Almaty – The Apple of Kazakhstan’s Eye
Once the former capital of Kazakhstan, Almaty offers visitors its spectacular natural beauty as well as dramatic and impressive city life.
Located on the foothills of the Trans-Ili Alatau in the extreme southeast of Kazakhstan is Almaty, where the word literally means ‘city of apple trees’.
Its relatively mild climate means there is a wide range of apple trees available in the city. Researchers and scientists from around the world also make it a point to visit the city every now and then in their quest to learn more about the complex systems of genetics and to discover the beginnings of the domestic apples.
The city itself is charming with the snow-capped mountains edging the entire city to the south against the taller buildings forming magnificent sceneries. One can opt for activities like skiing, horse-riding and trekking for easy day trips and not to forget to enjoy its bursting and colourful nightlife as well. Despite the present capital of the country having been moved to Astana, Almaty still functions as the centre of commerce for Kazakhstan with the stock exchange and banks located there. You will find the largest bank in the country here – the Kazkommertsbank, which is one of the largest players in Central Asia.
A trip to Kazakhstan will not be complete if one does not adhere to Almaty’s ‘to-do and to-visit’ list. Panfilovpark is one of the highlights in any visit to Almaty. Located between Gogol and Qazybek Bi, it is a huge rectangle of beautiful trees and clean cut grass. The center of the park focuses on the Zenkov Cathedral, made entirely from wood and devoid of nails, though it doesn’t look that way at first glance. It is said to be Almaty’s nearest rival to St Basil’s Cathedral in the Red Square. The park is also named after the Panfilov Heroes, with war memorials commemorating 28 soldiers of an Almaty infantry unit who died fighting off the Nazis in a village outside Moscow back in 1941.
Be sure to check out some of the city’s best museums as well. Let the Central State Museum takes you on a walk down memory lane through Kazakhstan’s history from the bronze-age burial mounds to telecommunications, not forgetting beautiful artefacts on Kazakhstan’s many ethnic groups.
Immerse yourself in the best art collection in the country in Kazakhstan Museum of Arts. Works of art banned during the Soviet period are also made available for viewing in this museum as well as a vast collection of Russian and Western European Art.
The focal point at Respublika Alanghy is none other than the Monument to Independence, a huge stone column that is surmounted with a replica of the Golden Man standing on two-winged snow leopards. It brings history back to life by depicting scenes from the past to the public.
If you have time to spare, be sure to head over to its flea markets for some experience on local food and their way of life. Zalyony Bazaar, which is right next to Panfilovpark is a great place for you to obtain some local organic food. Barakholka market, located in the outskirts is much crowded with people converging on the market selling almost everything, from animals, fridges to jeans and shoes at bargain prices.
Don’t miss out on some of their local favourites like manty, laghman, samsas (samosas) and other Kazakh specialities such as beshbarmak and the tortilla-wrapped doner – a brilliant and tasty food where the tortilla is stuffed with meat, sour cream and sliced carrots and served with French fries. If you explore the Pedestrian Street area at sunset, you might find yourself discovering a lot more goodies as well as great food.
A spectacular city with great people, good food and splendid scenery, Almaty will surely be one of the best destinations for an easy going and relaxing, yet fun-filled trip.