For several hours, I had been walking through the snowy streets of Almaty, as I entered Panfilov park from the south. Where the snow had been greyish in the streets, it was still a perfect white blanket inside the park. At the entrance, I passed a monument for Panfilov, a World War II general and hero, and when I was inside the park itself, I entered a world of a serene peace. Sounds were absorbed directly by the snow, and I could only hear people talk - they seemed to talk softer, too. When I reached the central part of the park, I first saw the war monument on my right before my eyes turned to the left. There it was - the brightly yellow and pink Cathedral of the Holy Ascension, under a layer of snow. The light reflecting from the snow all around me made the cathedral look even lighter and brighter. A wedding couple had their pictures taken close to the cathedral, and I wondered if they had just married in the church. It also reminded me again of the relativity of colours: the white of her dress looked almost light grey compared to the perfect white of the snow surrounding her.
I walked around the Cathedral of the Holy Ascension, on the side of which lots of kids were playing with the fresh snow. Next to the entrance: a christmas scene - and I realized that it was orthodox Christmas. A Kazakh tried to talk to me - I understood he was a muslim waiting for his orthodox friends inside. The outside had made me curious about the interior, so I stepped through the white wooden door into the second highest wooden building of the world. From the joyful atmosphere outside, I entered a service in the semi darkness of the cathedral. I went to a far corner of the church where I could best observe what was going on inside. I watched the women lighting candles with their heads in furry coats, the candle light reflecting on their faces, I saw them praying, and kissing the image of Jesus and Maria. What made this all even more enjoyable, was the beautiful singing. A male voice was leading, and was followed by a choir of female singers. Their pure voices, coupled with the acoustics of the cathedral and the atmosphere in general, made for a special experience and ambience.
The cathedral was built in 1907 by Andrei Zenkov, and he constructed the remarkable building entirely from wood. It is actually one of the tallest wooden buildings of the world. Instead of nails, he used brackets to hold the structure together, and during the various earthquakes of the 20th century, the church has proven to be shock-proof. Likewise, it survived the Soviet era, when it functioned as the regional historical museum. For some time, the tall bell fry was even used to house radio transmitters. After independence, the church was restored and returned to its function as a Russian Orthodox Church in 1997. Looking up one of the towers is impressive: lanterns coming all the way down fro the ceiling. The alter is no less impressive: gold is the dominant colour, giving the altar an especially rich appearance. The service was reaching its end, which also implied the singing stopped. As people were leaving the cathedral, I also made my way out. Looking back at the pastel coloured church, I realized once more how different the inside is from the outside. Darkness was falling over Almaty when I walked away from the Cathedral of the Holy Ascension and out of Panfilov Park.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Holy Ascension Cathedral (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Holy Ascension Cathedral.
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