'Green Mountain' overlooks central Almaty from the southeast, a natural viewing platform for the city. Once known as Verigin, the hill was renamed Kok-Tobe in 1972, taking its new name from one found in the diaries of medieval merchants. Some 1,100m above sea level, it is topped by a television tower, a mast 327m high, built in the early 1980s, which has become one of the symbols of the city. The sausage-shaped summit of Kok-Tobe features observation balconies armed with coin-operated binoculars, a children's play area, caged birds, and various places to eat, including a restaurant comprising concrete yurts.
There is an apple fountain, with water gushing out from the stalk. Throw a coin into the basin at the base of the apple, to ensure that you are very slightly poorer than when you still possessed that coin. A photo-board of 'guests of Kok-Tobe' near the fountain has pictures of celebrities enjoying the air here: Gerard Depardieu in a funny hat, President Nazarbaev and his wife, Steven Seagal in a tracksuit and Miss Universe wearing her sash.
Suitably close to the apple fountain, given their association with Apple Records, is one of the few life-sized statues of the four Beatles to incorporate all the members of the group. Installed in 2007, it is the work of Almaty sculptor Eduard Kazaryan, this is claimed to be the world's only monument showing all the Fab Four together. Bronze statues were commissioned by a group of local businessmen for whom the music of The Beatles in their youth represented an exciting alternative to the Soviet-sanctioned cultural diet. The mop-headed youths cluster around a park bench, on which John (possibly - the sculpted Fab Four faces all look rather similar) is strumming his guitar. The graffiti inscribed on the park bench include contributions from the commissioning businessmen. The path running alongside the statue now bears the name of Beatles Avenue.
The souvenir shops of Kok-Tobe are not bad: several are run by migrants from the more southerly republics of central Asia and stock handicrafts from Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. There are bird boxes nailed onto most of the trees to encourage the avian fauna. Piped music also echoes out from the trees, drowning out the birdsong.
The best way to reach Kok-Tobe is by cable car from the city centre. The cable car, which started its operations in 1967, runs for 1,627m. It departs from the south side of the Republican Palace of Culture, at the intersection of Abai and Dostyk avenues, from the yellow-painted building with a 'Kok-Tobe' sign on top. It is also possible to walk or drive up, but this will take you out of the city centre: head south along Dostyk Avenue, turning left along Omarov (formerly Klochkov) Street a couple of blocks south of the Hotel Premier Alatau, and then follow the road up until you reach a barrier. If you are driving, you have to park here. A minibus makes the trip from here to the summit every five minutes. If you are reasonably fit, the bus is scarcely necessary: the walk back down to the car park is a pleasant 20-minute stroll.