Those of us who opted for a city tour today sure got our money’s worth. Astana is an amazing city. Since becoming the capital of Kazakhstan sixteen years ago, this sleepy village on the steppe has morphed into an architect’s dream world.
Our first stop was along the river near where Larry & I had strolled yesterday. A guy was fishing. Across the river from him was a swimming beach. Although it had been brimming with swimmers during yesterday’s afternoon heat, we were advised not to swim in the water. Even Werner, who swims every chance he can, heeded the warning. Four towers with ribbon like swirls decorating the glass faced the river.
While in the bus we passed many homes that looked like ones being built in Georgia. Then we passed a huge mosque under construction. In Kazakhstan, six or seven religions are “recognized” by the state. That means that their facilities are built using taxpayer money. I couldn’t get a straight answer when I asked our guide who determines who gets a bigger building: Russian Orthodox, Muslim, or another faith. Even with our gray areas in the United States, I prefer the concept of separation of church and state.
A huge paver stone surfaced plaza is being built on one end of town. Unique buildings such as a space ship looking arts center and diamond decorated multipurpose facility anchor the perimeter. The modernistic buildings are softened by metal sculptures in front of sweeping arches.
We saw many billboards touting “Astana 2030.” That’s when they plan to have the city “done.” They’re quite far along compared to the scale model we saw at our next stop, the observation tower. Not only beautiful from the outside, the white, spiked orb had exquisite marble inlaid floors inside.
On the observation floor, the 360 degree view was breathtaking. Twin gold towers appeared as pillars framing the main walkway. A commemorative of a world religion conference was also housed on this level. All major, and many smaller, world religions seemed to be recognized.
What tour is complete without a stop at a gift shop? In this case, our final stop was the futuristic shopping center totally opposite the city from the sculptures seen earlier. At first glance, it looked more like a sports facility. Once inside, we knew the intent was retail success, and lots of it. Instead of sculptures made of metal, this end of the city plan had sculpted topiary love birds.
Our tour complete, Larry & I headed for the Line Brew Restaurant & Brew House. We had savored Kazakh Line Brew beer earlier. Now we used it to wash down the best steak we had eaten since Argentina.
In Astana, as in several KZ cities, ducts above the ground carry heat from a central heat plant to individual buildings. They did not seem particularly well insulated. I wonder how much heat actually gets to a location when it travels through air temperatures that dip to -50F?
Right across from our hotel was a shopping mall. I was looking for bottled water. Larry was looking at the scenery inside the mall — tall, long-legged, bleached blonde women wearing short skirts and spike heels.
Outside, we both enjoyed the bountiful pots of flowers and this statue of a little boy on top of a Siberian Husky. Hmmm – we’re only two days’ riding from Siberia. Seems appropriate.
8 Jul Astana rest day
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