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Mongolia: Lonely Planet Travel Video

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Mongolia: Lonely Planet Travel Video

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Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It borders Russia to the north and the People’s Republic of China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only 24 miles (38 km) from Kazakhstan’s eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest city, is home to about 38% of the population. Mongolia’s political system is a parliamentary republic.

The area of what is now Mongolia has been ruled by various nomadic empires, including the Xiongnu, the Xianbei, the Rouran, the Gökturks, and others. The Mongol Empire was founded by Genghis Khan in 1206. After the collapse of the Yuan Dynasty, the Mongols returned to their earlier patterns. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Mongolia came under the influence of Tibetan Buddhism.

At the end of the 17th century, most of Mongolia had been incorporated into the area ruled by the Qing Dynasty. During the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, Mongolia declared independence, but had to struggle until 1921 to firmly establish de-facto independence, and until 1945 to gain international recognition. As a consequence, it came under strong Russian and Soviet influence: In 1924, the Mongolian People’s Republic was declared, and Mongolian politics began to follow the same patterns as Soviet politics of the time. After the breakdown of communist regimes in Eastern Europe in late 1989, Mongolia saw its own Democratic Revolution in early 1990, which led to a multi-party system, a new constitution in 1992, and the – rather rough – transition to a market economy.

At 1,564,116 square kilometres, Mongolia is the nineteenth largest and the most sparsely populated independent country in the world, with a population of around 2.9 million people. It is also the world’s second-largest landlocked country after Kazakhstan. The country contains very little arable land, as much of its area is covered by steppes, with mountains to the north and west and the Gobi Desert to the south. Approximately 30% of the country’s 2.9 million people are nomadic or semi-nomadic. The predominant religion in Mongolia is Tibetan Buddhism, and the majority of the state’s citizens are of the Mongol ethnicity, though Kazakhs, Tuvans, and other minorities also live in the country, especially in the west. About 20% of the population live off less than US$1.25 per day.

Independence

With the fall of the Qing Dynasty, Mongolia under the Bogd Khaan declared independence in 1911. However, the equally newly-established Republic of China claimed Mongolia as part of its own territory. The area controlled by the Bogd Khaan was approximately that of the former Outer Mongolia.

The 49 hoshuns of Inner Mongolia as well as the Mongolians of the Alashan and Qinghai regions expressed their willingness to join the new country, but to no avail. In 1919, after the October Revolution in Russia, Chinese troops led by Xu Shuzheng occupied Mongolia. However, as a result of the Russian Civil War, the White Russian adventurer Baron Ungern led his troops into Mongolia in October 1920, defeating the Chinese in Niislel Khüree (Ulaanbaatar) in early February 1921.

In order to eliminate the threat posed by Ungern, Bolshevik Russia decided to support the establishment of a communist Mongolian government and army. This Mongolian army took the Mongolian part of Kyakhta from the Chinese on March 18th, 1921, and on July 6th Russian and Mongolian troops arrived in Khüree. Mongolia’s independence was declared once again on July 11th, 1921. These events led to Mongolia’s close alignment with the Soviet Union over the next seven decades.

Democracy

The introduction of perestroika and glasnost in the USSR by Mikhail Gorbachev strongly influenced Mongolian politics leading to the peaceful Democratic Revolution and the introduction of a multi-party system and market economy. A new constitution was introduced in 1992, and the “People’s Republic” was dropped from the country’s name. The transition to market economy was often rocky, the early 1990s saw high inflation and food shortages. The first election wins for non-communist parties came in 1993 (presidential elections) and 1996 (parliamentary elections).

Transportation

The Trans-Mongolian Railway is the main rail link between Mongolia and its neighbors. It begins at the Trans-Siberian Railway in Russia at the town of Ulan Ude, crosses into Mongolia, runs through Ulaanbaatar, then passes into China where it joins the Chinese railway system in Jining. A separate railroad link connects the eastern city of Choibalsan with the Trans-Siberian Railway; however, that link is closed to passengers after the Mongolian town of Chuluunkhoroot.

Mongolia has a number of domestic airports. The only international airport is the Chinggis Khaan International Airport near Ulaanbaatar. Direct flight connections exist between Mongolia and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and Germany. MIAT is Mongolia’s largest carrier in Mongolia and provides both domestic and international flights.

