Almaty (+ Astana Part II)

Ideal stay: prolonged weekend trip
Temperature:
similar to Astana (depending on season; winter very cold (-20) & summer quite hot (30°C))

..here I go again..

The “see you later”-day has finally arrived. There I was – sitting in the fully booked airplane to Astana.
Astana? Once again I realized that many people are not really familiar with this capital and are not too sure to which country it belongs..

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After a few hours of good airplane-sleep I arrived at the Astana Airport. Incl. my damaged luggage piece…well done. How to report a damaged luggage piece in a country where barely s.o. speaks English.. Licious made it. Not too sure how but it worked out.

After going through that struggle – I was even happier when I spotted HIM in the crowd at the arrival area.

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We took a UBER and went to his new kicka** place (super fancy high-tech apartment) to get some sleep & recharge for the upcoming sightseeing days.

btw: UBER is the best way to move around since you do not need to speak the local language; distance and destination as well as price are set – no struggle to bargain etc.etc. = super convenient)

 

DAY 1

..same old same old..

He left early to work and I stayed a little longer in bed.. cosy & nice observing the snow storm out there.

I wrapped myself in my winter clothes and left for grocery shopping. The “European” & classic stroll through the city, window shopping and unwinding is a no-go with these freezing temperatures. I quickly went to the supermarket, grabbed some fruits, spotted the Crossfit place and decided to have a relaxing manicure & pedicure.

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The way to get the mani & pedi was again quite tough – google translator, pictures and videos helped to get what I was looking for.

..me-time..

Afterwards I went home, relaxed, watched a movie and two series, did some paperwork and all of a sudden it was 18h & he got home from work.

Cute to see that he enjoyed the fact that I was waiting for him at “home”. Till his career step & move to Astana we have lived in several countries together – this was the first time we were “forced” to live apart.

We enjoyed some qualitytime at home before heading to the restaurant near his flat.

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The Chef is famous for delicious burger, homemade sauces and affordable prices. For the first time in my life I ordered a burger with a black bun – crazy.

..Fun fact: they give you gloves prior serving your burger.. 

After dinner we went to the nearby mall and checked on the different products. I love to do such store checks! One is able to buy almost everything (overpriced!) since they import around 32% of the products from Russia, 26% from China and 4% from Germany.

We went home, watched a movie and talked until we fell asleep.

 

DAY 2
He went to work and I – yes – stayed in bed.
This time it was not possible to stay that long since he booked a crossfit trial class for me.

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I got there, tried to communicate (fail), changed clothes and waited. All of a sudden everyone gathered around the trainer – so I joined.
He explained the whole training in Kazakh (well-done) but at LEAST the technical vocabulary is the same all over the globe: sit-ups, dead lifts & burpees. After the first intense round I wondered why burpee is such an international term – else I could have skipped it, reason: lack of understanding. 😉

At the end of the session I went to the adjoining coffee shop and had a “Paleo”-meal. Not. My. Style.
I left quite unsatisfied, went home, did the laundry – well at least I tried to do the laundry. But…

..excuse me?..

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At 19ish a UBER drove me to the St. Regis Astana: dinner with my loved one.

This property was brand-new and its unique restaurant “The Grill” – the new place to be.

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Impressed by the well-matched interior decoration we were escorted to our romantic table. I was not even done with reading the menu & I already smelled the truffles and saw him looking at me like “you see, I know what you like”. 😉

..TRUFFLE LOVE – BIG TIME!..

While freakin out on the truffle (+ the extra truffle topping + the truffle butter + the truffle mashed potato) I felt so much gratitude. Gratitude for our collective life, the mile stones we achieved, our lifestyle, our trips, our future vision, our exclusive taste when it comes to food etc.etc.

We ate pasta, bread with the dif. sorts of butter, he got his onion soup (he LOVED it).. We had steak with truffle mashed potato as a main course and wrapped the dinner up with a sweet dessert assortment: chocolate souffle & “destroyed” tiramisu.

