Spring has Sprung

View of Almaty from my window

As I have mentioned before, Kazakhstan and England have in common a love for conversations about the weather. It is a constant and reliable source of either misery or joy, wearisomeness or surprise. “The weather” in Almaty is at once and always both predictable and unpredictable, depending on whatever it is doing that day.

But whatever it has been in the past, and whatever frigid temperatures I’ve reported to you, spring has finally come to Almaty, and it is astonishing how quickly it washes away the winter and all memories of the cold. And not only is it warmer, but for whatever reason, the dense smog that sat on the city has lifted, revealing the mountains just out our backdoor. The city is absolutely stunning right now, as my photographs attest.

The arrival of spring has predictably lifted everyone’s moods. A sense of cheer an bonhomie is palpable throughout the city – that, or I am projecting as much onto everyone I see.

View of Almaty from my office window

Another effect has been to give me a keener awareness of the city’s geography. The city (obviously) sits in a piedmont and, as you may remember, is constructed on a steep but steady northward-oriented decline. In this fine weather, if you put your back to the mountains you can look out across the city and see… nothing, which is in fact the wide expanse of steppe that spreads out to the north almost all the way to Russia.

With the craggy, practically impenetrable mountains to the south and the steppe to the north, it is as if the city has its back against the wall and is watching for invaders. This makes perfect sense, of course, when I remember that Almaty was originally a military outpost for a southward-expanding Russian Empire. Not that I’ve any knowledge of military tactics, but this place would probably be relatively easy to defend, and it backs onto natural fortress into which the Russian soldiers could retreat if need be.

The long and short of this post is that you need not pity me any longer for suffering Kazakhstan’s unforgiving winter.

View of Almaty from my window.

  1. sungy4 said:

    Springtime is, indeed, glorious in Almaty, but just you wait for summer… somehow, there is nothing more idyllic than a dry, hot Kazakhstan summer’s day, when you can enjoy an ice cold beer and some shashlik. (Which, I suppose, you can enjoy in springtime as well, but I just love Central Asian summers).

    Glad to hear that you’re out of the deep freeze!

  2. sungy4 said:

    Reblogged this on Musings on Moscow, Comments on Kazakhstan and commented:
    A friend of mine is doing his Fulbright in Kazakhstan this year, and he has just written a post about the onset of spring in Almaty. Indeed, when I opened my iGoogle homepage, where I have the weather for Washington, London and Almaty posted, the average temperatures for Almaty this week were just as warm as DC (low 20s Celsius/high 60s Fahrenheit)!
    His post brings back fond memories of emerging from the deep freeze of a Kazakhstan winter: no longer having to wear (multiple pairs) of tights and socks under my jeans, no longer having to spend ten minutes getting bundled up, and no longer having to walk at a snail’s pace for fear of wiping out on a slick patch of ice.
    In the north of Kazakhstan, where I spent two years working as a Peace Corps volunteer, spring was not so idyllic. Spring meant warmth, yes. But it also meant the melt of a couple feet of snow, turning the entire city into a slushy, muddy mess. As a result, I favored summer much more, with its dry heat, warm winds gusting across the steppe, and the chance to swim in the river followed by some ice cold beer and good shashlik.

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