Although the snow and the cold temperatures made us cancel our trip into the mountains of northern Mongolia, we chose instead to explore Gorkhi-Terelj National Park and hike up to the Ariyabal Meditation Temple, where we crossed the “Bridge of Heaven” and climbed 108 stone stairs that lead to the main temple with 108 small stupas and 108 prayer wheels around the temple.
For our third day in Mongolia we decided to visit the Genghis Khan Statue Complex on the bank of the Tuul River at Tsonjin Boldog, where according to legend, he found a golden whip. The monument was completed in 2006 in time for the 800th anniversary of Genghis Khan’s coronation. The statue is symbolically pointed east towards the birthplace of Genghis Khan. The 36 columns around the visitor center represent the 36 khans from Genghis to Ligdan Khan. Once inside, you can also climb to the top for a panoramic view!
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.
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”.
This defiant island of Russian modernity and Europeanness is a vibrant arts centre filled with cool bars, restaurants and galleries. With an aptly revolutionary name, the former Red October chocolate factory looks straight into the Kremlin’s eyes – a vivid reminder that Russia is not all about totalitarian control and persecution.
Of course you cannot visit Moscow without visiting Red Square. I was especially excited to see St. Basil’s Cathedral in person! Long, long ago when my family first had internet my icon was the St. Basil’s Cathedral. I didn’t know then that it was in Russia, but I was drawn to the tulip shaped domes and bright colors! If you’re visiting Red Square, I definitely recommend you have lunch or dinner at Grand-Café Dr. Zhivago for a Soviet-style meal.
Koen, Matt and Danny in front of the Frites Atelier
After many years of saying they’ll come visit, Danny and Matt finally made it to Antwerp! I made it mission to share all things Belgian, so we at a lot of delicious frietjes, drank Belgian beer, and wandered around the beautiful city!
Koen and I were invited to the Animalia Amsterdam photo exhibition opening in Amsterdam. For over a year, Isabella Rozendaal photographed the pets of Amsterdam and they’re now on display in the Amsterdam City Archives from July 14th to September 3rd. Isabella is the sister-in-law of my best friend Christina and I’ve loved all the photos she’s posted on Facebook and Instagram, so Koen and I were excited to see the prints in person! We also bought her book!