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Amazing Cities You've Probably Never Heard Of

Amazing Cities You've Probably Never Heard Of

story by: Tom Ricketts

In 1991 as the USSR imploded, a dozen former Soviet republics suddenly found themselves independent countries. Since then these new countries have been busy transforming themselves into creditable members of the political world, most by investing heavily in their capital cities. What we have today are some of the most incredible and unique cities on the planet, evolving much like Dubai, Abu Dhabi and their other Middle Eastern counterparts. Here's a few of our favourites... 

Baku, Azerbaijan
This ancient city can trace its roots all the way back to 84-96AD, so it’s pretty old! Today it’s the capital city, and largest city in Azerbaijan. The city of two million lies on the former shores of the Caspian Sea which luckily for them, is receding greatly because the city is 28 metres under sea level! The city has a beautifully preserved Old City with castles, gardens and city walls reminiscent of any European city. This includes Shirvanshah’s Palace and the Maiden Tower, both of which are UNESCO World Heritage sights. But Baku is not all about the old, in fact that’s an image they’re trying to shake off by building many stunning highrises such as the Flame Towers; as well attempting to win the rights to host the Olympics, the European Games and of course, the incredibly respectable Eurovision Song Contest.

Astana, Kazakhstan
The rival city of Almaty was stripped of its capital status in 1997 and it was given to the city if Astana. Since then the city has boomed with many highrises going up and considerable investment coming from Kazakhstan’s massive oil and natural gas wealth. Also wanting to become a recognisable city, Astana has some amazingly unique structures itself. There’s the 60 metre tall glass pyramid that houses the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, the 100 metre Tree of Life, a tower designed by the president himself, Khan Shatyr, a shopping centre inside the world’s largest tent, and finally the Presidential Palace, built to resemble the White House, but with a big honking blue dome on the top.

Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
Largely destroyed by an earthquake in 1948, the then USSR city was rebuilt in typical Russian style with huge wide boulevards and hideously top heavy brutalist buildings. However traditional mosques, minarets and domes also dominate the city, as well as many monuments dedicated to their struggle for independence and peace.

Yerevan, Armenia
One of the oldest continually habited cities in the world, Yerevan has an awe inspiring setting nestled beneath the two volcanic cones of Great Ararat and Lesser Ararat (both taller the Mount Cook). The poor Armenians did not have a good time of things under Russian rule so when independence was gained, the statues and Stalin and Co were promptly toppled and the 50 metre Mother Armenia was erected. The city has a copious amount of museums and galleries, many dedicated to the genocide that took place there over the years.

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Yes, Kyrgyzstan is a real country, and Bishkek is its capital city. Much poorer than its neighbours, Kyrgyzstan is a mountainous country and Bishkek is one of the highest capitals in the world. We all know Asia does markets well, and Bishkek’s Dordoy Bazaar is one of the largest in the world with an estimated 18,000 traders there daily!

Kazan, Russia
One of the largest cities in Russia, Kazan has its very own Kremlin which along with the one in Moscow, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city has a truly impressive array of religious buildings from mosques with towering minarets, standard Catholic churches and of course, traditional Russian buildings with brightly coloured domes.

Volgograd, Russia
This city sitting north of the Caucasus region is probably better known by its former name, Stanlingrad. It is here the famous Battle of Stalingrad took place killing up to an estimated 1.7 million soldiers and civilians. Much of the city was destroyed during the battle and his since been rebuilt, with the most impressive feature being ‘The Motherland Calls’ statue which towers 91 metres over the city, making it one of the largest in the world.


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