Ulan Ude

Our hotel although pretty dated is clean, in a great location and is quiet. Until about 10pm when it turned into a brothel. Well maybe not a brothel but there certainly where a lot of comings and goings! But we managed to sleep and the next morning everyone was gone. 
We had our free breakfast which consisted of luncheon meat, plastic cheese and cucumber on bread. A weird combination but beggars can’t be choosers. After this we had decided to head out of town to the Ethnographic museum which Theodora recommended. The public bus system consists of hundreds of little mini buses running different routes and we had our number to catch and when it arrived we hopped on knowing that it stopped one km away from the museum. We soon found out that you had to make the bus driver stop so we were looking at the map judging how far we had to go and arguing who was going to yell out and what word and in what language when a lovely lady beside us spoke in Russian but we caught Ethnographic so we nodded and she yelled at the driver. We soon found ourselves making a detour right to the entrance of the museum. Thank you lovely Russian lady! 
The museum is in a big clearing surrounded by forest with representations of everything from native burial mounds to nomadic dwellings to early settler churches and homesteads and Cossack compounds. We had read that there would be locals in traditional dress recreating life in those days but there was no one. Also I think we saw maybe 6 other people wandering around the museum. 
The saddest part was the zoo. I knew I should not have gone in there but couldn’t help myself. There were your usual double humped camels, goats, deer, horses etc but also bears, a Siberian Tiger, wolves, Racoon dogs and foxes. But their cages were tiny and yuck. I have always wanted to see a wolf but never like that. At least they were in a pack and it looked like they had a run out the back that they were let out into as did the Bears but the poor tiger was by himself and just paced back and forth in front of the bars of the cage. 
We couldn’t really see why Theodora who also happens to be a vegetarian would ever recommend this place so we looked at our guide book and soon realized that it was the Ethnographic museum in the next place we are going that she recommended. Oh well it was still nice to get out and about
I forgot to mention that it was cold. Like really cold. And half way around it started to snow. So we finished up there and started the walk back to the bus station when another mini bus pulled up so we got in said to the driver – Ulaan Ude and they nodded and off we went. 
We stopped for lunch and had some delicious shashlyk which is BBQ’d meat on a stick. It was pretty delicious. After warming ourselves we then headed out again and caught another bus to the Buddhist temple. This area of Russia is the Buddhist capital, mostly due to the closeness of Mongolia. The temple was nothing flash outside, just a brick building and inside was a 6m sitting Buddha. It was really interesting to note that it felt more like a church than a temple. I couldn’t put my finger on why but it was just the feeling we got.
We then went shopping as Tim needed some gloves and he was very chuffed when we found a set of black leather ones. Very Russian and James Bond villain all rolled into one! He can’t stop saying “Da” (yes in Russian) while slapping his gloves into the palm of his hand. I can’t imagine that will get old at all. After a little afternoon rest we headed back out to watch our first Russian ballet. We had gone upmarket and purchased 4th row seats centre stage for a grand total of $10 each. Upon arrival we felt a little out of place as we had on our very flash every item of clothing that we had worn for 2 days now verses everyone else in fine evening attire. But that couldn’t be helped. 
The inside of the theatre was magnificent! With intricately painted ceiling with the head of Lenin front and center. We didn’t know what standard to expect and it didn’t start that fantastically but then the lead male and female appeared and the standard increased ten fold. The highlight by far for me was the orchestra. They played beautifully and even had a opera singer for a few songs whose voice was the best I have heard live. In saying that she is the first live opera singer I have heard but I still think she was pretty terrific. S

The main church at the Ethnographic museum.  Which we had more or less all to ourselves.

Didn’t really want to take too many photos of the animals.  This bear was absolutely huge though!

I guess this kind of weather is expected in Siberia!

Some of the old buildings really have incredible character.

The Buddhist temple, high on a hill above Ulan Ude.

Not a huge theatre but the interior was fantastic.

The painting on the ceiling is brilliant, complete with Lenin’s head.

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