Before we arrived in Astana, the school had organised an apartment for us. We were sent a number of photos of a flat and told this was the only one available in the whole city (an unlikely tale but we really had no choice but to accept this and take the apartment).
The pictures didn’t reveal much and the description even less!
I was sent the following email about our new flat: “The apartment we proposed you locates in Premium class building. There are a concierge, cozy and safe access, carpets and flowers in the entrance, free elevator.”
The idea that the lift was free made me ask how a lift wouldn’t be free – would there be a man in the lift asking for money each time or perhaps a machine which you had to put 50 Tenge in each time you wanted to use it?
The only extra bit of information was that it was a three-roomed apartment (this means it has two bedrooms and a front room – a slightly confusing description to a Westerner who is used to the number of bedrooms).
The pictures didn’t really give us any more idea of what it was like. A picture of the mirror in the bathroom and of the coat-stand did not reveal a great deal more about the flat.
So when we got there in the early hours of the morning, having used the ‘free’ lift to get to the 9th floor, we opened the door to discover a grand hallway with doors leading onto a magnificent, wooden front room, a chandelier hanging from the ceiling, an illuminated fire place containing a silver model horse and plasma flat screen TV playing MTV on the wall. Really rather impressive!
I had chosen to share, so there were two huge bedrooms, a large kitchen area and enclosed (due to the harsh weather conditions) balcony!
As is typical in Kazakh homes the heavy, golden curtains were just for show and couldn’t be closed-meaning that there is not a great deal of privacy and I was glad we were nine floors up. The bathroom offered up another joy of an all-singing-all-dancing bath booth.
All types of knobs and switches included music, telephone, massage jets, Jacuzzi and one created a steam room out of the cubicle. The one difficult thing was to work out how to have a normal shower!
At the rather high price of 2,000 dollars a month we were, however, quite pleased to see we got a lot floor space and a European style renovation, as it is called in Russian, for our money and discovered that the landlady had dropped the price from 4,000 dollars a month!
Although rent in Kazakhstan is quoted in dollars, all other bills are in Tenge and as we found out later the lift was in fact not free and cost 1,800 KZT a month (around £8). Though we have since decided that is a small price to pay for a luxurious, comfortable flat!