Friday, June 20, 2008

The big Apple

Or more accurately, the grandfather of the apple. That's what Alma-ata (now mostly called Almaty) means. For a few moments after discovering this fact it had me musing on the Central Asian roots of the Magyars, since Alma is also the Hungarian word for apple, and ata is close enough to grandfather to be a feasible link. However, I suspect that the real and more prosaic reason is that it's a Turkish connection - Kazakh is a Turkic language and Hungarian has a fair few Turkish words in it from the Ottoman empire.

So, anyway, Almaty. I didn't get to see a huge amount of it to be honest, since we were holed up in the hotel for most of the time, working, eating and sleeping, but I did get to go to a pretty cool Mongolian-barbecue restaurant (and the sword wielding Mongolian in charge of the cooking was even happy to do a veggie run for myself and a Nepali colleague), and also to take a walk through the town to the main square in which there are some big statues and a place where you put your hand in order to make a wish. I can't really describe it any better than that, I'm afraid. It is what it is).

Finally though on my last day there, I got to have some free time, and spent it in the company of one of the participants at one of Almaty's most famous locations (or at least that's where we initially headed for), which is a big ice stadium above the city called Medeo. When i say ice stadium, I don't actually mean stadium made of ice, I mean stadium which is used in the winter for ice-related events. We actually didn't end up there though, because we got talked into a trip further up the mountain to a ski resort called Chimbulak, which was well worth it, and pretty high up. The evidence for this was the fact that it had been bloody roasting in the town (and even at Medeo which is high above the town), but up at Chimbulak a mere 20 minutes further on, it was decidedly nippy - and then when we took the ski lift up the mountain, not only did we start to find patches of snow, but we also needed the thick coats which we were advised to rent at the bottom. (I think we got to something like 3000 metres).

Anyway, I don't really have anything to say about Almaty (it was a bit like Bishkek, only bigger and with more expensive cars and shops - and if you want to know what I thought of Bishkek, you can just read here and here and here, which will take you back to the days when this blog was actually good. Or mediocre anyway.), so in the absence of any witty and enlightening words, here are a couple of pictures:

Almaty as viewed from Chimbulak

Medeo (Not actually taken by me)

A statue of some Kazakhs. (Also not taken by me, but by an Iranian colleague - check out the Iranian datestamp on the picture)


Anonymous said...

Your post caught my eye because a number of years ago, the NYT had an article on the disappearing apples of Kazakhstan. After the fall of the USSR, much of the hillsides around Almaty were being developed and the habitat of the wild apple was slowly disappearing. Some guy from New Jersey was cultivating as many varieties as possible so as to keep the most endangered ones from becoming extinct.

If I remember correctly, with the exception of the leaves, most of the plants and fruits were unrecognizable as apples.

lucyrm said...

'Elma chai' is the (ubiquitous) apple tea in Turkey, so probably that's another Magyar word that came straight from Turkish (elma= alma=apple)...
Enjoying your posts from Kazakhstan!