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17th April Almaty/Tashkent Train

April 19, 2013

I read the detective thriller ‘Gorky Park’ many years ago. It was later made into a film starring Sean Connery I think. Have forgotten most of the details but remember it was about 1 or 2 defaced bodies found in Gorky Park. Now I’m sure there are other Gorky Parks in the old Soviet Union but when I saw the name on the map here in Almaty I was pretty sure this was the place where the novel was based. It rained most of the time we were in Almaty but stopped enough for us to walk up to it and spend a little time there. On the way there we passed through Panfilov Park with its weird cathedral. A mass of contrasting colour. Must have been a service there as a long queue stretched outside. Almaty has so many parks all looking great with new growth in the trees. Tulips must be the city’s emblem as there were beds of them, all in bloom along many of the streets. It looked really beautiful despite the rain.
After the debacle of trying to exchange our rail vouchers for tickets at the station then finding out we didn’t have to, yesterday we had to pick up the tickets for the rest of the trip, in fact all the way to Helsinki. A long taxi ride but interesting to see the newer part of the city. All went well, tickets were there including Almaty/Tashkent ones. A surprise as we thought the vouchers were meant to suffice. Still it’s good to have them. Then an expensive coffee before shopping at the well stocked supermarket for the next train journey and, after a rest, Gorky Park. A typical day for the independent traveller.
         Meant to be some nice eating places in Almaty but, with the heavy rain, we stuck to the place next to our apartment. A cafeteria style place with heavy food like dumplings, stews, meat balls and the like. Plain but very tasty. So much so we went back last night as well. Even had mashed potato.
         The train we are on now started its journey in Novobirusk in Russia. Plenty of wood panelling giving it a darker look but still comfortable. They give you freshly pressed linen for the sleeper which is nice. We were up at 2.15 this morning to catch it. Arrives in Tashkent 3.30am. Pretty ungodly hours but we were dropped off by the apartment owner and hope to be picked up by the hotel shuttle.  He’s even going to have a sign with our names on it! A first for us. Fellow Russian travellers keep an eye on us to make sure we are ok. Pity about the language barrier.
       Most of the journey today has been across the Kazakh steppes. Flat country with little sign of water.  At times large areas have been ploughed but mostly lies fallow. Began to rain shortly into the trip with the temperature dropping. Later the steppes were left behind, the line climbing next to a small river bed. For a while there there was even a light sprinkling of snow. Since then it has been through a wide valley with the sun breaking through lending a subdued light to the view. Apart from the fast train from Beijing, the windows of the carriages could’ve done with a clean. This one made worse by the rain. Makes taking photos difficult and spoils watching the scene slip by.

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