Our guide suggested we visit the National Museum of Mongolia during our trip to Ulaanbaatar. This museum is responsible for preserving Mongolian cultural heritage as well as defining the guidelines for museums in the rest of the country. The museum has a wide scope of history, beginning in prehistory up into the present. The biggest highlights for me were the section on Mongolian traditional dress and the 1990 Mongolian Revolution.
For our first outing in Mongolia, we headed into Ulaanbaatar to the Gandantegchinlen Monastery – Gandan for short. In 1990 (Mongolian Revolution, marking the start of the end of socialism in Mongolia) the monastery was restored and revitalized, when the restrictions on worship were lifted. We learned that Mongolia has strong ties with Tibet, and that the 13th Dalai Lama even stayed at Gandan in 1904.
How we wound up in a ger in Ulaanbaatar is something I still don’t completely understand, but we tried our best to make the most of it. We decided to book a more authentic Mongolian experience by booking a ger, along with a guide and cook for our stay. The photos on the site showed a farm a few hours outside of Ulaanbaatar where we could experience the nomadic lifestyle, with more than 50 yaks and a few horses which we could ride. The advertisement stated that we could relax on the farm, visit the watering hole, ride horses, help out etc. We were looking forward to our nomadic Mongolian experience!
The train ride from Irkutsk in Siberia, Russia to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia offered the most beautiful scenery. So I will already warn you that this is an image-heavy post filled with photos of the breathtaking landscape of Russia and Mongolia. We were lucky to be traveling when the colors were beginning to change, so we could see the gorgeous foliage.
If you plan on taking the Trans-Siberian or Trans-Mongolian Express and plan to stop in Siberia, Irkutsk is the city most recommended. Irkutsk is full of history and is just an hour away from Lake Baikal. It’s also nicknamed the “Paris of Siberia”.
When Koen and I decided to make a stop in Siberia, Irkutsk was the obvious destination to spend a few days because of its proximity to Lake Baikal, the world’s largest freshwater lake, containing 23% of the world’s fresh surface water (also the world’s deepest lake, the world’s clearest lake, and the world’s oldest lake)! There were a few options of which city to visit to see Lake Baikal, and in the end we chose Listvyanka, the ‘French Riveria of Siberia’.
At 23:55 Tuesday night, our train was set to depart – next stop Irkutsk in Siberia!
The train ride from Moscow to Irkutsk was the longest leg of our train trip, leaving Tuesday evening and arriving Saturday morning. We were sure to pack plenty of snacks, download a lot of books for our Kindles, and bring the tripod for our camera to take plenty of photos of the Russian countryside.
Our last stop before boarding the Trans-Siberian Express was the Danilovsky Market to pick up delicious treats and snacks for the train. I first saw the Danilovsky Market on the Chef’s Table’s episode about Vladimir Mukhin when he went shopping with his daughter. I didn’t know the name of the market, but once we started researching where to go I recognized it right away and knew that’s where we should go before taking off for Siberia!
Because we didn’t have so much time in Moscow before our train departed, we were only able to visit one museum. After doing a bit of research, Garage was my #1 choice.
Café Pushkin is another restaurant recommend to me by a client from Moscow. I browsed the menu before heading to Moscow and knew we’d do the caviar tasting! We decided to go all out, trying other Russian classic dishes, as well. Such a beautiful café! If you want to treat yourself, I definitely recommend a visit to Café Pushkin!