Most overland roads in Mongolia are only gravel roads or simple cross-country tracks. There are paved roads from Ulaanbaatar to the Russian and Chinese border, and from Darkhan to Bulgan. Some road construction projects are currently underway, for example construction of the east-west so-called Millennium Road.

Languages

The official language of Mongolia is Khalkha Mongolian, which uses the Cyrillic alphabet, and is spoken by 90% of the population. A variety of different dialects are spoken across the country. In the west the Kazakh and Tuvan languages, among others, are also spoken.

The Russian language is the most frequently spoken foreign language in Mongolia, followed by English, though English has been gradually replacing Russian as the second language. Korean has gained popularity as tens of thousands of Mongolians work in South Korea. Interest in Chinese, as the language of the other neighbouring power, has been growing. Japanese is also popular among the younger people.

A number of older educated Mongolians speak some German, as they studied in the former East Germany, while a few speak other languages from the former Eastern Bloc. Besides that, many younger Mongolians are fluent in the Western European languages as they study or work in foreign countries including Germany, France and Italy. Mongolian is one of the Mongolic languages. Mongolic is frequently included in the Altaic languages, a group of languages named after the Altay Mountains that also includes the Turkic and Tungusic languages.

Religion

According to the CIA World Factbook[31] and the U.S. Department of State[32], 50% of Mongolia’s population follow the Tibetan Buddhism, 40% are listed as having no religion, 6% are Shamanist and Christian, and 4% are Muslim.

Various forms of Tengriism and Shamanism have been widely practiced throughout the history of what is now modern day Mongolia, as such beliefs were common among nomadic people in Asian history. Such beliefs gradually gave way to Tibetan Buddhism, but Shamanism has left a mark on Mongolian religious culture, and continues to be practiced. Amongst the Mongol elite of the Mongol Empire, Islam was generally favored over other religions, as three of the four major khanates adopted Islam.

Throughout much of the twentieth century, the communist government ensured that the religious practices of the Mongolian people were largely repressed. Khorloogiin Choibalsan complied with the orders of Joseph Stalin, destroying almost all of Mongolia’s over 700 Buddhist monasteries and killing thousands of monks.

The fall of communism in 1991 restored the legality of public religious practice, and Tibetan Buddhism, which had been the predominant religion in the region before the rise of Communism, again rose to become the most widely practiced religion in Mongolia. The end of religious repression in the 1990s also allowed for other religions, such as Islam and Christianity, to spread in the country. According to the Christian missionary group Barnabas Fund, the number of Christians grew from just 4 in 1989 to around 40,000 as of 2008.

Culture

The main festival is Naadam, which has been organised for centuries, consists of three Mongolian traditional sports, archery, horse-racing (over long stretches of open country, not the short racing around a track practiced in the West), and wrestling. Nowadays it is held on July 11 to July 13 in the honour of the anniversaries of the National Democratic Revolution and foundation of the Great Mongol State.

Another very popular activity called Shagaa is the “flicking” of sheep ankle bones at a target several feet away, using a flicking motion of the finger to send the small bone flying at targets and trying to knock the target bones off the platform. This contest at Naadam is very popular and develops a serious audience among older Mongolians. In Mongolia, the khoomei, or throat singing, style of music is popular, particularly in parts of Western Mongolia.

The ornate symbol in the leftmost bar of the national flag is a Buddhist icon called Soyombo. It represents the sun, moon, stars, and heavens per standard cosmological symbology abstracted from that seen in traditional thangka paintings.

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Ulan Ude,Russian Food Tour with Michael Kohn – Lonely Planet Travel Video

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Ulan Ude,Russian Food Tour with Michael Kohn – Lonely Planet Travel Video

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Ulan-Ude is the capital city of the Buryat Republic, Russia, is located about 100 km south-east of Lake Baikal on the Uda River at its confluence with the Selenga. According to the 2002 Census, 359,391 residents lived in Ulan-Ude, up from 351,806 recorded in 1989 and it is the third largest city in eastern Siberia.

History

The first occupants of the area where Ulan-Ude now stands were the Evenks and, later, the Buryat Mongols. Ulan-Ude (old name Verkhneudinsk) was founded in 1666 by the Russian Cossacks as fortress Udinskoye. Due to its favourable geographical position, the city grew rapidly and became a large trade centre which connected Russia with China and Mongolia and, from 1690, was the administrative center of the Transbaikal region.

