Tuesday, May 14, 2013


After two months in California it came time to return to Atyrau.  The Jasmine was starting to bloom, the grape vines were sporting their first leaves, the rosses were in full blossom and limes and lemons on the trees.  Definitely time to leave before getting too comfortable. 

The return journey was once again through Istanbul, and I had to overnight there as usual.  This time I stayed at a different little hotel in Yesilkoy, my favourite little town near the airport.  It turned out that the room had a small kitchen so instead of going for dinner at the usual little fish restaurant attached to the fish shop, I bought some fresh prawns and took them back to the hotel for a beer and prawn supper!

This was a pleasant change in routine, and the prawns were beautifully fresh and sweet.  However I have to admit that it was rather limited in its variety, and I think I will return to my usual hotel next time, if there is a next time.

I left Atyrau at the end of winter just before the Ural thawed and almost in time, but not quite, to avoid the mud.  In fact the mud around Zhety Kasyna was so bad that we actually failed to walk out through it on a couple of occasions.  I was glad to be returning to some warmer weather with temperatures aroung 20C.  There had been rain but with very windy weather the ground had dried out and my first walk out of Zheti Kasynor was on good old dusty dirt trails.

The contrast between now and just two months ago really brings home just how quickly the seasons change here.  
The path/road towards 
Satpayeva was snow covered 

and muddy at the start of 

March, now (on the right) it is
dry and dusty again.

The street workers who were assigned ice 
chipping duties over the winter are now 
back on their summer schedule, 
tending the plants, sweeping the roads
and painting the kerbs white.  Of course 
they can now also sit for a moment 
without freezing solid.

At the end of winter I was delighted to wait for the taxi at the back of Rahat and watch the cars and trucks negotiation the "puddle" that became deeper and deeper.  On three occasions I came out of the market to find a vehicle stranded in the puddle...always a truck and always missing the driver.  I would look around for a guy wearing pants wet up to his knees but sadly never  got that photo-op.
This picture is the only one I got and the truck almost managed to get out, the back end is not even in the deepest part.  Anyway, the hole has been partially filled with broken tiles, so I guess it now officially qualifies as being repaired.
Hole filled
Hole filler
I think it is fair to say that the whole town of Atyrau has now moved into summer mode, though as I walk along the street in shorts and T-shirt I am amazed to see some children playing with parkas on, and even adults wearing thick coats.  The Kazakhs like to keep warm.

The streets are being swept and the kerbs are being painted.  The flower planting in the street pots has not yet begun, but it has in Zhety Kasynor.  The raised flower beds are being planted by teams of garden workers.  Typically they wear white cover-alls made of a light weight synthetic fabric, which go from ankles to head, with hoods and long sleeves, and zips up the front.  They are rather loose and baggy, which means that as it is very windy right now they sometimes get filled with air from the blowing wind and inflate, making the team look like a group of Michelin tire men.  The only differentiating feature seems to be the red peaks of their caps, they all wear red caps, which appear out from the front of their hoods.

Of equal import is the window cleaning.  Winter left the outsides of the windows horribly dirty, but a team sprang to action and started the cleaning.  I have to say that whilst they adopted a technique that I was hitherto unfamiliar with, it did the job!
There is a brush on the end of a long pole and it can reach up to the fifth floor windows.  I don't know if it is hard to "drive" but they seem to manage quite easily.  Still, it is a long way from the bucket when it is time to rinse the brush.

Out on the streets the pedestrian crossings are all getting a new coat of paint after the winter saw the end to the last one.  

Similarly the paint job that was done last summer on Satpayeva Bridge is now showing some wear.  
There is also a major job underway on the barriers, which were also painted last summer.  The paint hasn't lasted too well.
So now all the top layer is being chipped off, using tools that look just like the ice chipping tools used in winter.  They have completed one side of the bridge walk and are now working on the other.  Pictures below of the chipping job....more later of the renovation (I bet you can hardly wait!)  One has to adjust to what is newsworthy, in a hive of activity like Atyrau.

The results of the chipping job.

That first weekend we took a walk along the Ural River.  The wind was strong and the water was very high.  It is as rough and unappealing as I had ever seen it.  

In the evening we went to Gadji, the restaurant where my birthday party (absent me) was held in January.  

We were a small party, and just had one of the little private rooms.  The food was pretty good (shashlik) as usual, but we were disappointed that the kebabs didn't arrive standing proudly around the small charcoal fire, as they have in the past.

In the picture above you will notice that the beer mug has a straw in it.  I have noticed straes appear when the beer is being served to a lady (or in the local parlance...a girl).

I dont seem to have a full set of guest pictures but JandA posed nicely!

Adventures with food have been on going.  We have eaten out some of the time but I have also made an effort to provide some home cooked variety for Sandra and friends.

Results have been very mixed, as I will explain in my next blog on returning to Atyrau cuisine!