Russia
Respublika Buryatiya

Here you’ll find travel reports about Respublika Buryatiya. Discover travel destinations in Russia of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

18 travelers at this place:

  • Day21

    Privet Ulan-Ude!

    April 21 in Russia

    My last stop in Russia has probably been one of the best. Let's catch you up withy my stay in Ulan-Ude.

    Train 5 - Irkutsk to Ulan-Ude

    As this train journey was only seven hours and was during the day I decided to choose a seat instead of a bed. My carriage was only about a third full so was a very quiet journey. I read most of the way, although stopping to take in the amazing view of the lake which we travelled alongside for about an hour. I still can't quite get over its size. I arrived in Ulan-Ude at about 10pm and walked the short distance to my hostel. I was quite hungry when i got there and the girl working at the hostel told me there was a shop nearby that would be open. On the way there though i noticed a Subway out of the corner of my eye. I caved. I chose the easy option. Don't judge me...

    Day 1 - Ivolginsky Datsan

    I decided to take the local bus out of the city to the village of Ivolgiansky to visit the datsan (Buddhist monestary) which is the oldest Buddhist monestary in Russia. The journey was very straightforward and I arrived after 40 minutes. As it is a Buddhist temple there are a few rules which should be followed when inside the complex. When you enter the complex (which is a series of temples and buildings within a walled area) you have to walk around the tiled path in a clockwise direction, in a proud manner (being in thought or prayer), and you must spin the Mantra scrolls that you pass them, which is supposed to symbolise the mantras being read and the enegry being released. Only after have you completed this circuit can you enter the temples themself. After the first circuit I walked around again and then went into each other temples as I walked by. As you enter you must take off your hat as a sign of respect, and when inside you must also walk around the room in a clockwise direction. Each temple I went in was empty apart from a single monk who i assume is there to look after the buildings between prayers. The buildings themselves are very colourful, and insde are decorated with a number of coloured silk scarfs and flags. There is an area in the middle of each one with small seats and cussions where the monks pray. And as they are meant for prayer it is forbidden to take pictures inside. It was very peacful walking around the monestary, and as it is off season for tourists, and it was actually snowing that day the place was nearly empty. Just a few monks walking around and locals who are visiting to pray. As i was trying to enter the main central monestary a monk came over to see if I needed help. He explained that the temple was closed as the monk was probably eating. He then said that he had some free time and would i like him to show me around. He explained that each temple was build for a different lama. And the one that i was trying to enter was actually for the 12th Pandito Hambo Lama who was 166 years old and was inside meditating and has been like that for 95 years. More on that later. He gave me a small tour of the complex where he showed me a few temples, the university where the apprentice monks train, and was even kind enough to show me his house on the site. As we were walking around he explained that he studied in India in an english school and that is why he can speak the language but he has forgotten alot, so when he sees tourists here and has some free time he likes to talk to them to practice. As we were about to part ways, as the main temple was about to open again, he asked if I had facebook. So now folks I am facebook friends with a very cool Buddhist Monk. I didn't expect that when i woke up this morning! I then whent to visit the 166 year old Lama. And as no photos were alowed inside the temple I am afraid you will have to visit Ulan-Ude to see him for yourself. Words will not suffice.

