Astana is the new capital of Kazakhstan since 1997. It is still torn between the old soviet ages and the dawn of a prosperous future. Due to my job I have to visit Astana/Kazakhstan regularly and I think it is time to show you a new and interesting lomolocation most of you haven't even heard of.
Astana (formerly known as Aqmola, or Tselinograd) is the new capital city of Kazakhstan since 1997. (The old capital was Almaty) It has a population of about 650.000 which consists mostly of Kasakhs (48%) and Russians (40%). During the Soviet era it served mostly as the center of the USSR grain production but today it is mostly the administrative city it was planned to be.
The climate is extremely continental, with temperatures from -40° to +35°C. The city is situated in the north of Kazakhstan in a great semi-desert steppe and therefore constantly exposed to dry winds.
Astana is divided in two parts by the Ishim River. North of the river is the old part of the city with most buildings dating back to the soviet era (and also looking like that…), whereas the southern part is the governmental district with ministries, the presidential palace, embassies and state buildings which are extremely monstrous and a proof for the omnipresent megalomanic tendencies of lifetime president Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Astana is not a touristic city (although the ministry of tourism has its own 20 storey high building completely covered in Italian marble stone!), for example it is nearly impossible to find someone speaking English and if you can’t read Cyrillic, you’re bound to be lost. Restaurants and nightclubs offer a great variation of food (and vodka, of course) consisting mostly of lamb, chicken, horse and even camel. More than once my ordered lamb chops turned out to be horse-steaks – I’ve got to learn more Russian!
Conclusion: Astana is an interesting city with a lot of influences from the soviet era, central Asian- and even Chinese immigrants and it’s own nomadic heritage. Still on it’s way from its Russian roots into the dawn of the future. Astana – I’ll be back soon!!