End of the Trip Interview, Part 2 : “Wanderlust”…

ITW 2

You were traveling on your own, was it scary sometimes ?

When I arrived in my Bishkek hostel (Kirghizstan), I was really wondering what I was doing there. There was no other traveller in the dorm and I got a bit anxious. Though, I had no choice but moving my ass. So I got over my fears, started to explore the place, and I had a wonderful time.
You know, sometimes, when you read guide books or embassies advices, you get the feeling that police officers will screw you, that food is gonna be rotten, and that Muslims will stone you, etc. etc. And of course nothing happens.

Quand je suis arrivée dans mon hôtel de Bishkek, au Kirghizistan, je me suis vraiment demandé ce que je faisais là. J’étais seule dans mon auberge, prête à repartir. Mais bon, je n’avais vraiment le choix, je me suis un peu poussée au train, alors j’ai commencé à explorer la ville et j’ai passé un moment extraordinaire.
Vous savez, parfois, quand on lit les guides de voyage et les conseils des ambassades, on a l’impressions que le monde n’est fait que de policiers corrompus, de nourriture pourrie, de musulmans intégristes, etc. Et bien sûr rien de tout cela n’arrive dans la vraie vie.

So you didn’t face any real danger?

Flying from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Bharu, I suddenly realized I was flying Malaysian Airlines, just after the MH370 had vanished. I couldn’t help it but think about it, so I was glad when we finally landed.
On the other hand, after flying Uzbekistan Airlines on my way back from the Aral Sea, I found out that this company was having a record rate of fatal accidents. This is, finally, the only dangerous situation I really got into, without even knowing it.
Overall, I was very cautious in every decision I made because I didn’t want my trip to end prematurely, for a broken knee or whatever.

Lorsque je volais entre Kuala Lumpur et Kota Bharu, j’ai soudain réalisé que je volais sur Malaysian Airlines, juste après la disparition du MH370. Je n’ai pas pu m’empêcher d’y penser et j’étais bien contente qu’on arrive.
Par contre, à mon retour de la Mer d’Aral sur un vol Uzbekistan Airlines, j’ai découvert que cette compagnie enregistrait un nombre impressionnant d’accidents mortels. C’est finalement la seule situation dangereuse à laquelle j’ai réellement dû faire face, sans même le savoir.

Any tip to be able to face all the different situations you’ve experienced ?

1. Observation. When you don’t speak a language, watch what others do and be flexible.
2. Be savvy, resourceful. An example? I used to dry my underwear with my external hard drive which was always getting too hot 🙂

1. Il faut avoir le sens de l’observation, surtout quand on ne parle pas la langue. Regarder comment les autres font et s’adapter.
2. Etre malin, savoir se débrouiller. Un exemple ? Je séchais mes sous vêtements avec mon disque dur externe qui chauffait trop; haha.

Did you learn something about yourself ?

Frankly, not really. I knew, more or less, what I would face, what it would take.
Though, two traits of mind surprised me.
First. I haven’t be able to forget my ‘’real’’ life and always kept in mind that I’d need to come back.
Secondly. On the other hand I’ve been able to give up on planning. Actually, I didn’t feel the need to plan the day or the week to come. The only thing I needed to think ahead was the length on y stay in a country because you need a return ticket when you enter a country.

Pas vraiment. Je savais plus ou moins à quoi j’allais devoir faire face et j’étais prête.
Deux choses m’ont pourtant surprise, sur ma façon de réagir.
D’abord, je n’ai pas vraiment réussi à déconnecter, j’ai toujours garder à l’esprit ce que j’allais faire à mon retour.
A l’inverse, j’ai été contente de voir que j’avais été capable d’abandonner mon habitude de tout planifier. Je pouvais changer de programme d’une minute à l’autre, pour le reste de la journée, du lendemain, en fonction des circonstances, des rencontres… C’est très libérateur.

What have you learnt?

That everything is possible. The world is an open playground, and I feel capable of doing basically anything. Sky is the limit.
I’ve been able to find my way in Russia where nobody speaks English or where there is nobody at all (Perm), to ride a Royal Enfield in Rajasthan, to get our of mud tracks with a damned scooter in South Java, to deal with unfriendly airport officers in Bangladesh, to explore Central Asia on my own in places where nobody goes…
I feel that I can try everything, go everywhere.

