I took this photo during my brief stay in Almaty, Kazakhstan. I can’t say that I recommend Almaty as a travel destination. A couple of journal entries from my trip may help to explain why:
“Aug. 25, 2002. I stepped off the train several hours ago but I feel as though I am still moving. The four day trip from Moscow will do this to you. A family from the train shared a taxi with me and I got to the hotel without any problems. The guidebook was right when it said the staff was unfriendly, rarely have I seen a surlier bunch.
Aug. 26, 2002. The sun seems hotter here than other places. Today it is slightly overcast but whenever the sun peeks out I begin to sweat. Before leaving on this trip I told myself I wasn’t going to drink at all once I left Western Europe. I was convinced that gangs of mafia hoods and corrupt cops would pounce on my moment of weakness. Well, since I had already broken that pledge in Moscow I thought I’d try a beer in a café surrounding the city square. I sat there enjoying the surroundings when I noticed a group of military types patrolling the square. I kept one eye on scenery and the other on the soldiers. As I neared the bottom of my beer -about 7:15pm- I saw a couple of the soldiers confront a traveler with a backpack and pull him around the corner, out of sight. To me this looked like a classic ‘shakedown’ and I wanted to get out of there. I frantically flagged down the waitress, paid my bill, and high-tailed it back to the hotel.”
Looking back I realize that I should have tried to help my fellow traveler; of course I have no idea what I could have done.