Almaty Underground

Almaty Underground


Now you know me, I don’t drink and I don’t do bars, so this little piece is not about the fast life in Almaty.


On our busy street there are periodic underground walkways that allow you to cross streets without fear of getting run over; this was an accidental marriage with risk management I’m sure, but in 2006 I feel much safer being able to walk my child and myself across the street – under the street………


The subterranean walkway is more than just a walkway. It is a miniature Atlanta Underground replete with one or two shops offering last years clothing at reduced rates and in the case of the underground walk closest to our flat, there is a pub that features darts with stouts and ale. It’s a local hangout, not an ex-pat bar by any stretch.


The constant fixture in our underground is an old lady – I call her the Underground Baba or babushka. She looks to be in the age bracket of a typical pensioner. She’s attired in the same shabby cloths with her hair held in check with the same bandanna day-in-and-day-out. Her task is to see that the walk ways and stairs leading in and out of the underground are swept and tidy. She also tends to the cleaning of the pub and the clothing outlets. She has an office – a 4 foot by 2 foot space where she keeps a chair and her cleaning equipment. Out of place is a huge pane of glass – more like a picture window; when she is in her office she is on display for all passersby – a cleaning lady’s version of the display cases for prostitutes in Amsterdam.


This underground has its rush hours – morning and night. Foot traffic moves briskly and it doesn’t appear that Underground Baba has very much interaction during the day. Most people are pretty preoccupied with their cell phone or focused on another facet of their life. I acknowledge here in the morning and in the afternoon; she nods politely.


The great advantage to her job I think is the summer time. While it is sweltering on the streets above, it’s cool and inviting in the underground. Conversely the winters must be brutal being stuck down there in that two hundred foot tube with the wind sending blasts of frigid air along the passageway. I’ve heard from long time ex-pats familiar with the city of Almaty’s operations that it doesn’t sweep sidewalks or streets. Snow just piles up and gets dirty and the task of Underground Baba is compounded with the ice that will surely form in those places that now have puddle water with the fall showers.


Bits and Pieces:


  1. Some new pictures from our Medao trip will be posted shortly. We took the #6 bus south out of town on Dostyk Street. We are only about 12 miles to a beautiful rushing stream. The trip ended at the dead end in front of the old Soviet-style spa (called a sanatorium). From there we hiked up to the ice stadium which will soon be activated for winter skating and then on up 1,500 steps +/- to the top of the earthen dam where there is no lake. The dam was built but the power generation turbines were never put in and for some reason the river was diverted above the dam…….old Soviet efficiency at it’s finest. The 1,500 steps provided a super cardio workout and at the top was an outdoor cafe where we had goat schoslik (goat chunks on a stick) with markofka (carrot) salad – yum….truly….
  2. The long wait is over and a barrier has been breached……..the Lynn’s have all eaten horse meat. We had a horse meant sausage……….as the saying goes it “tastes just like beef! Sophie still has problems eating horse. She says they are “to close” to the human species. That probably won’t stop me. Now that I know that it tastes like beef the skies the limit with horse meat.


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