    Day 2 - Ulan-Ude

    I decided to get the local bus to Datsan Rinpoche Bagsha, the temple within the city, which also provided a panoramic view of the city. When i got on the bus it was standing room only and I positioned myself in the aisle next to an older man. I glanced at him and he took that as an ivitation to start talking to me. I told him i didn't speak any Russian (in Russian), but he carried on talking to me. He had a book with him, which i later learned was of foreign literature, and he was trying to show me pages from England, in Russian. I kept smiling and nodding along and then he closed the book and handed to me and said "present". I said "are you sure?" and he kept nodding. I thanked him and took the book and then sat down in a newly empty seat. He then turned around to me and nodded and said "hmm... Beatles!...John Lennon... Paul McCartney...". I then interjected "Da... Ringo Star." He smiled excitedly and then turned away. I then heard people laughing and turned around and saw two local girls who said "he's crazy". After a few minutes he got up for his stop and said "Goodbye my friend" as he left. Well that was definitely the most interaction I've had with a local who wasn't working in a hostel. Once at the temple I followed the same rules as the previous day and walked around the complex in a clockwise direction, but this time i took a few pictures as I walked as it seemed to be a more relaxed place. As I was walking around I saw the two girls from the bus ahead of me talking. As I approached them one turned around and said "Hello, where are yoou from?", I said "England", they said "Oh, England! How exciting! Maybe we can help you?", I said "oh yes please!" Cue me spending the next hour with them walking around the temple, talking about travelling and what they do (both 22 years old, studying helicopter engineering). One of the girls, Kristine, spoke English quite well and the other one, Masha, could understand quite a bit but only felt confident to speak a few words. After walking around for about an hour, talking and taking pictures, we came to the end of the temple walk. The girls then asked what my plans were for the rest of the day. I said I had none. They then said they had another friend who had a car and we could go to the Ethnological museum just outside the city. Of course I jumped at the chance. We got the bus back to the city centre and then walked down the main pedestrian street to where their friend picked us up. Sasha spoke no English at all so spoke with Masha in the front while me and Kristine sat in the back seat. During the drive I could work out that Masha was telling Sasha about the man on the bus. It was then that Kristine told me that the man was actually telling me the he didn't like England or English people and that the Queen was a bad person. And he seemed so friendly! Oh well... My new friends were very sweet and insisted on buying my ticket for the museum, with Sasha saying "present". The ethnological museum is a big open are museum where there are loads of actual houses from different areas of Russia from the last hundred or so years. The houses have actually been moved from other parts of Russia and rebuilt in the museum. It was really interesting walking around and seeing how people used to live in the past, and comparing the sizes of houses to what we are used to now. We walked aroung the museum for about an hour, during which my new friends asked if I wanted to go to Lake Baikal, two hours drive there and back. I thanked them but explained that I had already been and I think too far for me today. After the museum we drove back to the city and they dropped me at my hostel, not before exchanging Instagram details though!

    So what I have learnt is that in Ulan-Ude, if you look like a tourist you will attract such kind and helpful people, as they are so surprised that you have travelled to their small city far away from Moscow. I don't think i have to tell you that it has been my favourite city in Russia to date.

    So there you have the last of my stories from Russia.

    Before I leave you again here are a few things i have learnt about Russia:
    1. All trains run on Moscow time (which is mighty confusing when the country spans 11 time zones!)
    2. The trains run bang on time.
    3. There is no drainage system in the roads (which means lots of surface water during spring).
    4. Unfortunately (for some western travellers at least) you cannot flush toilet paper, there are seperate bins for that...
    5. Russians have two passports, a domestic and an international passport. Very handy I think.
    6. Unlike other places I have been, you will find many locals living in hostels as they work in other cities for short periods.
    7. There is a statue of Lenin in every city in Russia (and in Ulan-Ude it is just his head, but it is huge!)
    8. Russians like weird statues.
    9. It is not impossible to be Vegan here, but it definitely gets harder the further east you go.
    10. Russia is a MASSIVE country, and one that is definitely worth exploring!

    So that concludes my Russian journey. Next stop Mongolia!

    Dosvidaniya!!
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  • Day10

    Arrival in Ulan-Ude

    April 15 in Russia

    We had a bit of drama going from Moscow to Ulan-Ude as they picked up on Kyria’s hand luggage as we were about to board. Even though it had been ‘let through’ on the previous flight with the same air line they weren’t going to this time. So they had to pay extra. We held up the buses in the process! At least she only had to pay for it one leg.

