Ulaanbataar: Mutton Mutton Mutton
Ulaanbaatar Travel Blog› entry 15 of 129 › view all entries
Our guide in Ulaanbataar is a very nice man, even in the face of 20 Brit, Anzac, European, and American backpackers. Every meal is mutton in some form or other: baked, in steamed buns, stewed, roasted, skewered, you name it. During our 6th or so meal, one of the Brits makes a comment about the mutton. Suddenly, the guide stood up and chastised us. People in Mongolia are going through such tough times, he says, that some are going hungry. We should be grateful for what we have because that is all there is in poor Mongolia. We all feel about 2 feet tall. But the mutton does get old. In fact, the smell of it hangs in the air like a thick blanket. It's on everything, even my bedsheets. If I never smell or eat mutton again, it will be too soon.
We visit the main "super" market in town. It is so pathetic, it makes me want to cry. There are exactly two foods in the cavernous space: A large wire bin filled with dirty cabbages and an identical bin filled with hooves. Goat, yak, sheep, pig, who knows. In the far corner I spot something edible: A tray filled with small butter cookies. A bonanza! I buy a whole bag of them to take with me on the train. I hope I didn't cause a national shortage of cookies.
This is the strangest capital city I've ever seen. Looks vaguely like a small college campus with pink buildings and goats running around. In our group is a jokester Brit who does a dead-on impression of Michael Cain and who also owned the only wireless set among us.
The day we leave for the six day Moscow leg of the Trans-Siberian train, I start to feel positively crappy again - my dysentery seems to have returned. I ask the guide if he can please run out and pick me up some medicine for the train. He gets it to me just as we are about to embark. For the next six days, I slowly beging to recover. By the time we reach Moscow, I'm fully better.