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THE TIME OF JOLLY MISSIONS,
OR COMBINING BUSINESS AND PLEASURE


FAST FORWARD

(ASTANA CITY)

Astana... Within half a year I had to visit it some 15 times. Perhaps, there is no city on earth so rapidly changing (besides, changing for the better). And it has nothing to do with patriotism and love to motherland (who knows me is well informed that I rather accept it all with a certain amount of skepticism than suffer from this). But the city is indeed growing with such a stupefying tempo that a months absence in it is equal to several years in any other city. Everything is new: streets and houses, monuments and squares, quays and bridges.

Levoberezhye in winter
Levoberezhye in winter

I have great confidence that while I am writing these lines, a next object in Astana is being founded or commissioned, which is meant to strike everyone by its magnificence, dimensions and singularity. Time in Astana goes quicker than anywhere in Kazakhstan . It even does not go but runs like in fast forward of the video film, when the clouds which flow smoothly along the sky flash by the eyes within seconds; the cars pass by the streets with the speed of a jetliner; and the Sun, a hundred times faster than usually, makes its way along the firmament.

The Sun rises and sets quickest of all in the Levoberezhye (the part of the city situated on the left bank of Ishim), where one of the most immense constructions, as I suppose, is being held now. The eminent architects compete with each other in uniqueness and scale of their designs, while new houses of whimsical shapes spring up like mushrooms.

I remember when a few years ago I got to the square in front of the building of Kazmunaigaz company which now bears the name Kruglaya (Round). I was astonished at what I had seen: unreal lines, the Sun shining through the arch and reflected in the mirror-like windows; unusual absence of people. I like found myself in a computer game, traveling around some virtual reality.

Round Square
Round Square

On the round square towers one of the most interesting buildings in Astana, Transport-Tower which thanks to its appearance was nicknamed cigarette-lighter by the people. Unofficial name of this 34-storeyed erection whose height is about 130 meters has been several times the subject of discussion, with a certain degree of acidity. For a cigarette-lighter, as it were, should inflame some day. This happened in the spring of 2006, when the upper floors of the tower building burnt. The cigarette-lighter is more rarely called this name at present, probably because people do not want to court disaster once more.

Despite its monumentality the Round square seems even miniature in comparison with another square of the Levoberezhye which is called Glavnaya (Main). The ring of the Main Square is framed by a semicircle of the immense House of Ministries. It is built, as an acquaintance of mine once said, in the style associated with Stalins Empire style which is obviously designed to suggest, and suggests indeed, the idea of the countrys magnificence. The central element of the square is certainly the Presidential residence Akorda, its windows facing the House of Ministries, Senate, Mazhilis and Supreme Court, as if to remind that the supreme power constantly observes all most high-ranking servants of the people.

Astana-Baiterek Tower positioned as Kazakhstan symbol #1 has not become yet as popular a place as one wished it to be, and few people regard it as Kazakhstani Eiffel Tower. Several years should pass within which the Levoberezhye is built compactly, so that the view opening from the top of the tree of life would not abound in enclosed construction sites and skeletons of intending many-storied buildings, alternating with vast brown from clay soil areas. Actually, this will happen very soon, for the pace has been set and is to be followed.

There is a nice place in Astana from which is interesting to begin the first acquaintance with Kazakhstan in general. The matter concerns Atameken Ethnopark, a huge relief map where the models of the most important sights of the country are exposed. Though the territory of Atameken has been recently stuffed increasingly with disproportionate exhibits (which is admitted by one and all), it is still possible to see here the whole country in miniature and travel around it, using special tracks leading the visitors from one region of Kazakhstan to another.

Right next to Atameken is the famous Duman Oceanarium. There is probably no oceanarium in the world that would not bear a title like the biggest, the largest in, the deepest or the most remote from. Evidently, the scale of any project alike makes people regard objective reality in another way. Strange as it were, in Kazakhstan they decided not to sin against the truth and announced the capital oceanarium as the most distant from the ocean. And there is nothing to be done for it is difficult to find a place which is more remote from the ocean than Kazakhstan . Though even in this sense a Chinese city Urumqi may compete with Astana as being positioned as the most remote from the ocean city. Moreover, there is an oceanarium in Urumqi as well. So, everything is relative in this world, including systems of defining this very remoteness.

Ishim Quay
Ishim Quay

I cant help mentioning one of those few places where life is comparatively calm (if this word is applicable to Astana at all), which is the Ishim Quay stretching from the yellow many-storied building Astana-Tower to the foot-bridge across the river which leads to the central park. Both residents of the city and those who came to the city for a short while like to stroll slowly along the river or sit in one of the white fretted arbors. Once, some 8-9 years ago, a now deceased traveler Yuriy Senkevich sat in one of the arbors talking about Astana whose construction had just begun. Then it seemed that a sufficient number of buildings had been erected in the city to stop and rejoice at the success, but as it turned out later, everything was just beginning at that time, and real masterpieces will be constructed.

Soon the residents of Astana will be lucky to see another miracle of modern engineering, an enormous marquee that will create under its cover a special microclimate differing from the whole city. It will always be warm and windless here, irrespective of the season in the street, be it winter or summer. But it will be described by someone else in some time later. But he will certainly write it, I even have no doubt in it.

Actually, it is early to tell something about Astana, because this city belongs to the future and what is happening in it now will go down in history. That very history which will be stated a bit adorned, as usual.

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