The old sector feels like a city should, with a sense of people and spaces that have uses and almost a life of their own. The Left Bank feels like the future, just no one has arrived yet, we’re not even sure whose future it is.
If I lived here, had clients or visitors, I know I would find myself marching them round the Baiterek Tower, ‘look, see, take photos’ then off in a taxi past the shiny shopping malls to a manageable reality. Perhaps to the open grill in the Line Brew bar for shashlik and grilled vegetables or to Egorkino Restaurant for traditional Russian dumplings and some Georgian red wine. Then a walk down to La Belle for coffee on the river. Like in a normal world: one that has no need to take place solely in a glass tower or mall and one that isn’t empty!
Perhaps I have not caught up yet, maybe Astana is too futuristic for me. Maybe generations of people will be happy there. Or it will develop itself and grow and change. As I was leaving I sat in the Mall by the singing fountains (no singing that day though), and through the one way mirror I could see three Kazak teenagers arrive from a side road. They were free running and tumbling over the landscape at speed. They looked amazing against the futuristic backdrop. Maybe they should be installed permanently, with a David Guetta soundtrack to make the place look a bit livelier. Turns out, according to the waitress, they are pretty famous already in Astana. Here they are!
I am glad I saw Astana, it is unique. It is an experiment we will never see the like of again. I will keep track of developments as time goes on though leadership changes, dry oil wells and relationships with China and Russia.
Am I sad to go? Probably not. As I am leaving it starts to snow.