Almaty is the largest city in Kazakhstan with population close to 1.5 million. From 1929 till 1998, it was the country's capital called Alma-Ata. The word alma means "apple" in the Kazakh language emphasizing the orchards around the city that produce some of the best apples you'll ever taste! Official records of Almaty goes back to 1854, when a small fortress named "Verny" was built by a Russian military expedition opening a new era of Russian, and later Soviet dominance in the region. The real Almaty's glory comes from famous "Silk Route" times, when the city was a major stop for passing caravans between West and East. Traces of the Scythian civilization are also present around Almaty. Along with interesting and turbulent history, the circle of gorgeous Tian-Shan mountains around the city makes Almaty complete. Mary Hemingway, wife of a prominent American writer called Almaty as the most beautiful city of the world. In 1887 and 1911, powerful earthquakes practically destroyed it. Each time the city was rebuilt again. When walking through Almaty, make sure to pay a visit to a wooden Russian cathedral built in 1904 and to the State Museum, which is an elegant building and has fine displays of artifacts of Kazakh culture, including a replica of the famous Scythian golden warrior. Just a few kilometers drive outside of the city will bring you to the sites with majestic views, famous skating stadium "Medeo", challenging trails for hiking and country eateries where you can try local food.