What is Chingis Khan’s Legacy?

Chingis Khan waves to his great grandchildren in his homeland of Khentii province, Mongolia.

Chingis Khan waves to his great grandchildren in his homeland of Khentii province, Mongolia.

Ghengis Khan's grandchildren

Some of the uncountable offspring of Chingis Khan. The Buryats were riding the steppe before he came to power, and when he did, the rode with him.

The third and final part of 10,000 Miles to Altargana will be posted soon!

What is the legacy of the most prolific vanquisher in history? If you are a non-historian from the west, then all you were taught in school about Chingis (Genghis) Khan probably cemented him in your head as a rapacious bloodletter. In these parts, Siberia, Mongolia and the Central Asian Steppe, he is honored as a conqueror and saint, his halo brightening as the centuries stretch. In Mongolia he is admired like a founding father, his image is embossed on Mongolian currency, he sits in state over Ulaanbaatar’s main square. His image is everywhere. In Siberia, among native people he is viewed the same way. His image however is significantly absent from public places. This is because his image to the Soviets and Russia’s current governing powers alike is seen as dangerous and thought to encourage separatist ideas. All the same, his stoic image on carpets can be found gracing the walls of dwellings or watching over diners in restaurants and cafes. His name still rides the wind.
To dismiss Chingis Khan as meglomaniacal barbarian would be extremely short sighted. He must fall somewhere in the middle of bloodthirsty and saintly. Certainly he was a man of unmatched intelligence and sage judge of both character and potential. In a political atmosphere of constantly changing allegiances punctuated by internecine battle, Chingis kept from being slaughtered, or poisoned as his father before him. Over a quarter of the world’s population was under his dominion. He allowed religious freedom, put power in the hands of the capable instead of his relatives, he forbade the selling or kidnapping of women, a common steppe practice. He brought an incredible law system to a people who traditionally followed bowed to tradition and the whims of their clan leader. A man of stupendous talent, he is worth getting to know.

Click here for what the History Channel has to say about Chingis Khan.

Adversity is 375 Miles to Altargana

Bold presents a convenient map to lay out our journey upon.

I needed a map of Mongolia. Bold readily supplied for my needs. Here you can see the general path of our journey, I admit, it was not the straight line this illustration suggests.

*This is Part 2 of “10,000 Miles to Altargana; Festival of Nomadic Culture”

A Running Battle with Fatigue

Besought with travelers exhaustion, the whole bus conks out. Anybody remember the sunset? I didn’t think so. Perhaps we didn’t have one on account of gathering storm clouds. As fast as a Soviet bus can manoeuver dirt track in the Mongolian steppe, that is how fast we advanced. SUVs, mini vans, and Priuses lapped us. They would roll on by with a honk and a wave, often the Mongolian flag royally rippling, blue, scarlet and gold over their steppe vessel.

Things got dark, and as the road pounded up through the frame of the bus, up through the frame of your body, things got blurry. Things like reality. A hard jolt would send us all flying in a collective gasp of surprise and displeasure. Each time you sailed, your brain would run the following set of diagnostics.

Brain: “Who are you?” Me, groggily: “Mmmmm . . . Oh! Alex.” Brain: “Correct. Where are you?” Me: “Airborne in the back of a bus?!” Brain: “Insufficient. Where are you?” Me, getting hot: “I Am In AIRBORNE SYNCHRONIZATION With Twenty-Nine Buryats On A Bus BARRELING Across North-Eastern Mongolia For The Altargana FESTIVAL!” Brain: “Accepted. Are you prepared for landing?” Me, incredulously: “Wha??? I was just sleeping!” Brain: “Warning! In .000135 seconds a sorrowful spine compressing landing will be reality’s affirmation that you are on a bus barreling across the Mongolian steppe. Prepare.” BAM!!! “UNGH!!!” Ten out of ten chiropractors would not recommend this.