    Oh and I nearly lost my phone and iPad without knowing it. A guy had knocked my tray off the security bag line and stuff had all fallen out. I had already gone through and was waiting on the other side. Eli was behind the guy and was getting annoyed at him cos he wasn’t going to pick the stuff up and when he did he just dumped it straight on the line instead of putting it back in the tray. So I didn’t realise that my phone and iPad hadn’t come through. A guy came up to me once we were seated at the gate with them in his hand. He wanted me to log in to prove they were mine. Having not missed them, I was bewildered that he had them and didn’t even thank him! I still don’t know how he knew they were mine or who he was!

    Again we were all seated separately but Heidi and I had a row to ourselves this time (why they didn’t seat Eli there I don’t know) and Eli had armed me with some healthier snacks for her so it was a smoother flight. She slept for most of the flight. It was about 5 1/2 hours and we crossed a few time zones so when we arrived in Ulan-Ude it was about 7.30 in the morning. We are now about 2 hours behind home.

    None of us had slept much on the flight except for Kyria and Heidi so we felt pretty zonked.

    The airport was relatively small and you had to crowd into a little room to get your luggage off the conveyor. Then they wanted us to show our baggage tickets to prove it was ours - who does that!! I think I was the only one to still have mine!

    We found a taxi to take us to our apartment and he even rang the guy to let him know we had arrrived. I hadn’t dressed for cold cos it was so hot in the airports and planes. There was quite a cold breeze happening and we had to wait for about 1/2 hour the guy to turn up. The boys had gone for a walk to see if they could find somewhere else to stay. The guy turned up with a friend in another car. Apparently we had booked too late and the apartment wasnt ready (Eli had only booked I the other night) so they were going to drive us to another apartment! They were even happy to drive us to a hotel if we wanted.

    So we jumped in their cars and drove to another place which also wasn’t ready so they went to another one. They were really friendly and helpful and went above and beyond what they needed to do. The helped Eli organise a hire car for the week, went and organised a sim for his phone and said for him to call them if we needed anything, even though we were staying in the apartment for a couple of days. Really really hospitable.

    The rest of us had flaked out at the apartment and had a nap for an hour or two while the other stuff was being organised! It always hits so much harder flying the other way.

    At around 2-3pm we went for a bit of a walk, found a canteen nearby and had a meal as we were so hungry by this point. The food was ok - I don’t think we will go there again though. Then we went for a bit of a walk around the square before heading back after getting a few supplies from a mini-mart near us.

    Dinner was at an English Pub in the main square. After a good meal, we spent the evening at the apartment. We were subjected to a couple of hours of Heidi crying. I think her body clock was out and she’s also coming down with a cold 🙄 somehow Michael managed to sleep through her wailing - I’m still nonplussed!
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  • Day12

    Drive to Lake Baikal

    April 17 in Russia

    We were leaving to go stay near Lake Baikal for a couple of days so we had to pack up and leave the apartment again. The owner met us at 9.30 and we lugged the suitcases down the stairs - well the others did, I only carried the lighter bags, bit spoilt really. Eli brought the car around and we managed to fit all the luggage in.

    We had breakfast at the usual place and then walked down to the main mall to meet our guide from yesterday to have a coffee with him and see his museum. It was a lot colder today. The weather seems quite changeable here.

    We had a tour of the museum from one of the staff and learnt about the history of Ulan-Ude and how it began. It was settled by various tribes and was not particularly part of Russia. Then when Chenghis Khan started attacking and stealing, the Russian Emperor offered his protection to the area of Ulan-Ude in exchange for the area becoming part of Russia. It grew bigger due to being part of the trading route.

    We then had coffee with our guide (Eli wants me to add that he was the Director of the museum - I think it made him feel important 😂) and he gave us some information about what we can do around Lake Baikal with a bit of a map. He was very friendly and even offered to show us some other things when we were back in Ulan-Ude. It is nice to have a few people to call on if we need help or get stuck!

