Kathryn was a great traveler and slept most of the way on the flight and about half the way on the four hour car ride from Koksheatu to Astana. It seems to get colder as we went further south to Astana getting into the vast openness of the steppes. There is still snow on the ground and trees that makes you cold just looking at the scenery.
Almaty was the capital of Kazakhstan before they moved it to Astana in 1997. It is a large city that could be compared, on a smaller scale, to New York or Chicago. Lots of new construction going on with their expanding economy and as they are prepare for the Winter Asian Games in 2011 as well as make their bid to host the Winter Olympics in 2014. Monday we had an appointment with the sisters to go over our schedule for the three days and sign some final paperwork. Kathryn had her medical exam as well at the international S.O.S clinic. Nice doctor from South Africa working there and he was thorough with her medical information and answered any question we had. Kathryn did wonderfully and we were finished in about 30 minutes. Tuesday is a free day for us as Kathryn’s passport needs to be registered in Astana so we are heading to the mountains for some sightseeing and lunch. Wednesday I will stop by the Lufthansa office to purchase Kathryn’s ticket and hopefully get us a spot in the bulkhead row before heading off to the American Embassy for some final immigration paperwork.
Today, Tuesday, our driver Vitali took us to the mountains here. The Tien Shen range is about a 45 minute drive from the city and you are quickly in colder weather. The Tien Shen range runs from Kyrgyzstan in the south through Kazakhstan, China, to Tibet in the north. The mountains here host a ski resort that, too, is undergoing reconstruction as well as the skating rink which will be used for speed skating, etc. for the games. Normally we would be able to take a gondola to the top but unfortunately it was not in operation during our visit. So instead we took the opportunity to enjoy the clean air on a cloudless day with the temperature cold enough that the snow does not melt but in direct sun warm enough for us to enjoy lunch outside. Vitali ordered lunch for us which was a Russian soup that resembled vegetable beef as well as some chicken kabobs. Of course, before the soup it is Russian tradition to have a little vodka prior to eating. Who are we to break tradition. It was an excellent lunch at the restaurant at the base of the slopes overlooking the mountain peaks with a blue sky backdrop. Please enjoy some of the sights in the pictures below.
The view from our lunch table