At midnight we found some gas station somewhere. I have photographic proof. We staggered for the exit to put our feet on solid ground. Jadedly, I watched the driver, mechanic, and Otgoo the mountaineer struggle with one of the bus’s wheels in the dark. Brain: “Keeping the wheels on.” Me: “Oh shut up, Brain!” A stroll and a stretch and it was already time to slide yourself back into your slot in the rolling sardine tin.                            It started to rain . . .

Driver, Mechanic, and Otgoo keeping the wheels on.

Driver, Mechanic, and Otgoo keeping the wheels on.

Fatigue plays games. You realize you were sleeping only when jounced awake. Consciousness to “out cold” transpires in milliseconds. In this state, your body lets go, which explains why I kept being impolitely awakened when my head swung wide and careened off the metal wall of the bus again. Nothing like a blow to the head to wake a fella. I would groan in pain, start to feel sorry for myself . . . and I’m asleep. Karaam! This time I’ll feel sorry for myself first, no time to groan in . . . asleep. Rain pattered down the windows.

Light begins burnishing the edge of Mongolia’s horizons around 4 am. An hour later the merciless punishment slowed and stopped as we encountered a rain swollen obstacle. Obstacle protocol played out as follows: The driver spied other vehicles collecting like wildebeests at a watering hole. He surmised, that this is a tricky piece of country. He pulled in for observation. Observation consisted of watching these skittish vehicle-wildebeests attempt to clear the (crocodile infested) obstruction and in accordance with their results, deciding which path is the most likely for a successful ford. The fact that we stopped, and growing tension in the air roused many from slumber. We ooh and ah in simulcast as each driver released their emergency brake and rolled into a bounce, dash and totter on the edge of catastrophe.

Our stalwart van takes on this interim creek.

Our stalwart van takes on this interim creek. 5 am.

Some of the fine young fellas, myself included, clambered out to reconnoiter. My viewfinder was open and ready to record this successful siege on a rain bloated gully bottom. “She’s hardly a creek, boys! Hardly a creek!” Our white mini-van lined up and took her setup run. She hit that rivulet right, blew mud sky high, and conquered the grass covered mud flats after fording. Next up, us. The driver shifted down, revved the GAZ’s (Soviet Bus) engine, and rumbled down the hill. He hit the creeklet straight on and lumbered through. He’s looked OK. Then he got a bit wobbly! That mud flat grabbed at the tires like minty quicksand toothpaste. GAZ ground to a halt.

One of the first of many, many attempts to free ourselves.

One of the first of many, many attempts to free ourselves.

Mud: A Hungry Thwarter

It was 5 am, raining hard, and the bus is mired in muck. Good morning!

Oral steppe policy begins with the rule that you help someone when they need it, and they help you. So we unrolled the towing cable and hooked it up to our stalwart van. Stalwart gave her a go. But it’s a no go. After two hours, with all my gear accept my camera pack and water bottle, that van forged ahead with the promise to send back help. Ever after, people would say to me: “It’s raining, don’t you have any pants?” “Yes, of course, they are in my pack, on the other van.” The mosquitoes came out well fed on that deal. Other vehicles gurgled through and rolled on by. These are the moments when a person thinks, “If I’m stuck, everyone should be stuck.” “Get stuck, get stuck! GET STUCK!!! No? I wish you safe voyage.”

Driver and mechanic were busy trying to jack the tires up, while we scoured the rain drenched hillside digging out rocks by fingernail. Returning, we sacrificed those rocks to the gluttonous maw of muck sucking our tires down into perdition. Ya know what? That mud ate rocks like it was a coney island hot dog eating contest.

The driver jacks up the tire, while we find rocks to throw into the abyss under that tire.

The driver jacks up the tire, while we find rocks to throw into the abyss under that tire.

We commissioned Dorj to intercept the Russian jeep we saw on another track. Dorj ran two miles, Dorj brought back the jeep. We thought of every trick in the book, and that Russian jeep driver made two hours of attempts to jerk us out. No luck. All hands queued up on the steel cable, young, old, and slightly infirm for a tug o’war battle with the GAZ. GAZ Didn’t Give! At one point I considered Tserigma in my lens. She stood in mud spattered pink sandals, rain soaked hair plastering her face, lamenting our most recent failure to extract the bus. In exhausted misery she plaintively uttered into the air “I just want to go home!” Tears of frustration mix well with rain.

