Arrival in Russia

We have had a great time in Mongolia and today was our last day before we jumped back on the train to go to Russia. A boring morning of washing clothes and getting last bits and pieces together before we had a last walk around Ulaanbaatar centre. We have had an amazingly unique experience in Mongolia but with the weather getting so wintery and cold we feel ready to move on. Not that we are expecting things to get much warmer as we head north.
Waiting for the train in the brilliant blue sunshine in the fresh air I was getting all excited again about the train trip. It feels as though we have dipped our toe into the train travel but that it’s about to start properly now! We were not sure what to expect from the train and didn’t know what we had booked so were both very excited when the train turned up and was very new and we had our own cabin!! Luxury! We soon had our noses in various books and magazines while watching the landscape unfold before us. It really is a great way to travel.
The border crossing into Russia occurred at about midnight and was very thorough. It took two men 3 hours to search the whole train and during a lot of that time we had to stay awake while our passports were dealt with. After that though we passed out but luckily Sarah woke up in time for us to get off at our stop as our carriage attendants had forgotten to wake us!
It was a little bleak and very cold at 6:30 am when we arrived at Ulan Ude train station and we were two of only about six people to get off! Luckily our hostess at the hotel had got our message about our early arrival and lead us to our very warm room for us to have a cup of coffee. Perfect!
There wasn’t a whole lot written about Ulan Ude in the Lonely Planet but the place is described as a refreshing change from the bleakness found in the rest of Russia! This is the first place we have been in Russia and first impressions were of a pretty bleak architectural experience. As we walked around more though there was more than meets the eye and we found quite a few interesting buildings. The main square is the highlight of the city and dominating the middle is the largest Lenin Head statue. A quite specific claim to fame. Still we dutifully took our photos.
We spent most of the day walking around the town centre stumbling upon various museums, theatres and churches. The buildings seem to be a mixture of huge stately buildings, beautiful churches with their onion tops and older wooden buildings. It’s all quite strange on first appearance. Coupled with the fact that there were hardly any people around on the streets. Admittedly it’s cold and we have just come from the country with the highest population (China). The shops and buildings all look closed but after testing a couple of doors we realised that everything is just shut to keep the warmth in.
The other startling fact is that there is nothing written in anything other than Russian script and since the buildings don’t have any shop fronts it’s difficult to know what’s sold inside. In fact we forgot how much we had come to rely on picture menus! I think there is some blind pointing and guessing about to happen! In fact we started the day in search of breakfast and the first few places we went to the menu was absolutely uncomprehendable. I mean we didn’t even know where to start luckily we eventually found a canteen where we able to point at what we wanted.
We also visited a museum and before we paid our entry we wanted to make sure that there was going to be English so we could understand. Yes, we were told so we paid up and went in. There was some English but not a whole lot. In fact we really didn’t gain a lot of info from the visit other than the fact there is quite a lot of Mongolian influence here as well as it being the centre of Buddhism for Russia. Still things can only get easier I guess!
The first day on the whole though was a real eye opener. We had a less than successful hunt for a tourist information but did manage to find a billboard of places to see so we matched up the symbols with places on our map app and so feel confident that we will get all the sights in! T

Posing in our cabin. Lonely planet, kindles, iPads, tea and snacks

One of the last station stops in Mongolia.

The biggest statue of Lenin’s head and no doubt we will be seeing the second and third biggest too!

We are pretty sure we took the photo from the right side.

A typical wooden house in Ulan Ude.

One of the many churches, just so wonderfully different to any other church we have seen.

The church may be beautiful but the park surrounding it needs quite a bit of attention.

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