Even in the winter intrepid children can be seen climbing and swinging on the equipment or building a small ice slide but the cold is too intense to stay out for very long. For this reason covered playgrounds are very common and the malls will give over a large amount of space to indoor entertainment complexes. One mall has a climbing wall and arcade, the Khan Shatyr has an animatronic dinosaur park, a monorail and a log flume not to mention dodgems and many smaller rides. It also has an indoor beach complete with water slides and a beach volleyball court.
Astana's indoor beach at the top of the Khan Shatyr we can relax by the beach even in a -40 blizzard. (below)
The climbing wall is a popular attraction at one of the malls. (below)
Astana is a very young city with a high birth rate - almost all malls will have a toddler friendly soft play where children can let off steam over the winter. (below)
If you get bored of using the treadmill in the winter the Khan Shatyr has an indoor running track along the edge where willing victims can excercise in full view of the shoppers. N.B. we have never yet seen anyone brave enough to use it.(below)
The main boulevard on the left bank runs from West to East. The centre of the boulevard is a pedestrianized garden walkway allowing people to promenade from the Khan Shatyr (a Norman Foster designed gigantic tent containing a shopping centre, amusement park, beach complex and restaurants) all the way down to the Ak Orda – the Kazakh White House. Along the way you walk past the new Astana Opera House, Government ministries in the shape of salt and pepper pots, a concert hall built in the shape of a Dombyra (the national instrument), or a tulip depending on who you talk to and various spectacular skyscrapers.
Norman Foster’s giant tent the Khan Shatyr (the tent of the King) dominates the western end of the city. The tent houses a shopping centre, restaurant court, supermarket, theme park, cinema and beach with swimming pools and water-slides. (below)
Pedestrians relax in the gardens leading to the Ak Orda (the Palace of the President). The golden pepper pots are government ministries.(below)
Designed by Manfredo Nicoletti in the shape of a Dombyra or a tulip the beautiful concert hall on the banks of the river is one of Astana's many cultural venues.(below)
In the centre of the boulevard pedestrians find themselves at the Baiterek monument. The structure is an allegory of a Kazakh myth – representing a tree in which a magic bird lays an egg to protect it from a voracious dragon. The white ‘tree’ is topped by a huge golden egg which contains a viewing platform giving unparalleled 360 degree views of the growing city. The bar/restaurant serves drinks and snacks and is the perfect place to relax and watch the sun set over Astana and the Steppe beyond.
The Baiterek – the monument in the centre of the left bank. The photograph shows the Baiterek lit up for the Nauruz (Persian New Year) celebrations. (below)
The Baiterek is surrounded by tree lined gardens and dominates the centre of the Left Bank.(below)
From the observation deck it is possible to spot almost all of Astana’s statement buildings. The government complexes are a short walk away, further away towards the airport the sporting complexes stand out on the edge of the city – the football stadium with the roof that can be closed for the winter, the ice palace and the velodrome built in the shape of a bicycle helmet. Closer in to the centre of the city is the Triumph of Astana a modern (and vast) take on the Moscow Seven Sisters, Mega, the shopping centre shaped like a doughnut, the flying saucer that houses the circus, the sombrero that houses the palace of children and the building shaped like a pot within which there is a restaurant and music hall.
The ‘flying saucer’ houses the Astana circus – a popular place for families to go and enjoy their weekends. More apartment buildings are seen behind.(below)
From the Baiterek it is also possible to see over to the other side of the river. In another large and very beautiful park is another Norman Foster creation, the Pyramid Palace of Peace and Reconciliation where Kazakhstan hosts a triennial meeting of the leaders of world religions down to the Kazakh Eli national monument and the Academy of Music that everyone calls ‘the Dog Bowl’ because it is, well, shaped exactly like a dog’s bowl.
Norman Foster’s Pyramid of Peace and Reconciliation dominates the park across the river from the Ak Orda. The Pyramid houses an art gallery, library, café, museum, souvenir shop, conference centre and concert hall. (below)
This giant ‘dog bowl’ houses the National Music Academy.(below)
I love visiting the Baiterek because it allows me to enjoy the whole city. When my feet are firmly on the ground, however, I love nothing better than to walk along the river Ishim. In the summer wide boulevards are the favourite haunts of courting couples, fitness fanatics, skateboarding children, proud parents pushing prams and just about everyone in between. The river is calm and heavily managed, people fish or swim along the edges while pleasure boats take tours down the centre, there is even a rowing club.
Article published with permission from the Author
About the Author
The Author is a global soul, a perpetual expat. She was born in the Netherlands to a Dutch/Irish Family. Since then she lived in Norway, Nigeria, Turkey and Venezuela. She went to school and university in the UK and then she decided to have an adventure and took her children and the dog(s) to live abroad, firstly in Kazakhstan and now Sarawak. This blog is about how we muddle through daily life as expats and how things have changed from the adventures of her childhood.http://ersatzexpat.blogspot.com/All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced or distributed, in whole or in part, without prior written permission of the xpat.kz. However, reproduction and distribution, in whole or in part, by non-profit, research or educational institutions for their own use is permitted if proper credit is given, with full citation, and copyright is acknowledged. Any other reproduction or distribution, in whatever form and by whatever media, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of the xpat.kz. For further information, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org