Across the river June 28, 2017

Across the river

By: Kanstantsin Ivanou

Since I landed in Astana I discovered that there are in fact two different cities wrapped up into one. There is of course the Astana that proudly shows offs its architectural attractions with Bayterek, the over-the-top Khan Shatyr tent mall and many others. These buildings seem to symbolize the direction where Kazakhstan wants to go. It wants to be modern, and it wants its capital to stand on equal footing with the rest of the capitals of the world. Walking around downtown Astana you get to see that there is no shortage of glass buildings, and new additions are being made to the Astana skyline constantly. Considering that the capital was moved to Astana in 1997, the efforts that were put in to building an entire capital are undoubtfully impressive.

The Ishim river runs through the city separating it into the old city that has been standing there since 1830, and the new city that is not old enough to get its own beer in America. My first week in Astana was spent taking obligatory tourist pictures in the “new” Astana, the buildings were impressive, the streets were immaculately kept, the cafes offered menus with more options than I knew exist.

The last few days gave me the opportunity to finally cross the river and see what was once known as Akmola, the name Astana had before the capital was moved and the city renamed. What I discovered impressed me beyond tall glass buildings, beyond giant display screens, and long menus. Just east of the river the city trades its new public image for something better, a city full of life, people, and genuine human experience.

From small family-run cafes to open air markets with unending stalls of people selling shoes, the city offers its more vulnerable but genuine self. Although streets are not as clean and some building are showing their age, you get to experience the life as Kazakhs do in their own city. While I am a stranger and my time here is limited, it is east of Ishim that I look forward to the most.

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