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.