In Which I Find Almaty to Be Enjoyable By Leaving It (and exploring mountains instead)

I suspected from the start that Kazakhstan has much more to offer in the realm of natural wonders than urban visual delights.

I wonder if you will agree with me… I’ll ask you just like my eye doctor always does:







Or two?








If you are a rational human being like me, the choice is easy.

I wish I could tell you where we went, but our trip to the mountains followed our usual escape plan: pile into an unmarked white van, designate our somewhat-Russian-speaking colleague to somewhat Russian speak with the decidedly Russian-speaking gruff driver, clutch the seatback/armrest/attractive colleague’s hand as we speed away over bumpy roads to… what we hope is the destination we indicated.

This time, I believe, we simply told him: “To the mountains!”, pointed at the mountains, and hoped for the best.

I remember we passed the current president’s monument to himself, which is a huge park with an entrance designated by a half-circle of white marble columns. Then we drove through a district of extravagant elite houses, fenced in from all sides, most set on a hill above the road, only to pass them and lurch by yurts, the traditional wooden dwellings used by nomads (what a contrast!).

We finally were stopped by police (no, not because we were going too fast). Apparently nature had revolted in anticipation of our coming and there had been an avalanche.

He said, "You shall not pass!"
We listened.

So instead, we piled out of the van, and found this:

Possibly of national significance. Possibly a monument to the president. Definitely Three Bears.

We were outside in the fresh, chilly air. Monumental mountains surrounded us. There were interesting statues. There were cute paths leading into the fall foliage.

There were hidden streams:

Leading to hidden waterfalls:

There was a much-needed perspective:

And there were some lovely colors thrown into the mix.

Almaty isn’t so bad after all.


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