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UBER picked us up, drove through the “Schlagbaum” (Kazakh for toll bar – HAHA) and brought us home.

..happy and lucky us.. 

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At home we had a really good laugh (us – being us) and brushed our teeth in our dress & suit. Fancy manancy. I was unable to open the child safety lock of the mouth wash – and relied on the “house husband”. Just a quick glimpse into our “routine”. 😉
We fell asleep and were looking forward to our trip to ALMATY!

 

DAY 3

..early börd..

Not amused by the way he woke me up at around 4h.. got up, prepared myself – he packed my suitcase – we rushed down, caught the UBER and drove to the Airport.

..Boarding: Almaty..

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Prior Boarding he showed me a super fancy app: Google translator with SCAN. Deeply impressed, I have to admit.
Basically your phone serves as “scanner” – you just hold your camera towards the document / sign / letter you want to translate from Kazakh to English and the letters on the screen change immediately into the translated version. Super cool..
Obviously then he got obsessed and translated almost everything around us.. boys.

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Travelling with my best travel buddy has always been great – and just now a huge advantage having him by my side since he managed to study RUSSIAN in the past few months!

We arrived at the Almaty Airport , got our rental car and drove to our hotel: Ritz Carlton Almaty (+/- 30min).

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We were escorted to the reception, impressed by the views and got our upgraded room quite fast.
I love to enter hotel rooms, inhale those vibes and the BEST part: personalized treatments or Cards. 🙂

..knowing me..

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We ate the heart-shaped cake, drank a coffee and left to the St.Nicholas Cathedral. We took a stroll through the park and ended up at the bazar.

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Well – in case your tummy is sensitive this would probably not be the best idea.. Meat all over, horse penis (yes..) but also homemade honey, jam & a huge variety of dried fruits, fruits and veggies.

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It was a super cool experience since in “Europe” you would not encounter this (anymore).

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This country is so full of contradictions: top modern banking system with instant transfers or super high-speed internet connection vs. old-school, poor housing and missing food cooling-system.

..#whataview..

We decided to check on Kok Tobe Hill, took the cablecar up and were amazed by the city views. IMG_3276

Up there it was pretty cold but we walked on, talked and ended up in the amusement park. Always a child 🙂

..incredible sunset vibes..

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Dinner was served at the restaurant “Inkhzu” – not my stlye but okish.. Afterwards we went to the hotel and enjoyed the amazing facilities.

 

DAY 4
We got up quite early and drove to Leo’s where we had an amazing grapefruit juice and a yummy omelette with goat cheese.

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Butter over here is quite “animally” to be honest… just FYI ;).
We joked, laughed and were looking forward to the mountain trip.

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After entering the reservoir & the endless ride up to the mountain, we paid the entrance fee and walked around. What we spotted next was just INCREDIBLE – such a beauty..

..wow..

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Big Almaty Lake

Amazing views: shiny, clear, blue water..snowy mountains..fresh air..sun on our skin.
Us: 100% HAPPY ..and ok, a bit tired of me – poor him. Haha.

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He promised I would be able to spot some animals – but this was not the case. You can imagine how I reacted.. #BockigeJenny.

The mountain was steep and snowy but obviously we aimed high and drove all the way up.. LOVELY view.

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At one point we got stuck – managed to get out and drove back down.

..schöner Rucksack..cooler Rucksack..Profi-Rucksack..

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We spotted the (dried out) Ski-Area and enjoyed a hot chocolate in the sun.

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It was amazing to feel the warm sunrays on my skin – living for such moments!

..Liebe..

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Lived also for those endless laughing fits; our stories; our words; our signature features; our vision; our shared opinions and opposing views; our spirit; our humour and our love.

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Till our city trip to Almaty, I was not aware that this area is well-known for skiing. If you are into skiing you should def. give it a try!

For Lunch we stopped at an amazing place with local food. Unfortunately I was not able to read the name of the restaurant, check the picture:

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I immediately fell in love with this place. Calm, peaceful, traditional, romantic, sunny and – it turned out to be – DELICIOUS.

