We have always enjoyed a Sunday afternoon stroll after lunch. From treks through the Bush in Nigeria to strolling along the River Tigris in Turkey or the dunes in the Netherlands our Sunday Stroll has been a family tradition.
|Traditional Family Sunday Stroll|
When I was a child in Norway we would walk for hours through the mountains even in the coldest winters but Norwegian winters look positively toasty when compared with the temperatures we experience in Astana. We were very worried when we moved to Astana, that we might have to sacrifice this tradition in the winter. Sadly we were right in one respect – it is not so easy to get out to the countryside to stroll by a lake or in the woods during the winter but there are plenty of alternatives in the City. As long as the wind keeps down it is possible to enjoy a walk in temperatures down to about -20 with kids and -25-28 for adults. Our dog does not always join us in the winter. She has a coat and winter boots but does not like to go outside below about -15 and even then asks to go back inside after only a few minutes. She dreams of the warmer weather when she enjoys spending the days outside.
|Our dog wears a thick coat and booties but still feels the cold very badly.|
The Ishim’s course through Astana is very heavily managed and in the Winter it is frozen from November through to about mid March. The river is lined with embankments which are kept clear of snow making them a lovely place to walk. They are a wonderful place to people watch - older couples and effortlessly elegant Kazakh women with their husbands and babies wrapped up warm in their prams come here to enjoy the winter sunshine.
|People Watching on the Ishim Embankments|
You can also go down onto the River itself, many people ski or snowmobile along here, there are ice rinks where children play hockey or just skate for fun and every now and then you come across little tents covering holes kept open for ice fishing. There is something disconcerting about walking on the river, it feels as though it should be dangerous but it is frozen solid to quite some depth and is very safe.
|Ice Fishing on the Ishim|
|Snowmobiles power along the river and perform flips on the banks.|
The city constructs ice slides from the top of the embankment down to the river at set places every year. These are fairly vertiginous and very fast. With a good fast sledge (wax it for optimum performance) you can get about halfway across the river. The builders, in their wisdom have built walls on either side of the slide. Steering the sledges is almost impossible because the slides are made from ice rather than snow and I speak from experience when I say that it hurts to bang against these. We have seen little children as young as 2 or 3 send themselves down these slides on their sledges without fear but a couple of near misses, one of which resulted in broken glasses, mean that we now send our kids down the snow by the side of the slides instead.
|Children enjoying the Ice Slides|
As you walk along the embankment you get to the statue of Kenessary Khan, a national hero who led the fight against the Russian occupation until his death in 1847. In the summer we would cross the river and go into the Astana Park – a fairground and pleasure park near the Circus, before walking home, but in the Winter we stop off at Rafe, a Café near the Kenessary Statue that does a very tasty and warming hot chocolate.
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