The most important thing you need to know about trains in Kazakhstan is that they close their doors 10 minutes before departure. I found out the hard way. From the endless wrangling over changing the ticket you would think that I was the first person to ever miss a train in Kazakhstan. Anyway, I finally got a partial refund and I got a ticket for a later train.
If only the weather was better in Almaty! There were so many leafy boulevards and verdant parks that would be delightful to explore in sunny spring weather.
Alas. The city was blanketed in fog and drizzle.
But it was a perfect day for museums. I spent a few hours catching up on Kazakh history in the state museum.
The reconstructed yurt looked so comfortable I was ready to move in!
I fell into conversation with a young Texan woman there to research Russian-Kazak relations for her dissertation. She remarked that Kazakhstan is enjoying a newfound pride in their traditional culture and are increasingly leery of Chinese influence. They’re even considering latinizing their alphabet. To which I say YAY! So few signs are in Latin letters I’m perpetually stumped. I’m trying to learn Cyrillic but it’s hard.
Before heading to the train station I enjoyed a splendid baked trout with vegetables at the hotel Astra.
I love the excitement of boarding a night train. There’s always a buzz in the air as people say goodbye and settle in.
I had the top bunk which is never ideal. A young fellow dragged in his suitcases but after posing a bunch of questions I didn’t understand bustled out to find a woman to take his place. Honorable!
In the morning we rolled through the steppes of southern Kazakhstan. Although no one lives in yurts anymore, I noted that the single-family houses scattered throughout the countryside were built yurt-style: small squares with domed roofs. I wonder how cool they would be in summer.
We pulled into Turkestan right on time at 11am.