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As usual he was hungry AF and we nearly ordered the whole menu.. a normal thing 😉 At least we got to try it ALL.

We also enjoyed a hot tea after the winter feeling on top of the mountain.
A glorious laughter ensued.

..us being us..

Me = a wannabe influencer and at times advertising specialist and him = an involuntary follower which had the best giggles because of my attitude.

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Our day was not over yet.

..Yes, our travel pace differs from other travel styles (never relax & chill only)..

We drove to the Central Park (also known as Gorky Park) and went for a walk.

Interesting: In KZ they do not just sit on the floor and beg for money (like in Hungary or Portugal).. but rather try to sell sth to you or offer you a service which they want to get paid for later on.
eg. They take pictures of you while walking in the park with your loved one and afterwards they show you the printed pic version and try to sell it at an horrendously high price. Smart.

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The park is lovely.. huge green areas, multifaceted flora, cute lake with a waterfall, amusement rides (yes, seems they are into it!) and stunning TOP views.

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We rode the big wheel to get one last shot of the Skyline, afterwards we enjoyed the sunset at the Barfly Rooftop Bar.

..sunset is my fav color..

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Unfortunately this bar did absolutely not come up to scratch. Service was “non-existent”, windows were dirty and the whole place rather shabby.

Tired we went back to the hotel, checked on the nearby posh mall, purchased some fresh juice and fruits. We got a “quick” rest and went to the jacuzzi….yesssssss.
An amazing end of a quite eventful day!

 

DAY 5

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We grabbed a coffee and a croissant at PAULs and drove to the airport – time to fly back to ASTANA.

We arrived in Astana, took a UBER, went home, relaxed a bit and went to the Nur-Astana Mosque.

..beauty..

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This mosque was so full of energy, good vibes, style, classiness and love. It reminded me of the positive spirit which Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque spreads.

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This mosque is the third largest mosque in Central Asia. The minaret is 63m high which stands for the age of Muhammed when he died. The whole structure is made of the best glass & granite and has capacity for 5000 people.

We left quite impressed and walked aka. jumped over to the famous “Pyramid” aka. Astana Piramida.

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The Piramida is also called “The Palace of Peace and Reconciliation” – “..it is a Symbol of friendship, unity and peace in Kazakhstan..”.

We paid the entrance fee and waited for our guide. After +/- 20min the (rather military) lady showed us around. She showed us different national dresses which stand for the over 130 diff. Nationalities who live in peace and harmony in KZ.

..clichee-ridden..

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After showing us the basement, the Atrium Hall and the Opera Hall, we got into the fancy elevator (build by SWISS engineers) which took us diagonally up to the peak.
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Under the sky-blue roof there is a meeting room which is – among others – used for the worlds’ leaders congress.

..the sky is the limit..

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The whole room radiated such a positive and peaceful vibe. No matter how rainy or snowy it is outside – inside it will always stay bright and friendly. Well done!

..proud..

As mentioned earlier he already acquired some Russian skills – reason why he did such a good job at bargaining the taxi price. The crazy taxi took us to the famous Baytarek Monument.

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Remember? This is the tower which I have already seen the last time I came to Astana but was back then under construction.

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The price to access this 97-m high tower is around 700T and “..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”.

..one world..one love..

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The elevator takes you – basically – inside the egg. The view from up there is incredible. The highlight is President Nazarbayev’s palace.

Exhausted and overwhelmed by all the information we have received, we decided to take a break at my fav. place: Rafe Cafe.

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Obviously I had to order the BEST HOT CHOCOLATE – ever. But – guess what – he was not INTO IT!! How come?! (“How comes” like he would have said)

He took a snacky-pumpkin soup and drank a fresh juice before we headed in the direction of the parliament.

Our last stop for this day was: The Ritz Carlton Astana.

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A surprise for me 🙂
He took me there to enjoy a couple massage as the GRAND ENDING of this beautiful trip.

