Heads or tails
Almaty Travel Blog› entry 71 of 86 › view all entries
June 23rd, 2010 – by: roadtrampz
This happened in Russia to: In Moskow a metro lady the size of a grizly bear reduced me to tears shouting and barking various orders at me that I couldn't understand.
The berokracy; the constant queing only to be sent to new ques, to people who wave you on or to the many people that disapear for their lunch just as you reach their window. The people you have to try to pay unofficially and the people you have to try not to pay unofficaly and to try to tell them appart. All this together with the unhelpful surface is really hard.
And when 10 minutes later a car tapped my panier, sending me into the traffic I exploded entirely and shouted and screamed at the driver whilst he stayed in his car looking sheepish:
"Can't you f........g drive?? You #%****!!!! Don't you have eyes??!!" No need to repeat any more. I had to go and sit on a curbe because I was shakey and only then I felt sheepish too. I generaly never make scenes!
Daren was mildly surprised but soon followed with his own curses as he tried to pick up our flights from Aktau to Tiblisi and he, like I had been, was ignored and ignored and waved on.
So we flipped a coin:
Heads and we'd change all plans and fly directly to Tiblisy that same day and get a flat and chill out. Tails we'd stick to the original plan and battle our way through the steppe and the berokracy to Aktau and fly to Tiblisi from there.
It was heads. But of course we couldn't give in. Moskow drove us nuts with all the rules and registrations that not even the embassy or the police could find any sense in. We rode in Russia bypassing half the rules and actually had one of the best journeys we've ever had. Beneath the surface the Russians were incredibly friendly. They don't deserve their stern reputation.
So we bribed our bikes onto the train to Taraz with us and rolled out of Almaty. Gliding past small villages with beautiful gardens and huge floks of cattle and sheep grazing by the trainline I was so glad we went against the coin. In my diary i wrote: "It's so green here,....i don't know why were so stubborn and insist on going on the steppe?" The ride from the chinese border to Amaty had been truely fantastic with high mountains t owering straight up to our left. The villages had been stunning full of little white houses seemingly from the last century and the camping had been a treat.
And Almaty was beautiful. It is a low city with a lot of stalinist architecture left over from the sovjet era. These are generally grey blocks, bigger than anybody could have thought neccesary. Sometimes they have fat grey pillars and one had a greek style sculpted facade: Instead of the stories of gods it had the pictures of communism carved in it: Big tanks rolling forward, soldiers, men and women looking energetic with spades and guns and the odd child with some flowers for the war machine. But mostly they are just square blocks with a little extra decorative line or two here and there.
Inside they are dark, with long corridors and small doors leading into hundreds of rooms, all the same; a 1000 berokrats offices, dark and pricy hotel rooms and whatever else the union needed. The smell of an era gone by, of dust and of old carpets. The very same old sovjet carpets under which the regimes cruelty is so conveniently hidden.
But I like these buildings. There generally surrounded by a park full of roses, statues and trees and picknicking families. The old sovjet statues are again something else: They're not pretty as such, they're powerful and respect inducing. And they make you feel small in something massive. In Almaty there is a memorial statue with black stone soldiers storming out of an enormous black rock shaped like the sovjet union!
The contrast of the freakishly intimidating architecture to the little children in sunday dress, playing in the gardens and parks amongst the flowers is quite currious.
In Almaty it is even stanger: The capital status was taken from it and moved to Astana a few years ago. Because of the strong stalinist feels and because we arrived over the weekend it had a feel like a city forgotten in time. You could probably cross it walking entirely shaded either by trees or wandering through beautiful parks, Often what was once a neat square lawn is now wild and bushy patches with knee high grass. The hedges are mostly uncut, growing over many of the walk ways, and the trees are ancient and massive...
Infront of the fine arts museum a statue of a famous painter stands proud, looking over broken fountains and an overgrown garden. The door opens but all the beautiful paintings are in a small room in the corner, for sale. The museum is closed. We admired the pictures that once would have hung in grand halls surrounded by security, leafing through them like you'd turn the pages in a crumbeling old book.
Almaty was indeed fantastic, It took some getting used to for us, since we'd just come from the eternal chinese buisyness. In China everything is on you door step. Including 4 families who may share the next room. In almaty you have to walk along these long boulevards to find a litlle shop. we meet Phi and del again and spent much of our time like you would with old friends; watching a dvd at their appartement, watching some football and drinking beers as the evening cooled down. So it couldn't be bad...
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