Monday, 8 June 2009

A v Kazakhstan 6.6.2009

More picture will be added over the next few days

Words by Mark Raven
Good pictures by Liz O'Brien, not so good by Mark Raven!

Tuesday 2nd June

We headed up to Heathrow on Tuesday afternoon. We booked one night in the Radisson Hotel which included parking to cover our holiday. We had time for a nice meal and then it was off to bed early as the alarm was set for 6.15am.

Wednesday 3rd June

Airports and Planes was the schedule for the day. Our actual itinerary was

09.05 LH4723 from Heathrow to Frankfurt arriving 11.35 with the 1 hour time difference.
13.50 LH648 from Frankfurt to Almaty arriving 00.15 with the 4 hour time difference.

We shared the second leg with the Montenegro U21 squad who had a 2011 qualifier v Kazakhstan the day after the England match. They all looked very splendid in identical training tops and tracksuits.

Thursday 4th June

Our flight was slightly late so we were well into Thursday morning before we cleared passport control. A pre booked taxi was waiting for us, the driver with a sign with my name on it. By 2am we were at the Hotel Aiser and as soon as we checked in we were in the lift to the 4th floor, found our room and were soon snoring away.

Breakfast was from 7-11 so when we woke at about 10am local time it was like having breakfast at 5am! It was a struggle but we wanted to be up and out to have a look around Almaty and get familiar with the place. We had our guide book, a map from the hotel and a free magazine handed out at the airport with a slightly different map, this had been put together especially for us travelling fans.

So we set off along Satpaev street and soon (well not soon actually after about 45 mins!) we arrived at Independence square and the Independence Monument. We were crossing the road and stumbled upon the Dawn of Freedom monument first. This was built in 2006 to commemorate the 17th December 1986 protest over Russian interference and many people were killed and injured. We crossed the road and into the square, well not really a square as the far side is a building site as they have started building an underground shopping mall (deja vu with Independence square in Minsk!).

The obelisk shows a Golden Man replica sitting atop a winged snow leopard. At the bottom is an inscription commemoration Kazakhstan independence on 16th December 1991 and an open bronze book representing the countries constitution with a hand print of president Nazarbaev. There is a series of pictures depicting great events in Kazakhstan behind the main obelisk.

It was hot so we moved on through the very leafy streets of Almaty, got slightly lost but stumbled upon Coffeedelia, a nice cafe, so time for a break. We had a coffee and sat down and planned our afternoon. We opted on getting the Cable Car to Kok-Tobe. There were fantastic views down over Almaty (pictures to follow). The cable car cost 1,500 tenge return for a 1,637 Meter ride up to the top.

When we arrived back on the cable car we decided it was time to for yet more food , so we returned to the hotel and then headed to fined the Kishlak restaurant. We failed but soon saw a place called the Veranda, So we headed in and..........

........Liz tucks into a beer cocktail. I ventured for the banana beer, Liz decides to check both of them out. A fairly lethal concoction especially when they give you a straw!!! I had chicken (kebabs) and Liz had a Pasta. All very nice and went well with the strange beers. By now it was about 9pm, which was 2am UK time so we felt a little jaded so headed back to the hotel for some kip.

Friday 5th June
On the map a vast expanse of green was shown and titled as the Botanical Gardens. So after breakfast we headed in that direction. We found the spot but it was mainly waste ground with lots of trees, so we crossed over a big main road to see if we were in the wrong spot but more of the same, so we crossed the next road and nothing different. After an hour of walking around we gave up and now know why the Botanical gardens dont feature in the guide book!

So we headed back to the Hyatt to pick up match tickets. Very quick and simple and we headed to the nice beer garden for some refreshments. The beer was way too expensive so a cold cranberry juice but that still cost 1,200 tenge (and its about 250 to the £) so a rip off. We headed back to a bar called Ultras (was called Tintoff in the guide books so we wasted 10 mins trying to find a different bar in the same place!) We had a quick snack and some beer brewed on the premises.

We had arranged a tour to go on a tour of the mountain and Medue Olympic Ice Rink through the London England Fans. We met up at the Astana International hotel and were soon sitting on a very hot coach with no air con. The second coach looked better but broke down on the way! We met up with a few Brighton lads plus Coventry Sara.

We arrived at the Medua rink, Almaty has been awarded the 2011 Asian winter Olympics so it was under going major renovation!

So next they informed us we would be walking up the dam behind the rink for spectacular views. It was 840 steps at altitude and they gave us an hour and a half to do it and the coach would meet us at the top. Due to the coaches they then said we would have to walk back down as well as the coaches wouldn't make it up! Luckily we did all make it and it was worth it!

