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Dresden – The Semper Opera


Last night we went to see Mozart’s ‘Cosi fan tutte’ in the Semper Opera. Before the 7pm performance we had booked a guided tour of the building starting at 5.45pm. The tour turned out not much of a tour but a very interesting session about the history of the building and its architect: Gottfried Semper was an interesting character who seemingly had no problems to bite the hands that fed him (he joined the group around the 1848/49 anti-royal revolution, which plotted against the kings that commissioned him to build opera houses). That said, the quality of his work was so outstanding, that the Kings still asked him to create these buildings. He build the first version of the Semper Opera (or the Saxon State Opera) in 1841. Unfortunately a devastating fire destroyed this building, so, despite his known revolutionary ambitions, he was commissioned to lead the reconstruction, apparently mostly driven by the will of Dresden’s population.

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He didn’t feel safe to appear in Dresden in person, though, so he sent his son Manfred to supervise the construction work. Gottfried Semper had an interesting thought: he considered opera an illusion and he wanted this illusion to start for the spectators the moment they set foot into the opera house. Worked with me: I had a wonderful evening in the Semper Opera – from entering the building until a late dinner in the “Alte Meister” Restaurant at the Royal Palace.

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Almaty – Day 7 – Hanging Out


Weather is still bad, very unpleasant rain. So, not ideal to explore town or countryside and, to be honest, work is catching up with us again. So we decided to go to breakfast at the Coffee Room and it turned out to be a great place to just hang out, chat, discuss, argue, get results, eat and drink.

Great place to hang - the Coffee Room not far from Republic Square
Great place to hang – the Coffee Room not far from Republic Square

It feels like a lounge bar with comfortable sofas and chairs, pleasant and friendly staff and a menu that covers breakfast, lunch and  a serious drinking session if you are so inclined. There are quite a few posh cars parked in front, most notably Porsche Cayennes, automobiles indicating a certain lifestyle of consideration and modesty.  Obviously, just a Sunday brunch time snapshot, so not a soundly verified and validated fact. But, since you are still reading on, I suppose you can hack opinionated writing.

Almaty – Day 6 – In Town


Unfortunately the bad weather up in the mountains drove us back into town. That said, the exposure to fresh air (down in Almaty the air is quite polluted and one can feel the smog quite drastically), cold rain and, uh, fresh air had made us rather hungry. While it was not quite evening it still felt a good idea to go back to the lovely Georgian Restaurant Daredjani we had visited before. And a success it was again. Khachapuri, spinach with walnuts, veal shashlik (extremely tasty marinated veal) and chingale.

Chingale (ital. cinghiale), filled pasta in the foreground, khachapuri, Georgian pizza behind
Chingale (ital. cinghiale), filled pasta in the foreground, khachapuri, Georgian pizza behind

The picture above shows a glass with a green lemonade: the coriander lemonade was a distinct highlight. Probably not to everybody’s liking, but very tasty and definitely lemonade with, well, coriander flavour. A wonderful meal in a really nice restaurant. The meal was accompanied by a glass of Chateau Mukhrani Shavkapito, a Georgian red white out of an endemic grape – a perfect match. Hmmmm.

After all that food it was time to explore the city. The Daredjani restaurant is right adjacent to the Panfilov Park, a pleasant park which houses one of Almaty’s most interesting sites, the Cathedral of the Holy Ascension. Apart from the fact that it is an interesting building with a very ornamental inside the level of devotion shown by predominantly older ladies (who put on a headscarf when they entered the church), but also some younger people (who lit candles for reasons that had nothing to do with luminal darkness) was mind boggling. Probably not if you are a devoted Christian yourself, but if you tend to look at religion and its impact on society with some scepticism then it is a rather strange experience. Talking about strange experiences: not to far away from the church is a War Memorial, which seems to be a meeting place for weddings on weekends. Let’s start with the weddings:

 

Wedding couple at the War Memorial in Panfilov Park, Almaty
Wedding couple at the War Memorial in Panfilov Park, Almaty

Now, let’s look at the main part of the memorial a little bit closer – just to make it clear: I personally think that war is one of the most horrible ideas that mankind produced. I also understand, that the soldiers fighting in these wars don’t necessarily find the idea of fighting in a war appealing at all. And I thank Henri Dunant for kickstarting the Geneva Convention to reduce suffering for injured soldiers and the civil population (I don’t thank the US of A for violating the very spirit of that convention with their wonderful prison at Guantanamo). Nevertheless, what has to be said, has to be said.

