Ulan-Ude is the third largest city in Siberia, the capital of the Republic of Buryatia, and one of the most charming and welcoming cities in Russia. In 1668, Ulan-Ude was a military post and was closed off to visitors for many years. In the early 19th century, the railway found its way to Ulan-Ude and proved significant in connecting Russia, Mongolia and China, which meant that the city rapidly transformed into one of Siberia’s cultural centres.
Ulan-Ude is located in the centre of the vast Siberian steppes, and if you’re planning your Trans adventure across the Trans-Siberian, Trans-Mongolia or Trans-Manchurian routes, Ulan-Ude is the perfect city to rest and spend a day soaking up the Buryat culture.
In what is referred to as one of Russia’s most peaceful cities, partly due to its status as the land of Buddhism, you can visit a few of the many Buddhist temples around the city, take a trip to the Ethnographic Museum, or spend a day in the village of the ‘Old Believers’.
What to do in Ulan-Ude?
Time spent in this delightful city should include a city tour, covering all the wonderful sites around the Town Square. I am now envisioning myself stepping off onto the platform and then being hit with the city’s peaceful and serene way of life.
The heart of the city is where we will find some of Ulan-Ude’s main attractions, including many of its historical sights and landmarks. Being a newly converted history enthusiast thanks to Perm (you will find out why in the next few months), the first stop on my long listed itinerary is the colossal monument of Lenin’s head towering over the city. While I would be keen to venture around Soviet Square and learn more about the city’s history, my main objective would be to take a very “creative” selfie while standing next to 42 tons of soviet history.
After thoroughly enjoying myself at the Lenin monument, I would then head across the square to see the Buryat State Opera and Ballet Theatre, one of the largest theatres and opera houses in Siberia. For a memorable summers evening in this delightful city, I recommend that you pay it a visit during the evening to watch the locals as they gather in front of the theatre, and then take part in the local entertainment.
Now that we’ve discovered a piece of the Buryat culture, the only thing left for us to do is to head to the embankment of the Uda River to explore the old merchant’s houses. I’m quite intrigued by the thought of browsing through the old houses, discovering some of their historical artefacts, and learning about how life was lived many years ago.
Discovering Buddhism in Ulan-Ude
As we are in one of the capitals of Buddhism and the home to some of the world’s most notable lamas, it is a requirement that we seek to immerse ourselves in the spiritualisation of Buddhism. My plan would include a trip to the Ivolginsky Datsan to learn more about one of the few remaining monasteries in the region after the revolution when most of the temples in the area were eradicated. After getting to experience the peacefulness of this charming city, I aim to get an insight into the lives of the monks who live there, and if possible, a meeting with an actual Lama would not be missed.
The Ethnographic Museum of the People of Trans-Baikal
In my opinion, one of the main highlights of touring Ulan-Ude, is the Ethnographic Museum of the people of Trans-Baikal. This open air museum is one of largest in Russia, and it contains a significant amount of ancient architecture, and historical artefacts relating to various groups of Russia’s indigenous inhabitants. As I explore the grounds, first on my checklist of things to see would include the museum’s collection of recreated burial mounds, as well as the old town houses made out of timber wood. During my visit, the highlight, from my perspective, would be stepping into the traditional Buryat yurts, to see life how it was lived many centuries ago; and I imagine it would feel something like time travelling through the centuries.
All good things must come to an end!
If you’ve been keeping up with my previous blogs, then you will already know that I’m a massive foodie. Similar to all the other instalments in ‘Let the adventures begin’, I will keep the tradition going by concluding my blog, and the adventures with food in mind. Concluding the adventures calls for a taste of traditional Buryat cuisine, a once in a life time dining experience that takes place inside of a local’s yurt. Dance, music and throat singing, followed by a detectable feast.
Should you decided to spend a few days in Ulan Ude, I recommend adding the National Museum of the Buryat Republic to your itinerary, particularly if you are seeking to expand your knowledge on Buddhism in the region. The museum is home to an expansive collection of items connected to Lamaism, and it preserves remnants from the abolished monasteries during the revolution.
Do svidaniya (goodbye), until next time!
Now that I’ve given you an introduction to all three cities; Novosibirsk, Kazan and Ulan-Ude, all you need to do now is browse through our excursions catalogue, or choose from one of the listed destinations.
In the next few weeks, I will be wrapping up my blog series with one final instalment in ‘Let the adventures begin’, which will be a summary of our customer’s adventures so far this year.
If you’ve already visited Ulan-Ude (with our help, we hope), we welcome you to share your thoughts and experiences with us on our social media channels; Facebook, Twitter and Google+.