Sunday, June 1, 2008

Child Protection Day and Burana Tower

Today was Child Protection Day in Kyrgyzstan. As we drove to the orphanage and back we saw scores of children and families crowding to the parks. According to a website on this:

International Child Protection Day is marked in Kyrgyzstan with a series of events during which children are showered with free gifts. The day starts with crowds of children gathering in parks, enjoying their free ice creams while listening to concerts. Many organizations support this event by donating gifts to children’s institutions and hospitals. The media publish articles praising the charity and generosity. The purpose of UNICEF’s campaign, “1 June”, organised in partnership with the Prime Minister’s Office, and the Department of Social Development and Information, is to promote the idea that children ought to be given love, care and protection every single day.

After we left the orphanage today (where I really think The Princess was not feeling well), our drivers had agreed to drive us over to Burana Tower. Wikipedia states:

The Burana Tower is a large minaret in the Chui Valley in northern Kyrgyzstan. It is located about 80 km east of the country's capital Bishkek, near the town of Tokmok. The tower, along with grave markers, some earthworks and the remnants of a castle and three mausoleums, is all that remains of the ancient city of Balasagun, a city that was established by the Karakhanids at the end of the 9th century. An external staircase and steep, winding stairway inside the tower enables visitors to climb to the top.

The tower was originally 45 m (148 ft) high. However, over the centuries a number of earthquakes caused significant damage to the structure. The last major earthquake in the 15th century destroyed the top half of the tower, reducing it to its current height of 25m (82 ft). A renovation project was carried out in the 1970s to restore its foundation and repair the west-facing side of the tower, which was in danger of collapse.

The entire site, including the mausoleums, castle foundations and grave markers, now functions as museum and there is a small building on the site containing historical information as well as artifacts found at the site and in the surrounding region.

Advantour's site says this about the site:

Burana Tower is seven km. far from the city of Tokmok. It is an 11th century minaret, and one of the first buildings of such type in Central Asia. The original height of minaret was 45 meters. Today the tower is 24.6 meters high, the remaining part came down during an earthquake in the 15th century. In the 10th to 12th centuries, Karakhanids khanate was a great feudal state of Central Asia and Kazakhstan. The founders, "karakhans", chigil tribes by birth, lived in the Tien-Shan and for a short time of the second half of the 10th century they conquered a large territory. One of the capitals of this state was Balasagun. In Karakhanids' time new towns and settlements were developing, the centers of big cities were improved and Moslem religious buildings were built in the town of Balasagun. Burana tower, mausoleums and other buildings found after archeological excavations are the witnesses of that build up. The town's life declined slowly, people left it, the buildings fell apart and finally in the 15th century it ceased to exit.

We paid 40 som ($1.10 USD) each to visit the tower and surrounding area. NOW, somebody in our group should have researched going up into the tower before we went. It is STRAIGHT UP, dark part of the way, and requires quite a bit of physical strength to get up and even more leg strength to get back down. It is only wide enough for one person at a time to go up or down. But the view from the top is incredible!!

I enjoyed the carved grave markers. Josh and Kevin enjoyed climbing the unearthed palace area. Apparently, they have not unearthed this area yet and think it is the area of the palace that was in the original complex.

More later!

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