Serdar Health Path
This is a concrete stepped path which snakes across the northernmost line of hills of the Kopet Dag, immediately to the south of Ashgabat. To get here, take the broad Archabil Shayoly from Berzengi. The health path meets the road where the hills begin. There is a car park.
The Saparmurat Turkmenbashy Eternally Great Park was opened here at the base of the health path in May 2005, and quickly became a favoured place for summer evening strolling for Ashgabat residents opting against the steep slopes of the health path. The park boasts manicured lawns, open-sided pavilions, vast cohorts of street lights and, on selected evenings, an illuminated artificial waterfall. In front of the arched entrance to the park, a stone ball rotates continuously atop a fountain. At the back of this park is a markedly less well-tended park dedicated to Turkmen-Turkish friendship, featuring 12,000 trees brought from Turkey.
The most heavily used part of the health path stretches westwards from here for 8km, ending close to the site of Old Nisa. The path is lined by metal balustrades and frequent lamps, providing a meandering line of light which can be clearly seen at night from planes flying into Ashgabat Airport. At roughly 1 km intervals, small golden-domed pavilions provide a place to rest. The health path does not provide the pleasantest of walks - the initial stretch is a steep climb along a concrete stairway to reach the ridge of the hills. But the views from the top arc good, down towards Ashgabat beyond large areas newly planted with top are good, down towards Ashgabat beyond large areas newly planted with straight rows of conifers: all part of President Niyazov's scheme to create a green belt around Ashgabat. The small complex of white marble-faced buildings between the path and Berzengi is the Palace of Orphans, a gift to Turkmenistan from the United Arab Emirates.
The highest point on the health path is marked by a large Turkmen flag. A helipad just beneath this was used by President Niyazov at the opening ceremony. The president flew to the top to greet his ministers and officials, who had made the journey the hard way. There is a much longer stretch of path heading eastwards from Archabil Shayoly, but this is less widely used, and is in a poor state of repair.
Turkmen television frequently extols the health-giving benefits of regular walks along the path. Niyazov held a Cabinet meeting there in March 2003, when he chided his ministers for taking the 8km stretch too slowly. They should be able to do the walk in 90 minutes, he said. It would set them up for a good day at the office.