Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Almaty, Kazakhstan - Reflections after one month

I have lived in downtown Almaty for more than an month. I am in a 1-bedroom apartment in the center of the city, near the intersection of Furmanov Street and Abay Avenue (Абая-Фурманова). The cost is equal to the great location, being about 100,000 ₸ (Kazakh Tenge), somewhat less than $550/month. It is the perfect size for my small family and is furnished nicely. The location is the nicest attribute, being only a few minutes from many great locations for my research and for my family. One of the nicest unlooked for luxuries is the window A/C unit that came with my apartment, a hard-working Soviet relic that has yet to disappoint me.Utilities (water, sewage, electricity) seem much cheaper than in the United States, while the internet connection is easily both the cheapest and the fastest I have ever enjoyed. 

As far as getting around the city, the public transportation system is fairly straight-forward, but certainly improves if one has access to the Internet and/or a smartphone with Google Maps. Larger bus stops have timetables and a few even have digital readouts for the next expected bus or trolleybus. Speaking of trolleybuses, I never grow tired of seeing them or riding them. Together with the two tramway lines, they make Almaty seem like a mountain-side Central European city, or at least what I assume those cities would look like.

Naturally, settling into Almaty is not so easy. The first obstacle to overcome is jet-lag. Flying more-or-less directly from eastern USA to eastern Kazakhstan means a ten-hour difference. Moreover, Kazakhstan does not use daylight savings time, meaning that the sun rises before 6 AM in the summer and sets early in the evening.

One of the nicest things about living in downtown Almaty has been using the still-very-small subway line. It only connects a handful of stops, but because I live on the middle of the line, there are plenty of opportunities to use it. Naturally, the main reason is to escape the summer heat, while a second reason is that it costs the same as every other form of mass transportation. It is still very much a novelty, as every time I enter the subway, I notice tourists from elsewhere in Kazakhstan taking pictures of their friends. It is clear that the metro is very impressive to people seeing it for the first time.

I am trying to gather my impressions from my initial work at the State Library of Kazakhstan, but I believe that will be for another post.