Today is Sunday so I had a down day, which I spent with my colleague Larissa. She was kind enough to take me around to see Almaty a little. We went to the history museum where we saw an amazing array of textiles, costumes, jewelry and many things from Kazkh daily life long ago. It was really impressive.
She also took me to Paniflov Park which is one of the prettiest public parks anywhere. It is very large and is essentially kept like a little forest. It is a very special retreat from the city. Inside the park, you find Zenkov Cathedral – a Czarist era church built of wood with no nails. It is one of the only buildings to withstand a terrible earthquake in 1911. Larissa told me that it was a history museum during the Soviet era. It is back in regular business since the collapse and we found it full of people lighting candles and paying their respects to various saints.
Just a short walk from the Cathedral to the edge of the park, you find an enormous memorial to Kazakh people who defended Moscow during World War II. It is an impressive and moving sculpture. As Americans we often have a rather distorted view of that war because all of our studies focus on our own involvement. As huge as that was, it is nothing compared to what the Russians did or went through. They lost 20 million people just for starters. I like to be this far from home and have the chance to see commemorations like this just as a reminder to myself.
We followed Paniflov park by visiting another park high above Almaty. I am embarrassed to admit that I have already forgotten the name of it. But, it offered amazing views of the city, which was sadly covered in smog and fog today. The views of the Al A Tau (or Tien Chen) mountains were dazzling. The air was clear and beautiful even though it was pretty cold. It was a lot of fun to be up there and get a sense of my place in the landscape and to get out of the haze of the city a little.
This was a very special day and I’m grateful to Larissa for sharing it with me and showing me around. There is nothing better than having a native show you around.