An icy wonderland, wearing a swimsuit in a Siberian winter
I am so looking forward to my stay in Ulan Ude, I plan to stay for 6 days. I originally planned only an overnight stop but after talking with friends when I was in Tyumen I have decided to take a tour here, their description of the ice grotto’s as magical caught my attention and imagination.
I am so glad I am traveling independently, a little bit hard when booking my onward tickets as my Russian is not so good but I have found many people who are willing to help, even to writing down what I want in Cyrillic, the Russian language that looks like symbols! Traveling as I am, is allowing me to take diversions and longer stays if something interesting is happening and the other nice thing is it gives me chance to meet up with others doing the same thing.
I am staying at the Ulan Ude Travelers Hostel, that again has been recommended by friends and The Lonely Planet. I had the instructions how to get there written down in English and Russian but I had no problems once I got to Lenin’s head, a rather large monument with the unlikely honor of being the largest bronze head of Lenin in the world at 7.7m high its is certainly unmissable.
Ulan Ude has been a town of many names, starting life as a Cossack ostrog (fort), it was originally called Udinskoye which became Udinsk in 1775, and then in 1783 it was called Verkhneudinsk to differentiate it from another town on another River Uda, apparently there are two River Uda’s in Russia. This name remained until 1934 when during the communist years it became Ulan Ude (Red Uda), a reflection of the Communist ideology. Due to military installations Ulan Ude has been a closed town and was only opened in 1980.The hostel is a new adventure for me and I am finding it very interesting and informative and the facilities excellent. The beds clean and spacious,with internet and hot water, the travelers essentials!
I have also joined with a group there to go on a three day tour to Lake Baikal, described as a ‘winter fairy tale’, the lake, in Bay Chivyrkuisky, also boasts ice grottos and hot springs, can’t quite believe I am packing my swimsuit, in Siberia, in winter! We will be staying with host families and that I am especially looking forward to, also having a meal of fresh fish caught by the ice fisherman sounds tasty.
Before all of that, tomorrow I am off to drive a husky sleigh in the morning and visit an open air museum in the afternoon. The Ethnographic Museum of the Peoples of Transbaikal is one of Russia’s largest. It reflects the diversity of the region and the Mongolian-Buddhist culture of the area, highlighting the fact I am moving ever nearer to the East and its influence can be seen in the architecture and people around me.