19 Dec Visit to Buryat family during trip to Ulan Ude
In ExploRussia we believe that we learn about the country in a most exciting way when we interact with locals. See their habits, daily life, discuss their views, exchange cultures and have fun! That’s why now we will publish several articles about our local guides and cool things they show and do with our guests, which in the end makes a great experience. This article is about Tumun from Ulan Ude. We got to know Tumun back in 2013 and realized from the first moment, that he is a true member of our team – dedicated to his region, responsible, loves his country and foreigners!
Most probably when you will travel along Trans-Siberian Railway and stop by Ulan Ude, you will visit Tumun and his family. This family’s visit each time is special. Elena, Tumun’s wife, cooks delicious local (Buryat) food.When you travel to Russia most probably you expect Caucasian people and something like traditional European culture. But Russia is a multi-national country, uniting areas and republics, it might be a bit of a cultural shock even for a Russian to travel to Ulan Ude. Discover why from this post. But to give you a bit of a perception Ulan Ude is a capital of Buryat Republic, where the minority of Buryats live, having as official Buryat language and who confess Buddhism.
Below Tumun have shared with us his personal story, how he came up to being ExploRussia representative in Ulan Ude and tells more about how he hosts our guests at their home together with his family:
“My name is Tumun, I live in Ulan Ude, I have a wife and two kids. I work in Baikal Institute of Natural Resources Use, the part of Russian Academy of Science. During my university studies, I was working part-time in hospitality business. It was the work in one of the best restaurants of Ulan Ude and for 3 years together with my friends, we were involved in tourism. It was a great period of making new friends, starting the business, gaining experience and earning first money too. We spent this money for traveling, we have climbed almost all peaks of Eastern Sayans, crossed Lake Baikal on ice, toured Russia, Mongolia and China.
During one of the student scientific contests in Voronezh, I have met with Boris Solovyev (friend of ExploRussia and guide of Poseidon Expeditions). Later he came over to visit me in Ulan Ude and we have fulfilled our dream and ambition to cross the Baikal lake over the ice. Our expedition lasted 2 days, we passed 42 km with one overnight in the middle, we have slept in tents on ice. Since then we are great friends with Boris, my kids are lucky to receive postcards from him from all over the world.
Boris introduced me to Olga and Anna from ExploRussia in 2014, that’s when our partnership and friendship started. Now it is the 3rd year when I am their representative in Ulan Ude. I love the way we work with ExploRussia from the very beginning, this format I can say is truly unique. It is based on trust, professionalism and business qualities of the team. For me, the work with tourists is the utmost responsibility, at the same time our approach “exploring Russia through the eyes of a local” gives me so much joy and pleasure from what I do. So all the work I do here I persuade as a hobby, which is very exciting. Needless to say, this work gives my family extra income, which is important.
Let me give you a little bit more perception on what we do here in Ulan Ude for ExploRussia guests. We are compiling many interesting programs for tourists, as a part of their Trans-Siberian Adventure tour. Those are trips to Lake Baikal (for example in winter 2017 we had a brave couple from Australia Chris and Melanie, they spent 5 days here and tried even winter-fishing from a small hole on the ice of the lake). For those interested in confessions we let to discover Buddhist side of Russia and visit some of our Datsans, the most famous is Ivolginsky Datsan.
One of the unique activities we do here with guests, we invite them over to my house to spend time with my family. My wife is a biologist, now working in a medical company and dealing with the supply of medical facilities to hospitals in our region. Our elder son, his name is Bator (translated from Buryat as bogatyr, the main hero of Russian tales, a very strong man), he is a pupil. And my younger daughter Subadi (translated from Buryat as Small Perl) goes to the kinder garden.
We love having guests. In Buryat tradition, if the person accepts the invitation to come over for your house it is the sign of utmost respect to you and your family. Very honorable if the guest has come from afar. We believe that after visiting us a guest becoming a friend or even a relative.
What do we like most when hosting our guests? Of course, my kids love gifts and sweets which guests bring 😊 This is partly a joke but anyway all kids love that. I see in these visits big pedagogical value. They learn how to behave in the company of new people, how to introduce themselves, how to listen and encourage the dialogue, what is very important to understand and speak the foreign language. We like guests talking their native language, it is the easy atmosphere when topics change one another and time flies. It is only one evening, but we learn so many things about traditions, places and mentalities.
I personally like the most when our guests with pleasure try delicious treats of my wife Lena and ask for more 😊 as we say, fed person – a happy person. Usually, Lena cooks something from Siberian cuisine and Buryat cuisine. For Siberian cuisine it is smoked fish, salted meat with brown bread and home-made pickled cabbage, cucumbers and mushrooms. For Buryat cuisine this is nourishing beef broth with home-made noodles; traditional buzy (mince in dough cooked on steam, similar to Georgian khinkali or Uzbek manty); salamat – mixture from fried sour cream and dough; yogurt from cream with bird cherries. We realize that only traditional dishes might be too much for a guest who is not used to it, that’s why we always cook common for European taste Cesar salad, appetizers from fresh veggies and pastry.We don’t have alcohol, this is our rule 😊 For drinks we have green tea with milk, mors which is a berry-drink from sea-buckthorn or cranberries.
Sometimes we invite over our dearest aunt and one of the cousins to play Buryat national instrument and perform throat singing. Our aunt is a professional musician in the Buryat ensemble of national instruments. We often engage guests to play musical instruments with us! And making pictures in traditional Buryat costumes is already the tradition 😊 Also we try to give away some hand-made present as a souvenir for our guests.
It is hard to say what our guests enjoy more from the time we spend together. I think it is a bit of a cultural shock for them to see the mix of different cultures, traditions, and religions and to see the Eastern or Asian mentality inside of Russia. Many guests confess at the end of their visit that it felt like being in a different country, but they were still in Russia!”
Don’t miss Ulan Ude on your Trans-Siberian route, the eastern side of the lake Baikal!
If you are looking for more information to be inspired, check our Essential guide for Trans-Siberian Railway trip.