These past two weeks have been full of travel. And I’ve changed time zones so much that my endocrine system has yet to catch up. I have breakfast around 1PM everyday. As we’ve come accustomed to saying, who wants to eat breakfast before noon! It’s bright as day at 9:30 at night. I wish I had a kitchen, I could take so many food pictures here with this much natural light around.
Friday June 7 already feels like it was a month ago, but that was the day that I began travelling from Toronto to Moscow. I arrived in Moscow late Saturday night and was met by two dear friends after I disembarked from the train from the airport.
I had all of one day to get reacquainted with the city I used to live in. In many ways, I didn’t recognize it at all. And much of the feelings were overwhelming and difficult to process in so short a period of time while also being jet lagged, tired, cranky and a little paranoid. In some ways Moscow was unrecognizable. In other ways it very much reinforced the perception I’ve always had of it.
Our train left Moscow last Monday and arrived in Ulan-Ude late Thursday night on Moscow time. Local time was already early Friday morning. We tried the onboard restaurant but found the food largely inedible. For example, here is a mystery beef dish that we were served.
I can’t believe that already a week has passed by since we first arrived in Ulan-Ude. We made preparations for our journey to Mongolia next Friday.
Because we don’t have a kitchen, I’ve had the pleasure of eating out in at least one restaurant everyday. And one restaurant in particular: Travelers Coffee, which is a chain of cafe/bistro type restaurants across Russia. The branding is modern, the choices are modern and the variety of coffee is the most I’ve seen ever in this country. I did find a better Americano at Marco Polo but the atmosphere, location and menu choices of Travelers make it hands down a better choice for us. My favourite meal because of the value for money you get (I’m so American sometimes) is the club sandwich, which for 239 rubles ($7) you get 400 grams of food (almost a pound)–a big sandwich and french fries. And they put a ton of dill on the french fries, I don’t think it adds anything to.
For the first week they were getting the best of me, I was losing considerable sleep and fell victim to serious irritability. I have since grown accustomed to buzzing in my ear while trying to sleep, waking up with new bites and healing old bites slowly. The hydrocortisol cream I brought with me appears to have expired in 2007. How the cream moved with me across several continents is still a mystery. So I went to the pharmacy here to buy another cream and stupidly didn’t request the receipt. Why can’t I stop itching? I check the package, and lo and behold, turns out the stuff expired in 2012.
We’ve been to a lot of different places in and around the city–museums, datsans, churches, etc. I have so many travel pictures from previous adventures that I find it boring to keep taking pictures. Perhaps you know the film Amelie from a little over a decade ago. Amelie sends her father’s beloved garden gnome with a flight attendant for a journey around the world. The flight attendant sends back little snapshots of the gnome in front of the world’s most famous landmarks–the pyramids of Egypt, the Great Wall of China, etc. You can watch a clip here.
So that’s when I procured this little pair of Nerpa Seals–a symbol for the region which you can find everywhere here. I’ve been using them in a lot of the touristy travel pictures to make them more interesting and also to brand the entire experience.
It’s hard to ignore the fact that we are in the mountains. Everywhere are reminders of that fact: the unpredictable weather, the constant hill and stair climbing, the feeling that there is not enough air and the dramatic temperature differences between night and day. That being said, it has a unique beauty all its own. Here are some panoramas that I caught from the best view in the city at Rinpoche Bagshan Datsan.