Que tout est possible. Le monde est un immense terrain de jeu et je me sens capable de tout y faire.
J’ai été capable de trouver mon chemin à travers la Russie alors que personne ou presque n’y parle anglais, ou de me retrouver au milieu de nulle part (Perm), de rouler en moto en Inde, de sortir de routes boueuses en scooter à Java, de gérer un situation difficile avec des douaniers Bangladais, d’explorer l’Asie Centrale alors que personne n’y mets les pieds…
J’ai l’impression que je peux tout essayer, et aller partout.

How does that change who you are?

I fell like nothing can stop me. So, when I’m back to my reality, I hope that my wonderwoman mindset is going to help me overcome the hurdles – And especially people’s lack of enthusiasm, in general. 

J’ai l’impression que rien ne peut m’arrêter. J’espère que ce sentiment d’être Wonderwoman va me permettre de surmonter les obstacles, et en particulier le manque d’enthousiasme des gens, en général.

Does that mean it’s been easy, overall ?

I wouldn’t say that. Finding the energy to move forward when my traveling companions were leaving was always a challenge. The only challenge actually. And, in that respect, receiving all kind of messages from my friends, through the blog and beyond the blog, has been decisive. I will never thank you enough guys !
I’ve been extremely surprised by the interactions triggered by my blog. All my friends, and beyond, have exchanged with me through this platform. Even though I’ve been away for a year, I’m closer to my folks now than I was before.

Je ne dirais pas tout à fait ça. trouver l’énergie de se remobiliser après le départ de mes compagnons de voyage a toujours été un défi, par exemple. Le seul même. De ce point de vue, les messages réguliers que j’ai reçus de mes amis, sur le blog et au-delà du blog, ont été décisifs. Je ne vous en remercierai jamais assez !!!
Dans l’ensemble, j’ai été extrêmement surprise par les interactions suscitées par le blog. Tous mes amis, et même des inconnus, ont échangé avec moi sur cette plateforme. Même si j’ai été absente pendant un an, je me sens plus proche de mes amis maintenant que je ne l’ai jamais été.

Did you miss your life?

Not really. I didn’t miss my daily routine, my job or my apartment. I didn’t miss Paris, its traffic jam, pollution and aggressiveness… I only missed my folks, very much ! And my grandparents, I would have liked to share this experience with them, make them thrill one last time. Anyway. So, no, I didn’t miss Paris much, but I’m definitely very happy to be with my parents, friends and colleagues again.

Pas vraiment. Ni ma routine, mon job ou mon appartement. Ni Paris, sa pollution, sa circulation et son agressivité. Seuls mes proches m’ont manqué, et beaucoup ! Et mes grands-parents, j’aurais aimé partagé cette expérience avec eux, ils en auraient fait une jaunisse de peur mais en même temps ça les aurait fait vibrer encore une fois. Bref. Donc non, Paris ne m’a pas manqué. Mais aujourd’hui je suis contente d’avoir retrouvé ma famille, mes amis, mes collègues.

Your next challenges ?

Ah ah !
I’d like to take the Rallye des Gazelles Race- An orientation race in the morocco desert.
I’d like to take a boat license to be able to drive a barge across the European channels.
I’d like to ride a motorbike through the Pan-American road, from Ushuaia to Canada…I’d like to cruise in Polynesia like Cook or London, from Papua-Guinea to Chile…
I’d like to take my family to the moon…
There are so many of them that finally, the main challenge is gonna be to meet them all before I’m on a wheel chair… Though, I even think I will, then, organize wheel chairs competitions, that would make the end of our lives less depressing, don’t you think?

Ah ah !
Je voudrais faire le rallye des gazelles, passer mon permis péniche et traverser l’Europe par ses rivières, rouler en moto le long de la pan-américaine entre Ushuaia et le Canada, naviguer en Océanie de la Papouasie Nouvelle Guinée au Chili comme Cook ou Jack London à bord du Snark, emmener mes parents sur la lune…
Le plus dur, ça va être d’avoir le temps de tout faire avant de me retrouver sur un fauteuil roulant. Encore que, il serait alors temps de commencer à organiser des courses de fauteuils pour le troisième âge, je suis sûre qu’il y a un marché !

Is this the end for My Scenic Railway?

I don’t think so.
First of all, over the summer period, I will publish several portfolios, featuring my best pictures around different themes.
And then we will see… I have a couple of ideas, stay tuned!

Je ne pense pas.
D’abord, cet été, je vais enchaîner avec une série de portfolios sur différents thèmes, avec mes meilleurs photos. Ensuite nous verrons, mais j’ai déjà des idées, restez connectés !!!

Are you going to write a book?