In 1775, the city, now Udinsk, was chartered as a city and in 1783 was renamed Verkhneudinsk. After a large fire in 1878, the city was almost completely rebuilt. The Trans-Siberian Railway reached the city in 1900 causing an explosion in growth. The population which was 3500 in 1880 reached 126,000 in 1939. On 27 July 1934, the city was renamed Ulan-Ude.

Geography and climate

Ulan-Ude lies 5,640 kilometers (3,500 mi) east of Moscow and 100 kilometers (60 mi) south-east of Lake Baikal. It is located 600 meters (1,970 ft) above mean sea level at the foot of the Khamar-Daban and Khrebet Ulan-Burgasy mountain ranges, next to the confluence of the Selenga River and its tributary, the Uda which divides the city into two parts.

Ulan Ude has a moderate subarctic climate with mean temperatures of +1.1 °C (34 °F). The hottest month, July, has a mean temperature of +18.8 °C (65.8 °F) and the coldest, January, is −23.8 °C (−10.8 °F). Ulan-Ude receives an average 251 millimeters (9.9 in) of precipitation per year, mostly in the summer.

Transport

Ulan Ude is located on the main line (Trans-Siberian line) of the Trans-Siberian Railway between Irkutsk and Chita at the junction of the Trans-Mongolian line (the Trans-Mongolian Railway) which begins at Ulan Ude and continues south through Mongolia to Beijing in China.

The city also lies on the M55 section of the Baikal Highway (part of the Trans-Siberian Highway), the main federal road to Vladivostok. Air traffic is served by the Ulan-Ude Airport (Mukhino), as well as the smaller Ulan-Ude Vostochny Airport. Intracity transport includes tram, bus, and marshrutka (share taxi) lines.

Culture

Until 1991 Ulan-Ude was a city closed to foreigners. There are old merchants’ mansions richly decorated with wood and stone carving in the historical center of Ulan-Ude, along the river banks which are exceptional examples of Russian classicism. The city has a large ethnographic museum which recalls the history of the peoples of the region. There is also a large and highly unusual statue of the head of Lenin in the central square, the largest in the world.

Ulan-Ude — the old historic and cultural center in Siberia. Among other things can be noted such as a monument Geser, Arch «King’s Gate» and many other interesting places.

Sister cities

  • Flag of South Korea Anyang, South Korea.
  • Flag of the United States Berkeley, California, United States.
  • Flag of the People's Republic of China Changchun, China.
  • Flag of Mongolia Darkhan, Mongolia.
  • Flag of Mongolia Erdenet, Mongolia.
  • Flag of the People's Republic of China Hohhot, China.
  • Flag of Russia Kazan, Russia.
  • Flag of the People's Republic of China Manchuria, China.
  • Flag of Germany Mannheim, Germany.
  • Flag of Japan Rumoi, Japan.
  • Flag of the Republic of China Taipei, Taiwan.
  • Flag of Mongolia Ulan Bator, Mongolia.
  • Flag of Ukraine Yalta, Ukraine.
  • Flag of Japan Yamagata, Japan.

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Helsinki – Lonely Planet Travel Video

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Helsinki – Lonely Planet Travel Video

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Helsinki is the capital and largest city in Finland. It is in the southern part of Finland, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, by the Baltic Sea. The population of the city of Helsinki is 579,016 (30 June 2009), making it the most populous municipality in Finland by a wide margin. The foreign-born population stands at around 10%.

Helsinki, along with the neighbouring cities of Vantaa (Vanda), Espoo (Esbo), and Kauniainen (Grankulla), constitutes what is known as the capital region, with over 1,000,000 inhabitants. The Greater Helsinki area contains 12 municipalities and has a population of over 1,300,000. The Greater Helsinki accounts for a quarter of the population of Finland, 29% of jobs, and a third of the GDP.

Helsinki is Finland’s capital for business, education, research, culture, and government. Greater Helsinki has eight universities and six technology parks. Some 70% of foreign companies operating in Finland have settled in the Helsinki region. The immigration of rural residents has made it one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in Europe.

Finland’s main international airline hub, Helsinki-Vantaa Airport is 20 kilometres (12 mi) from the city center, with direct flights around the world. The busy Helsinki–Tallinn route takes 1.5 hours by hydrofoil, 4 hours by ferry, and 18 minutes by helicopter. Two other big cities in Finland, Tampere and Turku, can be reached in 1.5–2 hours by train[7] and 1.5–2.5 hours by car.

