Touring Ulan Ude
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Ulan Ude is the cleanest town or city I’ve seen in Russia, and I’ve been through at least 15 of them. At first I couldn’t figure it out – why this place seemed so much nicer than other places in Russia. Then I saw a team of 3 walking along the main entry road into town, picking up bits of trash.
I commented on this to my support guy Alexesy, and his local friend who joined us when we got to town. They said it was because Medvedev (president of Russia) is coming here on Monday (and staying in Hotel Baikal, where I’m staying.) But that’s only a part, probably a smaller part, of the story.
As I traveled about town today, on foot and in Alexy’s van, I covered a lot of ground. The fences are straight, the homes are well kept, everything seems clean. You can’t rebuild a city for a brief visit. The Buryat culture? Who knows? It is refreshing though.
For fun, let’s start with 3 shots outside my hotel window. Midnight, 6am and 8am.
Here’s the hotel itself.
After bike hassles, checking in, regrouping and eating at Marco Polo, I was amazed that I didn’t get back to my room to go to sleep until midnight. The sub-stories of today: Art Museum, Ethnography Museum, getting the makeshift bike together, weddings, the History Museum and wandering downtown Ulan Ude.
While waiting for the bike shop to open, we went to the local art museum. Here’s the outside and the lobby.
The guides sit inside the front door. None speak English, at least today. So I wandered myself. 3 rooms, maybe 15 minutes. They say the art rotates. I say they should get a couple more rooms. Here’s some more art form west of Siberia.
Actually very interesting subject matter and technique for such a small collection. I’m presenting two 19th century pieces, one of some aristocracy/military team sledding through the countryside, and the other of home life. The third is from 1930 – Soviet Art glorifying workers building power lines.
Then we went to the ethnography museum, just outside town.
It’s big (area wise) complex consisting of 5 reconstructed historical (partial) villages of the various clans/tribes/groups who have lived here over the past number of centuries. I took maybe 50 pictures here. In this format with the time I have, I can’t begin to go into it at all. But it was very interesting. I finally got to go into a number of the buildings made with the massive wood walls, internally and externally. It’s no wonder they last for hundreds of years.
The museum also contains some early civilization communities dating back to 500 BC. But the weird thing was the weddings. I noticed 3 of them going on in the 1-1/2 hours I was at the outdoor museum.
Then it was off to the bike shop. I avoid details here because this whole thing remains both irritating and worrisome. I have my low-end, jerry-rigged bike together. We’ll see if it can make it on these bad roads and long distances for more than a couple of days – at least to Ulan Baatar, or Ulan Bator if you prefer. Locals her pronounce it Bator.
OK, so I’m taking a few pics of the largest Lenin head in the world, in the large government-ish square across the street from my hotel – Baikal Plaza.
I notice another wedding grouping. Some doves fly out of their midst. Much cheer and joy and clapping. I start trying to figure it out. Lo and behold, looking around there five other weddings in various stages going on at the moment. Casual observation indicates it works like this.
1. People get married somewhere. Then they and their ‘party’ walk out somewhere around the main square.
2. Someone brings a cage of doves out. The newly married couple kisses as a photographer takes their picture through the cage.
3. The groom carries the bride across the street. (I saw this with my own eyes, as you are about to…)
4. Everybody walks over by the big Lenin head. Some bring doves and flowers.
More pictures, cheers. Doves let loose. More pictures, cheers. Everyone goes home. Go figure.
Back to the more mundane… Most important things (except the Ethnography Museum) seem to be located in this same, convenient few block area anchored by the large government square with the largest Lenin head in the world.
Last stop, two blocks away, on the Ulan Ude tour is the Historical Museum.
There are three floors hear. You buy each separately, and pay a fourth fee to take pictures. Here’s a shot from floor 3 looking at 2 and 3.
They guided me (in Russian) from floor to floor. Since I bought all the tickets, I had to see it all. Back on the first floor they really wanted me to see the video of the Buryats or whoever doing Mongol warrior type stuff.. riding horses, fighting, burning villages, leaving babies on the ground crying. It was quite well done, and I actually watched maybe 15 minutes of the 28-minute video.
The lady sitting next to me works for the museum. I think I was the only guest there the whole time.
I can’t let you go without an representatively unremarkable vista of the city, and a view of their Arch de Triumph, built in 1996.
That’s it for Ulan Ude. Riding south tomorrow! (two postscripts below)
1. Alexsey, my Russian support guy, has taught me a new word – “maybe”. It works for everything. If you don’t understand – “maybe”. If you understand but don’t know – “maybe”. If you understand, but may or may not like the thought – “maybe”. Very cool word. Probably using it too much in these updates, but its pretty much all I hear in English nowadays.
2. No proofing here. It’s hard enough riding the bike, taking and downloading pictures, trying to find food, writing up updates, posting them (text, post picture, resize picture, more text… repeat repeat). Apologies for typos, wrong pictures, offensive language, etc.