Well, many people have been asking me that question, and this is quite encouraging. I have a project in mind, we will see…

Beaucoup de personnes me posent cet question, c’est déjà encourageant. J’ai un projet en tête, on verra…

What is your current state of mind ?

Looking forward tackling new challenges.
And happy… Because I did it, didn’t I ?!

J’attends les prochains défits.
Et je suis très heureuse, je jubile même. Parce que, au final, je l’ai fait hein ?!

Steph All

End of the Trip Interview, Part 1 : The ‘‘Best of’’ (English & French)

Capture d’écran 2014-06-26 à 11.22.13When we left you six months ago (see Mid-year interview), you were about to fly to Oceania. Within five months, you’ve been through Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Kirghizstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Israel… Tell us what you’ve liked the most, disliked, etc.

The most breathtaking view (part 1: Banaue & Olkhon Island) ?

Difficult to say, there have been far too many. All landscapes were beyond imagination, both in Oceania and Central Asia. The places that really moved me are the Whitsundays in Australia, where I got an amazing feeling of freedom, the Rotorua Lake in New Zealand for the birds life and light there was that day on the shore, the Aral Sea desolation in Uzbekistan…

Difficile à dire, il y en a eu vraiment beaucoup. Tous les paysages que j’ai vus ont été au-delà de ce que les mots peuvent exprimer, autant en Océanie qu’en Asie Centrale. Ceci dit, certains lieux m’ont vraiment ému. Les Whitsundays en Australie, où j’ai ressenti un sentiment de liberté totale extraordinaire, le Lac Rotorua en Nouvelle-Zélande et ses oiseaux au coucher du soleil, la désolation de la Mer d’Aral  en Ouzbékistan…

The most beautiful human footprint (part 1: Gardens by the Bay, Taj Mahal) ?

Registan square, in Samarkand. We started the day with insignificant monuments – I mean, not bad but nothing special – and the guide was progressively bringing us to places that were better and better. The last one was that big square surrounded with Madrasas (koranic schools). I couldn’t retain a “waouh” and I saw it, and spent quite some time observing it from the boulevard before finally walk through the square. Pictures convey the beauty, but it’s more than that. It’s an eternal majesty. It felt like time had frozen and I was there. I could have photographed every square centimeter of the place. I didn’t listen to anything the guide told us, I was trying to eat the mosaics with my eyes, to be able to remember it for as long as I can.

La Place du Registan à Samarcande. La journée à commencé par la visite de monuments quelconques et le guide nous a progressivement orienté vers des monuments de plus en plus impressionnants. Lorsque nous sommes finalement arrivés sur cette place, entouré de Madrasas de part et d’autre, je n’ai pas pu retenir un cri d’exclamation et il m’a fallu un temps d’admiration avant de m’avancer sur la place. Les photos retranscrivent la beauté architecturale, la précision du travail, mais il y a plus que ça. une majesté éternelle. C’est comme si le temps c’était arrêté. J’aurais pu photographier chaque centimètre carré de cette place. Je n’ai rien écouté de ce que le guide nous racontait, j’essayais juste d’emmagasiner ce que je voyais afin d’essayer de m’en souvenir pour le restant de mes jours.

 The best food?

Really, food hasn’t been my priority. For budget reasons, I’ve mainly bought food in the street, or basic ingredients in supermarkets when my hostels where having kitchens. This being said, I was going to restaurants a few times a month and what I will remember for sure in New Zealand meat. We had a couple of steaks in Queenstown which were unbelievably tasty, and cheap!

Très franchement, l’alimentation n’a pas été ma priorité. Pour des raisons budgétaires, j’ai surtout acheté à manger dans la rue, ou dans les supermarchés lorsque mes auberges de jeunesse avaient des cuisines à disposition. Ceci étant dit, je suis quand même allé au restaurant deux ou trois fois par moi et je me rappellerai sans aucun doute de la viande néo-zéalandaise. Nous avons mangé quelques steaks à Queenstow incroyablement savoureux, pour moins de dix euros par personne !

 The most interesting fauna and flora (part 1: bird reserve in Korea) ?

