If you are interested in history and the way people lived during the Soviet Union time, Akmolinsk Camp of Female Traitors to the Motherland might be interesting place to visit.
This tour is dedicated to the memory of the victims of totalitarianism.
The abbreviation ACFTM makes those people shivering who know what really stands behind these five letters. The damp barracks in the heart of the Kazakh steppe, that's what ACFTM - Akmola Camp of Female Traitors to the Motherland – means. The prisoners themselves gave such a name to the camp.
Women with a special mark in their personals - "a family member of a traitor to the motherland"- were serving time here. Not committing a crime they were sentenced to serve time in a special camp just because they were mothers, wives, sisters and daughters of those who have been accused of treason.
During the tour you will visit:
The memorial to the victims of political repression, Malinovka countryside (35 km away from Astana).
Walking along the Memory Avenue
The museum of exhibits, here you’ll learn about people and events of that terrible time
I lived in Astana for two years as an expat. Not a lot of places to go, but Baiterek and circus. I heard that the big tent for entertainment was opened last year (I left last year too. YOu live there and haven't been around? Well, there's nothing to go anywhere. Go to TGIF, the only American restaurant. There's an Irish steak restaurant, it's passable, but expensive. bring your friend to Almaty, I heard that there's a lot to do there. Don't go to the river that they claim exotic! There's nothing there but a big dirty water and dirty environment. We travelled by train, and if you will do it, don't drink a lot of water so you don't go to the bathroom. Bathrooms in the train and restaurants are extremely dirty and will not be appreciated by tourists.
Other posts already identify the city's innovative architecture as its leading attraction, and they are right. Forget the museums with all the signs in Russian--unless you speak the language of course--and head for the streets. More pictures are attached
"Bayterek" has become a popular tourist attaction with visitors and native Kazakhstanis alike, symbolizing the new status of the young capital of Kazakhstan, Astana. The top of the complex structure is a gilt sphere crowning a mythological tree of 97 meters.
The philosophy of "Bayterek" is that it embodies a legend about a magic bird of happiness. The bird, named Samruk, laid its egg in the crevice between two branches of a poplar tree.
From its height it is possible to see much of the newly built city. One point of interest is an imprint of the palm of the President of the country, Nursultan Nazarbaev. It bears a plaque wishing visitors to place their own hand in his imprint and to make a wish.
The monument appears prominently on Kazakhstan bank notes.
Bayterek is the most famous attraction in Astana and is definitely worth visiting. As far as I know, it symbolizes the tree of life described in the legends of the Kazakh people. Inside you take an elevator to the glass sphere at the top of Bayterek, from where the whole of Astana can be seen. In the glass sphere you can see the model of the master plan of the city construction. But the main thing is at the very top floor of the glass sphere. There you will see a plate with an impression of the right hand of Mr. Nazarbayev, the first President of Kazakhstan. If you put your own hand on the impression, music will start to play and you will hear a song, the words of which were written by Mr. Nazarbayev himself, or so they say.
One more point: local people call Bayterek "Chupa-Chups", because it lokks like one from a distance.
The link is to a site about Bayterek; the site is in Russian, but there are a lot of pictures in it.
Most characteristic about Astana are its "futuristic" buildings (which you'll barely find in any other kazakh city). The people have mixed feelings about them and funnily enough, those buildings and landmarks got alternative names by the local population. An example:
Baiterek: a 97 m high tower that cost KZ 4,5 mln USD. You can ride to the very top by elevator and there you'll find a restaurant and a look-out, as well as the imprint of Nazarbaev's hand in gold.
Baiterek was a fairytale tree, found by the hero of kazakh epos, Er-Tostyk. According to the saga, the bird Samruk layed an egg in the branches of this tree. So this monument represents a "tree" with an egg on top (22 metres in size). The height of 97 m was chosen because in 1997 the capital of KZ was relocated from Almaty to Astana.
Many people think that Nazarbaev created a monument to his own egomania, and the locals cinically call it "Chupa Chups".
Some of the flashy buildings in Astana and their local names:
Ministry of finance (Minfin) - "Dollar"
Ministry of transport (Transport Tower) - "lighter"
KazMunaiGas (kazakh oil company) - "elevator"
Prospect of the Republic (Prospekt Respubliki) - "5 minutes of Hollywood"
Apartment Complex for oil workers - 7 barrels
Travel to the top of the Bayterek tower. You can walk around in a giant, golden, transparent sphere. The Bayterek tower is the symbol of Astana and represents the tree of life. In the center of the sphere is a handprint of the president which you may place your hand into. Opera music plays and lights come from above giving a heavenly feeling. Be sure to make a wish!
This is the presidential palace of President Nazarbaev.
Goverment and social structure in Kazakhstan hardly could be called - Democracy. President can occupy his position for term of his life. And in situation of no alternative elctions are rather formal. *
Though due to rich natural resources of the country and relatively small population (about 15 mln) this is the richest (per person) and the most rapidly growing economy in former SU.
* - This year (2005) there will be the first elections in the country with alternative candidates. This is big event for the country, though Nazarbaev is going to have 60-70%.
Pedestrian bridge near city beaches.
This is just nice place to walk - nothing more.
I wonder of how much is the amount of money spent on city infrastructure. Imagine that 5 years ago there was nothing here.
In 2006 a big aquarium with real sea sharks opened in Astana. Worth to visit this place - this is the most "far from the ocean" aquarium in the world.
In the building of Presidential Center of Culture of Republic of Kazakhstan there is a library and the national museum.