    Then we hit the road. We were hoping to find a petrol station on the way out but we left town and still hadn’t come across one on the way. The petrol was low, so much to Eli’s annoyance we had to go back into town and fill up as we weren’t sure how far the next one would be. We went on our way again but Eli was wondering if the petrol gauge didn’t work properly as it was sitting on low again! Then the light came on! He thought the guy at the petrol station had filled the car up - so perhaps the gauge wasn’t working. We decided to keep on and stop at the next station we came across. Turned out they hadn’t filled it up properly at the last place - something must have got lost in translation! He’d only put a couple of litres in! So we had it filled up properly next time. Lucky we hadn’t assumed the gauge was just out and kept going!

    The scenery was quite pretty, driving over the mountains and through what looked like white birch forests. There was still quite a bit of snow in the ground which gave quite a magical effect.

    It took a few hours to get to the lake. It was completely frozen over and covered with snow drifts in areas. We could see people doing ice fishing as we drove by. This was something we wouldn’t mind having a go at if possible.

    We were staying at a guest house for a couple of days - it was a nice wooden house, neat and clean. It looked relatively new. The owner / manager didn’t speak much English but with a bit of Kyria’s russian and google translate we managed to organise some dinner and breakfast for the next morning.

    We mooched around a bit - I gave in to Heidi’s pleas and took her outside for half and hour to play in the sand pit and swing. It was so cold!!

    Before dinner we went for a brief walk down the street - looks like there is a couple of information centres we can check out tomorrow with various activities. We grabbed some snacks from the small mini mart before heading back for dinner which was a filling meal of local fish (served whole - i much prefer my fish filleted so I don’t have to look at the head!) with potato, bread, salad and some sort of sweet biscuit thing.

    We shall see what tomorrow brings!
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  • Day11

    Strolling Around Ulan-Ude

    April 16 in Russia

    We didn’t wake up until about 10am this morning which was rather shocking but I guess that’s jet lag for you. We had breakfast at the English pub again which was yummy and then went for a walk to see the main sights of Ulan-Ude. There was a main path to follow around the centre of town starting at a massive statute of Lenin’s head. They have statutes of Lenin everywhere! This one looked rather ominous at night time when it was lit up by lights.

    We had a slight detour to an ice cream shop - Baskin and Robbins or something. Apparently an American brand but I’d never heard of it. Then we continued our stroll. Heidi was entertained by rocks, sticks and steps along the way - who needs toys! It was a sunny day although the wind had quite a bite to it.

    We had a tour booked out to the Old Believer’s village this afternoon and we were being picked up outside our apartment at 3pm so we headed back home to get ready.
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  • Day11

    We met our guide and driver outside our apartment complex and everyone introduced themselves. They had a small van for us - Heidi had a pretty cool seat. It was a normal seat, raised like a booster seat which an older child could sit on and then the bottom part of the seat folded up again and there was a seat for her underneath with the four point harness etc. A bit hard to explain but pretty cool! A 3 in one seat!

    It was about an hours drive out to the Old Believers Museum and Church. The little villages are filled with wooden houses with colourfully painted windows and ledges. They seem to really love their bright colours - sometimes even the roofs were painted a bright blue! The windows would often have lace and maybe flowers in them. The scenery was nice - mountains in the distance, river running by and a bit of snow here and there.

    The guide, his name was Chengis or something similar explained various things about the area and answered questions we had about Russian origin, culture, area etc.

    We arrived at the museum, Heidi was asleep so we left her in the car as the driver was happy to watch her until she woke up. He had a couple of kids himself and was quite clucky with her - it was nice.

    It was so cold in the museum! Heidi was sleeping on mine and Eli’s jumpers so we had to make do without. At least I had long sleeves - Eli was in short sleeves! The museum guide was an Old Believer (they’re a branch off the Russian Orthodox) and in the museum was all sorts of different objects and articles they used for their daily living. He took us round and explained it all to us. There was a little souvenir shop inside and we bought a little bird whistle made out of wood for Heidi.

    Then we went across to the church which was just over the road to look inside. Kyria and I had to don skirts and scarves. Heidi wanted to wear a scarf too. It was quite small inside - apparently there is only about 20 people who meet there but there’s about 500 in the area or something like that. He pointed out the various things in the church they use for their worship. They are very proud of their icons (pictures / paintings of Christ and Mary etc). Apparently their are 45 differences between them and Russian Orthodox (who’s counting 😂) even down to how they make the cross before they pray or whatever.

