Sunday, March 27, 2011

The President's Cultural Center

Friday, 25 March 2011

Hello, spring! We'd been planning on going to the bazaar (one further away than the big one I've been too) but the weather was downright icky. Winds at 30 km per hour and higher; a mixture of rain and sleet falling from the clouds; the ground a messy mix of snow, slush, ice, dirt, mud, and water. Going to an outdoor bazaar did not seem like such a great idea today.

So we looked through our "Lonely Planet" and my little Astana tour-booklet, and we decided upon the President's Cultural Center, a short bus ride away.

We still had to walk to the bus stop, and then the bus drove right on by the Center and went on for quite some time before stopping, so we waded through slush and water to get to the place. Parts of the side streets were flooded, or, as I like to call them, lakes.

The President's Cultural Center is a huge, fancy, new museum, five stories high. The center is a large circle with a blue dome on top; there are four "wings" that stretch out from this center.

Admission was free, which was nice, and we were offered an English-speaking guide for 50 Tenge per person (about 33 cents per person). A good deal, but we declined.

The center room on the ground floor contained many displays, all of items that had been gifts to the President of Kazakhstan from various countries and businesses. It also contained large replicas of Baiterek and the President's house (I think these were also "gifts".) There was a large wooden globe, a gift from a representative from France.

A side room contained clothes and ornaments from Kazakh people from the past few centuries. We oohed and aahed over the ladies' dresses and jewelry. Fancy, clunky jewelry; a bracelet that was attached to three rings via a chain.

The next room contained more clothing (fancy robes) as well as armor and weapons. I liked the fancy leather container for the bows and arrows. The spiky-ball-on-a-chain thingy looked scary. Sophia noted that you might hurt yourself while using it, so I said that first you must practice, and she replied that you would hurt yourself even while practicing!

Another room had a yurt, its doors open so we could see inside (but a rope barring us from entering). There were more clothing; a decorated horse; tools, decorations, etc. for use inside and outside a yurt; and photographs of people from a hundred years ago. There also was information about hunting with eagles, photos of men with their pet eagle, and a display eagle with head armor (yes, even the eagles wore armor!)

We then went to the top floor and saw colorful and interesting paintings. At this point Sophia became really bored (and vocal about being bored) so next we went to the gift shop, which was similar to all the other souvenir shops I've seen (there are a lot!)

We then left and went ice skating--but it was definitely a worthwhile visit. And since it's free, we might go again some time. A few days later, Sophia surprised me by recounting in detail all that she had seen and learned. Although she had claimed to be bored, she had been paying attention and was quite excited to tell her grandparents about it.

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