We’re back! Reunited with our car in the country where we felled in love with back in November. Kazakhstan, during our backpack adventures it got quite clear that people, even travellers, have really no clue about this country. Fortunately Kazakhstan found himself two enthusiastic ambassadors. Everybody who wants to hear about Kazakhstan, we give an enthusiastic overkill of information. We tell them about the great time we had here, about the beautiful nature and about how sweet and hospitable the people are. And now, after being gone for three months, we’re back. It’s cold and the city’s famous smog is even more visible than in autumn, but we’re happy to be back in this beautiful country and this amazing city.
What are you going to do for a whole month in Almaty? Although we never thought that we would get bored staying in Almaty for a whole month, other people seemed worried. Almaty is a quite western city with a lot of modern shops and supermarkets. Beside that you’ll find yourself in beautiful nature in just a 20 minute drive from the city. Enough to do! The idea of staying a bit longer in one place just sounded really attractive after being on the move for nine months. We already got to know a few people in Almaty and we knew time would pass by really fast. By now we’re in Uzbekistan and we can only confirm that last month really past by fast. We made some new friends and we had lots of fun with the people we already knew from our time in November, It’s so impressive how hospitable the people are, we really feel this connection with Kazakhstan, without even speaking the language.
In an article I found something interesting written about Kazakhstan. Stan is an old Persian word that also means “land”. The word Kazakh also means “adventurer” or “outlaw”. Kazakhstan, land of the adventurers! For us at least it’s a country full of adventures. But it was not only adventures this month, we worked pretty hard to make a few websites. Let’s keep it fun and for now let’s stick with the adventures, like the days we spend on the beautiful slopes of Shymbulak, our visits to the Charyn Canyon, the surprise visit of Dani’s family and the unexpected invitation to a Kazakh wedding.
During the day you’ll have to wear warm clothes and make sure you look nice in the evening, that was Tom’s message for Dani’s birthday. Looking nice? Like neatly? Descent? With our wardrobe “neatly” is pretty impossible. Warm clothes, walking boots, ripped of short jeans and comfortable clothes are dominating. That means, “unfortunately”, shopping time. It was not hard to find a nice dress and now I (Dani) felt extremely prepared for my birthday. What I didn’t know was that there was absolutely no way of being fully prepared for the surprise that would follow. At 07:30 AM the doorbell was ringing and Tom was in a rush to find his clothes, because “this must be the delivery service”. Of course! With my head still in my dreams I told him he had to hurry otherwise the guy would be gone. I was far from realising that it was 07:30 AM and most delivery services do not work on these times. Just when I heard people talking, laughing and singing I knew something was going on. This was not the surprise I expected, it was far beyond anything I could even think of. There were my father and his wife Janny and my mom standing, in our small living room, in Kazakhstan.
What a surprise! Not only it was a big surprise, it was also a beautiful chance to share some part of our travels with my family. We did a city tour, provided by our good friend Zhanar. We went to the Green Market and she told us all about the food culture in Kazakhstan and she let my family try the famous fermented horse milk, but also the camel milk and the Kazakh “Raffaelo”, these are actually Milk balls with a very heavy taste. After knowing much more about Kazakhstan than they did before, we went to the Arba wine. Here we tried four types of white and four types of red Kazakh wine. At night we had a real Kazakh dinner with our friends from Kazakhstan: Daniyar and his wife Sandi with who our car was parked during winter months and Zhanar, a girl we met in November and became a close friend. We ate the famous Beshbarmak, THE Kazakh dish with horse meat. Of course there are a lot of dishes with horse meat, but this is by far the famous one. We drank vodka and wine and we all gave away a toast, the real Kazakh way. Daniyar was an excellent toastmaster who took care that everybody had the possibility to say something. It became such a special night and I could not been more proud of Tom for organizing such an amazing surprise. Also I was extremely proud of my family who joined all the Kazakh habits in eating, drinking so relaxed and full of enthusiasm. It was so nice to let them be part of our trip and let them get to know the Kazakh habits as well.
