Almaty and Turkistan, Kazakhstan
Fresh from a speedy, comfortable overnight train ride from Karaganda, Almaty and its walkable, leafy streets, convenient buses, and relatively new metro felt a lot like a detour into my comfort zone: this is easily my favourite city of the trip, and a place I definitely wouldn’t mind living in. Unfortunately, having to deal with visa bureaucracy for the next parts of my route cut short my time here, but I tried to make the most of it.
More than any other place in Central Asia, Almaty feels positively European. The crowd is international. The city is laid out like a grid. Cafes and restaurants of all price ranges and cuisines line the streets. Signs in English make a slightly more frequent appearance. The bazaar is organised like a giant, clean supermarket, though it’s definitely still a bazaar, selling some eye-catching foods (including an entire horse meat aisle) without the typical chaos. There’s even a pedestrianised street lined with juice stalls, ice cream carts, souvenir sellers, musicians, artists, and restaurants. Rather than visit any museums, having visited enough in Astana and Karaganda, I chose to just soak in the atmosphere. (And of course, splurge on some wonderful meals!)