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Mongolia: The Land before the Time of Man or Modern Country?
There is a land where you will not find cities or people for hundreds of miles. There are only an endless steppe, scorched deserts, wild camels, and mysterious gorges. And the forest of glass skyscrapers sits right in the middle of it all! The name of this world wonder is Mongolia. We are about to explore two sides of this gorgeous country – its wild desert and up-to-date capital.
What do you imagine when I say “Mongolia”? Nomads’ yurts and thousands of horses? Well, it is not about the capital of Mongolia. Believe me, you have never expected Ulaanbaatar to be this awesome. It is the opposite of steppe and fields. There are skyscrapers on top of skyscrapers! Where did they get the money you ask? It was not that long ago that Mongols found out they are sitting on a giant moneybag. Their land contains the largest deposit of coal, copper, and gold.
Ulaanbaatar is trying to be trendy these days. Free Wi-Fi in the downtown area, the smoking cabins, etc. Hundreds of years ago, all Mongols used to ride horses. These days it seems as if everyone here is driving a Prius. Mongolian people have changed as well. They dress like people in any other major city. Only provincial tourists wear traditional clothes.
They do not have addresses as we do. Their whole area is divided into squares. Then these squares are divided into smaller ones. All the way until they become pixels on a GPS. Did you know that there are no cats at all? Why so? Nomads did not need grain. Hence, they did not need the protection from rodents. Who knows, maybe it is the reason Mongolian yoke was so dangerous. Because they did not have fluffy kitties waking them up in the morning.
The capital of Mongolia is reloading at an accelerated rate! Pretty soon you would be hard-pressed to find anything traditional here. But one theater still holds down the fort – Tumen Ekh. Here tourists get to see the 2,000 years of Mongolian culture – songs of the newlyweds, shaman dances, religious rituals, and Biyelgee traditional dance. The Hooliin throat singing is the headliner though. It sounds like strings mixed with a sound of U.F.O. and a wolf howl. All in one. Hard to believe that a human can produce these hums! Mongols used Hooliin to express their fascination with nature for over a thousand years. And it really works! You can envision the windy Mongolian steppe as soon as you close your eyes.
But if you want to feel the true flavor of Mongolia, be sure to travel outside of Ulaanbaatar. There will not be any clowns, gimmicks or fountains waiting for you here, but you will gain so much more – calmness, inner peace, and glorious splendor. Mongolia is a huge country. Its area is twice as larger as France’s. Getting around on a car is pointless. Therefore, hop on a plane and head to the desert.
Gobi – The Largest Desert in Asia
If you are in the air for 30 minutes, you probably will not see any towns or villages. Forget villages. They do not have even roads here. It does not matter which country you were previously flying over, I bet there were always uneven patches of fields on the ground. There is none of that in Mongolia. It is an endless steppe that stretches all the way into the horizon.
Gobi Desert spreads over one-third of Mongolia’s territory. The question is whether Gobi Desert is located in Mongolia or vice versa. The Gobi means “a place with no water”. Nothing but lifeless sand dunes and dry riverbeds. But if you are lucky enough, you can come to the Gobi at a remarkable time when it does not look like a desert at all. The rainclouds reach here only a few times a year but they pour plenty of rain. The desert becomes alive and turns into a giant field of blooming ramsons. The green cover will dry up in a few weeks and only clay and rocks will remain.
So, you got to Dalanzadgad to explore endless dunes. Where are you supposed to live in a dessert? The fact that they have hotels in the middle of the Gobi Desert might shock you. There no likes of Sheraton or Hilton here. Traditional style lodge is what it is in and it is called Three Camel Lodge.
This lodge offers a terrific option. They can set up a breakfast table for you anywhere in the desert. A musical performance is the icing on the cake. The musicians will be playing for you the two-string traditional instrument – morin khuur. One string has to be made from a male horse’s tail, the other one – from female’s tail. They symbolize the harmony of masculine and feminine sides in music. And in the night, I strongly recommend you to get out of the yurt and look up in the sky. There will be way more than five stars.
