Semey (Семей)
June 17, 2014

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

   Semey is twinned with Ypres in Belgium

After checking into our spacious hotel and finding out we had a ‘small’ immigration issue – and discussing our options (see notes below), we headed out to do a little sight seeing.

First stop was the Museum of Fine Arts. We got there about 30mins before it closed for the day, and managed to get in and see the Rembrandt etching, which was really the only reason we were there. However, we were pleasantly surprised by the collection in general. Then we headed a local park on the island in the middle of the river to see a massive memorial to the victims of atomic testing that happened near this town. From Wikipedia: “The Soviet Union operated the Semipalatinsk Test Site (STS) from the first explosion in 1949 until 1989; 456 nuclear tests, including 340 underground and 116 atmospheric tests, were conducted there“.

After dinner in a diner-style cafe we picked up some beer and wine to have while watching Belgium – Algeria in our room. I lost a few nails during game (specially during the very slow and mediocre first half performance of Belgium) but they came back in the second half to win the  the game 2-1.

Beautiful and Somber Mushroom Cloud memorial to past and current victims of atomic testing


Bearing in mind the following facts:

  • we were given a 5-day transit visa. The rules on this are simple really: one has to leave the country on day 5.
  • the distance between Semey and Almaty is 1130km; the roads are notoriously potholed or ‘under construction’. Not too sure which is worse.
  • Almaty is where Sterlin needed his next check-up (oil change and general safety check) and we needed time to sort things out for our Uzbekistan visa.

Our options as we saw them were:

  • go back to the border and hope that they would change the visa class. Three possible scenarios could ensue from this:
    1. it would be changed and all would be well. Somehow we didn’t really believe it’d be that simple.
    2. it would get sorted out but only after we officially left and re-entered KZ which would effectively use (and blow) our second entry into KZ. We would need that second entry later: from Uzbekistan we wanted to cross back into KZ to head back to Russia. That would effectively kill our trip through the Stans.
    3. gun it to Almaty in 2 days; go and see the Immigration Police there and hope they would sort it out. If they didn’t sort it our there, then at least we’d be in a good position to leave the country on day 5 of our transit visa by crossing into Kyrgyzstan.
    4. ignore the issue and possibly overstay our visa… mmmm…