Yesterday was the first day of my two-month stay in Almaty, Kazakhstan. To explore the city, I started walking from my beautiful Soviet apartment on Abay Street (named after a famous Kazakh poet) to the city centre. Although the centre is quite modern - and they even have cycle paths here - there are not many people who speak English. I basically spent the day saying "Я не говорю по-русски" (I don't speak Russian)!
I was surpised to find that many of Almaty's citizens ride bikes, and that there are even automated bike rental stations dotted around the city!
On the way to the city centre I came across these golden statues of strange-looking animals... I have no idea what they represent, but they were placed next to the statue of Pushkin - perhaps they appear in his poems?
Next stop was Panfilov park, named after a group of soldiers from Almaty who died in WWII fighting Nazis outside Moscow. There is a memorial at the park, but I haven't seen it yet. Instead, I went to the Zenkov Cathedral, one of the oldest buildings in the city. The wooden cathedral is the only structure in the area that survived the earthquake in 1910. There was an orthodox service happening there, which was beautiful but lasted forever... I left early!
At Panfilov park, there were also various cannons on display.
During my walk I saw several national flags, including this huge banner of the president promoting the new "Kazakhstan 2050" strategy, in front of Abay university.
One place where you can really experience daily life in Almaty is the Green Bazar, a huge market where they sell tons of exotic foods. However, as a vegetarian and a non-russian speaker I did not dare to try anything! Also, after two photos I was told by a security guard that I was not allowed to take pictures...
My last stop for the day was the Central Mosque, which was impressive even though it had started to rain and I was getting very cold. To do: buy warm gloves. Spring has not yet arrived here, hoping it will soon!
That's about it for now - I'm getting ready to go out for a real Kazakhstani beer with colleagues. More photos from Almaty will follow soon xx