Sunday in Almaty

October 23, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

Today I had an Awesome Sunday in Almaty. It was the first day on this survey that I was able to wake up without an alarm (didn’t set one) so that was great. Hooray for days off! I got up at what I thought was 10:45 (turns out it was 9:45 and my clock was wrong) and walked down to the Coffeeroom restaurant a few blocks away where I had a nice coffee drink and a Panini of mozzarella and tomato for breakfast. I figured it was about lunch time when I got there… now I realize why the staff looked at me funny for ordering lunch at 10:30 in the morning.

After this, I walked down to the Kok-Tube (hahah!), a “famous” (?) cable car that takes you high up on the hill of Almaty. I hung out at the top of the Kok-Tube area for a bit. There are very nice views of the city there and some cheesy fair-type games. I was tempted to buy a funny Kazakhstani hat but thought better of it as I can probably get one cheaper elsewhere. By the way, Almaty city is built on one big slope under the Tian Shan Mountains. This means, walking one way is very easy and awesome and walking the other way is fairly difficult (or at least much slower).

After the Kok Tube, I followed George’s (the Californian I met yesterday) instructions for what to do and headed to a big Bazaar market. There, I saw the biggest pomegranate I’ve ever seen, probably 7 inches in diameter, and bought one that was less large. I also ended up purchasing some apples that I didn’t mean to get due to the language barrier, but it was okay because they weren’t so expensive and I gave them to a woman on the street asking for money.

After the bazaar, I went to the Rahat chocolate factory, where I got some chocolates. People kept cutting me in line there because they just screamed out what they wanted, but I finally got the counter lady’s attention and with pointing, ended up with some milk chocolate, some dark chocolate, and a gift box of what I think are chocolates.

After the Rahat market, I wandered a little more, and then headed to the Medeo. I think you can categorize the Medeo as a winter sports area, but im not sure what it technically is. At the Medeo, there’s the Highest Skating rink in the world. I have a picture but will have to post it later as the pictures are still not working on WordPress for me now. I bought a (student rate!! Ha!!) ticket for two different gondolas for the Shymbulak ski resort. At that point, I did not really know what I was doing, but it seems like when you’re in a place where you can’t speak the language, you just have to go for it and hope for the best.

Luckily, this worked out brilliantly. I went up the first gondola, which was extremely long and took me to the base of the skiing area. On the way, I saw some horses grazing on the hills. I also saw two people kneeling on a blanket and praying to the mountains. Unfortunately, there was no skiing because there was not enough snow, but it was SO beautiful and awesome anyway. I got to the top of the first gondola, and saw a second, and went up that.

The second gondola was a combination of a chairlift and gondola units, something I’ve never seen before. Anyway, this gondola took me much higher – up to to the snowy area, and when I got off I hiked around for a while and got people to take pictures of me. I also had the nicest bathroom experience up there. I had to pee so hiked up high where no one could see me and had a wonderful view of the mountains and Almaty in the way distance. Definitely a “5.”

It was getting to be about 5:00 pm when the lift closed, so I headed back down just the higher gondola and explored the ski lodges. They had fancy restaurants there so I stopped for a snack of Russian pastry and cappuccino and water with gas, and then took the long gondola to the base.

I started to worry about how I was going to get home because the Medeo area is about 20 minutes away from town. I wandered down the road a little ways and found a bus stop. I asked some people “Almaty”? and one guy said, “I hope so!” Good enough for me. We got on the bus and there was a group of people singing, and suddenly the whole bus was singing. It was pretty crammed yet very pleasant, they had a guitar. All of a sudden, I started to hear English words in one of the songs and then of course… “alejandro, alejandro…” hahaha. (That’s a Lady Gaga song).

I got off the bus near the Hotel Kazakhstan which is on the main road – I had to walk a bit, but the hotel is very easy to find because it’s extremely tall and the top is all lit up – and from there, took a taxi to my hotel. I’m about to go down to have some wine and a bite to eat, and then I plan on watching the last two episodes of Breaking Bad season four in my room. Yess…

Well, it was certainly an awesome Sunday, and I am all ready to work hard here for the next three days.




One Response to “Sunday in Almaty”

  1. Ronna Benjamin Says:

    Loved this post! Sounds like a great day. Love you and thinking about you, well, always. Mom

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