Kazakhstan - The origin of renegade Borat

After visiting Kyrgyzstan the last couple of days, the second STAN country I arrived in was Kazakhstan, in the south-east, in the former capital Almaty. As in Kyrgyzstan, there is not much to do in Kazakhstan in winter time, especially as I'm not skiing. And with so much snow it was too much effort trying to get into the countryside to the farming nomads and visit their yurts and even I did try to, they probably were not even there during winter anyway or surely not so easy to find for a non-Russian speaking tourist. Also, even if they operate their nomad businesses, there wouldn’t be many around to find, as Kazakhstan is an enormous big country with a size of half of Europe but with a population of ONLY 16 million people.

First of all, the question that rumbles on the internet before the internet even was existing: Is Kazakhstan in Europe or in Asia?

The official answer is... both :) Yes, geographically seen more of Kazakhstan is in Asia. BUT, the majority of people living in Kazakhstan think its better being part of Europe than of being a country of Asia and that means, Kazakhstan can choose to which continent it belongs.

Due to that and because of cultural and political reasons, Kazakhstan is located in Europe. Clarified :)!

December 28 – Visiting Almaty. So, where is Borat :)?

Probably most western people know about Kazakhstan from the US comedy movie “Borat”, which was in cinemas more than 10 years ago. And so I'm no exception. Even also most people who have seen “Borat” know, that this movie actually wasn’t shot in Kazakhstan, but in Romania and all the misleading facts that were given to us in this movie are complete nonsense and not true at all.

The funny thing is, even knowing it is a hoax, I still relate the content of the movie “Borat” to Kazakhstan and automatically think Borat is the average Kazakh person.

Ridiculous, but probably most of the western people do so. In one way a bad thing for Kazakhstan, on the other side a big advertisement for them as well. As I found out the movie is not banned in Kazakhstan, but only a small amount of people from Kazakhstan have watched the movie, as it is intriguing for them and a letdown in all perspectives. So here they all hate Borat, which its origin is supposed to be Almaty :)

I decided to visit Almaty only for two days. I didn’t expect anything and its surely not worth to spend a week here, but for two or maximum three days its nice to wandering around and check out how Kazakhs live in cities :) 

Getting to Kazakhstan was easier than I thought, as for the year of 2017 they lifted visa requirements and for many nationalities, there was no visa required in 2017, as they wanted to get more tourists in their country. Don’t know if they kept it that way or changed it back in 2018, but I was happy not to organize a Kazakh visa.

The first night I stayed here, it was heavy snowfall with minus 10 degrees and yesterday in the morning, the snow cleaners already were at work. However, not only a few vehicles or machines or so, no, they had an army of people equipped with shovels doing it all with bare hands :). They cleaned every corner and every stair very effectively.

Snow in Almaty at the Revolution Square

Traffic in Almaty Republic Square

The presidential residence. It's so quiet around here, maybe the president is on vacation.
Almaty presidental residence in winter

Almaty Central State Museum
Almaty Central State Museum

Almaty Opera House
Almaty Opera House in winter

December 29 - Riding the Almaty cable car is like flying

Was now wandering for two days in Almaty city and I guess during summer time it has much more charm than in winter. It’s a city with some good spots to see but most of them are far from each other. That meant I had to walk for many kilometers up and down the streets.

There are many coffee shops and the place is indeed very lively and westernized with modern shopping malls and wifi in every third corner.
The best thing in Almaty are without doubt the World War II memorial and the Kok-Tobe hill.

Kok-Tobe hill is located at the edge of the city center and accessible with the cable car. Riding that cable car felt like flying in a helicopter over a town :D. The cable cars that I have ridden so far in the past, were all up along a mountain, but this one was at first almost horizontal ride through the city center over villages and then high up towards the mountain Kok-Tobe. Up there are is a small theme park, restaurants and a great view over whole Almaty, at least when it's not raining or foggy.

The most attractions of Almaty are not too far spread apart from each other. But even when on google maps all the sights look to be close to each other, it still took me enough time to walk long and sometimes very boring streets.

After these two days, I would say I'm OK with leaving this place and move on to Tajikistan tomorrow morning.

Following a Map of Almaty and its most important sights. The right side of the city is the best area to stay in Almaty. Following map shows where the some of the monuments or buildings or things to see are located. On the map it looks all nearby together, but in reality, it takes more time than estimated to walk from each site to the other.

Map of things to see in Almaty during winter time.

Green Bazar
Entrance to the green bazar in Almaty

Huge monument for the soldiers who died in World War II. The monument of Panvilov
World War 2 memorial in Almaty

Fried Chicken in Kazahk Style with croutons :)

Almaty Central Mosque
Almaty Cental Mosque

Kazakhstan Hotel, right in front of the Kok-Tobe cable car terminal.
The famous Kazakhstan Hotel

Riding the Almaty cable car is like flying with the helicopter up to the mountain Kok-Tobe.

Riding the Almaty Cable car is like like flying with the helicopter to Kok-Tobe

Kok-Tobe in winter

View over almaty in winter

Winter in Almaty

The Beatles Monument in Almaty

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