Monday, January 18, 2010

I went for a walk downtown today.

Ulaanbaatar is a city like no other.

Today was particularly warm, possibly above 0 on the Farhenheit scale, so a long walk made a lot of sense. When you're out walking in UB, as foreigners call the capital city, it is of utmost importance to watch for open manholes. I don't know if people actually live down there, of it they are just stolen and sold for scrap - but it's not uncommon to find an open manhole. You should also be careful to avoid the sliding zones. Young Mongolians love to slide their way wherever they are going. On almost every sidewalk there is a pattern of running space (to get up speed) and sliding space (to sail by the walkers.) The long icy patches are easy to see as long as you keep your eyes open at all times!

If you dare to take a second to look up and look around, you'll see a beautiful city. Downtown there are a handful of tall, modern buildings. Most of the buildings take their design from Soviet Russian inspiritaion. The Opera house, State Department Store, and any number of government office buildings share the 2nd world look and feel of Stalinism. Beyond all of the buildings, the mountains are present on clear-sky days.

Many people live in communist era apartment buildings. Most people live in gers. Gers are round tent-like semi-permanent structures. A wooden frame is covered with wool and cloth. You can lock the door on a ger, and they usually have a wood stove. I haven't been inside a ger with running water, but I have seen computers and high-speed internet inside the dwellings.

Pictures will be coming shortly. I just haven't had my camera out yet.

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