We’ve been in the train for almost a week now. Yesterday morning we had a longer stop, in the capital city of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar. Although we got up early, we woke up to a very beautiful and sunny day.
In the morning, we had great breakfast after which we continued to the Unkknown Russian Soldier monument to discuss more about Mongolian life, history, and culture. Our guides were around the same age as we were and spoke perfect English, were very polite, and incredibly insightful about their own country.
We split up after the waar monumnet as most of the people went straight to the National Park. The rest of us had a visit to the Ulanbataar Public Library. The library IT manager Begzsuren Jamsranjav and others hosted us in the library. They had really prepared the meeting for us by putting some Finnish stuff on the walls and making special presentation for us. You can have a look at the libraries Twitter account.
One of our guide was interested in to study at Aalto because of free education.
After the library visit, we continued our journey to reach the other part of the group at the National Park. Due to the Czech Prime Minister’s visit, there was a detour and we had an unexpect, but interesting stop in the country side. There was group of local primary school students playing skip rope and football. We joined them for a while, and it was amazing to experience the joy of the local people
playing and having fun.
Simo playing skip rope!
After the traffic jam, we finally arrived at the National Park, where the rest of our group was. We had a visit in traditionals yurt houses, met the locals, and had a chance to ride camels and horses. They had also prepared an amazing lunch with Mongolian lamb and dumplings set against some amazing scenery.
All in all, Mongolia was a fascinating country, albeit a very poor country. The atmosphere in the city was pretty Sestern, although there was a lot of Soviet buildings still around, as it seems the Mongolians are quite proud of their history with the Russians. Traffic was also
a pretty horrific experience.
After lunch, we returned to the station to catch our train. We thanked our guides and gave away some of the spare food we had for some of the charity projects the guides had going on.
Although the participants very much enjoyed our time and experiences in Mongolia, we had to experience the most tragic event that unfortunately does happen on the Trans-Siberian railway. As we left Ulaanbaatar, our train struck a man on the track, killing him on impact. This event sparked a number of reactions and emotions from the participants of Aalto on Tracks. While no one could prevent the accident, we discussed and listened to many different responses and self-reflections we each had regarding the tragic event. Moreover, we ensured participants had the proper support to cope with the situation if needed.
Nonetheless, we’re looking ahead to the journey and we are excited to cross the Chinese border tomorrow. Before arriving, we are having our last culture and language classes on the train to prepare for the new country.
We are very sad that we are leaving the private train that has become a home for all of us. We will miss the staff who have been so great to us. Beijing and Shanghai are now awaiting us!
Greets from the Gobi Desert!