Friday, 3 May 2013


Arriving in Astana at night, I had the impression to have landed on the moon.

An ice-cold wind was blowing over the Kazakh steppe. From the window, one could see many strange buildings, which looked like right out of an Isaac Asimov novel:

The next morning, I started visiting the buildings. Next to the place where I was staying stood a pyramid.

A friendly student from Astana's Eurasian University showed me around. In the pyramid was an opera hall (note the president's extra-large armchair), and a conference table under the roof that was modeled after King Arthur's round table.


The next station was the museum of independence. In the museum, one can study a large model of how Astana is supposed to look like in 2030 (the pyramid and the museum of independence are in the top right corner).

It is impressive how much has already been built, considering that before the Kazakh capital was transfered from Almaty to Astana in 1997, there was not much more than empty steppe on this side of the Ishim river.

The guide who showed me around underlined that all this was largely a result of the vision and strength of will of a single man, Kazakhstan's president Nursultan Nazarbayev. One could see president Nazarbayev's picture in many variations all around town:

I especially liked this painting of Nazarbayev's inauguration in 2006. Although most of the heads of state depicted were actually not present at the inauguration, the painting provides a nice possibility to test how many of these presidents and prime ministers you know.

Later on, I visited the Bayterek tower. People say that it symbolizes a poplar tree, onto which the magic bird Samruk has laid a golden egg.

For 500 tenge, an elevator brings you right into this egg, where you can find a golden imprint of the president's hand. Standing in the elevator, I thought by myself that we should also build something like this in Germany.


From the tower, one has a nice view of the presidential palace.

Later in the afternoon, I went to Nazarbayev University, to give a talk to some people at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and to meet my friend Matteo, at whose place I was staying (Matteo is assistant professor in control systems at NU). The facilities were impressive, and more are planned to be build:

Later in the evening, we went for dinner in town (see the pyramid in the upper right corner).

I like this picture of car's crossing a bridge during sunset that I took on the way:

The morning when I was leaving Astana was the first of May. In Kazakhstan, this day the unity of the Kazakh people is celebrated.

On the square in front of Matteo's apartment block, people from Kazakhstan's different nationalities had gathered to celebrate:


This lady in one of the tents was presiding over an impressive breakfast:

Outside the tent, a tug of war was going on:

A couple of steps further, people were arm wrestling:

As one can clearly see on the picture below, the dude on the left cheated with his foot!

In the meantime, this guy managed to lift two 16 kilo weights up 20 times in a row:

Across the square, children were playing chess and other games:

It was a nice holiday.

Soundtrack: Мой Казахстан (Шамхан Далдаев)

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