A few days ago, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, together with the government members, made a working trip to Gurtly Lake in the northern suburbs of Ashgabat and, following the trip results, instructed to build a recreation center there.
Good news for beach vacation lovers, especially amid closure of the Avaza National Tourist Zone in summer due to a pandemic and a ban on swimming in the Caspian Sea. And this is especially good news for older people who caught that time when Ashgabat residents and guests of the city had fun on the shores of Gurtly, or as Russian-speaking residents of Ashgabat called it, Kurtli Lake.
The author of these lines entered the Turkmen State University in 1980, and one day our group, at the suggestion of students of Ashgabat, went to the lake for vacation. Following that trip, we spent all weekends at the lake before the set of cool weather. In summer, almost all residents of the city were vacationing at the lake although the recreation infrastructure that time, as I understand it now, was more than modest.
It was a good lake, a decent beach (if you haven’t seen other beaches), a modest boat station, where, however, it was possible to rent a boat any time for a small fee. The catering industry was, indeed, very modest, consisting of a few shashlik cafes and soft drinks selling stalls. That’s all.
Oh yes, I have forgotten to specify another very important thing – our youth. Therefore, in that period, the lake seemed to us to be “an earthly heaven”. And what fishing was there. Listening to old-time fishers, there was plenty of fish. Altogether, that was the reason why the residents of Ashgabat then regarded Gurtly Lake, as the Swiss probably regard Lake Geneva. It was a very popular and favorite recreation site. But this is not enough.
It was also necessary to invest in lake, in the beach vacation infrastructure so that it was always a high class. And there was a significant lack of that. Investments, mainly, were restricted to funding by people, various departments or public organizations to simply build up the lake shore with departmental boarding and recreation houses or private dachas. Construction works were carried out chaotically, disregarding the reservoir’s ecology, thinking, first of all, about immediate personal, or, in the best cases, departmental interests.
In truth, even garbage was not regularly taken away, and the area had an unsightly look. Moreover, the local authorities did not pay attention to the siltation of the reservoir. In a word, there was no economic, caring attitude to the lake. The danger of losing it was of the least concern, which, ultimately, happened. The lake began to decline as a recreation center from the mid-80s of the last century.
Already no one had offered to go to sunbathe on the beach on a hot weekend. That was possible to do more or less normally if your friend, relative or good acquaintance had a summer house at the lake, or if you have a good acquaintance at an institution that had boarding houses there. But getting a bus or taxi and going to the lake as easily as in the 70s and in the first half of the 80s became problematic. The shores of the lake, which used to be a common property, were just taken by pieces.
Of course, now no one doubts that the lake will become a new recreation center for residents of Turkmenistan, and after the pandemic, foreign guests too. Now the situation is fundamentally different than it was 40-50 years ago. And the state is now different, and most importantly, the capabilities, resources, knowledge and technology are now several times greater than before. But it is equally important in this respect to take into account experience. When creating a new recreation infrastructure, it would be useful to remember what and why happened with the old facilities. This is the human strong point.