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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
When we decided to go to Moscow, we knew that we had to eat at White Rabbit, the 23rd best restaurant in the world. If you have Netflix, it’s possible you saw the episode featuring Chef Vladimir Mukhin, discussing the inspiration and philosophy behind White Rabbit – modern Russian cuisine with locally sourced ingredients. The restaurant is also located on the 16th floor of Smolenskiy Passage with an amazing view of the city.