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17 July 2014 / leggypeggy

Very childish behaviour from a grown woman (not me)

St Nicholas domes Almaty

Onion domes of St Nicholas Cathedral

If I was my grandmother, I would have said, I’m so mad I could spit nails.

Grandma had a colourful way with words and I learned most of the not-quite-toe-curling swear words I know from her.

In fact, most of them came in a single ‘crash course’ on the winter night she fell off the toilet and broke her arm (another long story). Anyway, she dumped a blizzard of swear words on the ambulance men after they accidentally tipped her off the stretcher into the deep snow in the front yard.

But I digress. Actually I’ll digress again briefly. The first time grandma delivered the spit nails comment within my earshot was when she wanted my mother (her daughter-in-law) to be absolutely certain that she was not at all happy about the Christmas present mix-up.

By mistake, mum sent grandma the parcel with the flannel men’s pyjamas meant for mum’s father. Grandpa got the beaded sweater instead. Oops! Harley was sweet about it, but hot-headed Zula was, in my opinion, unnecessarily crabby about an honest mistake.

But honest mistakes had nothing to do with my irritation today.

St Nicholas Cathedral interior

Church interior

I have two prime targets—Lonely Planet’s Central Asia guidebook and its error-riddled map of central Almaty in Kazakhstan and a bitchy old hag who was offended because Poor John and I turned up to her church in the wrong outfits.

Poor John and I set out this morning to find St Nicholas Cathedral. We walked several kilometres along Zhibek Zholy to the T-junction and then turned left onto what ought to have been Baytursynuly (isn’t that a great spelling!).

The map showed the cathedral was seven blocks straight up Baytursynuly. But dead ends and obstacles (including a major hospital) not shown on the map meant we zigzagged around blocks and did our best to stay on course. By the time we reached an intersection displaying street names, we were six or seven blocks off track. Poor John has a great sense of direction, so the map had to be (and was, we later confirmed) the problem.

In spite of the map, we found St Nicholas Cathedral with its turquoise exterior and ornate golden onion domes.

On the way in through the front gate I noticed a woman putting on a scarf. Oh hey, I said to Poor John, I’d better not go in because my top is sleeveless, but then I remembered my long-sleeved black merino top was tied around my waist for just such occasions.

St Nicholas interior

More interior

So standing almost in front of the woman donning the scarf, I put on my black top as well as Poor John’s hat. Men must take off their hats and women are to have their heads covered.

And in we went. It was the middle of a Tuesday afternoon. There were maybe 10 people in the church, including tourists. Although photos were allowed, I hung back and took pictures only when it wouldn’t disturb someone’s prayers.

Afterwards we strolled outside and took a seat on a timber bench in the cathedral’s driveway. The woman of the scarf made a beeline for us. She was angry and on a mission—that was easy to see—and she was going to swoop.

In Russian or Kazakh (I’ll never know) she thoroughly told us off, pointing to our shorts. She scowled, snarled, raised her voice, chastised, criticised, harped and finger wagged, all the while pointing back and forth at our offending shorts. And I have to add here that these are almost knee-length shorts.

Cathedral onion domes

Domes from a distance—after we’d been run off the place

Anyway I smiled and nodded and said, Yes, yes, thank you, thank you for letting us know about a rule that isn’t posted anywhere on the door like the church in Georgia.

Which was a signal for her to start her tirade over again.

But I stood up and cut her short. I raised my hand, smiled and said something along the lines of, It’s clear the only solution is for us to leave, so we’ll be on our way, but I will always remember you as the most un-Christian of people.

Of course, if I’d been my grandmother Zula, I have said You bloody cow. You are a childish and rude person who has almost spoiled a trip to a lovely cathedral. I’m so mad I could spit nails.

But we still had a good time and I didn’t want to behave as badly as she had.

Meeting nice people on the way home
Our trip back to the hostel provided a welcome change.

We chatted with a man and his son who were standing outside the Kazakh–British Technical University (the son was being enrolled to study petroleum engineering). Dad told us about the building, which used to be Kazakhstan’s Parliament, and about the nation’s oil industry (dad is a petroleum engineer in the western part of the country).

A short time later, Aeda, a lovely young woman in a bookstore, helped us find a Russian–English phrasebook. Her English was excellent but she was stumped trying to find me a cookbook written in Kazakh or Russian as well as English. But in her quest to introduce us to more about Kazakh cuisine, customs and culture, Aeda invited us to her home. Sadly, we had to decline because we’re heading off tomorrow. I have her phone number, so maybe next time. 🙂

I wonder how the old bat ended her day?

St Nicholas Cathedral, Almaty

St Nicholas Cathedral

And a bit about the cathedral
St Nicholas Cathedral was built in 1909. Later the Bolshevik cavalry used it as a stable. It wasn’t reopened as a place of worship until 1980.

The interior is filled with gold leaf, icons, candles and dramatic paintings. It was too dark to get a pic of the painting of Judas slipping away from the Last Supper to collect his bag of sliver.

Oh, and stay tuned to read about our trip to Almaty’s main cathedral and what happened when I wasn’t supposed to take photos.

And if you’re hungry
Don’t forget to check out my cooking blog. There aren’t any recipes for sour grapes for crabby women, but here’s an easy one for lime cheesecake.


Leave a Comment
  1. weezaj / Jul 17 2014 11:53 am

    Baytursynuly – Bitchy Old Hag

    … from Louie’s Meaning of Liff.

    See what I did there?



  2. Jolandi Steven / Jul 17 2014 12:25 pm

    I am sure that at the time you didn’t feel like laughing, but the story does make for a good laugh. Thank you for starting me off this morning with a smile on my lips. Travelling really does make for interesting, if not always pleasant, encounters. Your grandmother sounds like she was quite a character.