    I had to visit their toilet outside and was a little taken aback when I opened the door and all there was, was a hole in the floor of the shed - not quite what I was expecting. I managed, pregnant and all 😂 Heidi didn’t seem too perturbed by it!
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  • Day11

    Marriage Ceremony

    April 16 in Russia

    After the meal the ladies did some singing and dancing accompanied by a long suffering fellow playing the accordian. Occasionally they would grab someone from the table to dance with them. It was interesting - I can’t say the singing was enjoyable - they have such penetrating voices!!

    Then they wanted to show us how they prepare a bride and groom for a wedding. Kyria was the lucky one selected from our table with a guy from the other table. It was quite hilarious as all the ladies fussed round like hens to dress her in the traditional clothes which took some time. Her face expressions told it all - I don’t think she enjoyed our merriment at her expense 😂 they sung as they dressed her (over her clothes of course). Apparently the Russians like their women well covered and as Kyria is so skinny they had to bulk her up to trick the groom to be!

    Then they dressed the groom and what followed was a period of haggling between the bride’s party and the groom’s. It seemed the bride’s good points were all about how hard she could work and how many children she would have and the groom was all about the looks! Finally it was agreed and money was paid after which there was more singing and dancing. The bride and groom had to kiss behind an apron and then dance together. It was all fun and both groups were getting into it.

    Even after the ceremony was over they sung a couple more songs, after which they took a couple of group photos and then we headed off after profuse thanks. It had been a fun experience and we all enjoyed it - even Kyria!

    The driver and guide dropped us back to the apartment. We had found out that our guide was the director of the Ulna-Ude museum we had walked past yesterday and we agreed to meet again for coffee and a chat before we headed off to Lake Baikal.
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  • Day11

    Meal with Old Believers

    April 16 in Russia

    We drove on a bit further and stopped at a house where we were going to have a meal with their traditional food.

    A few ladies came out the front to greet us dressed in their traditional garb. They didn’t speak English so our guide translated for us. The main lady showed us round a house they had set up with furniture etc. They were very small
    houses - I guess they were easier to keep warm.

    Apparently the women would spend half of their fertility stage pregnant. They had a pretty hard life, as I guess most women did back then without all the modern conveniences of today. I’m so soft - I couldn’t imagine doing half the things they had to. The irons were so heavy i think I’d burn holes in the clothes, churning the milk to make butter for 3 hours, cooking with massive pots you had to pull out with a big hook, washing by hand with a scrub board...

    Then we went to the room where they had a meal prepared. We shaped some pancakes with dough they had already prepared and they cooked them for us after which we sat down to eat. They had all sorts of different breads at the table - sweet and savoury with sesame seed dip, sour cream etc. We had a yummy soup to start called stchi or something, followed by meat with mashed potato and a sweet porridge which tasted like rice pudding to me - which the others strongly disagreed with. But I hold my opinion. I love rice pudding!

    They also had some moonshine which had to be drunk at various intervals throughout the meal in one shot. I abstained of course - thankful I had the excuse that I was pregnant 😂 supposedly it was clean in that you wouldn’t have a hangover later.

    There was another group that joined us for the meal as well and sat at a separate table. There was so much food we were all quite stuffed by the end!
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  • Day13

    Exploring Gorya Chinsk

    April 18 in Russia

    We had breakfast provided at the guest house this morning after which we headed out for a walk round the town to see if there were any information places open. Seemed like most of them were actually mini marts. There were about 4 different ones around the small square all selling basically the same thing!

    We were trying to find the hot springs that were in the area - we were unsure if it was like a resort or natural ones. Eli was looking it up on his phone and it appears it was behind the church. We wandered round and found a pond with a creek and there was steam coming off it. There was a little bridge with a shelter over the middle with a bucket and tap set up and hot water running into it from the creek.

