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Ashgabat Park

Shevchenko Kochesi crosses the main north-south artery of Turkmenbashy Shayoly. Heading north along the latter road, you pass on your right the pink-coloured building now housing the Russian Embassy, which was built for a visit to Ashgabat by Nehru, though apparently never used by the Indian leader. The two-storey building is dwarfed by a white-marble apartment block, constructed on the site of the old Hotel Oktyabrskaya, reached through a curving arcade of marble-faced columns typical of the designs favoured in post-independence Ashgabat.

Across the road, the energetic fountains signal the presence of the oldest park in Ashgabat. Now officially titled Ashgabat Park, this rectangle of greenery is more widely known by its Soviet name of First Park (the sinister-sounding Perviy Park in Russian). The park was laid out in 1887, using convict labour. The place was originally known as the Officers' Park, and entry was restricted to privileged sections of tsarist Ashgabat society. An odd little folly in the park, comprising a small hillock topped by a pavilion, dates from the tsarist period. The video rental store occupying the space inside the hillock is a more recent addition. The open-air auditorium here once housed the Philharmonic Society named after Milli Techmiradov. The telpek-ed bust of Techmiradov which stood outside it has been removed, though the plinth is still there. The park houses a small funfair, decaying basketball court and unwelcoming-looking concrete restaurant.