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The spoiling started with a dip in the (cold) pool and after 30min they called us for the main treatment: a hot stone massage.

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We relaxed and enjoyed it sooo much. It was literally the perfect ending. During this massage I just remembered how grateful I am for this life and my travel buddy. This travel style is unique but exactly what we love.
We love to explore it all in a rather tight time frame and at the same time we love to indulge in those fancy treats. I could not wish for a better travel buddy.

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After this incredibly unwinding massage, we got some tea and cookies, talked and laughed in the relaxation room.

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Following this we went to the mall near his place, ate plemini and went back home to sleep because at 4h a taxi would pick me up and take me to the airport.

..all good things come to an end..

Thank you ASTANA, ALMATY & my LOVE for this incredible trip! I had a blast and will never forget those HAPPY FEELINGS back in those days 🙂

Forever grateful.

 

Astana

Ideal stay: weekend trip
Temperature:
depending on season; winter very cold (-20) & summer quite hot (30°C)

..long time no hear..

Hey my dear READERS

I am so sorry – it has been a loooong time since I wrote my last post. I am sorry.
Life just happened in between and my priorities changed!

Actually I thought about my upcoming post and I prepared my notes for my favorite topic (at the moment): HAPPINESS.

But – somehow I felt the strong desire to rather tell you more about ASTANA and right after about ALMATY in Kazakhstan.

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..Here we go..

The first time I arrived in Astana (December) – I was shocked by the cold temperatures. Obviously it did not really help coming straight from Abu Dhabi & 32°C.

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I went to visit my best travel buddy and partner in crime, my boyfriend who recently moved there.
To be honest – Astana was not on my bucket list till then – but I really have to admit that I left with a heart full of gratitude and the desire of coming back.

DAY 1 (evening only)
My trip started off pretty well since he got Opera Tickets for us.
I dropped this wish in one of our conversations and was not really prepared for it.

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Surprise = check!

Prior making it to the Opera tho – I encountered the huge language barrier at the airport & in the taxi. Incredible. No one spoke English. I believe it is ok to say that I have been roaming around the world since quite a while but never – ever – came across THIS during my journey.
Taxi drivers rather strange than friendly – was not sure whether he was asleep or dead…?

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Somehow I managed to get my visa and left to the Opera House.

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Priority was obviously to hug my love since we have not seen each other for a while – but right after I got overwhelmed by the beauty of this traditional architectural masterpiece.

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We enjoyed our evening, indulged in those classic sounds and were looking forward to having a yummy dinner.

We drove to Arnau – a National restaurant – where we had horse meat accompanied with „bestbamark“ (noodles) and „boursaky“ (bread). Yes, horse meat.
Kazakh cuisine is traditionally focused on horse meat.

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I have to admit that it tasted a bit like venison – so def. not as bad as „expected“.
We talked, talked and talked – had tea to beat the cold outside and left quite late by taxi (don’t forget to bargain! – Google translator will help 😉 ).

DAY 2
He got up quite early in order to work and I enjoyed the sunrise above the city of Astana, looked up my route on Google maps and left to the bus station.

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The situation in the bus was quite weird: again, no one spoke English – so no one was able to tell you whether you were riding in the right or wrong direction; further the bus Driver and the ticket salesman played music with their cellphones and in between those tunes one of them announced the bus stops. The craziest part: it cost 90t only (20cent).

My first stop was – THE MALL: Khan Shatyr.
Coming from my sunny Abu Dhabi – I had no winter jacket, gloves, beanie nor proper shoes – reason why I first had to get all of this.

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After shopping I went to the Sky Beach Club which is located on the upper floor of the mall. It is comparable to Ski Dubai – just the opposite: Beach.

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Funny enough that it was packed by locals which apparently felt like escaping from the freezing cold outside (-22°C).

Weird facts: you can buy your gold fish from the machine & Kazakh look more or less all the same – at least to me…

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Equipped with my winter stuff I left the mall in search of the „I LOVE ASTANA“-sign.

