How Astana Looks

A lot changes in a week. Starting work, finding some pals, and buying a bike have made me feel more or less like myself again. Oh, and we have hot water now – a week ahead of schedule! Now that I have my bearings, I can explain a bit about how this city looks (to me, at least).

Astana is a city of constant construction. It became the capital in 1997 and the university I work at opened in 2010 or 11. Everything is moving full-steam ahead to improve the city’s city-ness. I feel right at home, coming from UBC’s endless makeovers and Vancouver’s obsessions with condos.

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The soundness of the “finished” buildings is questionable. All looks well and decadent until you realize stairs are inconsistently sized, sidewalks half-finished and falling apart, and cracks spreading in walls less than 5 years old.

Greenery is notably absent. Trees are still young and small. Flowers are constantly planted and constantly dying. Since the city is so new, almost everyone here is from somewhere else, whether they’re an expat or from another part of Kazakhstan (it seems the rest of Kazakhstan has lakes and mountain ranges). I do really enjoy the fake flower displays around the city, though. There’s something very Lewis Carroll about them. I imagine they look especially silly/delightful in the winter.

A river runs through the city, and so locations are defined as to whether they are “right bank” or “left bank”. The ground is flat, flat, flat, which is very new for me. Tucson, AZ had its flat parts but still had mountain ranges and flora.

Astana is a relatively small city and doesn’t take long to get around. There’s more to the city than what this post shows, and an old pre-capital part that I haven’t had a chance to explore much.  But here’s a brief overview of what I see on a day-to-day basis:

This is the university. Marble on the outside:

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Marriott hotel on the inside:

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It’s on Kabanbay Batyr, which is a big road that goes on and on. Looking at a map, you’d think the city is walking distance, but it’s actually about 5km away:

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A boulevard stretches through the city stretches from Khan Shatyr (the yurt mall. You can kind of see it at the very back of the photo. The so-called “lighter building” on the right is apparently where one should hang out if they want a rich boyfriend):

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with Bayterek (the egg in the nest building) in the middle:

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and ending at the Presidential Palace:

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If I’m ever unsure of how to get back home from the city, I look for this gold-topped mosque:

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So there is a little bit of Astana.

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