Solving our would-be rescuers engine woes.

Solving our would-be rescuers engine woes.

The rain pours down as we consider our options.

The rain pours down as we consider our options.

Giving it the old heave-ho!

Giving it the old heave-ho!

Tserigma laments our situation.

Tserigma laments the mud, the rain, and the immobility of a bus.

The day stretched, yawned, got about his business. He produced the sun, who dried us out and knocked us out. Our driver misplaced his consciousness in the grass in front of the bus, laying in the sun as if dead for three hours. People played cards, they socialized, they slept. I stalked steppe eagles scouring the landscape for lunch. Bold and I even pushed another car out of the gully, while we remained STUCK. After that, I dug myself a bed amongst the stored luggage, and exited this world for three lovely hours. I didn’t know we were stranded, I didn’t know I was in Mongolia, heck, I didn’t know I was alive. I was wherever our driver had wondered to.

Making the best of a sticky situation.

Making the best of a sticky situation.

A prickly sun chased me from reverie as thunderheads started building. I’m not joking when I say, we were all contemplating spending the night on the bus in a deluge.

The Mongols materialized in several boss looking SUVs. Sporting fedoras common to steppe environs, their confident saunters exclaimed: “This isn’t our first rodeo.” That lit our hope light. We believed they could pull us out of the sludge, and toward broader horizons. Out came the tow cable to be bridled to a bright and creamy Toyota. When our driver signaled, the driver of the Toyota quirted his horses, and they spit mud to the moon. It was beautiful. Soon the moon was covered in mud, but our bus? That bus just would not budge.

Confident Mongols give it a go. This has to work, right?

Confident Mongols give it a go. This has to work, right?

After forty-five minutes, the Mongols rounded up their SUV’s and sped off. Chastened, we took stock. Our promised help hadn’t come. Three different vehicles and their drivers had done their level best to clear us from our trap to no avail. Storm clouds continued to gather, but the distance to Altargana remained the same – Infinite. It was late afternoon, our prospects poor. And yet, we hadn’t lost hope. Even in the midst of trouble, you realize, once you survive this, it will be an epic life tale, one you will never forget. (Other epic tales: Part 1 and Part 2 of “Return from Snowy River” and “A Long Haul for Olkhon” part 1 and “Retracing Baikal’s Ice Crucible” part 2.)

Our driver gets down in the steppe mud yet again in hopes of freeing us.

Our driver gets down in the steppe mud yet again in hopes of freeing us.

The World Wildlife Fund ready to give her a go.

The World Wildlife Fund ready to give her a go.

And then the World Wildlife Fund motored into our lives. Calm, collected and humble, this man displayed for us magic we had yet to try. That magic is spelled w-i-n-c-h. Hope burned in our eyes! The meadow where we had been lounging in the sun transformed as everyone got up to push. The driver, who had been granted resurrection from his death like sleep, crawled under the bus to attach the winch cable. All was ready. We held our collective breath as the winch cable tightened, and found purchase. The bus was still winning, it pulled the SUV dangerously close to its failed orbit. But WWF was not to be foiled, he let the winch out again, and we gave her another try. The SUV stood its ground, and the bus teetered, choked, and started to MOVE! Inching forward, while we all pushed, that GAZ found its feet and drove up the hill at 5 pm, twelve hours after our bog down. Quickly we reloaded our bus (all extra weight had been jettisoned), and got back underway, after the WWF driver had received his proper kisses from the Matriarchs! (If you don’t know who the Matriarchs are, read part one of this story here.)

We celebrate as the GAZ is finally pulled free, twelve hours after bogging down.

We celebrate as the GAZ is finally pulled free, twelve hours after bogging down.

The Sweet Bliss of Movement

It was a half an hour before we found our promised help. One of the van crew, an elderly gentlemen had searched for half the day for a tractor to come pull us out. Several tractor drivers had agreed, only to back out. When he finally found one, they started back the way he had come and we met up just before six! We will never know the great lengths he went to, to procure a tractor. He piled in, and we left our would be rescuer to trundle back to his home base.

