17 Nov 2008
During the weekdays, visitors are few. There are about as many cows on the road as cars. The traffic seldom obscures the magnificent view of the mountain ridges, … the free flowing streams … and the trees all shrouded with the beauty of this mid-September day. The many varieties of trees … all with their unique decorations … make this a truly celestial experience, … a time of reflection on God’s goodness. For some, this is expressed on a tree with prayer ribbons and thanks offerings. For others, it is time for a short rest before hiking on up the hillside past the birch, poplar, oak and fir trees.
Reopening in 2002 after a long period of construction, the large ice stadium just south of the city of Medeu can be used almost anytime during the year. Professional competition is offered for international participants. For those who enjoy skating, this is a favorite place.
The road winds in a series of switchbacks as one climbs on higher to the top of the huge 500 foot-high earthen dam. The Medeu Dam, built in the late 1960s, stands immediately south of the skating stadium, protecting it … and the city of Almaty … from potentially devastating mudflows.
Continuing on into the mountains, one finds another place of rest … the popular Shymbulak, Ski Resort where the 2011 Asian Winter Games will be held. The homes and chalets built along a narrow ridge next to the road are for those seeking refuge … a second home … and away from the busyness and confines of Almaty.
The pylons have been put into place for the cable cars, which will connect Medeu and Shymbulak,.
At an elevation of about 8,000 feet, the paved road abruptly ends and turns into a rough, dirt trail, … a place where maintenance men have embarked on their day’s job high in these mountains preparing the way for others to go on up toward the mountain peaks.
The historical significance of this place is often lost in its modern development. It was high in the mountains near here, … during the solar eclipse on January First 1907, … that scientists armed with telescopes and cameras obtained the first physical evidence to prove Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.
Along the road, there are special places to stop. For some, this is at the spring flowing down from the rocks. Plastic jugs are filled with this water, … water believed to have healing and spiritual properties. Just across the road is a reminder that this was once a wild place where large animals were plentiful. Another water source piped down from above is a problem for some. The pressure is so great that attempts to fill bottles knocks them out of one’s hand and on to the rocks below.
There is another part of living history just a short distance from the main road near Medeu. These are the dachas of the past but still are used today. They were built during the Soviet times when families spent most of their summer here. Fruit and vegetables would be raised in their gardens and preserved for use back in the city during the winter. The apple trees, like the houses, are getting old but still produce a useful crop.
Fences around the small plots of land are made from whatever scrap materials can be found. At one time, however, a family surely enjoyed the picnic table under the shade of the apple trees.
A few residents remain here all winter. They have a satellite receiver and plenty of wood to keep warm. The makeshift outdoor shower is only for the summer. Occasionally, a shepherd makes his way up the steep hillside as his flock seeks the last few clumps of grass before the snow covers the landscape.
This land of celestial beauty is a place that appears void of houses of worship; … no churches, no mosques … but then, God’s creation is all around. It is here that people have time to rest and to thank God for who He is. But, … do they?
The great teacher, Jesus, said:
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.
For My yoke is easy and My load is light.”
Overlay: Matthew 11:28-30
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