In the next days we visited the Medeu ice skating rink, we went to the Shymbulak Ski Resort and explored the Charyn Canyon. The Charyn Canyon is an extremely, beautiful piece of nature at a three hours drive from Almaty. It’s quite the drive, but it’s so worth it. This Canyon is one of the most beautiful places we’ve been to during our trip so far. When my dad and Janny left after three days, my mom stayed for another three days. It was snowing in the past days and we decided to go skiing. We had two beautiful days on the slopes of Shymbulak, it was quiet and the weather was outstanding. At the highest point, at 3200 meters there’s a yurt where we had a delicious lunch of fresh grilled kebabs. It was really so much fun and such a different experience from skiing in Europe.
After our family was gone we worked to finish the websites we had to make and went for another day on the slopes. The weather was beautiful, but extremely cold, but we enjoyed it a lot. Also we made a long day trip to the Kolsay lakes with our own car. We brought the car to the garage where they gave it the love it needed. Some pairs are repaired and others replaced. We were getting ready for the next part of our road trip. In this time we saw Zhanar a lot and met some other travellers and locals. Our time in Almaty was really flying. On Friday night in our last weekend we decided that it was time for some nightlife exploring. We met with Zhanar and Josh and had a great time, we drank, went dancing and enjoyed it the fullest. Totally unexpected we received the next day an invitation to a wedding that night. If we could be at that hotel at 06:00 PM, than we could join the wedding of Daniyar’s sister in law.
We didn’t had to think twice about this offer, let’s do this! A traditional Kazakh wedding, how cool is this. We had no idea what to expect and decided to just let things happen and join the best we could. We arrived on time and felt a bit lost for the first seconds. This feeling totally went away when Daniyar’s dad noticed we arrived. For those of you who remember our posts from our November adventures in Kazakhstan, this is the man who helped us park the car for winter. This is also the man who invited us after the car was parked for whiskey and cognac and the man with who we were sitting, drinking and talking for three hours without speaking each others language. Anyway he noticed we arrived, we were all happy to see each other and he directed us to there where we were expected. From there Daniyar’s mom toke over, she speaks English and gave us further instructions. She pushed us in all the right directions: family picture, say something on the video for the wedding couple, a drink and a bite. In the meantime we also saw Daniyar and his wife and the kids. Unfortunately you’re not at the same table as we are, but you’re sitting at the same table as my brother, he will arrange everything you need.
And if he did arrange, everybody who was at our table spoke English and everybody translated some relevant parts for us. We met a lot of new people and had an amazing night. The whole night was kind of talked together by a toastmaster. He made loads of jokes, we could of course not understand, but we were laughing, because we had fun. Also there were all kind of activities like dancing games presented for the wedding couple. Of course the night wouldn’t been complete without at least one of us being in the hilarious situation of having to dance in front of a 150 Kazakh people. This was Dani, just check the picture! During the whole night we were completely part of this wedding, except for not being able to understand everything, we definitely didn’t feel like strangers. We danced, took a picture with the beautiful wedding couple, had delicious food and drank wine and whiskey. What an incredible night, one to never forget.
After a month it’s time to leave Almaty and time to leave Kazakhstan, not only is our free visa period almost expired, but it’s also time for new adventures. No worries, we’ll be back in spring and without a doubt we’ll say “we’ll be back” then too. Because this is such an amazing country, with beautiful people and there’s so much more to explore that we have to keep coming back. We locked the land of the adventures in our heart and we won’t let go!
Besides making a few websites where we actually got paid for, we also made a website for a friend of us in Kazakhstan: www.visitmekazakhstan.com. It’s not finished yet, but in case you’re interested it’s worth to take a look.
We expect to have bad to no internet connection for the next weeks in Uzbekistan and after that in Tadzjikistan. We keep writing stories, but it will just take some more time before we can share them with you!