Almaty is Kazakhstan’s largest city. It is a must-see for all Western tourists, especially those who would like to have a glimpse of how life was in the old Soviet Union. This bustling city has maintained typical Soviet living. Almaty was the capital city prior to 1998, yet it remains to be Kazakhstan’s financial and cultural center. Kazakhstan’s premier market, the Almaty Green Bazaar is found in this former capital.
The name “Green Market” had stuck with Almaty’s central market for centuries because fresh green vegetables were sold here in olden times. The most popular produce are giant radishes, potatoes, grapes, dark red Oporto apples, strawberries, raspberries and other mountain berries. Also for sale are Eastern sweets, spices, spicy dishes, local beverages, and traditional Kazakh dishes such as “pelemeni” (potato and meat dumplings).
Oporto apples are a favorite in Central Asia and the pride of Kazakhstan horticulture. Along the many rows of stalls selling a wide variety of produce, large bright-red Oporto apples are a standout. Also called “Cesar apple” and “father of all apples”, Oporto apples are honey-sweet, full of fragrant pulp, very attractive, delicious and have a long history in Semirechye, a historical region in Central Asia.
The Green Market is just one of the 80 different markets and shopping centers in Almaty. Local Almaty markets are always packed and noisy with local and foreign market-goers. There are endless rows of fragrant fruits, fresh vegetables and other local goods, including fragrant Pasternak vegetable and refreshing Kumyss (fermented milk). Most Kazakh locals come to these markets for their daily/weekly/monthly supplies, while many foreign tourists come to simply experience how it is like buying and negotiating in this popular marketplace in Almaty.
Aside from the Green Market, Almaty is known for many other things, such as the Central Mosque, Museum of Fine Arts, and Panfilov Park, among others. The Central Mosque of Almaty is one of the largest mosques in Kazakhstan, capable of hosting 7,000 visitors at one time. Its 36-meter-high blue dome is a very distinct feature of the city landscape. It is 20 meters in diameter and beside it is a 47-meter tall minaret.
For the less religious tourist, the perfect destination is Kesteyev Museum of Fine Arts, which possesses a wide collection of the best Kazakh art pieces, including the works of artists that were banned by the former Soviet Union. There are also art collections from Russia and West European schools of painting. Also on display are different kinds of tapestry, ceramics, glassware, jewelry, wood, metal, leather, and embroidery.
Meanwhile, for those who want to take it easy, Panfilov Park is a good place to relax and take in the exotic and ancient beauty of Almaty. The park is especially dedicated to 28 Panfilov heroes with their names engraved in stone lumps along Memory Alley that crosses the entire park. These heroes fought for the country’s independence in 1975, and eventually died trying. Attractions inside this park include the Memorial of Glory, Perpetual Fire, Eternal Flame, Symbol of Joy and so on.
Almaty is a unique cultural yet modern city found in one of the most unique countries in the world. There are many more attractions here to be discovered and enjoyed, and always at the center is Central Market or the Almaty Green Bazaar.