Officially known as the Republic of Kazakhstan. It borders Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and the Caspian Sea – phew that’s a lot of borders. It’s the world’s largest landlocked country.
We fly into Almaty, the former capital. Expansive and not so easy to navigate all the highlights on foot unless you’re masochists like us. Most people travel to Kazakhstan to play in the mountains.
Almaty is not a picturesque architecture wise but the stunning snow filled Alatau mountains that nearly surround the city are breathtaking.
Our mission was to follow as much of the Silk Road as possible so we headed east toward China.
The Silk Road spread to fundamental products – commerce and religion.
We have followed the road in China to Xi’an and Chengdu, but we are missing the vast west of China which we hope to fill in next year. The missing portion is replete with ancient Buddhist art.
But lo and behold near the Chinese border we saw a Buddhist temple which is a Mosque. It was strange to behold. As we wondered around seeing obvious physical evidence to each religion. It also included a small museum of Silk Road artifacts.
As we left the border the sky darkened and near the Big Tree called Ulken Agash we were inundated by a beautiful thunder storm with rain and hail rendering us soaked to the bone. This tree was frequented by Silk Road businessmen who believed that walking around it seven times would bring them luck.
We returned west across the Altyn Emel National Park which scenery was spectacular, with wide lush valleys dotted with Silk Road cemeteries, cattle, horses, sheep, goats, donkeys and red poppies. It reminded us of Northwestern Elko County.
Our walking journey in Almaty took us to the Russian Othrodox Ascension Cathedral where we ran into a Road Scholar tour. The first Americans we’ve seen since leaving Dubai.
Bill continues to whoop me playing rummy 500. We’re having a blast exploring with the best of the Silk Road yet to come…