Trans Eurasia travel

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New Square

Immediately to the west of the Museum of the First President of Kazakhstan stands the large rectangle of green known as New Square. This is centred on a fountain named Tree Life Fountain in AstanaThe Tree of Life. At the heart of the fountain is a stylised depiction of the Baiterek, the tree of life of Kazakh legend. It takes the form of a large ball decorated with swirly floral designs. The interior of the ball is favoured by nesting birds, giving the fountain an additional aural quality as the sound of birdsong rings out. Animal figures, which apparently symbolise the four elements according to Turkic traditions, complete the ensemble, though I'm curious as to how a sheep came to represent fire. The bull representing water appears not to have been doing his job: the fountain is usually dry.

On the west side of the square is the House of Ministries, completed in 1999. With a metallic-tiled and glass-walled exterior, the most interesting architectural feature of the building is that, in plan, it takes the form of a giant dollar sign. Appropriately enough, it currently houses Kazakhstan's Finance Ministry.