The incredible hulk, wearing a steel helmet, and a soviet version of Mount Rushmore.
The incredible hulk, wearing a steel helmet, and a soviet version of Mount Rushmore.

Folks, wars are terrible. And any display that gets people to understand just how bad they are is good. But depicting a helmet-clad version of the Incredible Hulk with Soviet Union shaped wings with faces growing out of them misses the point. Obviously, I  got it all wrong and this memorial is supposed to remind people of the heroes of war and invite them to think about the next battle. “Russia is huge but there is nowhere to retreat since Moscow is behind us.” as inscription is a bit of a giveaway. Now, I don’t think that the population of modern day Kazakhstan needs this kind of message any more.

Almaty – Day 5 -Thank God it’s Friday


So, predominantly another day of work. Followed by a visit to a pub – in this case Mad Murphy’s at Tole-bi Zhenkova 12. We arrived shortly before nine, just in time to see the first gig of the local band playing rock classics. And very well they played, at least to the ears of a Munich based German, where the bands playing in pubs usually will not play anywhere else in the course of their career. A good crowd was there, not overly busy but crowded enough to get a good party atmosphere. A few people started dancing, so a good place to spend a Friday night at.

Friday night in Mad Murphy's. Live band in the background - the frontman credibly performed songs sung by  Axl Rose, Liam Gallagher.
Friday night in Mad Murphy’s. Live band in the background – the frontman credibly performed songs sung by Axl Rose, Liam Gallagher.

It was a great and relaxed start into the weekend – looking forward to seeing something, but unfortunately the weather forecast is really bad.

Almaty – Day 4 Impressions


Same old story. Work, lunch, work, dinner. So I keep it short until the weekend comes and I will be able to report something interesting. However, the Cafe World Class is a little highlight for a quick lunch: very fresh and crisp vegetables and salads, meat in form of stir fries, stews and roasts, some fish. To be recommended.

Café World Class at Naurizbai Batir str / corner of Kabanbai Batir street. It's a cafe based in a rather upmarket gym and offers a nice buffet lunch with lots of fresh vegetables, salads and a few meat dishes ranging from stews to fish.
Café World Class at Naurizbai Batir str / corner of Kabanbai Batir street. It’s a cafe based in a rather upmarket gym and offers a nice buffet lunch with lots of fresh vegetables, salads and a few meat dishes ranging from stews to fish.

World Class is actually a health club with gym, pool, squash courts and a wellness area. It is pretty high end with a lot of posh cars in the car park. I haven’t been to the sports area, but on the outside it all looks very well kept, modern and clean. If you are into the whole “if am not on a treadmill for at least 60 minutes a day I don’t feel like a person” lifestyle – that’s a place to go for.

Hopefully more interesting stuff to follow on the weekend.

Almaty – Day 1 Lunch


Pooh – the trouble with these business trips is that they are – business trips. So instead of exploring Almaty I have been working. With a very nice local team, by the way: committed, enthiusastic and driven. But I don’t want to dwell in work, I had enough of that today. However, in between workshops we went to a Georgian restaurant:

20140408-001309.jpgWe had variations of Khachapuri, a Georgian type of pizza with and without meat, some great tasty salads, richly flavoured spinach, accompanied by homemade woodruff lemonade. Delicious. The restaurant is called Daredjani at Kunaev Str# 85, corner Kazibek-bi. We got there around 3.30pm local time, so right in between lunch and dinner. Thus, it was fairly, but not entirely quiet. One of our hosts was a Georgian guy and selected the dishes for us – he made some excellent choices:  the food was very tasty – a visit at dinner time seems a must, thus we’ll have a chance to sample the Georgian wine as well (last time I was in Moscow in a Georgian restaurant it turned out that due to the trade embargo at the time they couldn’t import wine from Georgia, so we had to make do with Greek wine!).

The owners seem to have a few places: a Russian restaurant near by and some more – to be checked out!

 

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