My son’s godmother once bought him a book called The Magic Chair. It’s about a little boy whose sofa transports him to all sorts of exotic places before bedtime. I have read it to him a hundred times but only now, when my own favourite places are suddenly out of reach, have I realised that I can be that boy too.
Lately I’ve been staying up into the middle of the night, sitting on my not-so-magic sofa at home in Norfolk, and transporting myself across the world, back to my favourite countries. I’m starting to look through my photographs in a different, more emotional way: not thinking which might get the most ‘likes’ or views, but which of them helps me to feel that place the most. The sadness that these places are currently impossible to visit actually makes the feelings more vivid than they were the first time around.
Here are six pictures that put me in the magic chair to Kazakhstan.
1. Green Bazaar
This is a market stall run by ethnic Korean ladies, selling delicious Korean-Kazakh food, at Almaty’s Green Bazaar
2. Ablai khan street
Kazakhstan is full of eccentricities – like this balcony in Ablai khan street, Almaty, where the family had used skis for shutters. Only a few kilometres from Almaty, up in the Tien Shan mountains, is the Shymbulak ski resort.
3. The steppes
The steppes of south-east Kazakhstan, near Issyk Kul lake, are home to wild horses. This photo was taken on the steppe outside the village of Saty.
4. Kaindy Lake
The lake is a stunning bright turquoise colour – and, after an earthquake that caused a flood in Kaindy, has ancient spruce pines growing out of its depths. This photo doesn’t show any of this – I took it during a freezing-cold early morning paddle.
5. Ainabulak village
As fast as Kazakhstan is developing, some places have been left untouched for decades, such as Ainabulak village in the Almaty region.
6. Charyn Canyon
Sunset over the Black Canyon in Charyn, not far from the Chinese border. Charyn National Park, established in 2004, is located in Almaty region.
Jonathan Campion writes about his travels in Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia at jonathancampion.com.