While we consider desert empty and lifeless, Mongols see the Gobi as a thoroughfare. The thing is that Mongols are one of the very few peoples that still live a nomad lifestyle. Why do they still live on the move? First of all, cattle always have a new pasture. Second, you do not need to worry about land and real estate. You can live wherever you want. The capital city Ulaanbaatar stopped moving only about 200 years ago. Each community in here keeps a household, camels, for example. By the way, if someone ever told you that their humps contain water, they were wrong. They contain layers of fat. The humps just shrink during the hungry times.
The Gobi has plenty of remarkably gorgeous places. “Yolyn Am” gorge is one of them. This is used to be a single rock until an earthquake split it in half. Moreover, there is a stunning waterfall hiding somewhere in these rocks. A waterfall in the desert! Imagine that! Mongols conquered the world on the back of the tiny horses a thousand years ago. Now, you can ride it to conquer the gorge.
Why is Mongolia an uncharted destination? Because tourists did not spoil it. Therefore, everyone will be able to find a terra incognita of their own. Get to packing. The descendants of Genghis Khan are waiting for you!
Montenegro: Is it a New Bali?
From the wild desert of Mongolia to the crystal blue sea of Montenegro! This country is a tiny patch on the shore of the Adriatic Sea. This place has all of the best nature can offer. Tall mountains, lush forests, and emerald water. What else is needed for the avid traveler?
So, what do we know about Montenegro? The National parks and reserves cover a quarter of Montenegro’s territory. It is really a green and blooming country. Montenegro won multiple awards for the best beaches in Europe! It is the youngest country because it was born in 2006.
Montenegro gained independence just recently, but its history stretches over thousands of years. Kotor is one of the eldest cities in the country. It overlooks the beautiful Bay of Kotor – the largest bay in the Adriatic Sea. The mighty mountains and fortified walls surround the city on the other side. This is the second largest wall in the world behind The Great Wall of China!
You barely left the airport and you already see the sea, the mountains, and the creamy clouds. If you are eager to see the most gorgeous city of Montenegro, hop on the car and go to Kotor. It survived quite a few wars, fires, and earthquakes. Despite that, it looks terrific. The Italians, Greek, Romans, Montenegrins, and Serbs polished these tiles.
The City of Kotor
The first thing to see – Gospa od Skrpjela. It is a man-made island in the middle of the Kotor Bay that has its own legend. This island used to be a reef, where two brothers found an icon when they were sailing past. It miraculously healed one of them from illness. After that, locals decided to commemorate this by building an island with a church. The sunken ships would be dumped here. Each vessel that passed by brought a symbolic stone with them. This is how the island appeared on the map.
Let’s keep exploring the environs of Kotor. Our next destination is the Blue Lagoon. Yes, just like one in the Bounty commercial! It is a Blue Cave indeed. According to a legend, a treasure remains hidden inside this cave, but tourists come here for something entirely different. The water is extremely blue almost as if there are lights at the bottom! And it is glowing! You are itching to dive in!
The sea in Montenegro is great and so are the mountains. They are immense! It is like looking at the real-life wallpaper. So, rent a car in order to see them for yourself. Montenegro sits atop four mountain ridges that form an unbelievable pattern. You can see the winding serpentine of the roads, vast wooden areas and chaotic order of the mountain peaks. This ornament covers 80% of Montenegro. You see quaint panorama views of the mountains wherever you look.
The majority of tourists who visit Montenegro stay at sea the whole time but we strongly encourage you to leave the coast. The name itself holds the answer – the Black Mountains, not the Black Sea. This is where you feel the spirit of this land. It is full of freedom and might.
The mountains are breathtaking but Montenegro is also famous for magnificent mountain lakes. Lake Skadar is one of them. It is Europe’s largest body of fresh water. In fact, it is so vast that it also washes the shores of a neighboring Albania! This lake used to be a part of the gulf in the Adriatic Sea. The unyielding rocks surrounded and separated the lake over a thousand years. Lake Skadar froze in time since then. It feels like you came to the lost world.
Tara River Canyon is another key landmark of Montenegro. It is the second largest canyon in the world behind the Great Canyon un the U.S. The zipline provides a great view of it. It is over a thousand meters deep and eighty kilometers in length. It could easily fit a small country.
Montenegro is a love at first sight. You do not need to have much money to get to know it. Even a couple of days here are enough to make you want to come back repeatedly. Why do you need to travel here? Believe us, if you are looking to get emotions from nature then Montenegro definitely has to be on your shortlist of countries to visit.