Nail-less Tsarist Zenkov Cathedral

Almaty may no longer be capital, but Kazakhstan’s largest city remains the country’s urban heart, a place where life moves a little faster and Kazakh history is chronicled for the curious. Modern and historic come together most markedly in Panfilov Park, the city’s green lung, where war memorials mix with nightclubs. In the middle amidst rose gardens, lording it over everything, stands the magnificent Zenkov Cathedral. Built in 1904, it is one of the few Tsarist buildings in Almaty, the wooden nail-less structure an unlikely survivor of the devastating 1911 earthquake. The astonishing detail of the interior’s murals and gilt-edged icons rewards patient observation, but it may be the exterior that leaves the stronger impression, for Zenkov is a grand, colourful wedding cake of a building, reminiscent of the onion-domed confection in Moscow’s Red Square, although the Kazakh church inarguably has the finer backdrop – a widescreen view of the snowbound peaks that rise to the city’s south.

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