Arshan Siberia People and a Few Cows
Mountain Town Sublime
Arshan, Siberia is a mountain town nestled at the foot of snow capped Sayan Range. There are a few things that you should know before you venture up the less beaten track from Lake Baikal to experience it.
Water – Arshan is famed for it and visitors come from all over Russia for the water experience. The name Arshan comes from the Buryat word for “spring”. People come to gulp it, there are bottle filling stations everywhere. If they are not imbibing, they are partaking in it, in a spa sort of way. If neither or both are for you, you can also take in a hike along a mountain stream if you do not want to drink or immerse in it.
Yawn – if it is nightlife you want, you had better take the next bus back down to Lake Baikal. Better still, head on back east to Ulan Ude or west to Irkutsk, where you might be able to find a semblance of nightlife. Otherwise, you will be stuck listening to the boom box output of visiting Russians. Besides vodka, it is part of the remote vacation experience in Russia.
Kids – They make it easy. Discover community life through the eyes of the children. Whether visitors or locals, around the world, curious and innocent, naive and open, kids are kids.
Outdoors – it is a nature kind of place with hikes in some of the purest air available on the continent. Take a breath.
Vodka – is more available than groceries. Walls of it. The convenience store walls are reserved for vodka and the small display case in the center has edibles. Vodka prevails over food, get used to it.
Cows are almost as available as vodka. You can meet them on the main street, in the back alleys and just about everywhere else. If the owners do not pay attention to them they come calling.
For more on travel in Siberia and Russia see also:
Arshan, Siberia Sleepy Mountain Town Awakens
Mountain towns have a culture and Arshan, Siberia is no exception. Laid back town, invigorating air, mountain drop-back.
Ulan Ude is a popular stop from Mongolia for Lake Baikal touring. From the railway station you can pick up a cramped (Russians are not little folk) local bus that will take about 8 hours with pit stops to Arshan. The trip has the usual attributes, cramped quarters, too many stops, air con wars, long leggeds battling for position. The bus driver obliges a special stop for the opportunity to pick up smoked Omul fish, freshly caught, delicious little morsels indigenous to Lake Baikal, wrapped in newspaper, local honey and field berries available from roadside kerchiefed peddlers. No one will tell you what is happening. No one speaks English, remember? It will not take long for you to figure out that local delicacies are now available once you see their wares. It is not every day you can pick those up. Daily protein and vitamins needs in one stop. Not grocery store fresh but this morning fresh.
Now on the discovered route with Muscovites choosing to venture “over the Urals” to Siberia to breathe the mountain air that Siberians have treasured for centuries, you may have to slip into back streets for your true mountain experience. Sleepy Arshan has been awakened by Eastern visitors, cheap vodka and the requisite accompaniment blaring music. Mist shrouded mountains, unique cottage architecture, gardens brimming with summer harvest, fireplaces crackling, pines whispering.
Like most places requiring the extra effort, Arshan, Siberia is off the track but worth the deviation.
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Reflecting On A Siberian Summer Flood
It is that time of year again. Summer. When it rains in some parts of the world and others suffer from drought. Splish, Splosh. Crisp, Crush.
Now take Siberia. If you think harsh and polar, think again in the temperate season. The winters may be biting cold but the summers can be fresh and actually palatable. Green and lush even. Tropical almost. Well, that is a stretch. It is Siberia, after all.
Between pours, camera toting folks get out and catch opportunities that are not around on bleachy, washed out sunny days. Those photographers who are not already out in the rain, that is. But, sometimes it rains and it rains, and it rains and rains, so, mindful of possible flood conditions, let us start plodding around in the streets where unique timber architecture abounds.
Reflections of unique wooden houses built a century ago when Siberia was the land of towering trees and limbering forests make a good starting point. You might slip on your galoshes and don a waterproof cape and brolly, just in case. Keep that camera lens dry and the body safe, the water is not just falling from the skies. Many the over-exuberant shutterbug has been dismayed losing equipment momentarily into the flood waters. Work the low perspective and keep your equipment above water.
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Siberian Boys and Pesky Pigeons
What is the symbiotic attraction between boys and birds?
Siberian boys and wild pigeons illustrate the global appeal of impulsive outdoor fun. Laughing, flying, smiling, persisting, glancing, swooping, pondering, diving, controlling, avoiding, rewarding, swarming. It looks like boys and birds have a few things in common when they are entwined in mutual pursuits.
If you are just walking undirected around Irkutsk, Siberia and happen upon a scene of playful exuberance that a boy harboring seeds, surrounded by wanton pigeons manifests, then lucky you. Navigate to a shooting location where a hoard of pigeons swarming the boy can be safely observed. Get the nod of acknowledgement from the wary parent. And mind your cranium and bottom. Pigeons, being opportunists, have to let things go once in a while.
More often than not street photography requires cunning and bravado, unless the subject is immersed in an activity as engrossing as a wild bird food frenzy. In which case, getting caught is secondary to the activity. So, settle in and await the converging paths of opportunism and skill as you capture both bird and boy experiencing a gleeful fear of the moment and the expectation of a reward. Controlling the uncontrolled has an appeal to boys, yet to embark on the confinements of adulthood. And pigeons, always get their seeds.
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