Chinggis Khan spawned an empire that from the 13th Century spanned asia and Europe. Astride his silver steed, this symbol of a confident nation overlooks his rolling plains from a hilltop an hour drive from Ulaanbaatar.
Ulaanbaatar is a fascinating melange. Soviet stolidity, with serried rows of identical apartment blocks, and a grand and proud central heroes square, is leavened with a Chinese entrepreneurial confidence. It is a city of bright young go-getters, encircled by a nomads camp of gers as the Golden Horde migrates to the city again.
And they have abandoned their horses for automobiles, and pity help the pedestrian who gets in their way, green lights and policemen notwithstaning. The traffic is in permanent gridlock, but this does not prevent feats of split second timing and crazy bravery as the modern horde pilot their Priuses about the metropoilis.
Sometimes, thing from the past bubble up to bite you. Seven years ago, I missed a connecting flight in Beijing. The next available flight offered by Air China was 2 days later. On arrival in Beijing, I was given a 24 hour transit visa, and did not realise the implications until, 2 days later, Immigration at Shanghai Pudong pointed out that I had overstayed my visa. After 15 minutes sitting in the naughty chair though, I was allowed to leave China. So I thought, OK case closed.
Wrong. I planned to take advantage of the 72 hour visa free entry when flying into and out of Beijing. But Chinese Immigration keeps records, and my previous infraction made it impossible for the desired visa to be issued. Problem.
Thanks to wonderful customer service by Singapore Airlines staff who were very effective and persuasive with the local officials and ticket agents of Air China, we were able to avoid having to return to Singapore, instead flying on to Mongolia on the next available flight. Cost of overlooking the past? About $1500. Ouch.
It has been months in the planning, but the grand adventure is soon to begin. We fly to Beijing on Wednesday, on to Mongolia a couple of days later, and thence by car and bus and railway to Moscow by the last week of June.
Bookings courtesy of airbnb, and inspiration from the very diligent Irina of Canberra, on her russiau website.
We should be full of mutton, borsht, blinis and vodka by journey's end.
The map of the itinerary can be found here. Or you can browse to images below the break.
The Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya stands high on the hill above Montjuic's Magic Fountain. Inside the collection of rescued frescoes from Romanesque churches, with their cartoon saints are the highlight, though the modern art collection is also diverting. Up the hill past the 1992 Olympic Stadium is the Fundació Joan Miró, filled with the artists challenging works.
d I have a project. Wherever I find a town or city which shares its name with a drink, I must imbibe as part of the visit.And so it came to pass that we graced the Graham Port Lodge, across the gorge of the Douro from the fabulous city of Porto, studded with palaces of commerce, and blue tiles churches.
Evora is livelier than one would expect. it is a small town in the parched interior, surrounded by cork plantations and grape vines. The secret to its vivacity is the venerable university within its medieval walls, whose students sit in lecture rooms with ith walls lined with azelejo murals
Lisbon is an imperial city. But its empire is long gone, and what remained was destroyed in a cataclysm in 1755. Now it is a rough and gritty place, but with a rugged charm. And it has vintage trams, and fado in the evenings to impart just the right amount of melancholy.
If the first thing that comes to your mind when thinking of Valencia is the oranges, well, rest assured that there is more to the city than citrus. Highlights include a gloriously tiled Station, the extravagant Ceramic Museum and the palace of commerce, the Old Silk Exchange. Add turreted town gates, narrow winding streets and paella and one has a magnificent melange indeed..
Santiago Calatrava, Valencia's favourite architect is responsible for the monumental structures of the ot the 'City of Arts and Sciences'. These structures are vast and impersonal, but are very beautiful, especially in the evening and under floodlights.