Last train ride in Russia.
The ride from Irkutsk to Ulan Ude, the capital of Republic of Buryatia, is the last one in Russia during this trip and of course is also the end of my Trans-Siberian route. For some part the ride offers great view of Lake Baikal and its beaches. Since the trip lasts about eight hours and it is done in the daytime I didn’t have problem in taking a third class ticket and I was very happy of my choice because I had the chance to have a further sample of people travelling along Trans-Siberian. There is lady with her small dog camped in the upper berth, a dozen of young soldiers looking quite tired because probably they’re travelling by days but nevertheless still able to understandably ogle a girl going up and down the coach “dressed” in a quite provocative outfit. If you take a look at the gallery of my post on things to know about Trans-Siberian it wouldn’t hard to identify whom I’m talking about. It was a nice way to say goodbye to Russian trains. Yes, because unfortunately since the train to Ulaanbaatar doesn’t run on daily basis, it wasn’t available when I wanted and therefore I had to opt for the bus. Having the guest-house located very close to the railway station, even arriving late afternoon I had the chance to start my visit to Ulan Ude immediately after my arrival, this way keeping some time to visit, on next day, also the quite famous buddhist monastery in Ivolga.
The town of the big head.
Ulan Ude, less than 200 kilometres north of border with Mongolia is the capital of Republic of Buryatia and it tastes already of Mongolia or at least this is the feeling since I’ve never visited Mongolia so far. Maybe it is also because this town’s name is similar to the one of Mongolia’s capital. Meaning of the word “Ulan” common to both names is “red”, so Ulan Ude means red Ude (the name of one of its rivers) while Ulan Bator means red hero. Ulan Ude, often shortened as UU, even if is not very full of touristic sights is still a pleasant town. And I confirm that in spite of the fact that the city’s landmark is a huge head of Lenin located in Sovetov square and proudly claimed by locals as the biggest in the world. The head is actually very impressive, nothing to say about it, but my doubts is about this world supremacy. I’ve visited most of former USSR and Eastern Europe and I’ve seen many of Lenin’s full figure sculptures. The sole head is something I saw only in Ulan Ude. It doesn’t seem it was an hard competition then. Other than the “head”, UU offers to the many visitors stopping here on their way to east (Vladivostok, China), west (Moscow) or South (Mongolia), a bunch of nice street where to stroll. There is also an “Arbat”, likely the shortest I saw in this trip. There are few churches not very remarkable, to be honest. The nicest is probably the Odigitria Cathedral and it was good I went to see it because near by, in Linkhovoina street, I’ve found a hidden gem not mentioned in any travel guide I read. A sort of 130 District, like the I’ve described in my post about Irkutsk. A street with beautiful traditional wooden houses. The one in Ulan Ude seems to be made just with refurbished houses originally built here, while in Irkutsk some was built from scratch and some other one moved from elsewhere. There are not so many buildings, I would say a dozen not more but the entire area is really tide and nice. Last sight I would like to mention is the Victory Memorial Park located more or less at one kilometre from the Cathedral. It is a mix of Soviet rhetoric and a well arranged greenery, with fountains where locals come to relax. This post continues to next page