The Great barrier reef, definitely. I had to retain myself not to talk about fishes every day in the blog. It has really been a great discovery and will take diving lessons as soon as I can. There were so many fish and coral species there. And after a while, when you are able to identify them, it becomes even more exciting. And you follow fishes, you witness different plots – Though it’s always about one fish escaping another, haha. I hope I will be able to take PADDI classes in Moalboal, in the Philippines, where the sea life is interesting and lessons cheaper than in the developed world…

Sans aucun doute la Grande Barrière de Corail ! J’ai vraiment du me retenir pour ne pas vous parler de poissons tous les jours sur le blog ! Ca a été pour moi une grande découverte et je prendrai des cours de plongée dès que possible. Il ya là-bas tellement d’espèces différentes des poisson, de corail. Et lorsque tu commences à être capable de les identifier, c’est encore plus excitant. Observer leurs déplacements, les intrigues – En général un poisson qui tente d’échapper à un autre 🙂 J’espère que je pourrai passer mon PADDI à Moalboal, aux Philippines, où la vie marine est très riche tout en étant meilleur marché qu’en Australie !

The most amazing experience (part 1: Trans-Siberian) ?

Traveling through along Australia’s East Coast has been an unbelievable experience. It was the people’s kindness and coolness, the landscape’s beauty, the way I was traveling (getting on and off the greyhound whenever I wanted), the many interesting travelers I met… Overall an amazing felling of freedom.
I especially remember two moments. One when I was walking barefoot on a Whitsundays island, following birds and mantas. We could have been in whatever century, it was so wild… And the second time, I was on the bus, on y way to Brisbane, I think. I had left a traveller with whom I had spent the last week, and I was about to meet my Sydney friends. No boundaries. I was walking towards my destiny. Free as a bird… I’ll never forget it.

Voyager le long de la côte Est en Australie a été une expérience incroyable. Les gens sont attentionnés et détendus, les paysages sublimes, le voyage par bus prête à la rêverie, et j’ai rencontré des voyageurs  tous aussi intéressants les uns que les autres.
Dans l’ensemble c’est un sentiment de liberté incroyable. Je me souviens plus particulièrement de deux moments. La première fois lorsque je marchais pieds nus sur un rivage des Whitsundays, suivant les oiseaux et les raies manta. C’était tellement sauvage qu’on aurait pu être dans un autre siècle. La seconde fois, c’était dans le bus, sur la route de Brisbane. J’avais laissé derrière moi un voyageuse avec laquelle j’avais passé une dizaine de jours, et je m’apprêtais à retrouver des amis à Sydney. Aucune contrainte. Je marchais vers mon destin, libre comme un oiseau, je ne l’oublierai jamais…

 The most challenging experience (part 1: riding a motorbike in India)?

Parasailing in Queenstown, New Zealand, was definitely a challenge !!! Thanks to my brother, I had to leave my comfort zone for a moment, and I don’t regret it. I just regret I wasn’t more relax, because I would have enjoyed the view even more. This view was unbelievable. I’ll do it again, that for sure !!!

Faire du parachute ascensionnel à  Queenstown en Nouvelle Zélande, alors que j’ai le vertige, était un vrai défit !!! Grâce à mon frère, j’ai dû me dépasser, et je ne le regrette pas. Je regrette juste de ne pas m’être détendue plus rapidement, j’en aurais profité d’avantage. Cette vue aérienne, dans le silence, était extraordinaire. Je recommencerai, ça c’est sûr !!!

Any moving place (part 1: Benares) ?

I think I’m not gonna surprise you much if I talk about the Tash-Rabat caravenserai, in Kirghizistan. My emotion was palpable on the videos, wasn’t it ? First of all because I had dreamt about that place for so many years. Not precisely this caravanserai but those boarders. This knot of boarders where China, Kirghizistan and Uzbekistan meet, in the Xian Chan mountains, Les Monts Célestes by Ella Maillart…
Then, beyond my own mythology, the place was really incredible, with people living in another century, a little bit like Mongolia (where I went on a trek ten years ago).
And then, cherry on the cake, being host by a nomad, in her trailer? No kidding ?! This was just… Beyond words.

Je ne pense pas vous surprendre en choisissant le caravansérail de Tash-Rabat, au Kirghizistan. Je crois que mon émotion était palpable sur les vidéos, n’est ce pas ? D’abord parce que j’ai rêvé de cet endroit pendant des années. pas de ce caravansérail là précisément, mais de cette zone frontière entre la Chine, l’Ouzbékistan et le Kirghizistan, dans les Monts Célestes du Xian Chan dont parle Ella Maillart…
Et puis, au delà de ma propre mythologie, cet endroit était vraiment incroyable, avec des gens vivant dans un autre monde, un peu comme ne Mongolie (où j’ai fait un trek il y a dix ans). Et enfin, cerise sur le gâteau, ce repas pris dans la caravane d’une nomade…Ca reste juste ineffable.

 A nice surprise? Or on the contrary a disappointing place?

