- Posted July 24, 2012 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Eye on Kazakhstan
Marco Polo in Almaty?
At this moment we are ‘chilling’ in Almaty. Of all the cities we have visited during our trip, this is the most ‘Western’ one we have been to since we left Athens. The city is full of hip restaurants and all the expensive brands can be found here. Not just clothing, but also the famous parfume-houses, western furniture shops, like IKEA and even your favourite Villeroy and Boch toilet can be bought here.
On the other side Almaty distinguishes herself from European cities by her broad lanes lined with big trees and the fact that a real city center is missing. There is no central square and restaurants, musea and bars are scattered throughout the city. The lanes are packed with expensive 4WD Toyotas, Lexus and Porsche Cayennes. You wonder where they get the money.
Although Almaty was an ancient Silk Road settlement, not too much history can be found. Most of modern day Almaty is built by the Russians starting in the 19th century. We couldn’t help to check if Marco Polo’s travels had any impact on Almaty at all. We went to the public library to find out. The very friendly Kazach staff dug into their archives (the biggest in Central Asia) and found a Russian translation of Polo’s “Ill Millione”, published in 1874. After a long search, it turned out that the book was in St. Petersburg, but they did have a copy on microfiche. And indeed, the lady showed us the book on the screen. She translated some words for us, and it seemed that at least she knew something about Marco Polo.
At night we did a little walking tour through the city. At night, it seemed that Almaty does have places where people gather: the fountains. Almaty has many bright coloured, well lit fountains, where young couples meet, and sit beside the falling waterdrops. Although not unpleasant in daylight, maybe Almaty is prettier at night