    We kept wandering and found a playground for Heidi and behind a forest with a fair amount of snow on the ground still. We had to make a snowman ⛄️ which Heidi enjoyed smashing down as we walked off! Snow just brings out the inner child in one!

    We made our way back to the guest house from here to go for a drive to some of the other towns nearby.
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  • Day13

    Sunset on Lake Baikal

    April 18 in Russia

    We had a relaxing afternoon playing cards and munching snacks while Heidi had a snooze.

    She had a play in the sandpit outside with Papa when she woke up (that’s been a highlight of this place for her)! I had to sit out there with her for 20 minutes the other day and froze so I was thankful Eli was taking a turn 😂 Then we decided to head out and find a good spot to see the sunset over the lake. We found the perfect spot except it was a bit cloudy so it wasn’t spectacular but it was still nice. Maybe tomorrow night we’ll get a good one.

    We had a bit more fun playing round in the snow again - took some more photos. Then we came home just in time for dinner. There was a Mongolian group of 4 also staying and they were fairly friendly.

    It’s been nice taking things a bit slower and enjoying some simple walks and outings in the countryside.
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  • Day14

    Banya Experience

    April 19 in Russia

    We had a fairly quiet day today - catching up on sleep etc. Eli, Heidi and I went for a walk this morning down to a local banya (hot pool / sauna etc) and cafe we had seen advertised. It was quite cold today - I think we were only getting a max of 3 or 5! But once you had been out for a while you adjusted and it didn’t feel so bad. We were disappointed to find the place locked up and nobody home. Guess they weren’t operating at the moment. Heidi enjoyed crunching in the snow on the way back. I stopped to stock up on our chocolate supplies on the way home. Ive lost track of how many blocks of chocolate we’ve consumed - they are smaller than the usual!

    I think Heidi enjoyed having a more chilled day. I took her out to play in the sandpit and then she was running round inside playing with the few toys they had provided.

    Eli rang the resort we had visited yesterday to see if we could go there this afternoon. We weren’t able to get in until about 5 as it would take a couple of hours to heat up the banya. We put Heidi down for a nap in the meanwhile.

    The banya experience was fun. We had sole access to a small building which had a small eating area, toilet, shower and sauna with hot and cold pools outside. We changed into bathers and went outside to try the hot pool. We were a little disappointed to find it was not very warm - about 30 degrees which was just over lukewarm. We all hopped in eventually. I had been sitting on the bench feeling cold as I didn’t want to bother getting wet if it wasn’t that warm. But it was warmer than sitting out in the cold! Heidi had a great time jumping round in the ‘bath’.Then we made a dash for the hot shower to warm up. The others also went in and out the sauna while Heidi and I played around with the shower. The head came off and Heidi had fun showering everyone with it!

    We did this for a couple of hours and then finished up feeling warm and toasty. The sun was setting so we made a drive down to the lake to get some photos. We arrived at the perfect time and managed to get some nice pics. We ventured onto the ice a little, however it wasn’t as firm here and although we were still on the sand, three of us ended up with a wet foot!

    We drove back to the resort (we’d only gone 5 mins away) to have dinner. We were upstairs and as no one else was dining, we chose the table in a room off to the side with glass windows all around with a view of the lake. The lady tried to get us to sit inside the main area but we insisted we wanted the view. We came to regret our choice as the room was not heated and we slowly became colder and colder, especially having wet feet. We were all sitting there with our coats and beanies on! We felt bad at mucking up another table setting so decided to grin and bear it. The waitress didn’t speak a word of English and responded in Russian to everything we said so we were thankful for Kyria otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to make head or tail of what she said! The resort seemed to cater mainly for Russians as there were no english menus.

    We ate quickly (well I tried to but I’m terribly slow - I just can’t chew as fast as other people!) so we could get back and warm up. It was late when we arrived back so we all made for bed.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Respublika Buryatiya, Buriatia, République de Bouriatie, Бурятия, Burjatien

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