Mongolia is truly "big sky country." It looks a lot like northeastern Colorado or Wyoming--a big pasture of rolling hills wedged between the USSR and China, horses grazing. From the train window, one sees mile after mile of grasslands and steppes. Off in the distance one does see a few fields being prepared for planting, this being the the end of April. No tractors in sight though, only horses doing the plowing. The houses in the far southern part of Mongolia are made entirely of mud, even the sloping roofs.
This was basically the route of the Mongol invaders of the 12th Century. This day though, as the train approached the capital of Ulan Bator, the hills grew higher. In view were small Mongolian settlements of "yurts" or "gers", the traditional movable felt tents. The main mode of transportation is the horse--and more than half of the population are nomadic herders.
Ulan Bator, the capital, was nestled in a valley, after going over a 1800 M pass. It was fairly large, strung out along the railroad tracks. There were some areas of low wooden houses with yurts in the yard. There were also some large government looking apartment blocks. Much like those in China: big, grey, and uniformly ugly. The trip to Lake Baikal in Central Siberia, is now all downhill.
The people that were in and about the train station, were dressed in the typical padded cotton clothing that was so prevalent in China. One older gentleman asked me to take his picture.
Leaving Ulan Bator, more trees appeared, especially on the north sides of the hills. The route followed a river, which grew larger as we went farther north. The sun set about 8:00pm; the train reached the Mongolia/USSR border about 9:00pm.
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