The Ethnographic Museum in Ulan Ude is a large and magnificent outdoor museum in the middle of Russian Siberia.
I arrived in Ulan Ude on a bus from Ulaanbaatar. It was a 12 hour bus ride, and at 8:00 PM I had find a place to sleep before darkness rolled over the city. The Ethnographic Museum was far from my mind.
On the bus, I spent a long time examining the map of Ulan Ude and where the hostels were. I thought I had a good idea about how to walk there from the bus station. But when the bus dropped me off in what looked like a parking lot, any hope I had of finding my way went out the window.
With my backpack now strapped on my back, I found someone who looked like another traveller. I went up to him and asked where he was spending the night. (Although as I write this it sounds like a pick-up line, I can assure you it most definitely was not.)
Following him through some unassuming side streets, he told me that he was working in Moscow right now. Maybe studying Russian, I don’t remember.
We arrived at the hostel, and to my disappointment it was fully booked. Not even a couch, I asked? Nope. It was, in fact, overbooked. There were already people sleeping on the couches and chairs and floors.
My new acquaintance abandoned me to his room, and I was left at the front desk trying to figure out what to do, slightly worried.
The hostel worker mentioned that there was another hostel nearby. She gave them a quick call, confirmed that there was space for me, and then proceeded to escort scaredy-cat me through the dark, intimidating streets of Ulan Ude.
Once I had a place to sleep, I tucked in to a cup of instant Korean ramyeon and watched South Park before calling it a night.
The next morning, I woke up with a full day of tentative plans.
For one, I wanted to go to the Ethnographic Museum.
As I was talking with the hostel worker about how to get there, another Russian woman offered to go with me. Sure, I thought. Since we can’t speak each other’s language, I won’t feel obligated to make small talk all day long. And I won’t have to get lost and confused about directions.
So me and my new new acquaintance walked into the city centre and hopped on a bus (that is pretty much a van) that drove us a few kilometres to the Ethnographic Museum outside the city.
About the Ethnographic Museum
The Ethnographic Museum in Ulan Ude is a large outdoor museum. It is 37 hectares, has more than 40 buildings, and houses over 11,000 artifacts.
After passing through the blue wooden gate and entrance (which reminded me of Korean designs) there is a path that leads around the Ethnographic Museum. The museum has several complexes, and visitors can walk through them in a way that allows you to experience the passage of time in the region.
I was surprised to see examples of teepees in Siberia, though perhaps I should not assume that teepees are native structures to North America. It was very interesting to take a peek inside some of the teepees and imagine what life would have been like living under animal hides.
However, I don’t quite understand how that would be enough to keep you warm in a Siberian winter.
There is also a complex with gers and a Buddhist temple. I can’t seem to find any photos on my computer. The ger was very large and used as a museum for other artifacts.
My favourite part of the Ethnographic Museum was the wooden buildings and their intricate carvings.
I think these buildings were part of the Baikal Complex.
The houses and buildings in this part of the museum were made of wood. I believe the wood would keep houses warm during the frigid months. And in a lovely gesture of care and craftsmanship, many details of the houses were carved into delicate patterns.
I found these houses and their design very beautiful. I would later see the same thing on wooden building while walking around Irkutsk. My photography is not spectacular, so please take a look at this wonderful gallery that showcases these Siberian works of art. See if you don’t fall in love.
Oh, how I would like to live in a a pretty log house with beautifully carved trim and window shutters.
This building was the first piece of the Ethnographic Museum.
The dark wooden building with green roof and domes is the Nikolsk Church. Built around 1900 in the village of Nikolsk, it was moved to the museum in the 1970s.
There was also a zoo, but I didn’t go in here. I could see it from a distance, and the animals were in small concrete cages. Though, I suppose I already did my part in perpetuating their misery whether or not I went into the zoo. It was part of the Ethnographic Museum entrance fee anyway. Sorry, conscience, but you’re not getting off that easily.
Thoughts on the Ethnographic Museum
This was a great place to visit to get an understanding of the history and the people of Siberia and the Baikal region. There are artifacts from prehistory up until the 20th century. And there are plenty of log buildings that will draw you in with their beautiful carvings and scenes from the past.
How to get to the Ethnographic Museum
The museum is 8 km outside of Ulan Ude in the village Verkhnaya Berezovka. It is about 20-30 minutes away by bus. Take bus number 37 near the Baikal Plaza Hotel and Soviet Square. Remember, buses in Ulan Ude aren’t large buses – they are more like large vans.
Check the closing days and hours before you go so you aren’t disappointed when you get there. Entrance to the museum is 120 RUB. Enjoy!
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