We’ve had a wonderful collection of ‘postcards’ from different places this Summer. To crown them all here is one from Sandra in Ulan Battor, Mongolia.
It is hot here in Ulaanbatur, capital of Mongolia, to everyone’s surprise since usually the temperatures have dropped by this time of year.
It was even hot two nights ago on the Mongolian steppes; we had gone prepared for the chill with warm duvets and thick jumpers but they weren’t needed.
I slept in a ger- a felt tent used mainly by herders. They can be seen from the air : white circles against the brown and green rolling desert. They are also used by the poor dwelling at the northern end of Ulaanbatur.
During the night the wind rustled through the tent, and dogs howled outside. A flashing light turned out to be my mobile phonesignalling arrival of a message.
In the morning I stepped out into clear wide light of the broad Mongolian sky with the hills rolling away formimg different patterns in each direction. A small purple flower peeped up between the coarse grass at my feet. Wild rhubarb grew here and there.
One of the joys of staying with a family rather than being a ‘normal ‘ tourist is that you have the pleasure of doing ordinary family things in an apparently exotic context. We climbed up into the dunes, the little girls rolled down the sandy embankment and we all dug sand in an attempt to build sandcastles. At first the sand fell away, but then digging deeper we found wet underground sand that could just about be moulded.
The previous day we had driven precariously along dirt roads in a successful attempt to see the przewalski horses which were reintoduced to Mongolia from a breeding pair in Amsterdam zoo after they had become extinct in the wild. These horses are the original horses from which all other breeds of horses are descended.The return journey could almost have been anywhere in the world as their mother and I attempted to keep two fractious children entertained with singing and stories till we got back to our meal.
Ulaanbatuur itself feels like an Eastern European city rather than an Asian one. The main building period was in the soviet period and odd mixture of neo classical buildings bad brutal modernism. I stayed in an apartment block in the south of the city which had housed the politboro-decisions of state made no doubt in the rooms in which we ate and slept.
The temples,Tibetan in style, are of course more ancient. Mongolia is a Tibetan Buddhist State though there are few signs of belief apart from the ovoos along the road sides. An ovoos is a pole wrapped in blue flags stuck in a pile of stones. Travellers add to the stones as they walk round in the traditional clockwork direction. They act as landmarks as well as places to ask for blessings on the journey.
I spun the prayer wheels at the great Ganon cemetary thinking of a friend in Austalia who died recently; as a fundamentalist Christian he would probably not have approved ! Never mind to me it was a place of peace and holiness which transcended the boundaries and differences between the two religions.