Miracles do happen. I’ve been sporadically shooting bus stops in Kazakhstan for several years. And then I suddenly found out that I’m not alone in this strange hobby of mine.
What kind of magic is in them?
Christopher Herwig, a German photographer, shot them all around Central Asia and even published a book on this. And recently another German photographer, Michael Kruscha, has visited our place to add more to his all-over-the-world bus-stop collection. I helped him to arrange his trip around Kazakhstan, and accompanied him in his visits to bus stops. Certainly, with my own axe to grind: to seek, to find, and to shoot bus stops!
Bus stops or “waiting houses” (literally from German Wartehäuschen). These are two functional notions: a person waits – a bus stops. As for me personally, I like the word “waiting houses” more.
These houses look particularly weird along great distances of a country as big as Kazakhstan. Somewhere in the backwater at some crossroads they stand “in the middle of nowhere”. It doesn’t sound right in Russian, here we have our own phrases like “у черта на куличках” (hell and gone). But the English phrase “in the middle of nowhere” has been my favourite one to describe Kazakhstan as tourist destination for several years. But it must be a typical vision of it for a foreigner from the west. The Tourism Industry Committee of Kazakhstan rejected it as a country brand.
Bus stops are so different all around the world. It is well-shown in Michael Kruscha’s exhibition in Tengri Umai, gallery of Almaty.
But in Kazakhstan they are special! These are not just waiting houses, but small waiting palaces and the Soviet way of life, fixed in concrete.
In the country where social life wasn’t just lived but was carefully planned, even bus stops were not just an architectural haphazard. Culture reigned everywhere – at working places and even at places of bus-waiting. It was embodied in diversified bus stops built with various themes. Many of them lived through the change of epochs, and today they still stand along the roads, creatively renovated and lovingly repainted.
Many vehicles go along these roads… There are old and rusty boneshakers that sped here 30 years ago, being back then young and luxurious Soviet cars. There are cool hosses demonstrating the wealth of their owners. There go clattering ancient trucks, buses and timeworn motorbikes as if from museums, and new Chinese dump trucks, too. But soon nothing will clatter, because roads are adapted for new needs of the modern uninterrupted freight traffic from China to Europe. Roads will be smooth, with no holes in them. And waiting houses are also going to be destroyed in order to widen the roads... I feel sorry for them. I am going to miss them. And those people who still go by buses in this country will miss them, too. Even if they will be replaced by new, up-to-date ones.
The real time has only one direction to move. But our memory transforms it into an endless space where we may freely move to any place we wish. Someday, when steel-and glass bus stops, Н&M and Gucci billboards that are one and the same all over the world will finally have their triumph, we will nostalgically recall those unique bus stops – waiting houses. And photos made by people who loved them will help us.