2018 Tian Shan travel: Part 15

2018 Tian Shan

August-September 2018 travel to Kazakhstan reviewed in 2021

Commentary from 2021

The post that I copied below comes from 22nd of August, 2018. The central central point of my journey was Kazakhstan’s southern city of Almaty. So, initially, I wanted to skip Astana, the capital in the north. At advice from a friend, I changed my plans to go to Astana briefly and take the 24 hours train ride to see the famous steppe at least from a train’s window. Post below recorded my thoughts on it.

It was my first time seeing a “steppe”. In USA, the word used is “prairie”. It’s a huge, flat, dry place with some low, dried grass. The romanticism of the steppe that sits in my mind comes from two long gone ages, the tales of the Mongolian empire, of course, and eastern reaches of long gone Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, where the steppe was present in parts of today’s Ukraine.

Actually, scratch that. I saw it earlier in 2008 in Zabaikal’sk/Manzhouli border crossing between Russia and China, where I spent five hours while the train was being searched and its tracks were changed. But it was so long ago!

Original blog post link:
https://2018tianshan.tumblr.com/private/177224611086/tumblr_pdsm7wFjrk1u6ucs2
Original post from 22.08.2018 is copied below.

The Great Eurasian Steppe

Most people heard about the legendary boundless steppe – where several cultures were born, including the infamous two: the Hunnic Empire (Huns), and the Mongolian Empire. Of course, the same area housed many, many more.

The Great Eurasian steppe. Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain.

The steppe is a gigantic area located in eastern Europe and much of Asia, and shares daunting reputation with three other vast zones: the taiga (forests) and tundra (arctic and subarctic areas). The steppe is the grasslands here – it is a semi-arid or arid area known for being flat as a table.

In these areas, if you stand up, you usually are the tallest point. This makes the place dangerous during thunderstorms. It is home to strong winds, without geographic obstacles, and treacherous distances which stretch for thousands of kilometres.

Here you can see half-wild horses, which are these days not herded with dogs, but with jeeps. Make no mistake – these horses aren’t there for their beauty, or rather, not only. Meat of these animals forms the basis of local cuisine.

What are the main dangers of the steppe? Apart from frigid frosts, which in winter can go down to -50 degrees Celsius, and scorching heat that in summers reaches +50 degrees Celsius, the main enemy is the wolf – against whom humans reportedly train guard dogs, in some villages cutting ears and tail off them first, so that wolves cannot grab onto them during fights.

Overall, the trip was comfortable – the 24 hours passed by uneventful, and it was good enough to take a nap. One difference from Russian (Transsiberian trains – Russian upper beds have belts that you hang against the ceiling so that you won’t fall down if you roll a lot in your sleep. Here there wasn’t any. Thankfully, I don’t roll much in my sleep!

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