Posted by: cousindampier | 22 September 2013

Walk in the City

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I stepped out to buy a chocolate bar.

There are 93 stairs leading up to my apartment on the fourth floor. As I climb higher, the stairs become more uneven, slanting downwards. The apartment, like many here, has a solid outer door, something that looks like a blast door. Mine has a second door, long unused with the lock removed, but remaining there as a second barrier.

I closed the door and latched it, making sure the deadbolt was set before walking down the uneven steps. Being inside all day isn’t fun. I’d not been feeling well all weekend long, and as the sun moved lower in the sky, I wanted to be outside, just for a bit.

I walked west along Gogol (Гоголя), being moved along by a mass of people, though I would not appreciate this until later. Almaty is a very walkable city. The sidewalks are wide and lined with trees, each painted white around the base to prevent infestation. Between the sidewalk and the street is a drainage ditch, lined by concrete. After a rainstorm the sound of rapidly flowing water provides a nice break from the traffic and car horns; but at various intervals gates appear to block the trash and I am reminded that though they may sound nice, they are still drainage ditches.

It is a nice evening for a walk, and not wanting a coffee I settled on walking through Almaty with a small treat. The sun disappeared around 7pm, but it is still warm outside. I walk on the opposite side of the street from Panfilov Park, past the Hardee’s and KFC which are full of people sitting down for dinner. Around the corner is a Spanish-looking restaurant, painted in a brown-yellow with a nice, lit patio. I continually promise myself I will eat here soon. Further down the street, the market is closed and dark and desolate and though it is night it is always a little surprising to see the market so empty.

After the park, Gogol turns into a retail street. Hugo Boss is still lit, as is Mon Amie and other places to which I’m only a window shopper.

I turn around at the Zhibek Zholy (Жибек Жолы) metro stop. Almaty has a subway, one line with seven stations and several more planned. Unlike the metro in DC – which is basically an atomic shelter – and New York, the Almaty Subway is tiled and brightly lit with a mural in each of the stations I’ve traveled through. Instead of a metaphorical descent into the dark, it is a drop into the future of what Almaty might be.

On the way back I realize how many I was walking with. It is a large group of people, spanning the width of the sidewalk and it is never-ending. I track along the edge, walking on the small curb between the sidewalk and the drainage ditch in places, avoiding people where I can and using my size to make people move where I can’t.

I am, maybe, eight blocks from my apartment, and it does not cease. They are younger kids, presumably leaving the park where Gogol Street ends, just a few blocks in the other direction and after I once again walked up the 93 stairs and was sitting down I would hear more shouting and the sound of sirens and yelling, but on the walk they were just a mass of people moving in a direction I was not going.

The rest of the chocolate bar is in my back pocket and the sky has turned from sunset purple to nighttime black. The red lights of the Kok Tobe tower emerge from nothing and are surrounding by ever-cooling air which flows into my window only to be warmed by the sun tomorrow.

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