Apparently, as well as Manchester United, I owe Shrek a debt of gratitude.
Everybody has now heard the name ‘Fiona’ thanks to the movie. I discovered this when I popped into a restaurant for lunch.
All eyes were on me as I stepped through the door, thankfully not in a pool game-stopping kind of way.
As I found out whether it was bar or table service, Sasha came over to introduce herself.
She confirmed that it wasn’t my imagination and that everyone had indeed stopped what they were doing to look at me, as it was highly obvious that I am not a local. Happily she also confirmed that the staff were ignoring because the service is usually terrible there, and not because I was clearly a visitor.
Joining me at my table, Sasha stayed to ask me questions about what I was doing in Ulan-Ude and was very curious about my travelling alone. She expressed concern about my likelihood of feeling lonely.
However, her coming to talk to me had disproved her worries. I told her that so far I have found that people are far more likely to talk to me because I am alone. It has been one of the best things about my travel so far.
Ulan-Ude has definitely been the friendliest place that I have visited in Russia, even in comparison with Vladimir which I thought was lovely.
I was ready for my lunch and a couple of comments on that point… Russia is not the easiest place to travel if you are vegetarian or vegan and especially if you don’t read Russian.
In the large cities, I have noticed the occasional vegetarian restaurant but when eating in a non specialist restaurant, meat finds its way into almost every savoury dish.
Ordering a salad, there will be tiny pieces of chicken in amongst the vegetables. What looks like layered brown bread with grated carrots and tomatoes may actually be finely sliced liver – it was delicious in a surprising kind of way.
This morning I visited two museums – one on the basis of a glowing recommendation and the other because of some of the worst reviews I’ve seen on Trip Advisor.
The Museum of Buryatian History was recommended by Ray, an American librarian staying g at the same hostel as me. He had been in Irkutsk for a scientific conference and had stopped off in Ulan-Ude, I think, to see this museum.
The highlight for me was the display of Tibetan Buddhist Medicine Scrolls. As a Public Health Geek, these exhibits were very much up my street.
The Atlas of Tibetan Medicine is a series of 76 paintings, completed in 1688, illustrating the fundamental principles of Buddhist Medicine.
I particularly liked the fact that the guidance started with three principles of diagnosis: first, observe; second take the pulse and third; talk to the patient.
The paintings include anatomical drawings, summaries of diseases, advice on how to keep healthy and guidance on medicines and techniques to treat illness.
There were also some Buddhist figures with protective characteristics.
However, my favourite was this rather fierce individual. This is the “Wrathful Aspect of the Buddha of Medicine” or Angry Doctor as I decided to call him. Incurable disease or stubborn patient, beware!
I then went on to the city’s much maligned art gallery. I love going to dreadful art museums.
This one was disappointing in that it really wasn’t that awful.
I paid to see each of the exhibitions, rather than there being a combined ticket as at the Museum of Buryatian History.
I was escorted around each display by an attendant who switched on the lights for each of the displays that I had paid to see. I wondered what what would happen if the museum was busy.
The main display was the work (paintings and sculptures) by an artist who was exploring the Shamanism of the region.
Buryat people have two traditional religions – in the East of the region, Buddhism is the more common of the two but in the West, towards Lake Baikal, Shamanism holds greater sway, as exhibited by the Shaman Stone in the water.
Conclusion… you just can’t trust Trip Advisor even when the reviews are bad.