#7 Welcome to Mongolia!

First impressions of Mongolia, how they talk, what they eat and where we met the Red Hero… Right on the birthday of Chinggis Khan, the founder of the Mongolian Empire, here is my first article about his country:

At Chinggis Square in Ulaanbaatar
At Chinggis Square in Ulaanbaatar

After my long trip from Irkutsk over the Mongolian border and four hour passport control (but in a nice cabin with two Chinese girls), I arrived in the morning in Ulaanbaatar – the capital of Mongolia and where 45 per cent of the whole population lives. Mongolia is the most sparsely populated country in the world (am dünnsten besiedelte Land der Welt) with 3 million inhabitants on an area four times bigger than Germany.

In the hotel I met my mum and our German-speaking tour guide, Otgo. I organised a guided tour through central Mongolia for a week with “Active Adventure Tours Mongolia” (deutsch).  I can highly recommend it because it was all perfectly organised, all food and accommodation included and we even had our own driver with a 4WD-Car. First we explored the city in the afternoon together, visited the Zaisan hill which gives you the best view over Ulaanbaatar. Next to it there is a huge Buddha statue where we got to know more about the Mongolian culture and religion. For example, the colours of the holy towels at these monuments stand for the sky (blue), the earth (green), the power (red), the sun and the colour of Buddhism (yellow). For Mongolians the nature is very important, that is where they live their religion and find energy for everyday life. As a ritual for that, the old women go out every morning and throw (sprinkle) some drops of milk in the nature to show their thankfulness and respect.

Afterwards I finally met my hero – Chinggis Khan! You all remember the song… Ching, ching, Chinggis Khan, He Reiter, Ho Reiter, He Reiter, immer weiter! If not, please check on YouTube ;). As a child I was dancing to this song in the theatre I went to and it was always my dream to travel to the country of Chinggis Khan. He was the founder of the Mongolian empire which is the biggest in history ever! To our surprise there was a wedding going on in front of the monument which is the parliament of Mongolia, too. So we took some photos with the traditionally dressed people. But where is the Red Hero of the city hidden?

Our guide explained us that the word Ulaanbaatar means “Red Hero” (ulan – red / baataar – hero). And the horse rider in the monument above is this hero of the country. In general the city is really various, you see traditional tents of the nomads named “Ger” in the middle of the center and high sky scapers. It is not a very beautiful city but it shows the contrast of the country. Some people can effort to buy a flat (it is not possible to rent one), other sleep in the traditional Gers. As well the traffic is crazy. Ulaanbaatar has no other public transport than buses, no metro and tram, so everything stuck together on the roads. That’s why it is recommended to go with a guided tour because it is really difficult to find out how to get where as they have to schedules for the buses. In addition the Mongolian language is hard to understand. In my opinion it is a mix of Turkish, Arabic and Japanese or something Asian, almost harder than Finnish which should be one of the most difficult languages. Luckily we always had our guide with us. For the first dinner we went in a nice restaurant and had some delicious Mongolian food:

Our tour is going through:

  • Hustai National Park with wild Prschewalski horses
  • Karakorum with Erdene Zuu monastery, UNESCO World Heritage for Chinggis Khan
  • Orkhon Valley with 20 000 year old lava stones and a great waterfall
  • Khognokhaan Mountain and camel ride
  • Always stay with nomadic families and get to know the Mongolian culture

Beautiful nature is waiting for you – so stay tuned!

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