Sadly I have come to the end of my Astana adventures. This summer we moved back to the UK and are starting up the next phase of our lives. I have so many good memories and attachments that I will be taking with me from Kazakhstan, it is still hard to say goodbye.
This morning as I went out to the balcony to sip my morning coffee I was startled by loud “Hu-ah!”‘s coming from the secondary school nearby. Although I am not much startled by the strange and unusual in Astana anymore, and I had mentioned to any and all that the new school playground looked like a police academy course, it was a bit surprising to find it had been taken over by the army. Today is a normal school day for the kids, as far as I can see, so the little ones get to play whilst camoed men run about screaming. Always interesting here…
In warmer, more temperate times (October) we were able to make a weekend visit to Borovoye, the “Kazakh Switzerland”. Just 4 hours drive away from the capital on relatively good roads, Borovoye is becoming a bit like Astana’s Lake Tahoe. We stayed at an interesting place called Zhumbaktas Rest House located in the forest close to Borovoye.
Although the surroundings were beautiful in themselves, the staff seemed to take the structure of our stay very seriously. There were still definitive hangovers in attitudes from Soviet times. As an example of this, we were assigned to a dining table at the start of our stay and given a strict schedule of meals: 8am breakfast, 1pm lunch, 4pm snack/tea, 6pm dinner, 9pm late snack and 10pm disco… Needless to say we chose to respect but not entirely honor all of the Zhumbaktas ideals…
As you can see from above, if you are in a nature reserve, you must find wildlife (or wild-deadlife)! We didn’t see a single thing roaming free, but there were mounted heads galore and a few plastic creatures that seemed to reproduce around the fountain the longer we stayed. At night we could hear wolves which was exciting! The woods in the surrounding area were incredibly picturesque and made me think of “Peter and the Wolf” more than a few times!
In the afternoon we decided to try to row around Lake Borovoye and it was by far the best way to see the area. For about 1000 kzt (£5) four of us had a large boat to ourselves for an hour and took a leisurely look around on a sparklingly sunny fall day.
On the way back to the car, we noticed these strange rope courses in the trees that are apparently for children in the high tourist season. Needless to say, I hope they have all trained with a circus because there are no safety nets and a high looking level of challenge!
There was also a little market next to the parking and we had a quick gander. There were loads of fragrantly smoked fish for sale (I was tempted until I realised it would have to sit in the car for a whole day!) as well as this outstandingly vibrant orange drink that little old ladies insisted was very health with vitamins and I had to sample…It was very healthy tasting indeed… I did finally buy a tub of fresh honey as this is something everyone raves about from this area of Kazakhstan. It was very fragrant and golden flavoured!
After an energetic night of card-playing and drinking with the crew and right before the 4 hour journey back to Astana-land, I took an calming walk around the woods outside of the guest house area. The route to the little lake nearby was stunning and made a dramatic change from forest to woods to lowland scrub and lakeside. Borovoye is certainly a place I will return to again!
From the Sitting Room to the Studio (my favorite bit)!
It has taken some time, but finally we have begun to settle here in Astana. Take a full tour of our new home!
More to come… Up next: My studio space!
It has been ages since my last post and it seems like everything has been going by at warp speed. Married life has been great, if not principally different and I am currently on my first week of NO WORK! Of course, there are still millions of things to do in preparation for the big move to Kazakhstan.
We had our first big sendoff last week, with the packing up of all our heavy baggage. Because I am INGENIOUS and love my new husband so much, I decided it would be wonderful to lock myself out of the flat the morning of the movers arriving, just so I could spend an hour travelling to and from central London, visit my husband at work and mug him for his keys. That crisis averted, I set about trying to seperate what was going from what was not going(see pics).
It was certainly a hectic afternoon when the men arrived as we have a rabbit-hutch of a flat and three guys with many large boxes meant I spent most of my time on the balcony calling out orders. They did a sterling job though, very thorough and I wouldn’t be surprised if all of my paintbrushes arrive individually wrapped! Fingers crossed everything arrives intact after their 2 month journey!
Some surprising items had to be left behind though as it will be sent via airfrieght. Apparently any type of printer is a no-go as there is a possiblity of ink cartridges being used as explosives. I argued that we could easily take them out, but it was to no avail. Booze is sadly off the allowable goods list too (travesty!). I may have snuck some small ice wines in though…
All in all, we took up a whole 63 boxes with the stuff in our flat! That’s not even counting the wedding gifts that have been sent directly to their warehouse (we get to avoid VAT, value added tax, this way).
So now we are really testing the marraige living in a flat with no tv, games, books, radio, music players or laptop (my powercord fell in with the frieght)!
Soon to come, hopefully… Wedding recap with pictures, honeymoon coverage and reboot of the site…