Now that we have been to Astana and traveled to Almaty, it is time to show how life is there. My love of markets is sacrosanct and I delight in the way they distinguish how people live across cultures. I will also show you the most beautiful place that I’ve ever been.
OK. Let’s continue the journey.
This the Green Bazaar. We’re back at the markets that I adore. Three massive floors of everything you can imagine. This is a stall for dried and preserved fruits. Here are the more Mediterranean influences on the culture.
Well, now we are back in Central Asia. Goat heads carefully displayed for your pleasure. The teeth weird me out.
This seems like a nice mix of cultures. The berries and spices, along with the various oils and tinctures color the scene. There’s something so exotic about strange potions in a flask. It reminds me of old-timey medicine bottles with their faded labels and antiquated language. I don’t know why those artifacts strike me so starkly. I love the typescript and aged paper. It makes me think of Jack the Ripper and Victorian England. Every color in every bottle entices me with the mystery of what they hold.
I don’t even want to know what each elixir is. I’m rather content to keep the wonder alive.
I wanted to show at least something of the city side of Almaty. This is the opera house. It looks like it could be out of St. Petersburg to these ignorant eyes. There was a show that night, and several hours after this snap it was marauded by hundreds of well-heeled patrons.
It was time to sleep. With a flight at 6pm the next day, I had half a mind to have a relaxed morn and stay in. I awoke and realized that rest can wait. I booked an overly-expensive cab and forged my way to Big Almaty Lake.
This fortitude turned out to be the best decision I made. In all of my life, and all of the numerous places I’ve experienced, I have never set sight on a place that was this stunningly majestic. I was literally without speech.
Deep in a valley, I was rewarded with this. I didn’t know that this color of aquamarine existed. The lake was unnervingly flat. From a distance you felt like you could stroll across it like Christ.
There’s that old yarn that the last thing you see gets burned to your retinas. If this were my last view I would have no regrets.
I always dip my feet in. The water was cold, yet soothing. The beautiful, clear skies entreated me to stay as long as possible. I got my hands dirty and felt the rocks. Numerous baby waterfalls cascaded and trickled into the lake. These were the Elysian Fields–mortals are not meant to witness such a place.
You even get a selfie from me. I’m very camera shy. This version of me (fatter than I am now, dammit!) has only one reason to be shared. In this shot I’m genuinely so shocked and moved by where I was that I couldn’t even pull a stupid face, the one that I always make against my will. The oxidized-copper hue of the lake, along with the surrounding mountains and scenery, were hypnotic. Look at all the tiny people near the edge of the lake for scale.
I flew back to Korea a few hours later.
Kazakhstan was a bit of a revelation. The food was incredible, everyone was universally nice, other than that asshole on the train. I got to see some things that I’d never seen before or since. I ate horse! I have some embarrassing stories that I didn’t share that are just for me, but that’s part of the flavor of a solo trip. You make mistakes and get lost (in more ways than one). More often than not you find yourself at a more interesting spot than the one you were looking for. The simple trick is to not mind and embrace the opportunity. Find beauty in everything you see. Wander down those scary streets.
Traveling alone to a new place is unnerving. There is no help and there are no lifelines. The experiences, knowledge, and wisdom you get from that type of travel are unparalleled. Trial by fire. Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’.
My coworkers asked how my week of travel went. I don’t think that my face betrayed myself.
“It went ok.”
They needn’t know any more than that. This was for me. And for me to share. And I share it with you.