellent shots here from the market stalls from above.

There are no market stalls on the upper balconies as these parts are mostly empty – but you can find some small restaurants and cafes here. Unfortunately, most of them were already closing it being 2pm, but I did find one which was still open. I ordered a laghman – a Central Asian noodle dish – which was tasty. A great first meal in Central Asia, especially with a view over the market stalls down.

Even though there are better bazaars in Central Asia (Chorsu Bazaar in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, is for sure more colourful and much larger), Zelenyy Bazaar is still an excellent place to get a taste of the old silk road and local life.

Next up: Exploring more of Almaty

Last edited by Romanianflyer; Aug 24, 19 at 11:29 am
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