Official language: Kazakh, Russian
Time zone: UTC +6
Currency: Tenge (KZT)
If you want to know the real life the Kazakhs’, do not stay in the capital for too long. Huge, modern office buildings are rather a reflection of their dreams than reality.
The building represents the essence of architectural taste that prevails in Astana: it is large, richly decorated and overwhelmingly majestic – as it should be. It is said the Palace was built to resemble the White House.
In the 1960’s when the Virgin Land program was announced, the steppe began to turn into a farmland. According to Khrushchev’s plan wheat fields were to be created here.
This relatively young city dates back only to 1824 when a fortress was built by Russians here. 40 years later the settlement received municipal rights. Only for two decades has Astana been the capital of Kazakhstan. Instead of historic buildings, you’ll find here modern architecture that makes an amazing impression, especially on the background of the steppe landscape.
Start your visit at Bayterek – an observation tower built in 2002. Its unique shape is meant to embody a folktale about a mythical tree of life that supported the sky and a magic bird of happiness who had laid its egg in the crevice between two branches. That is how the sun was supposed to be born. The observation deck is located in a golden sphere, which is meant to symbolize the egg. You will easily recognize the tower – it’s pictured on the reverse of national banknotes.
One of the most interesting buildings of the city is The Pyramid of Peace and Accord. The structure is made up of five levels of glass triangles. The Pyramid was specially constructed to host the 3rd Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in 2009. Although it has no religious symbols, it’s recognized by many as the temple of the ancient Sun Worship. Each story is filled with symbolism: the dark basements with an image of the sun on the ceiling accommodate The Opera House. On the next floor, there’s a Conference Hall with an immense table with the motif of the sun. The top floor is completely glazed to allow direct contact with the Sun.
The specific history of the city meant that Astana was created not like most cities, through expansion, but has been fully designed. There are no narrow streets, in which you can get lost, the entire urban layout is clear. The symmetry, order, and neatness are almost overwhelming. You will soon notice that there are not many people in the streets, and the traffic is never heavy. The buildings are disproportionately large in relation to the number of inhabitants.
The city owes its specific climate to the fact that it is located in semi-arid steppes. Winter comes here in mid-October and lasts for six months of unfavorable weather. The temperature drops even to 40 Celsius degrees below zero and sometimes the wind blows at speed of up to 130 km per hour.