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A Cold Welcome to Astana

KAZAKHSTAN | Sunday, 1 March 2015 | Views [797]



AS I LOOKED OUT THE WINDOW ON THE PLANE’S final approach, I could almost see a pack of wolves chasing Zhivago and Lara’s sleigh across the snowy landscape.  Guess I was hallucinating — 30 sleepless hours can do that.  The blast of cold as we left the plane shocked me awake.  Welcome to Kazakhstan, -5℃ (23℉).  B-R-R-R!  The friendly folks at Etihad Airlines in Kuwait gave us a bit of a scare when they at first refused to let us fly.  Kazakhstan recently introduced 15-day visas on arrival but Etihad believed we needed to have an onward ticket to be allowed entry.  Not true, it turns out so we can stay for a while.

Kazakhstan has been on our radar for quite some time, since before we retired, in fact.  When Connie's application  for a posting as military liason to Kazakhstan was denied we decided to quit work and live it up.  And now, nearly 12 years later, here we are.  Astana (ACTAHA in Cyrillic) is the "new" capital of Kazakhstan, the first of what Connie calls the "Peaceful 'Stans" that we will visit in the next few months.  So far it doesn't appear that much different than Ulaanbaatar — except for the snow.


    Baiterek Monumnet

Airport taxi negotiations in a new country with strange currency are always a bone of contention — both between the opportunistic drivers who want to overcharge and between us.  Connie wants to bargain hard and I just want to get to the hotel.  We ended up compromising with a driver who had NASCAR aspirations.  The Belon Lux in  Astana seems wonderful.  Our room is plain but spacious and the room service breakfast is good.  TV is all in Russian but the wifi is fast and reliable.  As it turns out we are a short walk from a mall with a supermarket and several restaurants including KFC and Burger King in case we feel nostalgic.



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