Russian travel blogger and journalist: Astana -- city of surprises, worth revisiting
If you’re thinking about how not to ruin your long weekend, go see how people live in other cities. Hoteliers note that this option was finally appreciated by residents of Russia: the demand for accommodation during weekends and public holidays is growing. But what do you do if you have already been to the most interesting cities in your country? Start looking in to the neighbouring countries. Our author Olesya Vildanova did just that - she went to Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan.
There are places in the world, returning from which, with glitter in your eyes, you tell everybody: “I didn’t expect it!” And you already plan in your your next trip to that place. Because I want to see a little more than I what I had already seen.
At one time, the Caucasian mineral waters had impressed me in the same way, where I returned three times. Now I visited the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana.
Imagine a city that didn’t even exist 20 years ago. In the middle of the Kazakh steppes on the left bank of the Yesil River there was a regional center, the city of Akmola. After the decision to move the capital of Kazakhstan to Akmola, the city was renamed. And since then Astana (translated from Kazakh as “capital”) began to grow on the right bank.
In such a short period of time (especially by the standards of the CIS countries), the city became not only the political and economic center of the country, but also a point of attraction for tourists from all over the world.
The charm of Astana is in the mass construction of the master plan, developed by the world-famous Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa. He saw the urban environment as a living organism, coexisting in harmony with nature. As a result, the city, combining modern architecture and Asian touch, impresses everyone.
What impressed me
- No infill buildings in the center. Have you noticed that in the historical parts of the cities, new buildings sometimes look out of place? When you walk around Astana, there is no such impression. Everything is in the correct place. At first, there was a plan, and only then the construction started.
- The scale and scope. The central streets of the city are wide. There is also enough space between the buildings. And all the numerous sights of Astana can be seen from afar.
- Residential areas - as a decoration of the city, and not vice versa. Newly built apartment buildings on the left bank of Astana are harmoniously located near the sights. If you are a perfectionist, then you will definitely like it.
- Harmonious connection of civilization and the past. Take the old legend. And tell about it in a modern way. After all, today there are many more tools for this, right?
- More than "there is something to see." Usually a city with a million inhabitants can be seen in a day. In the evening, I visited the most popular entertainment venue, and ordered a dessert in the most contrast restaurant. The plan is complete. But for me, even two days was not enough in Astana.
How to choose your route in Astana
In Astana, they know about the agonies of choosing tourists, so they are offered to use the official guide around the city. The site welcometoastana.kz has prepared routes for 24 and 48 hours. The selected route can be supplemented with other attractions from the general list. Questions will be answered in information kiosks with the words “Welcome to Astana”. They are located at the train stations, airport and in the largest shopping centers. There you can also purchase CityPASS - a set for tourists with a SIM card and a smart card, which gives you the right to free access to the tourist sites of the city and travel on the double-decker the Red Excursion Bus.
My perfect tour
Exclaiming “Wow!”, encountering the local culture and trying national dishes is “my” way of getting to know cities. And the organizers of the trip from the “Astana Convention Bureau” suggested just a perfect route.
Museum of the Future
In 2017, the largest international exhibition Expo 2017 was held in Astana under the slogan “Energy of the Future”. The legacy of this exhibition was the Museum of the Future. It is located in the huge eight-story glass sphere "Nur Alem". A walk through the museum begins with an interactive acquaintance with Kazakhstan. Then follow the zones of energy: creative and kinetic, the energy of space, sun, biomass, wind and water. Perhaps it is here that a child might want to become a scientist, and an adult would have a glimpse back into childhood for a couple of hours.
See how the wonderful bird Samruk fights with the dragon, travel along with the sunbeam, walk on the moon, dance with the robot, walk along the glass bridge at a height of 100 meters, feel the force of the storm wind and discover hundreds of new facts. The museum of the future is unlikely to leave you indifferent!
On the territory of Expo-2017 there is a restaurant of national cuisine called Kazan, which serves beshbarmak, baursak and koumiss. You just have to try it once in Kazakhstan.
We were offered beshbarmak (a hearty hot dish of meat and dough) with horse meat and kazy (horse meat sausage). There is no unique recipe for beshbarmak, therefore in Kazakhstan for its preparation they use different types of meat. Dining is a whole ritual. For example, if a dish is prepared of lamb, the best pieces of meat and the head of a sheep are placed in front of the most honored guest. The latter divides the head between all those present.
Baursak - pieces of dough, fried in deep fat - is prepared from unleavened dough here, those present compared it with St. Petersburg meatballs. And I remembered the very dear taste of childhood, which I had been looking for a long time - I was already treated to such Baursaks in Kazakhstan.
