A City with a Soul August 14, 2017

A City with a Soul

By Izabel Trizlova

A spontaneous decision to take a day trip to Karaganda, a four hour train ride south from Astana turned out to be one of the best decisions I have made since coming to Kazakhstan. The trip began with my friends and I almost missing the train from Astana and realizing that our seats were already taken. What I thought would be an awful train ride turned out to be, to my surprise, a very pleasant trip. This was mainly due to the kindness of a random 60-70 year old Kazakh lady named Mariash. As soon as we took our seats and she heard us speaking English, she began talking to us. We were asked the usual questions, such as “where are you from?”, “why are you in Kazakhstan?” and “do you like it here?”. However, the most interesting part of the whole interaction was when she began practicing her English by replacing every Russian word she knew with the English version. In addition to the delightful conversation, Mariash offered us coffee, tea and pirozhki.

In Karaganda, we were once again, pleasantly surprised as we met a young elementary school English teacher who had visited Expo and remembered some of the student ambassadors working in the USA pavilion. Furthermore, she was so kind that she helped us get to the bus stop so we could go visit Karlag. Karlag was one of the largest Gulag labor camps on the territory of Kazakhstan and is now turned into a museum. It is located in a village, called Dolinka about 50 minutes away from Karaganda. At this museum, we were able to learn more about the victims of political repression.

Overall, this day trip allowed me to explore a city, which is not as big nor as modern as Astana, yet full of soul. There was something particular about the graffiti on old Soviet buildings, the Miners Palace of Culture and the beautiful semi- theme park set up near the lake. This trip turned out to be an amazing experience filled with nice people and great sites. Finally, to top all of that, as we were heading for the train station to go back to Astana, we were able to witness the launching of the Soyuz M-05 rocket from Baikonur. The long train ride and getting only two hours of sleep before morning shift the next day were absolutely worth it.

This post reflects the opinion of the author and not the USA Pavilion and its sponsors