Day Trip to Medeu

To this day, Munich remains one of my favorite cities. Why? For nothing that the city itself offers, but for its proximity and easy access to the mountains. When I was living in Nuremberg, two hours from Munich by regional train, I relished being 2.5-3 hours from the Alps. Although I didn’t get hiking nearly as often as I wanted, generally for want of company and also for bad luck with weather. Still, with that brief 30 minute regional train ride necessary before the mountains, Munich has nothing on Almaty. Consider this picture, taken from the steps of the Almaty Drama Theater in downtown Almaty:

Or this picture, taken at a place where I often run.

The Yesentai River (which I believe is legitimately a river, despite looking rather canal like) is a bit pathetic. Still, the lack of car exhaust makes it one of the best places for running. Which doesn’t say much. The views, though, are lovely!

Anyway, when my friend, Kimberly, proposed a day trip (or really a morning/early afternoon trip) to nearby Medeu, located a short 30 minute (and $0.35) bus ride from downtown Almaty, I was definitely in. The view, after we climbed up the stairs to the top of the Medeu dam (which you don’t really actually see directly), is lovely:

I had been once before, in January 2008, when I visited my friend, Matt, who was doing a Fulbright in Almaty. That was my first trip and introduction to Central Asia. Here’s a blast from the past, taken from almost exactly the point of view as the above picture:

What appears to be a construction site (if you look close enough) has been turned into a well-developed gondola ride that takes one up to the ski resorts of Shymbulak. This is the view from yesterday:

The weather was less cooperative than we hoped: after a lovely morning, the clouds quickly settled in. Though we considered a ride up to Shymbulak on the gondolas, we were greeted by an utter downpour, luckily after we had taken shelter for lunch in a hillside cafe. Though the rain was over quickly enough, we decided the cloudy views would make the trip to the top not worth the $10-20 to get there. So we returned to the city, resolving to come back on a clear day. But I will at least close with another blast from the past–an activity obviously unavailable for summer visits. Some day, I’ll return to do this again, too.

The outdoor rink at Medeu is a Soviet-era institution, built in 1949-1950. The views are lovely.

Seems like a past life! Pretty crazy.

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