Swiss Journalist Discovers Kazakhstan’s Natural Wonders During Visit to Almaty

ASTANA – Almaty hosted the 69th meeting of the Ski Club of International Journalists (SCIJ) in early March. This was the first edition of the annual week-long meeting of the club in Central Asia. Swiss journalist and filmmaker Fritz Muri, one of the participants, shared impressions from his winter trip to Kazakhstan in an interview with The Astana Times.  

Fritz Friedrich Muri

Nearly 150 journalists from 31 SCIJ member countries gathered in Shymbulak Mountain Resort, the largest ski resort in Kazakhstan, located in a 15-minute drive from the center of the southern city. The ski club meeting was organized by the Kazakh Tourism national company. Founded in 2017, the company is in charge of promoting Kazakhstan’s tourism potential.

Shymbulak is perfectly organized. The slopes are very good for skiing, and they are cleaned every day. The technology is similar in Europe. It is like in Switzerland, maybe better,” said Muri with a light smile on his face. It is his first visit to Kazakhstan.     

Since 1955, the club has united media professionals worldwide to promote winter sports and a healthy lifestyle.

The Swiss journalist considers himself not a professional skier but rather a person passionate about winter sports. Muri first learned about the club from his colleagues at a conference in Brussels. 

Apart from skiing in Almaty, tourists were offered a three-day cultural program in the Kazakh city of Turkistan. Its top attractions, which were built as a tribute to historical and cultural heritage, include grand mausoleums, mosques, and museums. 

Foreign journalists in Shymbulak. Photo credit: Fritz Friedrich Muri.

You know, what strikes me the most is people. People here are so nice, friendly, curious, and kind, especially the younger generation. They come up themselves to talk and to practice English,” he said. 

Astana was the next destination on the route. Muri’s desire to visit the Kazakh capital was driven by his professional activities – as an independent filmmaker, he works for international film production companies and makes documentaries about architecture. Prior to that, he worked for many years for Swiss television.    

Turkistan. Photo credit: Fritz Friedrich Muri.

“Astana is a very interesting city with a special architecture despite being completely new. It combines a mixture of different styles. The city has an opera house [Astana Opera], which reminds of an opera house in Europe. It looks like it is 200 years old, but it is new. Notably, there are glass skyscrapers next to it,” said Muri.

Nur-Sultan Grand Mosque in Astana. Photo credit: Fritz Friedrich Muri.

“Maybe I will make a series about the modern architecture of the buildings in the city combined with the post-Soviet features. The weather is not the best for taking pictures and videos. If we come back with a TV crew, we will come during summertime,” he added. 

Burabay in winter. Photo credit: Fritz Friedrich Muri.

After spending two days in Astana, Muri traveled to the Burabay National Park, a popular getaway for capital citizens and one of the most picturesque sites in Kazakhstan. Muri described Burabay’s landscape as “beautiful and unique.”  

The combination of lakes, forests, and characteristic rock formations makes for an unforgettable nature experience in all seasons. I have experienced the landscape when the lakes were frozen,” he said. 

Muri noted that Kazakhstan boasts a wide variety of landscapes, offering a unique opportunity to experience forests, deserts, mountains, canyons, and steppes all within one country. 

The view on Burabay lake, Okzhetpes and Zhumbaktas rocks at sunset. Photo credit:

Located 250 kilometers from Astana, Burabay is deemed to be the natural pearl of Kazakhstan. Due to its clean air, pine forests, and blue lakes, it is often called the Kazakh Switzerland.

“The fact that Kazakhstan calls this natural wonder the Kazakh Switzerland makes me proud as a Swiss,” he said. 

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