Malaysia was both disappointing and a nice surprise. From a landscape and cultural perspective, it didn’t bring me much but I think it’s because I have been to almost every single country of South-East Asia. So nothing new, did I think at first glance.
But still, everything new to me, in the way people respect each other. Malaysia (as well as Singapore) is a mix of many different cultures but communities seem to cope very well one with each other. On the same bench in the metro, you can see a local of Chinese origin wearing a microscopic short, next to a Muslim with a chador. And you do not feel any tension, or disrespect, in between the two of them. They don’t care and this is great. We are far from having reached that point in France…

La Malaisie a était à la fois une déception et une bonne surprise. D’un point de vue culturel et touristique, ça ne m’a pas apporté beaucoup car j’avais déjà été dans presque tous les pays d’Asie du Sud Est et j’en connais les codes.
Pourtant, ce qui m’a quand même surprise, c’est la capacités des différentes cultures à vivre entre elles, comme à Singapour d’ailleurs. Vous pouvez voir assises l’une à côté de l’autre une femme d’origine chinoise en mi-short, et une femme musulmane vêtue de noir des pieds à la tête sans que cela ne semble déranger l’une ou l’autre. Et ça c’est formidable. On a semble t-il encore beaucoup à apprendre en Europe à ce propos…

A place you would visit again?

Australia, that for sure. I could do exactly the same trip, in the same locations and youth hostels, one more time: Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef, Townsville and Magnetic Island, Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays, Hervey Bay and Fraser Island… Byron Bay, Brisbane, Sydney… I could even live in Sydney.

Sans hésitation l’Australie. Je pourrais recommencer exactement le même voyage demain, dans les mêmes villes et les mêmes auberges : Cairns et la Grande Barrière de Corail, Townsville et Magnetic Island, Airlie Beach et les Whitsundays, Fraser Island… Byron Bay, Brisbane, Sydney… Je pourrais même vivre à Sydney.

The most interesting encounters?

All of them. I’ll remember many backpackers from Australia. And I’ll never forget the guy you brought me around the Issyk-Kul Lake, and Dilbar, from Almaty, who brought me to her place and spent two days with me driving me here and there. She wants to visit Paris, I hope I’ll have time to be as generous as she’s been… 

Toutes mes rencontres ont été incroyables. Je me souviendrai longtemps des backpackers d’Australie. Je n’oublierai jamais mon chauffeur du Lac Issyk Kul ou Dilbar, à Almaty, qui m’a pris sous son aile pour aller dans les montagnes. Elle devrait venir à Paris bientôt, j’espère pouvoir lui rendre la pareille.

Would you change anything in this second part itinerary?

Not a single thing.

Absolument rien.

(Second part of the interview tomorrow)
(Deuxième partie de l’interview demain)

ITW 1

My Scenic Railway ? My Wanderlust

Capture d’écran 2014-06-30 à 13.23.43On the right side of the picture : My first suitcase

Wanderlust is a strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world. The term originates from the German words wandern (to hike) and Lust (desire)…

km par transport

I’ve travelled a lot by train over the last ten months. Almost 15 000 kilometers…
The distance I’ve done through planes seems impressive, but this is mainly because none of my flight form one country to another was a direct flight. For budget reasons, I was often taking two or three planes to reach a new destination…

km total

Russia. China. South Korea. Taiwan. India. Bali. Java. The Philippines. SIngapore. Australia. New Zealand. Malaysia. Kirghizistan. Uzbekistan. Kazakhstan. Istanbul. Israel…

trois fois le tour de la terre

 

How do I feel about it ? You will know tomorrow, by reading my self-interview…

I need you : Vote For my Travel Pictures !!!

Capture d’écran 2014-06-23 à 13.43.50

Dear friends, readers, followers,
I have submitted 12 pictures to the National Geographic Photo Contest of the year.
If you’ve liked my pictures, can you please vote for them, like them on Facebook, share their links on your wall, or retweet my tweets (my Tweeter account being @MyScenicRailway) ?

Here are the 12 links to the 12 pictures on the NG website :

My “Stan” Countries…

Kirghizistan (KI), Uzbekistan (UZ), Kazakhstan (KA). What are their common points ?

What about the language?
In KA, everyone speaks Russian, they have almost no knowledge of their original language.
In KI, everyone knows Russian, would speak it with you, but they would speak their own language when they are together.
In UZ, Russian comes as a second language, and some people don’t even speak it.

What about their English skills?
I’m not sure they know more than Russians but they are highly interested in talking to foreigners to practice their skills. In Tashkent for example, as I was taking the metro, two young students decided not to get out at their station but stayed with me until I reached my destination, so that we could chat together.

