Friday, November 12, 2010

dear leader

after sleeping for only a few hours, i woke up early yesterday anxious to wander around the city. and wander i did, for ten hours straight, all the way to the pyramid. but more about that later.

i didn't really know where to go, but there was an important-looking building visible right outside my hotel so i went there first. it turned out to be the first residence/office of the president of kazakhstan in astana. he lived/worked there from when the capital was relocated here from almaty until 2004, when he got an even fancier place built. it's now the museum of the president of the republic of kazakhstan.

as one would expect, it was pretty glowingly positive about the guy. at one point there was a display of a stack of books about the president and the atken book was front and center, that gives a pretty good idea of the tone of the museum. it was still interesting to see. nazarbayev is a fascinating guy. but a lot of the museum were just display after display of honors and presents given to the president from foreign dignitaries. my favorite parts were:

(1) among displays of lavish presents from foreign leaders was a lavish present from the CEO of mobile oil.

(2) there was this room with a series of medals that presidents and monarchs seem to hand out to each other. most of them had lofty titles like the "medallion of st. something-or-other" presented by queen elizabeth. the one presented by the president of hungary was called: "the big cross with chain". it probably sounds better in hungarian.