The scenery started to change. We skirted the great bed of the Onon river, best known river of Chingis Khan’s homeland. Up, up we broke out into high grasslands and saw two wild boar sauntering through tall grass as if all Mongolia was theirs. As we drew near our goal, the roads got really crazy. Supply trucks were stalled out on muddy hillsides and our bus was desperately leaning at forty-five degree angles while we picked our way toward the valley where Dadal lay.

Altargana Encampment

Darkness swallowed the verdant landscape just before we crested the final hill and tooled through the grand gate that signaled our arrival at Altargana. My breath caught as the dazzling lights of the entire encampment stretched out wide across the valley below. It was as if we had been transported back in time in a magic bus, to arrive at the great cantonment of the Grand Khan, Chingis. From here he united the steppe tribes, from here he rode forth with his army of mounted archers to unleash the Mongol blitzkrieg across Asia and Europe. For the next three days, we would live in the tents and gers of his encampment, and experience the culture and traditions of Chingis Khan’s northern vanguard and arguably his most feisty warriors, the Buryats.

Look for the final post of this series, where you will see what Altargana is all about coming soon.

Here is how other bloggers resolved sticky situations. Lemons and Lemonade.

10,000 Miles to Altargana; Festival of Nomadic Culture

A picture is worth a thousand words, but is it worth ten thousand miles? I am talking about a particular image, and ten thousand very real miles of travel.

Behold the image:

10,000 miles for a smile. These Khori Buryat girls are on their way to parade into the stadium at the opening of Altargana 2014, in Dadal, Mongolia.

10,000 miles for a smile. These Khori Buryat girls are on their way to parade into the stadium at the opening of Altargana 2014, in Dadal, Mongolia.

That image was captured by covering miles in the following manner:

By Air

United Airlines: Bozeman to Denver = 518 miles

Denver to Washington D.C. = 1507 miles

Washington D.C. to Beijing = 7048 miles

China Air: Beijing to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia = 731 miles

Overland

Old Soviet Autobus called a Gaz: Ulaanbaatar to Dadal, Mongolia. = 365 miles

The careful student of math will conclude I travelled 10,169 miles. Of these, the last 365 were by far the hardest, and that is where we will pick up our story, in the teaming streets of Ulaanbaatar, a capital city, a boom town. Right now it is flush with three things, no four. Mining money, Toyota Priuses (seriously, I am seeing them lined up three in a row at traffic lights!), pregnant women, or recent mothers, and newly rising high rises.

Into the hushed pre-dawn of the city I stepped, backpack on my back, camera gear on my chest. I made my way to the 5 am rally point where I would travel with the Buryat Community of Ulaanbaatar to Altargana 2014. If you don’t know what Altargana is, read my post on it from 2010 by clicking here.

Buryat Community of Ulaanbaatar

What you should be thinking, although you may not know it is: “Alex, how do you know the Buryat community in Ulaanbaatar? You spend most of your time in Ulan-Ude.” Well I don’t, that is, I didn’t. Nope, I just called them up from Montana, and asked if I might go along. Let’s be clear here, I called some number I found on the internet connected with a Mongolian site about Altargana 2014. The man who answered spoke some English, and some Russian, and we kind of communicated. Kind of. With whom did I speak? I assumed it was some young man whose job it was to help people find their way to Altargana. And you know what they say about the word assume.

So, here is this red-bearded Montana kid appearing from among the silent high-rises to select a spot among the gathering Buryats. This was certainly a mysterious turn of events for them. The ice breaker came when little Saruul, a mischievous young man, with a gifted set of pipes, decided to take a recon run by me, since I already grinned at him, oh! and my red beard has mesmerizing powers. He rounded up his chubby partner in crime Shineft, with an equally nice vocalisation skills, to swing by me for a closer look. We all laughed and that sealed the deal. The rest of the Buryats continued about their business, now sure that I was OK.

