The world’s ninth biggest country is also one of its least explored. Enjoy its blend of Silk Route charm and contemporary flavours.Day 1: Arrive in Almaty, the old Kazakh capital, which is about 5 hours by air from New Delhi. The city, once known as Alma Ata, was on Marco Polo’s legendary Silk Route. Check into Almaty Hyatt Regency (www.almaty.regency.hyatt.com) and enjoy its lavish breakfast spread. Begin sightseeing with Arbat Street–Almaty’s pedestrians-only boulevard where artists sell their paintings, musicians perform, and all the fashionable people strut up and down. In summer and autumn, you will find open air cafes on Arbat in hundreds. When thirsty, pick up a bottle or two of Derbes beer from the kiosks and munch on samsa (a fluffy chicken pattice). Work off the beer with a round of the magnificent Panfilov Park. The tulips in Panfilov are in bloom this time of the year. The park is also where every newlywed in Almaty, irrespective of religion, comes to seek blessings from the Eternal Flame (similar to Amar Jawan Jyoti in Delhi). Light a candle at Zenkov Cathedral, inside the park, a wooden, typically Russian cathedral, with colourful onion domes. Pamper yourself with a Turkish, Russian or Finnish bath at Arasan, one of Central Asia’s finest bathhouses, opposite Panfilov. Dinner is at Alasha (+7 727 254 0700), an ethnic Uzbek restaurant with some great music and dance.Day 2: Skip breakfast at the hotel for a special meal at Green Market, situated at the end of Arbat Street. Fruits from across Central Asia are on display–fat, juicy grapes from Uzbekistan, apples from around Almaty, and melons from China. Korean Kazakhs sell delicious salads and also, sushi. The adventurous must try the fermented mare’s milk. Stock up on some dry fruits and nuts before you wend your way through Almaty’s Merc, Hummer and Land Cruiser filled streets towards an eagle and falcon farm on the outskirts. The farms also house tazis, the lean and angular hunting dogs. Also on the list of inmates are owls with mind-boggling wingspan. Post-lunch, head to Kok Tobe, a mountain viewing point outside Almaty that is known for the world’s tallest TV tower. Admire the city from the observation deck as the sun calls it a day. Have a quick meal of noodles and horsemeat sausages at any of Almaty’s open-air cafes before you hit the dance floor at one of the nightclubs on Dostyk, a crowded thoroughfare in the heart of the city. Day 3: Your destination is Medeu and Chimbulak, both easily visited on a day trip from Almaty. This is where the Kazakhs and tourists come for winter sports but a walk in the beautiful hills and valleys is something you can do anytime of the year. The huge Medeu ice rink is where many champion skaters have trained. From there, the winding mountain road climbs a further 5 km to the swish Chimbulak ski resort, which boasts a vertical drop of 900m and ski runs for all levels. You can take walks from Chimbulak itself. A track continues 8 km up the Malaya Almatinka Valley and, in summer, it’s a 3-km hike up to the stunning Talgar Pass. Tip: Don’t forget to carry some vodka; it’s always cold at Chimbulak. Drive back to Almaty and turn in early in preparation for yet another day in the outdoors. Day 4: Leave at the crack of dawn for Altyn Emel National Park (220 km away), one of Kazakhstan’s largest parks. Fortify yourself with some tea, bread and apple and apricot preserves at the guard’s cottage before you set out to explore the park on foot. Post lunch, head across the park to the Aktau Mountains, a stunning moonscape of white, blue and yellow volcanic mountains. Spend the afternoon at Basshi village, which lies in the heart of the park. Enjoy Kazakh hospitality at the village with a dinner of horsemeat, pilaf and camel milk. Shake a leg with your hosts before you say ‘good night’.Day 5: Repeat the early-to-rise routine because this is your last day in Kazakhstan. Say goodbye to Basshi inhabitants before you head straight into the mountains to the Kolsai Lake, a couple of hours from the village. In summer, people from Almaty camp around the lake. The second Kolsai Lake is further up. But leave that for your next visit. Almaty is a good seven hours from here and you must reach by 8 p.m. so that you can buy some local vodka before the shops down the shutters. Must knowGetting there: Air Astana flies daily between Delhi and Almaty.Fare: Rs. 28,000 approx. Visa application forms can