Thursday, July 28, 2011

Shepards on Wheels

In a land of nomads, we too have got into the habbit.
I write to you from Khovsgol lake at the northern part of the middle of Mongolia, from a city called Hatgal. With the rest laying in front of me, I can reflect on the adventure that has been the last three weeks of July 2011 of my life.
Being in Mongolia is like seeing what the rest of the world was like before electricity roads or plumbing. Before banks, bilboards, fashion, social classes, greed, personal property, personal space, and privacy.
The only things that have seemed to change here is that the shepards guide their animals with motorcycles - as the title suggests. But even that is not the majority. It is funny to see however since the shepards are only between 5 and 11 years old... even the ones riding the wheels. The youngest we've seen looked like he was about 5, and since Mongolians tend to look older than they really are, in reality he was probably still a few months old :P
So back to the nomad life style.
As I have already written, we have become really good at packing up our tent in the mornings (down to about a minute now) and laying it back out in the evenings. The landscape is not spectacular, I wont lie. We are a bit disappointed. But I mean I am a little spoiled having seen the Grand Canyon, Niagra Falls, and the Alps in Austria. Nothing here can visually stimulate my soul or appetite, however the culture and experience sure has given me something to remember for a long time.
We already see a lot of ground being laid for roads to be built, so this rough untouched feeling wont last long.
The people have no own land, nor property, nor space. You move where you want, and when you like a place, you just set up your Ger there and that becomes your home until you want to go somewhere else. When a person is hungry on the road, as we have been, you just enter one of these gers (without knocking) and sit down. You of course say hello and ask how the family is doing. The next step is that this family feeds you and if needed offers you a place to sleep (which we have needed and accepted). This goes on the general Mongolian principal of "whats yours is mine". This of course may be the reason our driver takes our vodka and food whenever he wants.
It would be fair however to mention how he also was the reason we ate one of the weirest things of our lives. He stopped by a ger to ask for the way and came out with a burnt animal which was whole except for the head missing. After eating it, we found out it was a Marmot. Look it up in google, i have no idea what the hell it is- kind of like a beaver I guess. Well this thing gets prepared by removing its head, sticking your hand through its neck hole, and removing all the meat and bones carefully so as not to rip the skip or open the neck hole more. Then it is seasoned and stuffed back inside with scorching hot river stones. This way it gets cooked from the inside keeping all its juicy stuff - wait for the pictures, youre going to love it!

The days are hot, and the nights are cold. Emir is quiet creative with our food. We only have rice, potatoes, flour and oil. Sometimes we pick up jam or sardines. But even with that he managed to make me fries one night :D

We also did a 3 day horse riding tour (maybe I already wrote about it). Our asses hurt, and the animals are not very trained. 9 months out of the year they spend alone in the mountains so they dont respond to commands, more their own. But it was a pleasure to be out in the mountains and lakes with these Mongolian horses.

The people we meet outside the capital are quiet friendly, and are very curious. They stare without shame. the children screem "hello" about 50 times and giggle. Its very amuzing.

I will stop now since its already too long, but wait for the pics in the next blog, this cafe doesnt allow pic uploads :(

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Back from Gobi and into the forrest

So I am back from the Gobi desert and also from one National park in the middle of Mongolia..

It was really fuckin hot .. i dont know what we were thinking about going to the desert in July, but it was worth it. we went on top of a 300 meter sand dune.. and it was the hardest thing ive ever done so far. But once on top the feeling of conquering yourself and the view was undescribable!! we tried once during sunset and failed, so i got up at 5 am to go it before the sun came up and managed! It took about an hour so i coaght the sun rise from the peak!

since then we went camping by a lake and waterfall in the national park in tents. and went deeper into the park for three days by horse because there is no roads there. our asses hurt a lot!! but was amazing experience!

it has been a long time since i had a shower which wasnt a river... haha today was the first time in 2 weeks :D

we are now in Harhorin, the old capital during Ghingis Khan times, now a village, and we will go to some volcano today, and then north to some more fun things! We will end at Khovsgol lake at the border with russia and we will try to find a mysterious village people who live with reindeer. after that we will go west to the altai... i dont know about internet... so dont worry.