Kumis, as in Bashkiria, takes an honored place on the table. As an inexperienced taster I did not find any special differences, I just liked it.
The main symbol of Astana - the Baiterek tower
Perhaps it is from the image of “Baiterek” that Astana can be recognized immediately. The tower has not only a unique appearance, it also tells about the mythology of the ancient nomads. A structure made of metal, glass and concrete, personifies the tree of life (Baiterek), at the top there is a ball (or an egg) with a diameter of 22 meters. The egg represents the sun, which every year since the beginning of spring the sacred bird Samruk lays. The height of the monument is 97 meters, which is symbolic, because in 1997 Astana became the capital of Kazakhstan. At the top of the Baiterek there is an observation deck. Here you can touch the palm print of the Head of State Nursultan Nazarbayev - “Ayala Alakan”. It is said that if you make a wish at the same time, it will come true.
The Park Square, surrounding “Baiterek”, is usually used for various events and exhibitions. Therefore, it is possible that during a visit to the monument a pleasant surprise will await you.
National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan
It is the largest museum in Central Asia. It is located along the Independence Square in a single architectural alignment with the monument “Kazak aly”, the Palace of Independence, the Palace of Peace and Accord, the mosque “Hazrat Sultan” and the Kazakh National University of Arts. So, standing at the entrance to the museum, you can admire several sights of Astana at once.
The National Museum contains exhibits telling about the history of mankind and, of course, Kazakhstan. You can get acquainted with the national culture in the hall of ethnography, in the same place a yurt (a portable dwelling of nomads) is recreated. Separately, the museum represents modern art.
If you want to see what a modern museum should look like, in which it’s boring to be, you are here. A curved video screen, a media field consisting of 800 screens, a dynamic layout of a new business and cultural center of Astana, holograms, LED screens, an information kiosk, a multimedia multilingual audio guide ... Modern times are no less than stories.
Family recreational Center Ailand
If you’re travelling with children this is the place to visit for sure. Ailand houses an aquarium, a water park, a jungle, a 65-meter ferris wheel and a food court.
Now I can say that I visited the aquarium far from the ocean. Its reservoirs contain 3 million liters of water and 120 tonnes of sea salt. And, judging by the pacified mind of a couple of thousands of its inhabitants, the distance from the closest ocean of 3,000 kilometers, doesn’t bother them at all.
A 70-meter transparent tunnel runs along the bottom of the central reservoir. Visitors stroll along this tunnel, watching sharks, fish, turtles and other numerous inhabitants of the aquarium swimming at arm's length. And if you come at the right time, you can witness a mermaid show.
Astana Ballet Theater
You come to a new modern theater. At the entrance you are greeted by girls with impeccable appearance in uniforms. In this theater you want to wear a cocktail dress, which is characterized by simplicity and elegance. After all, it could not be better suited to the interior of the Astana Ballet.
Here you can see not only masterpieces of world classics, but also local shows. The theater is distinguished by the latest solutions in the field of light and sound. For example, about 800 devices are at the disposal of light-operators.
Panoramic restaurant Eternal Sky
The best continuation of the evening. Eternal Sky welcomes guests on the 25th floor of the Moscow Business Center. Already during the ascent in the glass elevator, visitors enjoy a gorgeous view of Astana. In my case - the evening. And yes, the illumination in this city is definitely not in a saving mode! The restaurant has panoramic (floor to ceiling) windows. Therefore, you can choose a table with a view of Baiterek, Akorda (residence of the President of Kazakhstan), or simply watch the many colorful lights of the metropolis.
The restaurant will offer the best dishes of Turkic peoples who inhabited the territory of Central Asia since ancient times. I chose tender horsemeat stew - and did not regret it.
Triumphal Arch Mangilik el
The arch greets the guests of Astana traveling by plane and sees them off. The symbol of the 20th anniversary of independence of Kazakhstan with a symbolical height of 20 meters, the arch Mangilik el stands in the middle of a parkway going into the city. You can climb it by an underground pedestrian crossing. The principle of the golden section is observed in the design of the arch, therefore its proportions are considered ideal. The base houses the sculptures of the elder (a symbol of wisdom), the mother woman, a nomad warrior and a modern soldier. In the corners the Kazakh ornament adorns the sight. At the top there is an observation deck.
I am returning from Astana with an impressive official 100-page guide. And with the understanding that it is worth revisiting this city.
Translated by CAD News agency: