Day 129: Pyramid

Astana Travel Blog

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A little chapel I came across unexpectedly

There was one spectacular building I didn't visit yesterday: The Palace of Peace & Harmony. This was the first of Norman Foster's commissions in Astana and is shaped like a giant glass and steel pyramid. The reason I didn't visit is because it is located behind the Presidential palace, across the river, which was simply to far to walk.

So, using the Internet, I had figured out which bus to take and off I went. Once in the bus the map of the bus route didn't make any sense though and I soon realised the information I had found on the Internet was wrong. I got off the bus at the point which seemed closest to the palace on the schematic map in the bus and walked from there.

Boy, was this a mistake! As it turned out I was several kilometres away from my destination.

The Palace of Peace & Harmony
In the searing heat I walked in the general direction of the palace, only to find canals, highways and residential neighbourhoods in my way, forcing me to take several detours. By the time I reached the Ishim river and finally saw the pyramid in the distance I was exhausted. I followed the riverbank, but this wasn't a good idea either. Rivers never seem to flow in a straight line and the path along the riverbank veered off to the left and seemed to add at least another two kilometres to my walk.
The most direct way to the pyramid from here was to cross the river towards the Bulvar and then walk past the presidential palace and cross the river there once again. By this time I had walked at least 15 kilometres already and it seemed to be at least another 2 or 3 kilometres to the palace (and the same distance back again).
The Palace of Peace & Harmony


I reached the bus stop in front of the presidential palace, hoping to catch a bus heading towards the pyramid. As I said before, the only way to find out where a bus is going is by actually entering it. I stepped in a few buses, quickly peaking at the map, but I could not see a single bus route heading towards the pyramid from this stop.

All this time I didn't even know whether you could even visit the pyramid. I mean, “Palace of Peace & Harmony”, that is not really saying much about the actual nature of the building, now does it? For all I knew it was a ministry which was closed to public. The Lonely Planet wasn't much help here either, as it didn't provide a single shred of information about the actual nature of the building. Or the Russian name for the building, for that matter, so I couldn't really ask any of the bus drivers if they were going there either (I did try asking for 'pyramid' with a Russian accent, but this only resulted in drivers shaking their head and driving on).
Looking down the Bulvar

I gave up. I didn't want to walk any more, even less so without knowing if there would actually be anything to see at my destination, so I took a bus to the Khan Shatyr instead for a well-deserved Tien Shan beer.

Later when reading the blog of Tim and Wim, I found out just how useless my Lonely Planet had been. Tim and Wim were using a Brandt guide, which, while written around the same time as my Loneley Planet, provided much more information on the sights in Astana. The Palace of Peace & Harmony can indeed be visited and is apparently quite spectacular on the inside. Furthermore I learned from their blog that I had missed several indoor attractions along the Bulvar, none of which are mentioned in the Lonely Planet.

When I mentioned this later to Bek and Nico in Almaty, I was quite surprised to learn that Bek actually knew the author of the Lonely Planet.
Bayterek monument
They had spent some time together in Almaty, where the author had been much more interested in partying than in doing his bloody job. And this shows in the guidebook. The information on Almaty is fairly accurate and quite extensive, the information on Astana (or most of the other cities) is very brief and in parts just rubbish.

I have always been an advocate for Lonely Planet, as most of their guides are indispensable, but in the future it will no longer be the automatic guidebook of choice.
I had given some feedback on this book via the LP website and was not surprised when I received a reply that there have in fact been many complaints about the quality of this guide. Let's see if the 2010 edition is any better.

In the afternoon I went back to the apartment to say goodbye to Franck and thank him for the hospitality (unfortunately I hadn't been able to see Minda any more) and made my way to the train station.

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A little chapel I came across unex…
A little chapel I came across une…
The Palace of Peace & Harmony
The Palace of Peace & Harmony
The Palace of Peace & Harmony
The Palace of Peace & Harmony
Looking down the Bulvar
Looking down the Bulvar
Bayterek monument
Bayterek monument
Astana
photo by: Biedjee