Eurasia, sometimes called Central Europe sits between Asia and Europe and although sometimes overlooked, contain some of the most beautiful and alluring cities in the world. Some are large, some are cozy but all are bursting with old world charm and new influences. Here are the top two:
Turkey is a truly remarkable and storied country dating back to the oldest civilizations and contributing greatly to what we know as government and society today. It also sits in Central Asia actually marking the point between the two continents.
The city of Istanbul is more than 2500 years old and has stood as a barrier separating the imperial powers, religions and cultures and all the while it has adopted some of each. However, in spite of its senior city status, Istanbul is a cosmopolitan metropolis of an international scale even today.
The city is breathtaking and getting to see all of it takes patience and a real effort because of its sometimes narrow crowded streets. But do not let that deter you because it is worth the time it takes. When you are in the city, the classic landmarks to visit remain the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, Dolmabahçe Palace, and the Grand Bazaar. If time allows also see the Basilica Cistern, the Galata Tower, and you must visit a few of the many gorgeous mosques and churches which are pieces of history wrapped in beautiful architecture.
The food in Istanbul is also an eclectic mix. Turkish food includes some Middle Eastern, European and Asian infused delicacies and desserts and there are many high priced and local restaurants to sample the endless creations. Turks also love to drink and there are many local drinks including Raki, the national drink made from Anise.
The nightlife in Turkey is first rate with huge rooftop clubs allowing revelers to dance the night away with the city’s skyline as a backdrop. And no matter your musical taste you will find the perfect spot, or relax at a bar, cafe or bistro, many of which will have live music.
The shopping is to die for in Istanbul. Everything from designer to budget can be found in the shopping centers that fill the city. And there are many bazaars filled with local handmade treasures.
When you visit Istanbul you are guaranteed an unforgettable experience
When the former Soviet Union disbanded in 1991, most of the countries that were set on their own struggled to create independent states. They have tried to build self-sufficient countries with growing industries and economies. Several like Poland and Romania, have held their own but only a few have thrived. Of these few the one that has perhaps done the best is Kazakhstan.
Part of this is due to the fact that they discovered oil in the Caspian Sea controlled by Kazakhstan. On top of their mineral riches, this discovery set them up to be self-reliant and build a great post-soviet Union country. So today, Kazakhstan is the jewel of Eurasia. And the Jewel of Kazakhstan is it beautiful city Almaty.
It is surprising to many that Kazakhstan is a cosmopolitan place. It is the seventh largest country on the planet by land mass and stretches from the Caspian Sea to China. The country is very diverse with ethnic Kazakhs, Russians, Uzbeks, Ukrainians, Tatars, and Germans of every religion who live together in an enviably harmonious mix.
Almaty, is the biggest city in the country. And although it is not its capital, as Kazakhstan’s financial and cultural hub, it is definitely the best place to visit when coming to the country.
Almaty is a beautiful city built with the snow-peaked Zailysky-Alatau mountains as is backdrop. The city is very urbane with lots of green interspersed with fancy malls and newly built condominium complexes and hotels.
A past time in Almaty is attending the many outdoor markets that sell everything from local food to local clothing. Traders from all over central Asia bring their wares and you can find those things that are unique to the area including fresh local produce.
The winter months are fantastic in Almaty, with lots of ski and snow boarding slopes throughout the city. The favorite resort is Shymbulak and the skiing among the best in Central Asia. Almaty’s chilly, but sunny winters guarantee good snow well into April. Ride outside the city to see the rare Snow Leopards that come out in the Kazakh winters.
Finally, while you are here, you have to visit a Kazakh bathhouse. Pick up a towel, slippers and felt shapka (a Kazakh hat), and get ready for the hottest sauna this side of Finland followed by a Swedish massage and relaxing dip in a cold water pool. You will feel totally relaxed by the experience. Enjoy the top notch restaurants and coffee houses and your stay in Central Asia’s top
These two Eurasian cities are perfect to discover new cultures and make new friends.