Our five o’clock rally point continued to be our rally point through six, seven and eight. Eight thirty was our ticket out of the city and into the boundless Mongolian steppe. Two Soviet Buses rounded the corner to round us up, and the expedition was on.

Oh Mongolia! Your beauty is unsurpassed.

Oh Mongolia! Your beauty is unsurpassed.

Four elbows in the grease. This is episode # 1.

Four elbows in the grease. This is episode # 1.

Meeting The Matriarchs

As we tooled out of the city, the question “Sasha, do you drink Kumis?” was flung into the buses atmosphere. Kumis, fermented mares milk has a savory tang to it, and is a taste one acquires among nomads, one I had acquired years past. “Certainly.” Was my response, and soon a jug of the slightly alcoholic milk beverage found my place. I took a few swigs, glad that in some way my cultural immersion was paying off. In one short exchange I had become Sasha, which around here is short for Alexander, and payed respect to Buryat culture all in one swig. In a real sense, that made me one of the Buryats.

Our first break down took place took place about two hours in. The Mongol mechanic got about his business, got a face full of oil, deftly cut hoses and had us back up and running in twenty. That was hopeful, I felt good about that, we were in good hands. Our second breakdown occurred let’s see . . . two more hours in. Now we are pulling stuff out of the bus I’ve never seen before. Oh well, the picnic is in effect. People be bustin’ out plastic-ware full of scrumptious stuff, and they are handing it around, cause they prepared to feed everyone, like they always do in this part of the world. And I’m making inroads with the ladies, you got to do that. The ladies are where it is at, and by ladies I mean the Matriarchs. If they have a low opinion of you, you can become persona non grata. But if the Matriarchs can laugh a bit, and see your earnestness to learn, then they will take care of you. This is not about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, this is about finding your niche in the community and making a proper contribution. Mine became this: Recording every triumph and setback along the way. That, and being an interesting conversation piece. See, these people had been to festivals before, they knew all about being Buryat. But meeting a ‘Merican who is interested in what being Buryat means, that is unusual. So, I took pictures, made a few jokes, enjoyed their hospitality, and that made them happy. Bango! I am part of the community! You know what a relief that is? I don’t speak the language here (some of them spoke Russian, as I do), now I got people who will make sure I get a plate at the local cafe, I got people who will give me half of what they got! Really! These people are great! I mean it, really great!

A Buryat patiently waits in his element.

A Buryat patiently waits in his element.

"The Matriarchs" gettin' their game on. These ladies have their fingers on the pulse of their community, good friends to have.

“The Matriarchs” gettin’ their game on. These ladies have their fingers on the pulse of their community, good friends to have.

The kids keeping their cards in this high stakes game of waiting as we deal with broke down episode # 2.

Meanwhile at the kids table they are keeping their cards close in this high stakes game of waiting as we deal with broke down episode # 2. L to R: Dorjderem, Bold, Otgoo, and Selenge.

Bold and Saruul let their inner artists flow in the roadside dirt.

Bold and Saruul let their inner artists flow in the roadside dirt. This is already broke down episode # 3.

We were on the road after a forty-five minute forced picnic. And I’ll bet we rolled for forty-five minutes before . . . I don’t even have to say it. Breakdown number three. Number three was a red-line. 50% of our fleet of Soviet buses down and out. The market for a new bus just opened up somewhere out in Khentii province. We made the call, and now are awaiting our replacement carriage. It’s origin point is Ulaanbaatar, a three or four hour mad-dash away from our present position.

Saruul keeps us all entertained through silly antics, and an age-old game of hopscotch.

Saruul keeps us all entertained through silly antics, and an age-old game of hopscotch.

Selenge rockin' that nerdy cool vibe out in the Mongolian steppe.  Selenge is named after the river "Selenge" or "Selenga" which flows north out of Mongolia into Buryatia right through Ulan-Ude into Lake Baikal.

Selenge rockin’ that nerdy cool vibe out in the Mongolian steppe. Selenge is named after the river “Selenge” or “Selenga” which flows north out of Mongolia into Buryatia right through Ulan-Ude into Lake Baikal.

