Excursions around Ulan-Ude

Saturday 12/08

Departure at 9am with our guide Aldar, a Buryat.

We started with the Ivolginsky Datsan (35 km from Ulan-Ude). This Tibetan Buddhist datsan is the centre of Buddhism in Russia. During the communist era, almost all datsans were demolished. In 1946 Stalin gave permission for this datsan to be constructed as a mark of gratitude for Buryatiy’s help during WWII.

After a quick lunch in a café along the road, we went to the Old Believers village of Tarbagatay (50 km from Ulan-Ude). The Old Believers are named after their worship of the old religious practices, before the Russian Orthodox Church reformed around 1660 (the reforms were meant to align the rites and texts of the Russian Orthodox Church with those of the Greek Orthodox Church). To avoid persecution (under Perter the Great) many voluntarily fled to Siberia, whilst others were exiled. It took them 3 years to travel the 6,000 km on foot, an incredible achievement (they were not allowed to use horses + they carried their iconostasis with them).

We first visited the museum, a small two-story wooden building keeping traditional costumes, household items, tools and religious icons. Aldar kept the visit very interesting by explaining very well the history and the use of most of the items. We then went inside the small church with the priest (who created also the museum), who then showed us the remaining items of his collection, in his house. It is very impressive to see the dedication of this man to preserve the tradition and the history of his people.

During the day, we drove on the longest road in the world (in a same country): Moscow – Vladivostok, 9,000km.

We came back around 5:30pm at the apartment where we chillaxed for a couple of hours (kids on internet, Isabelle preparing the Philippines and I sorting my pictures).

We went to a (Uzbek) restaurant, on a terrace with a nice view. It was quite windy and a bit chilly (kids and Isabelle wrapped themselves in a blanket). We eventually drank our first vodka in Russia. The day before our departure… it was about time! We ate a big plate of ‘shashlik’ (skewers).