I had seen Ulan Ude in the sunshine when I first arrived. It’s a low-rise big town which sprawls over gentle hills. A big statue of Lenin’s head dominates the main square and I can believe the claim that it’s the biggest in the world. There’s also a pretty fountain and an arch which forms a gateway to distant hills.
Returning from Lake Baikal, there was no sunshine. Low grey clouds and drizzle were set in for the day. Discovering that the No. 37 ‘marshrutka’ left from right outside my hotel to an ethnographic museum, I decided to go. Marshrutkas are minibuses that dart about towns on set routes, but seem to stop whenever passengers request or hail them. On leaving you pay 20 rubles to the driver irrespective of distance.
I had my destination written in Russian. The driver nodded knowingly and I got that kick of satisfaction which comes from having worked out a local transport system. A lady sitting next to me started chatting. My few words of Russian must have been delivered with confidence as she said a lot in reply. I think she was pleased I was visiting the museum.
The museum was in a forest right on the edge of Ulan Ude. Homes and farmhouses had been relocated from across the region to give a sense of how the Siberian pioneers had lived. There were Buryat yurts, Cossack houses and Old Believer homesteads; also burial mounds and standing stones from the Bronze Age. The spacious setting in the forest was ideal.
Going back on the marshrutka I recognised that we were on the route which went out to Lake Baikal. I was beginning to get my bearings in Ulan Ude as landmarks started to piece together like a jigsaw.
Back to the hotel for some baked omul and my first taste of a cowberry – similar to a redcurrant but less tart. I don’t think they grow in England.
The Baikal Plaza crisp white sheets were very welcoming again.