I’ve been recuperating from a cold this week so I haven’t been out much. Feeling better, I ventured out today to explore one area of the city. Panfilov Park is but one of Almaty’s many parks and green spaces and is located in the oldest part of town, the Central District. The park is dedicated to General Panfilov, a local hero that gave his life to defend Moscow from the Germans during World War II. The southern entrance to the park is marked with his statue.
I have been very surprised to find Almaty to be such a green city. There are trees everywhere, and the old, central part of the city is laid out in a grid pattern. To the south are the mountains and the roads head uphill towards them. It’s very easy to navigate if you remember that south is uphill and north is downhill. Speaking of downhill, Almaty has a rather interesting irrigation and storm drain system dating back to the 19th century. A system of ducts, called ‘aryks,’ run along the roads and carry water from the mountains all through the city to provide an ample water supply for all of these trees. It also serves as a fairly efficient storm drain system during heavy rains. The one below runs east-west so doesn’t always flow as do the north-south lines.
Further into the park on the eastern side is the huge war memorial, whose centerpiece is a several story high sculpture in the shape of the former USSR dedicated to soldiers from Panfilov’s division. There are also two additional sculptures flanking this colossus dedicated to soldiers from the first and second world wars. Opposite this is the Officer’s Palace, now the Museum of Military History. The architecture to me seemed stereotypical Soviet era.
Adjacent to the Museum of Military History is an old original building from the early 1900’s. It originally served as home of the Officer’s League but now houses the Museum of Folk Musical Instruments of Kazakhstan. I found the contrast between this old building and the Military History Museum in the background very amusing.
Moving over to the other side of Panfilov Park is the beautiful Cathedral of Holy Ascension. Besides its obvious beauty, it also has the notoriety of being one of the tallest wooden buildings in the world. It was designed by architect Andrei Zenkov in 1907 and survived the earthquake of 1910. Along with the Central Mosque further north, it is one of the major landmarks of the city.
Heading north from the cathedral and the park, you come to the famous Green Bazaar. This is one of the last traditional markets in the city but is very well established. It gives you a glimpse of Central Asia and the old Silk Road if you squint enough. Who knows how long it will remain as there are several ultra modern 24 hour supermarkets muscling their way into the city. I was warned that taking pictures is frowned upon but I did manage to sneak up into the balcony of one of the main halls and snap these two for you:
The mosaic of colors you see in the stalls are a seemingly infinite variety of local dried fruits and nuts, which the region is famous for. As you walk through, every vendor tries to entice you over with samples in hopes of a purchase. Too bad for my nut allergy! While these shots primarily show the produce section, there’s a whole other section devoted to fresh meats…and I do mean fresh! Butchers cleaving away and selling select parts. No pretty styrofoam and plastic-wrapped parts here. There is no refrigeration in the market anyway, so what you buy you most likely end up preparing for dinner that evening.
Well, that’s all for now. It was too hot out (about 98F) to spend much more time walking about. Still trying to fully recuperate from my cold as well but I needed a break to prevent cabin fever. Hopefully another update next weekend!