As you can see by the new gallery, roses are the theme. Ms. Nadia and I are enjoying this (apparently long standing tradition of the City of Almaty to feature multiple rose gardens in their many parks.
Nadia and I got up early this Sunday morning and headed to what we have named “Fearless Leader Park” – a reprise of my childhood growing up and totally enjoying the Boris and Natasha segments on the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. Anyway, this huge park is adjacent to what looks like a defense ministry facility. The grounds are immaculate and they feature six Rose gardens. Nadia and I never pick roses but we check each garden carefully to see which is the most fragrant with the smell of the Roses. We walk around the perimeter of the rose beds and pull a rose to our nose to smell – wonderful! They are incredibly fragrant in the morning before the gardens have to compete with the exhaust from cars. Rose bushes, properly maintained are a task, a real chore. They were always something I avoided putting in my yards. It is a testament to the amount of money these Kazak cities have with their abundant oil revenue, where they can set aside horticultural staff to keep the thousands and thousands of bushes properly maintained. Nadia and I appreciate it very much. Thank you Fearless Leader!
We made two trips out today on rose patrol. The first also featured bike riding lessons for Ms. Nadia. I bought her first bicycle yesterday and she was thrilled. She had shared an old bike with her cousin Leve during the early part of the summer at the dacha outside of Yekaterinburg. She has the pedaling down, only learning how to use the hand brakes remain.
The trip out to buy the bike on Saturday also took us to Pon Pieleef Park. This is the largest park in the city taking up about 20 square blocks. Saturdays in July and August are always booked up with weddings. One of the traditions from the Soviet period to take your wedding party around to all the war monuments in the city and get your picture taken next to a tank or a general on a horse or some grave marker of someone famous from a past war – now this is a real downer for romance in our culture but gives the couples here a connection to the Motherland – but again since they are not part of the Russian/Soviet Motherland it really is dumb to continue to this! All the while the trunks of the limos are overflowing with iced down vodka – the best vodka for this day! There must have been 50 brides and grooms and their multitudinous wedding parties and 50 limos and at least 10 cars to follow each limo. As we transited Pon Pieleef Park on our way to the bike shop, every time Nadia saw a bride in her beautiful white gown she screamed out ‘CINDERELLA!”
Before buying the new two-wheeler, I took my girl to lunch at a quaint sidewalk café. She of course ordered a pizza (she has not forgotten how to be uniquely American even though her English remains a bid rusty) while I had some very well prepared Russian cuisine including Soliankya (pickle soup – now this is pickle soup like you have never had it before; it’s my favorite Russian soup and a small plate of “meats jellied”, a pickled onion salad all topped off with a Turkish coffee for desert. The Turkish coffee is really better than espresso in this part of the world. I still have not mustered up the guts to try some of the horse meat. Horses have traditionally play a great role in the Kazak history and culture both as an animal that transported its light cavalry into battle and also served as a source of meat protein for the Kazak diet. Maybe next week.