Well, we are here for our last non-mobile night in Russia in Ulan Ude, the capital of Russian Buryatia. We arrived last night after a too-long 7 hour daytime scenic train ride, exhausted and happy to be in a room with beds and a hot shower.
This morning, we met up with our guide from Baikal Naran Tour to head to Involgsk Datsan, the center of russian Buddhism near Ulan Ude. The Datsan (monastery/temple) was beautiful and very peaceful, and I unfortunately only took film and 35mm photos there, nothing on digital to post. I’ve been inside various Buddhist temples in Japan and Thailand and North America, but the Russian flavour was quite different, with high ceilings, quilts on the ceiling, and skylights. It was beautiful and well worth the time and effort in getting there.
After our tour ended, around 1, we walked around the downtown core of Ulan Ude. A city of almost 500,000 now, 380,000 in 2001 when our guidebook was published, Ulan Ude is large and spread out, but the downtown core is fairly compact and easy to walk.
We stopped for quite a bit at this spectacular opera and ballet theater. It reminded me more of something to be seen in Spain or Austria than in Siberia.
Walking up Ulitsa Lenina, we strolled along another pedestrian mall and through the central market (disappointing compared to Kazan) to this church which sparkled in the afternoon sunlight.
And of course, no tour of Ulan Ude would be complete without a visit to Russia’s largest “Head of Lenin”, dominating the central square.
We’ve been particularly blessed with weather. While yesterday, on the train, was dreary and rainy, today was beautifully mild and sunny.
After this quick post, we head back to the hotel to get our food and packing sorted for tomorrow’s VERY EARLY train. Leaving just before 1am Moscow time, 6am local time, it’s earlier than we’re used to on this trip. But at least we should have hot showers in the morning!
This train, I am particularly nervous about. We’ve booked the entire 4 bunk compartment, but we’ve also heard some stories from other travellers about mongolian traders trying to take over every available space in every compartment, whether or not they actually are staying in that compartment. We’re hoping to just keep the door locked and secured and hope it’s more calm than that. OK, to be honest, we’ve only heard of one traveller with this problem, a lady from Wales we met in the hotel today. Our Aussie acquaintences in Irkutsk never mentioned this problem. So, here’s hoping! Either way, I will be very glad when our guide meets us in Ulan Baatar.
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