So we started the climb

We then had the option of a meal at a local Yurt, we opted just to look round and have a few cold beers instead

We got back about 10pm and had a meal Astan Hotel as we were pretty knackered from all the walking and climbing!

Saturday 6th June
Saturday and it was up early, breakfast at 7.30am as we wanted to go to the Wreath laying ceremony at war memorial in Panfilov Park - Trevor Brooking, Gordon Taylor and Lord Wiseman represented the FA. It took us about an 90 mins to walk through Almaty but finally arrived just as everything started. The local military band turned up and after the speeches they gave a fantastic display of English songs (was the 65th Anniversary of D-Day but they did Tie a Yellow Ribbon plus various other strange selections)with some very fun "dance" routines(see the video!)

Next it was on to Cathedral of the Ascension (also in Panfilov Park). Believe or not but this building is made of just wood and NO yes NO nails, built to withstand earthquakes so has joints/brackets only!

We then headed to the Guns and Roses Bar for lunch and a cold drink, before starting >the hike back towards the hotel. We finally found the Kishlak, decided on some cooling green tea.

......The Kishlak.........The Kishlak.........The Kishlak......
After that we headed back to the hotel for a shower and then headed out for some pre match beers. We ended up at Johns Cafe, sitting outside in the cool breeze and had some cold beers. It was now about 7.30pm so wandered towards the ground.

The match

......The Match.........The Match.........The Match......
The scoreline of 4-0 flattered England, Kazakhstans problem is they can't put the ball in the net. So Barry, Heskey, Rooney and a Lampard penalty made up goal scorers. The pitch must have been surrounded by about 5,000 Police, yet still a pitch invader managed to get through the lines and on to the pitch.

After the game we returned to Johns Cafe. We bumped into Batty our Leeds mate from Doncaster. Already in the bar was Dex from Eastbourne and Gainsborough Cobby soon walked past. We got talking to a group of Kazakh brothers who had travelled down from Northern Kazakhstan for the game.

Sunday 7th June
St Nicholas Cathedral

What is left of the Nikolsky Bazaar. Most of the stalls were demolished in 2006

The Opera House and a sample of the local language and road signs!

......What does that sign say mmmmmmm pass??
As the temperature was once again in the high 20s we stopped off at Coffeedelia for another well earned coffee (or iced coffee in Liz's case) and a nice long sit down before venturing on again.

Our next port of call was around the Old Square region of Almaty. We headed to the park to the south of the region and the Manshuk and Aliya Moldagulova statue. These are the only women to receive the highest military honour in Asia.

We finished the afternoon off by going back to the Kishlak for traditional Kazakh meal. Liz had Lamb with rice and I have beef and potatoes, the meet was very spicy but I loved it. Great stuff.

Kazakhstan U21s v Montenegro U21s
This shows a great view of the Mountains that dominate one side of Almaty

A Montenegro player gets a lecture from the Referee after a rather crude late tackle leaves a Kazakhstan player down injured. Then Montenegro go 1 up with a well taken goal.
The Montenegro U21 players celebrate going 2up from a great free kick. The match finishes 2-0 with Montenegro just too strong for the goal shy Kazakhstan team.

After the game we headed back to the Ultras bar and this time ventured up to the roof top bar. There was a great view over the city and also of the ground. We spent a very pleasant hour or so with a cocktail and a pizza before heading back to our hotel. We had a taxi booked for 11pm and by 11.30pm had been dropped at the airport. Once the gate opened we had soon booked and then struggled to stay awake for our 1.15am boarding time. Liz found a tacky souvenir shop and we purchased an Almaty fridge magnet, well you have to do this sometimes don't you??

Monday 8th June

Today mirrored the first day, although this time we kept getting time back. The itinerary was

01.55 Almaty to Astana then on to Frankfurt arriving at 06.25am
08.25 Frankfurt to London Heathrow.

We headed back to the Radisson hotel to get the car and we were back in West Hoathly before midday. Its now 2.15 and I am trying to keep my eyes open to write this up and get back on to UK time!!

Ps I failed to keep my eyes open so its now Tuesday evening and I am trying to finish this blog. As the tube strike looks to be playing havoc with Wembley tomorrow looks like I will miss that game as getting back looks to be so much hassle!

Video of the Military band!

Mark R


rrruss said...

Excellent as usual! Thanks Mark & Liz. Wish we could have been there but had to watch Wales instead!!

Danny Last said...

Splendid stuff Mr Raven!

I look forwards to sharing a banana beer or two with you in the near future.