Sunday, July 17, 2011

Buryats and Baikal

To the Buryats, an Asiatic ethnic group who live in the region of Lake Baikal, the lake is sacred. The Buryats have their own autonomous region, with its capital at Ulan Ude on the eastern side of the lake. According to Ian Frazier's "Travels in Siberia," a train runs along the southern shore of the lake and connects Irkutsk to Ulan Ude, a trip that takes about 24 hours and sounds fas-cinating. Ulan Ude is also easy to reach by plane from Moscow or other Siberian cities.
But even without visiting Ulan Ude, you will see evidence of the Buryats in and near Irkutsk. They are a shamanistic people, and there are many spots where particular trees and bushes are decked with colourful ribbons that pay tribute to nature spirits. It is a local custom when passing such places to stop and tie a ribbon. I also observed people throwing small coins toward the trees.
The Buryats are believed to have originated in Mongolia and to have travelled north to escape persecution by the Buddhists many centuries ago. Who knew Buddhists persecuted people? Today about a quarter million Buryats live in the Baikal region, and some of their cuisine is popular with locals and visitors alike. A particularly delicious treat is a meat-filled pastry called a pozhe, brimming with hot gravy. Keep reading for information on where to get good pozhes near Irkutsk.

The picture below
is of the writer at a Buryat shrine on the road from Irkutsk to the Small Sea of Lake Baikal.

Labels: , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home