Making Friends

This stop was highlighted by hopscotch. Yep, nomads play hopscotch, who knew? We also drew in the dirt.  My new friend Bold drew a seriously striking resemblance of the Montana kid with a roman nose and red beard. Me in dirt.

We made our way up the road a bit to a settlement with a cafe. I wanted buuz, that is steamed meat dumplings (find out what buuz are by clicking here) but the joint didn’t have any. That is when Selenge, a young lass practicing her English with me, took it upon herself to go to a different cafe and order me as many buuz as I wanted. See what I mean? These people are awesome! Meanwhile my new friend Otgoo the mountaineer is feeding me half his plate of beef and noodles. Otgoo, who has peaked out on Mt. Elbrus four times if memory serves me. Otgoo, Buryat mountaineer from Dadal, Mongolia. Dadal may be bigger than Two Dot, Montana, but not by much, not by much. We play cards, a game called “fool”, still the game of choice in former Communist regions. I managed to not be the fool one time, a small triumph that I will take!

Bayasal and Saruul having fun with rocks, one of our many forms of entertainment waiting for our replacement vehicle to come from Ulaanbaatar.

Bayasal and Saruul having fun with rocks, one of our many forms of entertainment waiting for our replacement vehicle to come from Ulaanbaatar.

Four-thirty, we’ve been sitting at least as long as rolling. The new mini-van is here, and we load our gear onto the top. My rucksack will be with one vehicle, while I’ll be on another. You do the math. Five O’clock and we are trundling across the steppe again. I’m still a long way away from making that first image you saw. And things are about to get complicated.

Expedition to Altargana Part 2 to follow!

Here is what other people are writing about this summer: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/summer-lovin/

Nosh Some Khuushuur, Taste the Steppe!

Khuushuur. (Who-shúre): the approximate pronunciation of this culinary tidbit from the cooking fires of Buryat Nation here on their home steppe; stretching across recognized international boundaries from Central Siberia down into China and Mongolia.

Khuushuur? How good could it be? Well, you consider yourself adventurous, so heck, you decide to order one up. Without delay a piping golden half-moon meat tart is placed before you. It looks OK, I mean Van Gogh isn’t going to go into spasms and rave over it’s appearance, but face it kid, this isn’t art for the peepers, it is art for your tum. And when you bite into it’s crisp yet soft dough, in a moment of intense clarity you will recognize your terrible mistake . . . Only a silly fool orders one!

For khuushuur, tucked into with proper timing will make your kisser moon-eyed in desire for more. You will find yourself surreptitiously seeking another cache of these meat pies, desperately eyeing surrounding tables, chairs and purses for the greasy hint that might reveal a secret stash or looked over morsel. Hopefully casting glances toward the dark doorway of the kitchen from which this fried pastry made it’s debut, you will khuushuur to fly in squadrons from the frying pan to land on your plate. Your hand creeps toward your neighbours plate ever-so-imperceptibly to free him of the burden of eating another. Perhaps, that is why Buryats traditionally had knives hanging on chains of silver from their belts, ever within immediate reach in case some coveting hand needed skewering. Aha! I believe I have just stumbled upon the etymology of the word skewer! Who knew the core of its meaning centers around hungry Buryats keeping paws off plates filled with delectable khuushuur?

Now I know there are a lot of you somewhere out there that are packing their bags even now, tryin’ to get to the khuushuur. I want you to sit down! Breathe . . . breathe . . . and learn something, mainly cause I don’t want to be gettin’ in fights with you out here in the streets of Ulan-Ude because you are all like “He lied about the khuushuur! I flew eight thousand miles, and got me some clammy uninspired khuushuur!” Let’s just avoid that sticky situation, shall we? As I said above, proper timing is KEY! You have got to get that fresh khuushuur! I made my way to this city in 1999, and let me tell you, I have eaten some poor khuushuur! But I didn’t know. I was ear deep everyday in Russian studies, just trying to keep from telling people I flew here from America on a teapot. (Trust me, in Russian it is hilarious, like fall off your chair and gasp for air in the middle of Russian class hilarious). So when it comes to food, I’m buying what the ladies who set up little food stands on the University grounds are selling. They made it last nite at 7 pm. 7:01 pm is when I should have been on that khuushuur. But at seven O’ one pm, I was trying to round up last nights dinner, not lunch for today! So yesterdays khuushuur becomes my lunch. At that time my culinary interpretation of khuushuur was a brief query in my mind “why do they eat this stuff here?” And then a “beggars can’t be choosers” shrug as I considered the economic state of students in Russia, myself included.

