Astana – world’s second coldest capital

When I landed in Astana last night, the first thing I noticed was all the piles of ice along the runway. I immediately thought: “Uh, oh, I didn’t realise it was going to be cold here.” I hadn’t packed anything warmer than a jacket. I had just assumed that by the end of April it would be warm.

When I got to the hotel I looked up the weather forecast on the Internet, and discovered that Astana is the world’s second coldest capital city (after Ulaanbataar). I should have looked that up before I left!

Fortunately the forecast was for fine weather and the next day when I went out it wasn’t too cold. It was nice spring weather – crisp and clear. There were still some piles of ice on some of the roads – apparently from some unseasonal snow that Kazakhstan had experienced the previous week – but most of it had melted and it was a pleasant temperature for walking.

I took an early morning walk along the Ishim River from the hotel where I was staying. There was a lot of building activity going on along both sides of the river. Astana was made the capital of Kazakhstan in 1997 after it was decided that a more central location was desirable than that of the previous capital, Almaty, which is situated in the south-eastern corner of the country close to the Kyrgyzstan border. Almaty is also in an earthquake zone. I expect there were political reasons too for the move, but Astana is certainly shaping up into quite a nice city as can be seen from the pictures below.

There is still a lot of construction going on around the city – in fact many parts of the city are just construction sites. The picture below was taken looking in the other direction along the Ishim River from those above.

These pictures were taken close to the city centre which has grown out from the old part of Astana. Towards the airport there is even more construction going on with Dubai-type skyscrapers and Putrajaya-type government buildings going up. I wanted to go and photograph some of those too, but by the time I was able to organise some free time, a wind had sprung up and it became very dusty. With so much of Astana still under construction, the air gets dusty when the wind blows. A lot of trees and grass are being planted around Astana, so that will help to keep the dust down in the future. Another five years and Astana should be quite an impressive city. It will be worth visiting again then.

Kazakhstan’s traditional music

A long but lucky day