..Spotted..

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The way towards the sign was quite slippery due to the frozen ground but it seemed that I was the only one bothering. All locals were covered in their fur fashion, did not talk to me and just mind their own business. Somehow sad yet „ok“ since every Nation has its own way of living.

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In front of the 97m-high Bayterek Monument Tower I spotted an exhibition for the EXPO 2018 – all countries were represented incl. the UAE. 🙂
Great to see a small piece of home in between this rather cold environment.

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My next stop was the Rafe Cafe which – as per google – offered the best hot chocolate.
Got to admit: yep. Indeed.
It was delicious – so chocolaty, thick and not fluid like usually. I enjoyed the cosy environment a little longer to escape from the devastating frostiness.

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Till now I have never experienced such a cold weather: The wind attacked my skin, nose, eyes & hands. It seemed that you were about to lose all your limbs. I was literally freezing my tail off.

When I recovered – I left the coffee shop, got to the bus station and somehow made it to the Pyramid and the mosque.

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..Yes, mosque..

 70% of Kazakhstans population is Muslim and 26% is Christian.

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Near the mosque I met a lady – randomly – who took me to a private exhibition.

Funny enough: We did not have any language in common but somehow communicated beyond words. After meeting her, I also met her sister and both were friendly enough to introduce me to the exhibition-head.

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The exhibition-head (famous) showed me all paintings, handmade embroidery etc. with pride and all of a sudden I felt integrated.
They offered me food, drinks, we took several pictures and had a blast.

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This experience was totally unexpected and opened my mind as well as heart. The best example that the universe leads you to beautiful things – if you embrace it, go with the flow and let it just happen.

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These two beautiful ladies brought me to my bus station; rode the bus with me (cuties – they wanted to make sure that I get home safely…) and hugged me prior leaving. Wow.

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With a heart full of gratitude I waited for my BF.

At around 20h we left for Dinner at Epokha – a restaurant which was kept in the „Soviet Union“-spirit. We enjoyed „pelmeni“ and „shashlik“ with potatoes while observing the “Cold war”-decor. Random.

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This place converted in a dance cafe around 22h – interesting to watch – but we were too tired to join them.

DAY 3
He had to get up early, again, I stayed a little longer in bed – snuggled up & watched the ice storm outside. Yes, ice storm.

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Due to those bad weather conditions I was only able to walk to the closest mall where I enjoyed a local crepe with cream.

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..Funny: since I was unable to read the menu – I took a Picture of it, sent it to my best Russian friend who then recommended a dish..

Subsequently I went downstairs to check on their local products at the supermarket. Well. I was surprised and def. shocked with the whole scenario.

..do the math..

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Deeply impressed I went back home. I enjoyed some series, chilled out, wrote some blog posts and waited for him to come home.

With a pretty cool Taxi we drove to the famous GQ Restaurant.

..he knows what I like..

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Yes, right. A classy rooftop restaurant with a splendid view over Astana – the capital of Kazakhstan.
We ate well, drank a glass of bubbly, fell in love with the bread and enjoyed the view.

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The taxi drive towards home was – for the first time – AMAZING! Why? Because we were able to communicate properly with the driver.
An English speaker? No. But a DOer. Why? He had a translator app which he actively used. He talked to it in Kazakh and the outcome was in English. Nice!
We were truly impressed, laughed and bombed him with many questions in regards to life over there, working conditions, language etc.etc.
We def. had the HAPPIEST ride – ever.

DAY 4
Last day.

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The plan was to enter the pyramid and the mosque but cold shock came in between. I am serious.
While standing at the bus station, I started feeling dizzy and very cold. We went back inside and I was barely able to move, my skin was red and I felt exhausted. The shower felt like being burned alive.. not a good idea – at all.
I fell asleep while being cuddled and when I woke up I felt slightly better.

We went to the Astana Mall for Lunch – a quick one.
And then it was already time for the “good bye” or at least a “see you later”.

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..see you later..