The Independence Monument stands in a big official looking square, with government buildings and the former Presidential Palace. Also nearby is the monument to the 1986 December Uprising, which is said to have been mostly students protesting decisions of Gorbachev. But there's so much misinformation, as with everything out of the Soviet Union, that no one can agree on whether it was a protest for independence or just against his latest decision, whether it was planned or spontaneous, whether 200 people participated in the uprising or 40,000 (get your shit together USSR), or whether only a handful of people died or whether the death toll exceeded 1,000. FFS the Soviet Union really didn't like facts. The statue below, honoring the uprising, is called Dawn of Liberty, because a few years after the uprising, Kazakhstan won its independence from the Soviets - even though they didn't seem to want it. Apparently in 1991, 94% of voters voted to stay in the Soviet system? but then just months later they were granted their independence? What the crap was going on over there! Kazakhstan was the last country to gain their independence from the Sovs whether they wanted it or not.
Below is requisite Eternal Flame, which we saw in every single place in the former Soviet Union. After that is the Glory Monument in Panfilov Park. It is dedicated to the 28 guardsmen of Panfilov. The 28 were a group of Red Army soldiers who fought in the defense of Moscow in 1941, and they all died in action. Most of them were recruits from the Kazakh and Kyrgyz regions.
You know what also doesn't hold up to the test of time? Random things named after deceased royals.
Shall we move on to food? That's always my favorite part! The agenda item I was most eager for was the Green Market (or Zelenyi Bazar), the big produce market where locals buy their goods and where tourists like me can find Kazakhstan's famous apples. Yep, I didn't know before this trip, but Kazakhstan is famous for apples! We bought lots of their most precious varieties and had apples for daaays. Spoiler: They don't hold a candle to my fave, the Fuji apple, which I can't find ANYWHERE anymore. Kazakh varieties (varietals? when do you use varietals without sounding like a dick) are a little grainier than I'm used to, and a little sour, making my eyes go phrmmmph.
Across from the Green Market was the Rakhat chocolate factory, which I was suuuper excited about, but which was a big letdown. It was mainly a little shop overflowing with people pointing to bins of candy in bulk and saying how many grams they wanted. And there was no list of ingredients visible for any of the candies, all hidden behind glass. I asked a clerk about one and she said there was no milk but like how could I believe you if you aren't checking the ingredients yourself, clerk?! And I'd have to ask about each one? Blergh. I would happily read endless lists of Russian ingredients but I don't want to make a clerk in an overflowingly busy little shop do that for me. I found my goodies elsewhere. ALSO, all the guides I read beforehand said that this factory made the whole neighborhood smell like chocolate so I was beyond pumped for that but it didn't even smell like chocolate in the shoppe! J'ACCUSE!
Okay so the 'I have no room' excuse might not be entirely accurate regarding the spices...they can be simply little packets, after all. And I definitely made room for less practical goodies I found at my favorite posh grocery store in Almaty, called Interfood. Oh MAN did we score some amazing accidentally vegan totally unnecessary treats.
Manner are my favorite treats in the world so I was excited to find some milk-free wafer cookies of similar ilk. These weren't very good (kind of tangy) but still, wafer cookies on any day are better than non wafers or something like that.
Okay bye Almaty! Great success!