Saturday, 11 August 2012

Day 132 - Astana: A ghost town from the future. (Kazakhstan)

What a seriously weird place this is. Any city that is invented for the sake of moving the capital is going to be a bit odd, but we seem to have chosen timing such that it is particularly so. Made the capital in 1997, it has only been in the last five or so years that President Nazarbayev has pumped a considerable proportion of state funds into building the sky scrapers, domes and futuristic towers of the new town. As with a lot of these sorts of invented places (Docklands in Melbourne came to mind straight away) the whole place feels a bit like a ghost town from the future.

The apartment block we are staying in is obviously very new, but when you enter the building there are holes in the walls, wires lying around, missing tiles and bits of plaster, and it’s hard to tell whether it’s been left to ruin or hasn’t yet been finished. Our apartment itself is along the same lines, fitting in well with most of the city.

The complex of Embassies was very peculiar. It was a square of land, laid out with a grid of roads and split into quarter acre blocks. Each Embassy had a quarter acre block and was built in the style of a suburban family home, a neat flowerbed lining the modest driveway leading to the front door. The respective countries’ flags flying over the front porches were the only sign that this wasn’t a contrived sim city type housing complex.

Astana’s not an overly exciting place to spend a lot of time in. Other than gawking at the ridiculousness of the buildings, and a visit to the very impressive President’s Museum showcasing all the gifts and awards bequeathed to him by other foreign leaders, there isn’t really a whole lot to do.

Denner did manage to get himself a much needed whole new wardrobe though. We were pretty happy to find that our apartment came with a washing machine, and keen to clean his three pieces of clothing Denner jumped straight in. A few hours later he pulled his clean clothes out and caused much hilarity when we discovered that his almost entirely white/bone/beige wardrobe was now a very attractive baby blue colour. Confused by the Cyrillic script and unable to decipher the icons for temperature and time, he had inadvertently set the machine to 90 degrees Celsius and his navy blue sleeping sheet had bled all over everything else. For most people this would be quite a frustrating event, for some devastating; but for Denner it was a much needed change and a major improvement on most items.

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