Sunday, 12 June 2011

The Real Big Apple

Practically the Himalayas
Officially the mountains which rise spectacularly to the South of Almaty, Kazakhstan's "former, warmer, and cultural" capital, are called the 'Tian Shan', but they're practically Himalayas, and may as well be called Himalayas for our purposes. For this reason, Kazakhstan might be designated the true "Switzerland with Minarets" beloved of Afghanistan-watchers, except that mountains aren't really typical Kazakh terrain, and nor are there actually very many minarets, though it's not unusual to see Mosques under construction. The name 'Almaty' is derived from the Kazakh word Alma, meaning Apple, and apparently all domestic apples trace their origins to this region - the city was even once famed for its own, huge, variety of apple. An extremely tenuous link with New York lies in the fact that Blessed John Paul II made a visit to Kazakhstan in September 2001; arriving in a predominantly Muslim country just days after '9/11'.

The Real Big Apple
The following is from a book called "Cycling Home from Siberia" by Rob Lilwall; it gets close to the sort of difficulty i've been having with bureacracy here - my current "excuse of choice" for not doing very much walking of late;

"The Office of Visas and Registration hides in an unmarked office, unadvertised on a random street...[it] opens late, seldom and closes ten minutes before it opens, except on weekdays and days beginning with 'S', when it doesn't open at all."

First Russian, then Chinese officials, when available, told me that my status in Kazakhstan precludes my application for a tourist visa. In Lvov the Russian Consulate actually had to bend the rules; but i was wrong to suppose that this is widely practised. So i took a bus here to enquire at the surprisingly weather-beaten Mongolian Embassy - only to find it closed, as the Consul is in Astana until Tuesday or Wednesday. It's all a bit 'up in the air'. Even if, please God, i can get a Mongolian visa, i'll need a Russian transit visa, perhaps from the Consulate here - flights to Ulaan Baator are only once a week, and booked up long in advance. The thing is, if my experience in Astana is anything to go by, the Consulate may only deal with visa enquiries on alternate Fridays, from citizens aged 65 and over, accompanied by all four grandparents, etc, etc...
Orthodox Church, made of wood, Almaty

Today is Pentecost, and it happened that i was given a lift to the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity this morning in the company of the local Bishop, who is a relatively young Spaniard. He led us in a recitation of the following famous Russian prayer to Our Lady (here translated into English);

We fly to Thy patronage, O Holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O Glorious and Blessed Virgin. Amen.

1 comment:

  1. oh well. good to see your sense of humour is bearing up. Do Well and Doubt Not!