be downloaded from http://www.kazembassy.in/htmDocs/application_form.pdf Currency: One Indian rupee is about 3.3 Kazakhstani Tenge. US dollars are accepted only at supermarkets and some international brands stores.Must do: A visit to Charyn Canyon is a must for every nature lover. It’s the closest you can get to the Grand Canyon and is well worth the 12 hours’ drive from Almaty.Food tip: Kazakhs are heavy meat eaters and the best way to enjoy the delicious variety on offer is to join a barbecue party at Panfilov Park in the weekend. Vegetarians can find the regular dal makhni- paneer butter masala fare at Almaty’s Namaste and Govinda’s restaurants.Travel tip: Remember, it never gets warm in Kazakhstan. Also, pick up a Russian phrasebook because English is not widely spoken.advertisementadvertisement
Pictured here is Paolo Soleri, and his publicist and editor, Lissa McCullough, Ph.D. Lissa acted as a facilitator for this wonderful dialogue on the implementation and implications of sustainable living. [photo & text: Logan Bier] July 8, 2011A group of 25 individuals from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona visited Arcosanti as part of a four week program titled “Rethinking the Land Ethic”. The group, comprised of participants from across the country, spent an hour in the Soleri Archives to discuss sustainability and the concept of Arcology with Paolo Soleri. Represented were perspectives from ethicists, philosophers, art teachers, and other educators. Read more about NEH, NAU and their programs on sustainability here: http://tinyurl.com/3btzsf9 The group was led by co-directors Joan McGregor, Professor of Philosophy at Arizona State University, and Dan Shilling, with the ASU Institute for Humanities Research. [photo & text: Logan Bier]
Disney has upped its bid for Twenty First Century Fox’s film and television assets to US$71.3 billion, bettering the US$65 billion offer that rival bidder Comcast made last week.In a statement, 21st Century Fox said that it has entered into an amended and restated merger agreement with Disney that it described as “superior” to the proposal made by Comcast.The amended deal will see 21st Century Fox shareholders receive, for each share of 21st Century Fox common stock, US$38 in either cash or shares of Disney common stock. The overall mix paid by Disney will be approximately 50% cash and 50% stock.Disney previously agreed a US$66 billion stock deal for 21st Century Fox’s film and TV assets in December. The terms of the previous offer would have seen Disney pay Fox shareholders US$52.4 billion in stock and assume around US$13.7 billion in net debt.The latest amended agreement comes after Comcast put in a US$35 per-share cash offer last week – a bid that valued the Fox assets at some US$65 billion.“We are extremely proud of the businesses we have built at 21st Century Fox, and firmly believe that this combination with Disney will unlock even more value for shareholders as the new Disney continues to set the pace at a dynamic time for our industry,” said 21st Century Fox chairman, Rupert Murdoch.“We remain convinced that the combination of 21CF’s iconic assets, brands and franchises with Disney’s will create one of the greatest, most innovative companies in the world.”Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, commented: “The acquisition of 21st Century Fox will bring significant financial value to the shareholders of both companies and after six months of integration planning we’re even more enthusiastic and confident in the strategic fit of the assets and the talent at Fox.”“At a time of dynamic change in the entertainment industry, the combination of Disney’s and Fox’s unparalleled collection of businesses and franchises will allow us to create more appealing high-quality content, expand our direct-to-consumer offerings and international presence, and deliver more personalised and compelling entertainment experiences to meet growing consumer demand around the world.”The deal covers Fox’s TV and movie studios, cable networks FX and National Geographic, 30% of streaming service Hulu, 50% of formats powerhouse Endemol Shine Group, Fox Networks Group’s international channels suite, a 39% stake in European operator Sky and control of Indian pay TV service Star.Analysts told CNBC that Disney is currently “the favourite in the horse race” to gain Fox assets as it has better “tools” for its bidding war with Comcast.