East of Paris Bookstore

Friday, April 30, 2010

Almaty aka Alma Ata aka Father of Apples

We arrived at midnight after flying for six hours from Frankfurt.  The last two hours offered little in terms of ground lights.  But, the airport was clean and bright, and the white script on red background spelling out “Coca Cola” on a machine in the terminal gave us a sense of familiarity.

Our hotel driver was waiting when we passed through passport control and customs.  We climbed into his British [steering wheel on the right] Range Rover and drove to the InterContinental Hotel.  While it was night and there was little traffic, the drive took about 20 minutes. There were lighted boulevards lined with trees – trunks painted white 3 or 4 feet from the ground – looking like they were wearing knee socks.  And, we passed lots of car showrooms:  Audi, Mercedes, Range Rover, Toyota [everything but US cars].
We tumbled into bed at about 1:30 a.m. and slept for about 6 hours.  The sun woke us, and we looking out of our window we saw the impressive snow-covered Zailiysky Alatau, a spur of the Tian Sian Mountains in the distance.

After breakfast, we took a long walk through Republic Square, then past the national library and down to St. Nicholas Cathedral.   The Cathedral, which had been used as a stable by the Bolsheviks, reopened in 1980.  Now, on the back of a large column, there is a frescoed icon of the murdered Romanov family.

The air was perfect for walking – sunny and cool, marred only by the occasional puff of diesel or road construction dust. Spring tulips were in bloom along with apple trees.  There were many pine trees lining the streets and deciduous trees whose leaves were beginning to appear.

Besides being “Apple Town,” Almati and Kasakhstan are the original source of tulips.  Along the streets and in every park there are thickly planted beds of tulips.  And, a favorite architectural designs is also a stylized tulip.
In Pamfilov park we also visited the older Zenkov Catherdral, which was used as a concert hall in Soviet times and is now a functioning church once more, say the war memorial, and happened upon a Kazak wedding party -- they took pictures of us and we took pictures of them giggles all around.

We also attended a special musical performance in an old wooden Tsarist officers’ quarters now a museum of traditional musical instruments.  


  1. If you are still in Almaty on the 9 May, Victory day do visit the Panfilov Park again.

    You'll meet many WW2 veterans celebrating the holiday together with their grandchildren. Especially this being the 65th anniversary there will be lots of cultural events happening throught out Kazakhstan.

    Do enjoy your stay.

  2. We were in Turkmenistan on the 9th of May and saw the celebrations in Moscow on TV.


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