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After my 3-4 day stop in Astana, Kazakhstan, I decided to take a $95 USD flight down to Almaty, Kazakhstan (the former capital of Kazakhstan).

You can either take a train for about 15 hours, or a 2 hour flight… Obviously the flight was the better option.

Long story short, I ended up staying in Almaty for almost a month, and had an epic adventure into the mountains of Shymbulak.

Where is Almaty, Kazakhstan?

A Little Kazakh History

Kazakhstan, for the longest time, was an enormous nomadic region in central Asia.

You were either a herder of sheep, horses, cattle, or other livestock, OR you were a trader on the Silkroad.

(A nomad is someone who constantly travels from area to area, depending on the seasons, resources, cultural beliefs, etc.)

The nomads of old Kazakhstan

A monument to ‘Abay Kunanbayev'. He introduced western, eastern, and ‘enlightened islamic' philosophies, through poetry, to the upper classes of Kazakhstan until his death in 1904

A monument to ‘Abay Kunanbayev'. He introduced western, eastern, and ‘enlightened islamic' philosophies, through poetry, to the upper classes of Kazakhstan until his death in 1904

Imperial Russia into Communism

Eventually, the Russian Empire came along and conquered Kazakhstan, starting in 1813.

This period was called the ‘Great Game', which involved the British Empire and the Russian Empire.

While the British empire was leeching resources from India and its other colonies in exchange for a different style of culture, education, and social order…

Russia was doing the same to its conquered regions (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan).

But when communism took over Russia, it quickly penetrated, and overtook the Kazakhstan nation.

As such, the architecture has a heavy influence to communist ideals… effective, efficient, minimalist, and ‘blocky'.

Typical avenues in between large apartment blocks in the Almaty, Kazakhstan, and the former USSR

Most communist blocks had a playground area in their backyards. Almaty, Kazakhstan

The central state museum of Kazakhstan, in preparation for a ceremony

The Almaty Mayoral Office in Kazakhstan

A closeup of the emblem and flag on the Almaty Mayoral Office in Kazakhstan

Jeltoqsan monument, to the riots that took place in 1986, when the Communist president (Mikhail Gorbachev) dismissed the Communist leader of Kazakhstan, and appointed an outsider. 200+ people died.

Monument to Zhambyl

Monument to Zhambyl. A folk singer who wrote many pro-revolution, pro-stalin song, until his death in 1945.

A soviet-style apartment complex in Almaty, Kazakhstan

Close up of the soviet-style architecture in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

The Almaty TV Tower, finished in 1983, built to withstand an Earthquake of 10 on the Richter scale

The Almaty TV Tower, finished in 1983, built to withstand an Earthquake of 10 on the Richter scale

A View from my rented apartment in Almaty, Kazakhstan, facing Kok-Tobe (Green Hill)

A New Almaty, Kazakhstan

The collapse of the soviet union ushered in over a decade of instability, violence, intense criminal competition, heavy corruption, and ultimately a restructuring of ex-soviet societies.

After almost 2 decades, Kazakhstan was back on its feet, with a strong relatively strong economy, mostly built on the manufacturing and exportation of oil.

Furthermore, due to large investment incentives put into place by the government, there is a LOT of construction projects taking place, resulting in a mesh of soviet-era and 2010+ style architecture around the city.

Gentrification of living spaces in Almaty, Kazakhstan

A View of Almaty, Kazakhstan from Kok-Tobe (Green Hill)

A View of Almaty, Kazakhstan from Kok-Tobe (Green Hill)

A View of Almaty, Kazakhstan from Kok-Tobe (Green Hill)

A View of Almaty, Kazakhstan from Kok-Tobe (Green Hill)

A View of Almaty, Kazakhstan from Kok-Tobe (Green Hill)

A View of Almaty, Kazakhstan from the cable car, going up to Kok-Tobe (Green Hill)

A View of Almaty, Kazakhstan from Kok-Tobe (Green Hill)

The suburbs of Almaty, Kazakhstan

 

The Mountain Background

While the city architecture of Almaty, Kazakhstan isn't overly special, what you will be really amazed by the is mountainous background.

On a map, the mountains are considered ‘south' but to the Almaty locals, it's considered north or ‘up-town', since you are going ‘up' a mountain.

Construction projects facing the mountains of Almaty, Kazakhstan

In the presidential park of Almaty

In the presidential park of Almaty

Walking around the presidential park of Almaty

The hill in the presidential park of Almaty

A view of the mountains of Almaty

In the presidential park of Almaty, Kazakhstan

In the hill, in the presidential park of Almaty

The arches leading into the presidential park of Almaty, Kazakhstan

The Mountains of Almaty

But the really amazing part is the mountains of Almaty. You simply take a bus from the city, and then a few cable cars to get to the top.

There are 3 cable cars, each one, going progressively higher, and the view is obviously breathtaking.

 

Shymbulak mountain on a cloudy day

We are going to the moon… or to Shymbulak Mountain

Medeo Skating rink at the foot of the mountain

Medeo Skating Rink at the food of the mountain

A restaurant in the mountains

Mountains producing vapour and clouds on a sunny day from evaporation

Cable cars going up Shymbulak mountain in Almaty

Cable cars going up Shymbulak mountain in Almaty

A cold feeling in the mountains of Kazakhstan

Cable cars going up Shymbulak, higher and higher

Cable cars going up Shymbulak, higher and higher

Cable cars going up Shymbulak, higher and higher

The cable car trip to Shymbulak Mountain

Cable cars going up Shymbulak, higher and higher

Approaching the first stop on Shymbulak Mountain

At the first cable car stop on Shymbulak mountain

Up to the second stop on Shymbulak Mountain

Cable cars up to the second stop on Shymbulak mountain

A selfie from the second stop on Shymbulak mountain

A view from the third stop and final stop on Shymbulak mountain. In the distance is the TV Tower, and the city of Almaty.

A view from the third stop and final stop on Shymbulak mountain. In the distance is the TV Tower, and the city of Almaty.

A view from the third stop and final stop on Shymbulak mountain. In the distance is the TV Tower, and the city of Almaty.

The view from the mountains on my first trip. Clearly a cloudy day.

A washroom station at the top of Shymbulak

Skiers getting ready to ski down Shymbulak

The grandeur of the moutains of Kazakhstan. On the other side is Kyrgyzstan.

The mountain I decided to climb, after reaching the top of the cable car ride.

I think it says… please climb this mountain

A view of the skiers, as I climb the mountain by foot

Getting smaller and smaller

A view from the top of the mountains in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Took about 40 minutes by foot, to reach this point.

The grand scale of the mountains of Almaty, Kazakhstan. Feels like Mars due to its reddish/brown colour.

A view from the mountains of Almaty, during the night.

 

Long Story Short

The real invitation to the city of Almaty, comes from its mountains, and potential adventures you can have there.

You can stay in Almaty for about 3-4 days, and have an epic time skiing, or just climbing the mountains and taking selfies, as I did.

Keep in mind, the 3rd cable car stop closes at 4:30pm, so make sure you climb down the mountains before that.

Otherwise, you will get stuck, like I did, for about 2 hours. You will get to slide down on your shoes and ass in the end 😉

Otherwise, the city itself has all of the necessities you expect to see in any modern city… Uber, large malls, KFC, McDonalds, night clubs, restaurants, and everything else.

And everything is inexpensive, relative to the western world (ie. a $20 uber in North America, would only cost about $2-3 in Kazakhstan).

 

Na Zdaroviye (Cheers or ‘For Health', in Russian)

Leonidas

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