    • leggypeggy / Jul 17 2014 12:48 pm

      I was laughing (on the inside) at the time, and I’m still laughing. Bless the old hag for giving me a hook to hang the blog post on, and a reason to introduce Zula, who was an absolute terror in her own right! 🙂


  3. lmo58 / Jul 17 2014 12:46 pm

    I like Zula and Harley but the woman who berated you outside the church not so much. Mind reading what the locals want you to do isn’t generally on the tourist guides and given that you weren’t dressed that inappropriately, I think she displayed rather too much front in the circumstances. You and John, as I’ve come to know over our many years’ friendship, behaved impeccably. She probably got indigestion after dinner. I’m glad you met Aeda though. She sounds lovely.


    • leggypeggy / Jul 17 2014 12:55 pm

      I think she’s just a crabby old woman waiting for someone to harangue. We were convenient. We both thought it was funny—unwarranted, but funny, and most un-Christian. Here’s me in my offending, immodest shorts (note the long-sleeved top around my waist). This pic was taken the day before in front of the state museum. The tall one in the short-shorts is Arina, a lovely Kazakh teenager who walked around the museum with us.

      Peggy and Arina


  4. suchled / Jul 17 2014 6:42 pm

    Dear Peggy,
    Oh what a shame. I think you have just given me a new post to write about hypocrisy and old ladies.
    I hope you like it, but then again you are always so positive I look forward to all your comments.I think I will post it under the title of “Hypocrites and old ladies”.


  5. Fruit Cake / Jul 17 2014 10:02 pm

    Hello Leggy Peggy. I know Suchled. Good guy. The one good thing about the old ‘hag’ is that you have a bench mark to measure decent people against. Glad the rest of the day was better. But it is a beautiful church.


    • leggypeggy / Jul 17 2014 11:03 pm

      Hello Fruit Cake. Welcome to the mayhem. It is a beautiful church, but an even nicer one is coming up soon. Hoping to meet Suchled in Australia someday.


  6. Sy S. / Jul 18 2014 12:15 pm


    I wanted to try and find some smut, dirt about that nasty old woman… so went to Google and punched in a few bits of info. And low and behold I came up with two of your recent blogs, which was posted within 1 day or earlier. AMAZING! However, nothing about that woman…
    About 1,710,000 results (0.82 seconds)

    Great photos once again and of the colorful churches in this part of the world. And a nice photo of you, camera and sling included… and wearing sneakers without socks and sexy LP’s legs… which might have ticked off that woman.

    Sy S.


    • leggypeggy / Jul 18 2014 1:36 pm

      Oh my goodness, Sy, you must be right—the old hag was jealous of my legs. Makes perfect sense. How funny that your search brought up my blog. Oh, and I was wearing tiny little golf socks that hide below the shoe line.


  7. Gary Walker / Jul 22 2014 11:00 am

    When in Rome do as the Romans do. It’s best not to annoy the natives. The old hag is probably just a woman of a certain age set in her ways who doesn’t like tourists.

    I have an android phone with a voice app that will translate English to Russian. If you ever wonder how to say, ‘bite me’ in Russian…

    Укус меня
    phonetically pronounced in English “Ukus menya.”


    • leggypeggy / Jul 22 2014 12:02 pm

      Thanks for that Potsie. I follow the dress rules wherever we go, but it helps if you know what they are. Short-shorts abound in Kazakhstan, so her problem is just that—her problem. The ‘bite me’ will come in handy. You and I are sweet that way. 🙂


  8. Jamie Dedes / Aug 17 2014 1:57 pm

    Here from suchled. Good piece. Great photos. Thanks! Blog on …


    • leggypeggy / Aug 17 2014 8:04 pm

      Thanks so much for dropping by! Off now to check our your musings by moonlight.


  9. CuriositytotheMax / Aug 17 2014 3:27 pm

    The “Old Bat” probably ended her day praying that you go to hell . . . .


    • leggypeggy / Aug 17 2014 7:11 pm

      That has to be the best comment anyone has ever left on my blog. Love it! Hope you are right!


      • CuriositytotheMax / Aug 18 2014 1:47 am

        Now I know why the “Old Bat” needs to pray for you: You don’t need to HOPE I’m right – you need to have FAITH I’m right . . . .


      • leggypeggy / Aug 18 2014 12:20 pm

        You just get funnier and funnier. Thanks!


  10. Bodhirose / Aug 18 2014 1:25 am

    Found you and your story (beautiful photos too) through suchled’s blog and the link here. These type people are everywhere among us. They care more for rules and regulations than actions of the heart. You can bet that she’s not a happy camper…sad. Loved reading the comments. Now I know how to say “bite me” in Russian! 🙂


    • leggypeggy / Aug 18 2014 12:34 pm

      Thanks so much for dropping by. You are right—rule monitors are everywhere, but I feel lucky not to encounter them very often. I’ve loved the comments here too. Such fun!


  11. David / Jan 30 2015 4:09 pm

    Good to know trouble-making is allowed without jail time! Or worse yet public square flogging, that bitty may have had quite the arm on her for such punishment!
    Love the church! Years ago when I mistakenly bagged a trip in southern Russia out of Novasbirsk (spelling is horrible no doubt) one of the souveniers my friends made it out with ilegally (no idea now and it was expensive at $1,200 20 years ago and not as nice as those in your pictures I don’t think hopefully I’m safe saying that here!) was one of those beautiful icons shown on the alter of the church.
    I digress too.
    Thank you for sharing the photos of the church, it’s just wonerful!


    • leggypeggy / Jan 31 2015 6:30 pm

      It is a wonderful church, with so much character, Even the old hag was a character in her own way.



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