// MY NAME IS DANIELAnd after years of dreaming I've sold everything I own and set off on the open road. I've made this site as a sort of photo journal of my travels. The map shows where I've been (red), where I've stayed a month or more (yellow), and where I plan to go (white). And so, armed with little more than a backpack, a camera, and a dream, I now take the road less traveled by. So it goes.
ASTANA After a weeks long journey by rail across Siberia, I switched trains in Yekaterinburg and headed south, into Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan lies at the cross-roads between Asia and Europe, a land once conquered by Genghis Khan yet centuries later made a colony of the Russian Empire. Under the Communists, it was made a Soviet Republic of the USSR. Today it is an independent nation. Astana was made the capital in 1997 and is a planned city. I would say poorly planned. Reminding me a little of another planned capital, Brasilia, it's plagued by roads that are too wide to cross, neighborhoods that lack definition and character, nothing is built to human scale, and while some of the architecture is interesting, there is little social fabric tying any of it together (where is Jane Jacobs when you need her?). But Astana does showcase the diversity of the nation; below you'll see a mosque, Orthodox cathedral, and Jewish synagogue.
ALMATY Astana did not impress me, but Almaty, the former capital was really quite lovely. I spent two weeks here in a little apartment you can see below. The city is surrounded by beautiful mountains and Soviet planners definitely left their mark with orderly streets, comfortable sidewalks, formal gardens, and grand plazas. And perhaps best of all, a very nice metro (subway) system.
SHYMKENT In Shymkent I stayed with a local family (of Russian descent -- the Soviets used Kazakhstan as a sort of banishment so a great many Russians ended up here and being the only home they ever knew, many of their descendants decided to stay after the fall of the USSR). Speaking of the Soviets, I found a statue of Lenin hiding in one of the city parks. I believe this was original central plaza statue. Outside of Russia, most Lenin statues were taken down from their prominent locations in the main central plazas, but perhaps fearful of his ghost they were often quietly hidden in various other locations instead of being destroyed. Later in Bishkek you'll see I found his statue hiding behind a museum.
TURKISTAN Not far from Shymkent is the ancient city of Turkistan. In 1390AD the Persian-Mongolian ruler Timur (Tamerlane) commissioned a great mausoleum for a Sufi Mystic here, which you can see below.
CHARYN CANYON My final stop in Kazakhstan was the Charyn Canyon. Next stop... Kyrgyzstan.