Post date post from before the Gobi

Date: Fri, July 15, 2011
wow, happy to get to an internet cafe! First time i have showered in 6 days...not in the internet cafe though! that was in our hotel..."hotel"...

We have been on the road for four days now and will reach the Gobi desert tomorrow... once there the driver leaves us and we go into the sand dunes for a 3 day hike to the other side. we bought lots of water!

there are NO roads here by the way.... the only asphalt road was from russia to Ulan Baatar (the capital), now we are on a Russian jeep from WWII probably and going over whatever path we can find. thats why it has taken so long. we spent one night in a Ger or Yourta, its tents of the Mongols. You just arrive at any tent on the road and they have to let you sleep and feed you, it is their tradition of hospitality. its fascinating. sometimes the driver stops at one during the day, looks around, gets some cheese for us and leaves hahah. he doesnt really know that we hate this know why? ITS HORSE MILK!!! salty like hell... you make a stranger face when you eat it than when you eat a lemon. but its definitely a good experience! the other times we find a beautiful spot to put up our tents, like yesterday at white cliffs that look like a mini grand canyon. sun sets and sun rises are unbelievable, and its amazing that we are completely alone where ever we go. we dont see anyone else other than some shepards here and there or some curious nomads riding up to us on their motor bikes and then riding back to their tents.
we have seen wild camals and horses, also while we camped.. and GIANT vultures eating a dead camel. I mean up close, not driving by. There is a lot of death in these parts, because we are already in the desert, just not the cool one :) and its amazing to see that life continues even though a horse has been lying dead on the steppe, we have also seen a family slaughter(kill) a sheep that we were feeding just moments before. it was for their holiday. and they do it without blinking an eye. death is death, and to kill is to eat. I hope when we get to the north, I can experience some life.

The desert really only teaches a few things. 1.death is normal, 2.patience and quiet, 3.and drink a lot of fucking water!

So! after a good shower, and some internet time..i can go off into the desert feeling good...
so it maybe another few days or week before you hear from me!!

love you all....

This one is of what we are driving through:

and here we had to get out of the jeep because it couldnt make it up the hill with us in it...just another day in Mongolia

Friday, July 1, 2011

Kazan - Tatar capital, Ivan The Terrible's conquest

We arrived in Kazan at about 2 pm after a pretty comfortable ride in a coupé. It was shared by a Tatar girl, not particularly smart, and a guy from St. Petersburg, who was a pleasure to talk to and a great insight once again into the opinions and views of the Russian people. He lost a few points temporarily when saying that america was behind the protests in Algeria and Lybia, but partially got them back when he admitted that it's what they say on the news.

Which reminds me about a story I forgot to mention in my Piter blog: apparently there is a rumor going around that Medvedev is secretly a Jew and uses all the money from corruption to give out to random jews.. If thats true, where the hell this place at where I can collect a part of that!?!

Sooo, I'll make the next entries short so you can read them without complaining :D

Kazan is a very beautiful town. Unique because it's kremlin has both a mosque (reconstructed after it's destruction by the russians but almost the same as the original tatar mosque) and an orthodox church built by Ivan the Terrible.

Some buildings were impressively modern and keeping their traditional architecture.

Their main pedestrian street, Baumana, is filled with jewelry shops and cafes. We chose a cheap cafeteria which made the BEST triagolnichkis with ground meat!

Medvedev might be following us.. We saw him and his gang as they closed down half the city in St. Petersburg, and NOW he arrived in Kazan..SAME DAY... Coincidence? I think not! Maybe ill be being that Jew money after all!! Funny thing, is that he crashed into the crowd with his car! While driving it himself..check it out on youtube:

And enjoy the pictures:

Inside kremiln:

Tatar restored mosque: Kul Sharif


Russian orthodox church: Annunciation Cathedral: built in 1554-62, the only 16th-century Russian church to have six piers and five apses.

View down from the kremlin onto the city

The building you see above, is the same you see below :D

The modern houses in traditional architecture I wrote about earlier

The not so modern Tatar village

Walking around the Kremlin, we found this :D

The main street, which is a pedestrian only zone... fascinating contrast of beauty and poverty: Baumana Street
exactly across the street from the picture above

The view of the street

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