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Panama City – First impressions


The Breadbaskets were sad when it came to leaving Revelstoke – but I won’t ramble on about how much we liked this incredible place; I’ll leave that to a later post.

That said, after almost three and a half months the Breadbaskets jumped into the bad ass truck, drove back to Vancouver and hopped onto a plane to Houston to catch the connecting flight to Panama City. Well, not quite. Bad ass truck – check. Drive to Vancouver – check. Thanks to an overly qualified member of United Airline’s ground staff, who, within a little bit less than 45 minutes, managed to figure out that the reason why she could not check us in was our missing ESTA application (that is an online pole dancing session every visitor to the world’s most paranoid nation has to perform so that all aspects the visitor’s life can be scrutinised – I hope you notice my desperate attempt to stick to British spelling. The strip has to be performed even if you don’t want to visit the country, but just change plane in one of its airports. Did I mention that you get asked whether you intend to commit terroristic acts in the land of the free? Hail Drumpf!) we missed our flight to Houston. Thus, we flew to San Francisco, from there onwards to Houston, stayed overnight and caught the connection to Panama City in the morning of the following day. What an unexpected piece of travel adventure! Or unnecessary?

Anyway, eventually we’ve arrived in Panama City – and we like it! Our choice of hotel, the TRYP Wyndham Panama Centro, was fortunate – a very pleasant place with a superb roof top pool:

Relax at the roof top pool
Much desired pool session after a chaotic trip from Revelstoke to Panama City. The little Breadbaskets are happy, the big ones, too.

The next three days we spent exploring the city and relaxing at the hotel pool, which was a good balance between the elder Breadbaskets’ curiosity to explore a new country and the younger Breadbaskets’ desire to play and swim. Travelling with kids is “slower” than our pace from old times. Experiencing the kids curiosity, astonishment and puzzlement is very rewarding, though. Equally rewarding was our first visit to the Panama Canal: Continue reading “Panama City – First impressions”

Almaty – Day 2 Impressions


Again, a wonderful morning: bluebird day with snowcapped mountains shimmering in the sun – Innsbruck, Grenoble, Teheran, Almaty. I love these cities surrounded by mountains – on a sunny day there’s hardly a more beautiful views than majestic mountains. Almaty gives a booming impression: I have read that a lot of the old apple orchards have been taken over by the ever growing town – there are indeed a lot of cranes to be seen and none of the building projects gives a small impression. Big is beautiful.

almaty_buildingsite_20140408

You might have read about the plan to rename Kazakhstan and get rid of the unbeloved “stan” suffix (which apparently means “land”, so land of the Kazakhs, which somehow feels rather appropriate). So here’s a good story: certainly on Almaty’s roads you’ll see a lot of Toyota Landcruisers, particularly the Prado model is prevalent. In fact, it is so common, that some people reckoned Pradostan an appropriate new name for Kazakhstan.

A Toyota Landcruiser Prado on front of a electric bus on a street in Almaty
A Toyota Landcruiser Prado on front of a electric bus on a street in Almaty

I quite like the electrified buses on Almaty’s road. Pollution seems to be quite a problem in the area, so it seems a good idea to use electric buses. Assuming the electricity isn’t produced in a horrific coal-fire powerstation.
5aside_almaty_20140408Football (real traditional football, not this American sport designed to sprinkle as many television adds into a sports TV transmission as possible) joins the world. A lot of people play football here, quite a few of them in company teams fighting for victory and honour in corporate leagues. We were lucky enough to be able to see a match between two teams of a bank: enthusiastic and skilful players in a five-a-side match with a very pernickety referee. I suppose it’s not a bad idea to prevent injuries in an indoor football match, but this guy booked players where I couldn’t spot a foul. But that’s just me.

One thing that puzzles me is the normality of Almaty: before I got here it was the great unknown, but I probably expected some sort of exotic mix of Russia and China, with dudes holding golden eagles on their arms roaming the streets,  joined by the occasional horde of wild horseback riders. U, well, I don’t know what I expected. But what I didn’t expect is a modern city (which only relates to the small part of town that I have seen so far) surrounded by beautiful mountains, inhabited by very pleasant, unassuming people who drive their cars in a very civilised way: automobiles will stop at pedestrian crossings, drivers have understood the concept of lanes and if somebody wants to turn right at the next junction they tend to move into the rightmost lane a fair bit before the junction. I don’t know how you feel about that, but traffic behaviour tends to be a good indicator for the degree of factual civilisation of people. Take North America or most parts of Western Europe: fairly relaxed driving, lanes and traffic lights are respected, cars are means to get from A to B and not lethal weapons in the hands of reckless/inconsiderate idiots. Sit in a car in India, even if driven by somebody who can successfully pretend to be an intelligent person in most conversational situations, and you are exposed to a degree of crazyness which makes it extremely hard to believe that whoever steers this car has understood the most elementary rules of human interaction. Kazakhstan plays in the North American/European league here. I like it.

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