02 Dec 2008
Borovoye, … sometimes called the “Pearl of Kazakhstan”, is a place where legends are made. … Where it is said that when God was creating the world one of the nations was given rich forests, another got fertile fields with green pastures, another a large tree-lined river and a fourth received beautiful mountains, blue lakes and streams flowing down the steep ravines … but, … all that the Kazakhs received was the steppe, a huge desolate expanse of flatland stretching for hundreds of miles with only feather-grass and scrub providing a few places for cattle, horses and sheep to graze. Besides, their land was brutally cold in the winter so, … they asked God to endow them with some natural beauty. God kindly took the mountains, rocks, pine and deciduous forests, blue lakes with pure water and put them all together to make the region in northern Kazakhstan now known as Burabai. In the Kazakh language, “Burabai” refers to the camel shaped mountains in the area. Borovoye, referring to “little trees”, is the name given to the area by the Russians.
Another legend concerns the rock formation in Borovoye Lake. The legend of the Zhumbaktas rock, … a rock puzzle, … also called the “Sphinx” … tells of the time when the Khan of the middle Khuz captured a beautiful Kalmyk girl for his bride. The girl refused to marry him and jumped to her death into the blue gulf below. The legend goes on to say that the Zhumbaktas rock formation came into being as the marker for her grave. Today people see different images depending upon where the rock is viewed. There are those who see a crocodile wearing a hat. To some, … the face of a young girl with flowing hair is seen, … then a woman and, … finally, an old woman. Many people visit this area and leave their mark on the rock puzzle, often in large letters for all to see.
Others tie ribbons of cloth on tree branches, an ancient Tengrist practice thought to bring people closer to heaven, spirits and their ancestors.
The little community at the beginning of the 20-mile highway around the lake now has a 24-hour restaurant and other merchants. Early in the morning there are workers out cleaning the streets and students are on their way to school. Others stand along the tree-lined main street waiting for a bus.
Here the hotels are new, often with western style appearance including a restaurant, a carefully attended flowerbed and parking area. However, they are expensive and the accommodations are sometimes not the quality a westerner would expect. Still, much of this small town is old, reflecting times past when the visitors were few. The roads are dirt and wood from the forest is used for heating. Even so, the vegetable garden and the outside toilets are common and the satellite TV antenna is now a part of many homes.
The city of Shuchinsk is the gateway to the Burabai Region. It is located on the highway between Astana and Kokshetau and only 18 miles from Borovoye but here little has changed. There are the old Soviet style apartment buildings, … some empty … and all in need of repair. Many of the side streets are not paved and an occasional farm tractor makes its way to the fields. Wood frame homes hearken back to the 60’s when this was a major part of the Virgin Lands Project. The railroad terminal is still in use and represents the source of income for many. Nevertheless, … changes have begun with a few new buildings. Before long major changes will occur. A six-lane highway from Astana is nearly complete, … a pathway for the hordes of tourists that will follow this road and forever change this city and the region.
The master plan for Kazakhstan calls for Borovoye to become one of the three major tourist areas of the country. Hotels, restaurants, recreation, fountains and, yes, … gambling casinos … are converging on this place of legends. One wonders if the lady in the rock puzzle will be seen with a smile or with tears.
“For since the creation of the world
God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature –
have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made,
so that men are without excuse”
Romans 1:20 (NIV)
Khuz kwhose (like “whose is it?” with a soft k on the front)
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