Capture d’écran 2014-06-14 à 22.28.04

What about religion?
In KA, you will find as many orthodox churches as mosques.
In KI, there is a mosque in every single village. Though, people don’t go everyday. Mainly on Fridays, and still, when they have time only. The adhan (prier call from the minaret) is even forbidden.
In UZ, it looks like they pray more often. Whenever they hear a prayer, they would freeze, open their hands like if they were holding an open Koran, and pray.  Around 85% of Uzbeks claim to be Muslim (nearly all are the Hanafi Sunni variety), although only around 5% to 15% are practicing.

What about women?
No veils. Scarfs for old women in KI, and one most of women outside of Tashkent in UZ. As a matter of fact, in Bishkek (KI) and Tashkent (UZ), the youth is completely westernized. In KA, Astana’s youth seems trendier than in Almaty. And you could even meet there some bimbos in a Russian style.
Though, Uzbek women struggle for equality. Considered second-class citizens in the workplace and in the home, women are not given the same rights as their Western counterparts, or their Kyrgyz and Kazakh neighbors. Domestic violence occurs in 40% of Uzbek homes, yet overall household control lies in the hands of the husband’s mother. Abuse, however, rarely leads to divorce, and there are occasional reports of suicide by self- immolation, a cultural trait that dates back to pre-Islamic Zoroastrianism.

Capture d’écran 2014-06-14 à 22.34.30from left to right : Bishkek (KI), Astana (KA), Tashkent (UZ)

What about their knowledge of France ?
All of them know Mireille Mathieu, Piaf, Brel. My driver to the Isyk-Kol Lake in KI was able to sing some of their hits. And I remembered that when I was in Ekaterinburg, Russia, we saw posters featuring the next Patricia Kass concert. Several time, in bars, coffee shops, or on the radio, I heard French songs.

kaas
And of course, they all know about the Eiffel Tower. My driver to the Aral Sea has made it is anthem: He wants to see the Eiffel Tower.
More surprisingly, all of them heard about the gay marriage that was voted last year in France. This is the first thing the taxi driver who picked me up at the Bishkek Airport asked me : “Are there many gays in France ?”. He knew everything about the debate and didn’t seem judgmental, just very curious. The son of Dilbar, in Almaty, asked me completely out of the blue : “Is Hollande gay ?”. Unbelievable. He don’t hear a single thing about those countries and they know everything about mine…

What about their vision of USSR ?
Overall, all the people I talked to miss USSR and their independence in 1991 was a chock. “Before, we wouldn’t have to worry about our future”, said my Tashkent (UZ) taxi driver. “We used to have social services, and we miss that”. “Poor people are more poor and rich people are richer”, said the woman I had met on my flight to Bishkek (KI). “All of the sudden we had to reflect on what we should do to make a living”, said my mountains guide in Almaty (KA).

8042856025_33a66ef779_z(Lenin at the Historical State Museum, Bishkek, KI)

What about their vision of Putin ?
“He did a lot for his country”. This is what I heard everywhere. They have a great admiration for him, and wish they could have such a leader in their own country. A rich country, recognized as a serious power by the entire world.
I was there right in the middle of the crisis with Ukraine but none of them mentioned any fear of being annexed by Russia. In my opinion, may be some of them even wish they would…

pravda

What about their democratic transition after independence ?

In Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbaev became first secretary in 1989 and has ruled Kazakhstan ever since. Kazakhstan’s first multiparty elections, in 1994, returned a parliament favorable to Nazarbaev, He dissolved parliament in 1995 to get more favorable deputies and afterwards won an overwhelming referendum majority to extend his presidential term until 2000. Nazarbaev continues to rule Kazakhstan with an iron hand, but enjoys broad popularity as the country posts 10% economic growth year after year and maintains broad ethnic harmony. He won another seven-year presidential term with over 90% of the vote in the 2005 elections. Nazarbaev’s political rivals and critics are frequently sacked, jailed and even, in two cases in 2005 and 2006, found shot dead.