OK, I see you didn’t really calm down like I asked. I can see by the burning angst in your eyes, the famished set of your lips that you are dying to know just where to get that fine fresh khuushuur. Let me show you fresh khuushuur central.

Voila. This little ger, number 23, is among a hundred here in Dadal, Mongolia. This is khuushuur alley, all these gers are selling them to the revellers and competitors at Altargana 2014.

To learn about Altargana, click here.

Below from left to right we see Sosfseren, Olgonbayar, and Saruulbayar the owner-operators of this little tent of nourishment. Come on inside with me and have a look at their enterprise.

Proprietors of Ger # 23, tasty Khuushuur and whatnot.

Proprietors of Ger # 23, tasty Khuushuur and whatnot.

Station #1: This is where the dough is made, cut, rolled out, and shaped. The fellas of the Khuushuur crew got this all under control. (See next photo.)

Station #1: This is where the dough is made, cut, rolled out, and shaped. The fellas of the Khuushuur crew got this all under control. (See next photo.)

Ganolzii and Mendbayar making that dough!

Ganolzii and Mendbayar making that dough!

Station #2: This is the meat mixing station. Khuushuur demands a sharp eye, and measurements are strictly adhered too! Here, we get a dash of onions.

Station #2: This is the meat mixing station. Beef would be the most common meat used in these pies, although you might get on with pork or mutton mixed in.  Khuushuur demands a sharp eye, and measurements are strictly adhered too! Here, we get a dash of onions.

And a dash of salt.

And a dash of salt.

Mix it all up.

Mix it all up.

Gangannavz rounds that meat into shape.

Gangannavz rounds that meat into shape.

Here we have a quick break to check the action in the ger. Some industrious gentleman in brown is making my friend Natasha laugh. Good on 'im.

Here we have a quick break to check the action in the ger. Some industrious gentleman in brown is making my friend Natasha laugh. Good on ‘im.

Saruulbayar lays out the Khuushuur ready for the frying pot, while his mother applies the needed treatment.

Station #3: Prep for frying station. Saruulbayar lays out the Khuushuur ready for the frying pot, while his mother applies the needed treatment.

The Matriarch of this production manning (womanning?) the fry pot, tea pot and steaming pot, for buuz all with a wry sense of humor.

Station #4: Frying. The Matriarch of this production manning (womanning?) the fry pot, tea pot and steaming pot, for buuz all with a wry sense of humor.

In like 2 seconds it will be THE time to get your teeth around these Khuushuur, which I'm about to do.

In like 2 seconds it will be THE time to get your teeth around these Khuushuur, which I’m about to do.

And they are done. Clear a spot at the table I am diving in!

And they are done. Clear a spot at the table I am diving in!

Happy khuushuur noshers. With proper timing to get the freshest khuushuur, this is how good they go down!

Happy khuushuur noshers. With proper timing to get the freshest khuushuur, this is how good they go down!

Nosh some khuushuur, taste the steppe! http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/handmade-tales/

Irkutsk: Paris of Siberia

Winter sunset, Irkutsk, Siberia

Pervomaiski region of Irkutsk. This scene continuously reverberates inside my head as a city on the very edge of the earth. Probably not what you expect from the Paris of Siberia, but striking all the same.

The Paris of Siberia, that is Irkutsk. I wrote on the wonders of Irkutsk several years back, it is worth a read. Here are some beautiful photos of the city who rests on the banks of the blue Angara river.

http://tigersontearoad.wordpress.com/cities-on-tea-road/irkutsk-paris-of-siberia/

Orthodox church in Irkutsk.

A lovely vision off the beaten path.