In early 2009, Helsinki has started contemplating a possible merger with Vantaa. On 30 March 2009, the city council of Vantaa agreed to do a review of Helsinki’s proposal of a possible merger. The city council emphasises that the review is not about a possible discontinuation of the city of Vantaa.

Demographics

The population of Helsinki is predominantly Finnish-speaking, with a sizable Swedish-speaking minority (6.1%). Also, 6.4% of the population are foreign citizens, and 9.6% have a first language other than Finnish or Swedish.

The city has Finland’s largest immigrant population in both absolute and relative terms. There are people of over 130 nationalities resident in Helsinki. The largest groups are from Russia, Estonia, Sweden, but also large numbers of residents from Somalia, Serbia, China, India, Iraq and Germany.

Culture

The biggest historical museum in Helsinki is the National Museum of Finland, which displays a vast historical collection from prehistoric times to the 21st century. The museum building itself, a national romantic style neo-medieval castle, is a tourist attraction. Other major historical museum is the Helsinki City Museum, which introduces visitors to Helsinki’s 500 year history. The University of Helsinki also has many significant museums, including the University Museum and the Natural History Museum.

The Finnish National Gallery consists of three museums: Ateneum Art Museum for classical Finnish art, Sinebrychoff Art Museum for classical European art, and Kiasma Art Museum for modern art. The old Ateneum, a neo-renaissance palace from 19th century, is one of the city’s major historical buildings, whereas the highly modern Kiasma is probably the most debated building in Helsinki.

Helsinki has three major theatres: The Finnish National Theatre, the Helsinki City Theatre, and the Finland Swedish Svenska Teatern. The city’s main musical venues are the Finnish National Opera and the Finlandia concert-hall. Bigger concerts and events are usually held at one of the city’s two big ice hockey arenas: the Hartwall Areena or the Helsinki Ice Hall. Helsinki has Finland’s largest fair centre.

Helsinki is considered as one of the main hubs of popular music in Northern Europe, many widely renowned and acclaimed bands have originated in Helsinki, including Stratovarius, Norther, Wintersun, Ensiferum, HIM, The Rasmus, Shape of Despair, The 69 Eyes, Hanoi Rocks, and Apocalyptica.

Transportation

Roads

Helsinki has several ring roads: Kehä I, Kehä II, and Kehä III. From central city to east and west, there are Itäväylä and Länsiväylä. From the central city to north, there are several routes. There is a proposal to build a Stockholm-like tunnel under the central Helsinki to hide cars from streets. Central Helsinki has popular underground parking facilities.

Helsinki has some 390 cars per 1000 inhabitants. This is less than in cities of similar density, for instance, Brussels’ 483 per 1000 and Stockholm’s 401, and Oslo’s 413.

Rail transport and buses

Public transportation is generally a hotly debated subject in the local politics of Helsinki. In Helsinki, public transportation is mostly managed under Helsinki City Transport, the city’s transportation authority. The diverse public transport system consists of trams, commuter rail, the subway, bus lines and two ferry lines. The Helsinki Metropolitan Area Council manages traffic to the surrounding municipalities of Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen.

Today, Helsinki is the only city in Finland to have trams or subway trains. There used to be two other cities in Finland with trams: Turku and Viipuri (Vyborg, now in Russia), but both have since abandoned trams. The Helsinki Metro, opened in the year 1982, is so far the only subway system in Finland. In 2006, the construction of the long debated extension of the subway system west into Espoo was approved, and serious debate about an eastern extension into Sipoo has taken place.

Aviation

Air traffic is handled primarily from the international Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, located approximately 19 kilometres (12 mi) north of Helsinki’s downtown area, in the neighbouring city of Vantaa. The airport provides scheduled non-stop flights to many important cities in Europe, Asia and North America. Helsinki’s second airport, Malmi Airport, is mainly used for general and private aviation. Copterline has provided fast (18 min.) helicopter flights to Tallinn, but discontinued the regular service in December 2008 on grounds of unprofitability.

Sea transport

Ferry connections to Tallinn and Stockholm are serviced by various companies. Finnlines passenger-freight ferries to Travemünde, Germany are also available, while Tallink began service to Rostock, Germany in 2007.


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