Capture d’écran 2014-06-16 à 08.11.36

Uzbekistan’s first serious noncommunist popular movement, Birlik, was formed by intellectuals in 1989. Despite popular support, it was barred from contesting the election in February 1990 for the Uzbek Supreme Soviet by the Communist Party. The resulting communist-dominated body elected Islam Karimov, the first secretary of the Communist Party, to the new post of executive president.
Following the abortive coup in Moscow in August 1991, Karimov declared Uzbekistan independent and held the first direct presidential elections, which Karimov won with 86% of the vote. His only rival was a poet who got 12% and was soon driven into exile (where he remains to this day). The real opposition groups, Birlik and the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP), and all other parties with a religious platform, had been forbidden to take part. A new constitution unveiled in 1992 declared Uzbekistan ‘a secular, democratic presidential republic’. The years after independence saw Karimov consolidate his grip on power. Karimov won a third consecutive term in January 2000, garnering 92% of the votes. Foreign observers deemed the election a farce and international condemnation was wide- spread. But the 9/11 attacks on the United States gave Karimov a reprieve. Karimov sought another term in 2007, which he won on a turnout rate that was placed at 90.6%…

Kirghizstan knows alternance, but change comes every time from street insurrections denouncing corruption, nepotism and civil unrest.

What about Jews in those countries ?
Oh, that. Well, all of them were very happy and nobody understands why they all left Central Asia in 1991 when USSR collapsed…Capture d’écran 2014-06-16 à 08.10.13

So, I’m gonna check in Israel what’s going on. Next time I’ll report from there, after a one-day stop in Istanbul, this city in between two worlds…

D278. June 6. Astana, some other creative buildings…

Capture d’écran 2014-06-11 à 13.25.40From South to North, From the new official boulevard to the old North Bank Center, snapshots of the most impressive buildings I’ve seen. Others will come soon, as the city is still being erected…

Capture d’écran 2014-06-11 à 13.24.48At the end of the governmental avenue (see yesterday’s post), this concave ring called “Shabyt” shelters a Fine Arts University.

Capture d’écran 2014-06-11 à 13.24.53One the other side, the Independence Palace, including a ethnographic room and a model of how Astana should like like in 2030. But after my walk from the other side of the avenue, I was so exhausted that I couldn’t walk more !

Capture d’écran 2014-06-11 à 13.24.40No clue. Next to the Independence Palace.

Capture d’écran 2014-06-11 à 13.21.21Not far from the Presidential Palace : the National Auditorium, designed by the Italian Sutdio Nicoletti, inspired from flowers.

Capture d’écran 2014-06-11 à 13.21.52Next to it, the Nazarbayev Center. It  was established by a Decree of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan in 2012 as a multifunctional research and educational public institution…

Capture d’écran 2014-06-11 à 13.21.59Habitation building on the river bank.

Capture d’écran 2014-06-11 à 13.22.37No clue. But still, gold and blue like the others…

Capture d’écran 2014-06-11 à 13.23.54?

Capture d’écran 2014-06-11 à 13.19.14The National Archives

Capture d’écran 2014-06-11 à 13.18.59Three buildings called “The Northern Lights” (Aurores Boreales). My guesthouse was on the 22sd floor of one of them.

Capture d’écran 2014-06-11 à 13.18.48On the right, the Emerad tower, looking loke an open book.

Capture d’écran 2014-06-11 à 13.14.17A sober but Creative habitation building.

Capture d’écran 2014-06-11 à 13.14.01A less sober habitation building… Gotham City ???

Capture d’écran 2014-06-11 à 13.14.40This UFO is called the Duman, an oceanorium.

Capture d’écran 2014-06-11 à 13.14.54Then you cross the river and reach the North Bank.

Capture d’écran 2014-06-11 à 13.16.14 A park. With a view on flamme-like twin buildings.Capture d’écran 2014-06-11 à 13.16.22 The President museum. Featuring : Presents to the President, meetings of the President with other Presidents of the World, Youth Clothes of the President, Phones of the President, Books of the President… What else ? Pictures of the President ! Amazing visit…

Capture d’écran 2014-06-11 à 13.19.43Many people are visiting Astana. Those three above are trying to find their way.

 

Capture d’écran 2014-06-11 à 13.28.21 Grandmothers come here with their grandchildren. What a chock it must be after a life spent with nothing…

Capture d’écran 2014-06-11 à 13.20.08Many people take photographs around the Egg-like tower. Guess who I met there ? My alcoholic grown-up and his mother from the train !

Capture d’écran 2014-06-11 à 13.17.34Those two locals don’t seem to bother. They have a situation They need to debrief.

D277. June 5. Nurzhol Bulvar, The Astana Champs Elysées

Primarily, the economic center of Astana was on the North Bank. Now, on the South side, has been built from scratch a prestigious avenue, Nurzhol Bulvar, designed by architect Kisho Kurokawa. A West-East axis that gathers political institutions and companies headquarters.

astana 0It starts on the West end with Khan Shatyr, a shopping mall imagined by Norman Foster, which shape reminds of a yurt, using a heat-absorbing material so that temperatures do not exceed 30° in the summer time.astana 2 We are far from the original internal organization of yurts, were all pieces of furnitures were set according to celestial powers…astana 1Exiting the shopping mall, you get to see a circular plaza surrounded with arcade buildings that remind of Ricardo Bofil somehow, a mix of neoclassical elements and totalitarism proportions.astana 3A line of central gardens and plazas leads to the 97m Bayterek monument, a white latticed tower crowned by a large golden orb. astana 4The Bayterek embodies a Kazakh legend in which the mythical bird Samruk lays a golden egg containing the secrets of human desires and happiness in a tall poplar tree, beyond human reach.astana 5The top level features a gilded hand print of the right hand of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the first President of the independent republic of Kazakhstan, mounted in an ornate pedestal. A plaque invites visitors to place a hand in the imprint and make a wish…astana 4 bis Next to the tower, the ovoid building you see shelters the national archives. astana 6 As you keep moving East, you pass by gardens and fountains that lead to the presidential palace.astana 7 Those two golden towers reflecting he sky are two business centers. The left one is occupied by Samruk-Kazyna, a holding controlling most of the country public companies.astana 8 On the left side, the senate.astana 9 And the “Ministries House”.astana 10 On the right side, the supreme court.astana 11Then comes the Akorda, which means “the white horde”, in others words the presidential palace.It includes a blue and gold dome topped with a spire. This golden statue atop the dome includes a sun with 32 rays at its apex, and also includes a steppe eagle flying beneath the sun.astana 12 Then, you keep waking under the sun, choosing either a bridge on the left or on the right side of the avenue, symmetrical and identical constructions… astana 13 When you decide to walk through it seems a never-ending bridge but you get a beautiful view on the river, and you can admire the construction trucks ballet, as the city is still a work in progress.astana 14 And then, as you reach the end of the gate, you get to see an unexpected building shape : a pyramid. And a circular weird thing. And a Napoleon-like column. It is starting to remind me of Enki Bilal’s Nikopol Trilogy ! I just couldn’t believe it !astana 15 To reach the pyramid, I’ll have to go through a several hectares park, trees and lawn mainly, giving a welcomed breathe to the city.astana 16 Called “Palace of Peace & Harmony”, this glass and steal pyramid was designed by Norman Foster to host in 2006 the “triennial Congress of World and Traditional Religions”… astana 18 As you cross the 2×6 lanes street behind the pyramid, you get to reach an arcade and two contemporary blue buildings, dominated by this column.astana 17The base of the column shelters a 5mm height bronze statue of the President. 91 meters higher you get to see a golden eagle.astana 19 You keep walking. Behind the arcade you get to see a bronze sculpture named “Kazak Yeli”, meaning “Kazakh country”. The selection of the figures as symbols in the monument illustrates how Kazakh leaders incorporated traditional Kazakh cultural symbols from their nomadic history as well as icons from their recent Soviet history. astana 20For now on, this is the end of the avenue. Is freedom ahead ?

Astana by night, a Blade Runner experience

Astana was built from scratch – Or, should I say, is being built from scratch, as construction is still going on. When having a look at my 22th floor hotel room, I got the impression to be watching a science fiction movie on TV…

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Just a medium-sized provincial city known for its bitter winters when President Nazarbaev named it out of the blue in 1994 as the country’s future capital, Astana replaced Almaty in 1997. Since then its skyline has grown more fantastical by the year as a reported 8% of the national budget is lavished on transforming vast acreage south of the Ishim River into a new governmental-administrative zone, with daring buildings combining Islamic, Soviet, Western and wacky futuristic influences.

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When you pay closer attention to the view, you can identify a large round square, surrounded with arcade buildings. And behind, a blue ship, in fact a contemporary vision of a yurt by Norman Foster… This yurt is the beginning of a ten kilometers East-West avenue that ends with another Norman Foster piece of work, a pyramid…
In the coming days, I’ll share an image gallery of the most spectacular buildings I got to see in this fantasy city.

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Why did Nazarbaev (the President, already leading the country in USSR times…) moved Kazakhstan’s capital from Almaty to Astana in 1997 ? First of all, Astana is a more central location and has greater proximity to Russia. But in addition, he may also have wanted to mollify Kazakhstan’s restive Russian population, concentrated in the north of the country. Despite incredulity at first, the new capital is there to stay and Astana is being transformed at great cost with impressive, sometimes spectacular, new buildings…