How one feels whilst out on the steppe.. . . When in the steppe I stand alone With far horizons clear to view, Ambrosia on the breezes blown And skies above me crystal blue, I sense my own true human height And in eternity delight. . The obstacles to all my dreams Now shrink, appear absurd, inept, And nothing either is or seems Except myself, these birds, this steppe... What a joy it is to feel all round Wide open space that knows no bound! . – unknown Kalmyk poet . . (The Kalmyks being descended from the Oirat Mongols who migrated to the Caspian steppe in the early seventeenth century, forming the Kalmyk Khanate). . . . Still missing Mongolia as much as ever but have been spending a great deal of time reading & researching the history & culture of people who call/have called the Eurasian steppe home. . . . . . #mongolia #kharkhiraa #türgen #uvs #uvsprovince #landofthenomads #nomads #steppe #steppelife #migration #hiking #nomadlife #blueskies #green #kalmyks #poems #travel #eurasiansteppe #poetry #caspiansteppe #dreams #oiratmongols #mongols #history #culture #freedom #wideopenspaces
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The Ger: interior & layout . . No two gers are the same but, though colour & furnishings may vary, the layout remains identical. You'll also be pleasantly surprised by how spacious they are inside after viewing a ger from the outside. . The entrance always faces south, towards the sun, whilst the north is reserved as place of honour for guests & a special space for sacred objects. Here you'll discover the khoimer, a sort of family altar, comprised of photos, items of value & sometimes a shrine or incense. Never sit in front of the khoimer unless invited to do so. It is often the oldest of any group that takes up this special location or the head of the house when no guests are present. All other guests will sit on the floor, bed/s or small stools. . To the west is the men's quarters holding all their hunting gear, saddles, harnesses, tools & alcohol. The east is the women's side housing all the cooking utensils/equipment as well as food supplies. Men & women will normally sit on their designated side. As mentioned in a previous post, the correct way to move around the ger is in a clockwise direction. I also add that is it polite to exit a ger by backing out of the door. . Beds, also used as sofas, sit on both sides. When asleep, the nomads will have their head facing the khoimer & their feet facing the door. The "master bedroom" is usually on the men's side & situated near the back. General household items, sometimes in trunks, & bedding are stacked to the side. . In the centre is the stove & heart of the ger which is used to cook, make tea & provide heating. Animal dung, or argul, is the primary source of fuel. . As pictured, the ger is often decorated by colourful rugs & wall coverings. The second photo is the interior of the ger of a newly married Kazakh couple hence why everything is so bright & colourful. Kazahks do not have a stove in their ger but have a separate small mud/brick building in which they prepare food (not pictured). . Every now & then you'll see a family with a television, though seldom on, & it is not uncommon for nomads to possess portable solar panels. There is no toilet but the nomads will relieve themselves outside instead. . . . . .
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The Ger: structure & design . . Being herders the Mongols need their homes to be portable for, when the land surrounding them becomes an inadequate food source for their animals, they need to be able to relocate to new grazing grounds quickly. The design of the ger is appropriate as it is able to be dismantled & loaded onto camels in a short time. Once transported to the new location it is reassembled, traditionally being able to be set up & taken down within half an hour (longer dependant on size). . Gers are comprised of a circular expanding lattice frame made from a light wood such as willow, birch or poplar. The frame is usually made up of 3 - 5 collapsible wall sections (more for larger gers), called khana, & are held together using ropes made from horse hair or leather. (Close up of the frame in photo 2 & photo 4 depicting khana in their collapsed state). . Long straight poles, called uni, are fastened at one end to the top of the walls. The other tapered end is slotted into the toono, a ring shaped wooden window located at centre & top of the ger. This position allows both air to circulate & a flue to pass through for smoke from the stove to exit. Wooden posts, called bagana, are used to support the heavy toono. With no obstruction from beams or walls on the inside, air is able to reach every part of the one room living area. With 3 - 5 khana, the interior measures 15 - 30m2. (The toono & uni pictured in photo 3). . Over this whole structure, minus the toono, is a thin fabric layer followed by 3 - 5 layers of felt made from the wool of sheep, goats or yaks. In winter months the stove, fuelled by animal dung, provides even heating & additional layers of felt are added.The ger warms up quickly & retains heat well which is suitable for extreme Mongolian winters of -50C. A waterproof canvas layer & one wooden door, known as a haalga, completes the product. Carpets laid on the bare earth inside make up the floor. . In the summer months the lower part of the felt & canvas cover, the khormoi, is rolled up for additional air flow & several layers of felt are removed. The round design is able to withstand strong winds & the felt dries rapidly after rain. . . . . .
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"Before us now stretched Mongolia with deserts trembling in the mirages, with endless steppes covered with emerald-green grass and multitudes of wild flowers, with nameless snow peaks, limitless forests, thundering rivers and swift mountain streams. The way that we had travelled with such toil had disappeared behind us among gorges and ravines. We could not have dreamed of a more captivating entrance to a new country, and when the sun sank upon that day, we felt as though born into a new life - a life which had the strength of the hills, the depth of the heavens and the beauty of the sunrise.” . Henning Haslund . From his book "Mongolian Adventure: 1920s Danger and escape among the mounted nomads of Central Asia" of which I highly recommend. . . . I can honestly say that traveling in western Mongolia, through the mountains & across the steppe, will be one the most memorable experiences of my life. The ever-changing beauty of the landscape along with the open warmth & hospitality of the nomads won my heart over every hour of every day. . . . . . #mongolia #kharkhiraa #türgen #uvs #uvsprovince #westernmongolia #steppe #nomads #steppelife #gerlife #yurtlife #landofthenomads #reallifenomads #mongoliadreaming #lifetimedream #bucketlist #onceinalifetimeexperience #quotes #mongolianadventure #henninghaslund #landscape #hospitality #inlove #centralasia #bookrecommendations #captivating #travel #altai
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Ger rules & etiquette . If you ever have the good fortune to be able to visit a nomadic family & enter their ger, it's important to note a few rules in regards to entering, sitting & taking tea. Though they understand that you may be unaware of these particular things, being foreigners, I think it's respectful to learn about their traditions as opposed to going in completely blind. . I've compiled the following list of rules/etiquette that I learnt & followed during my time amongst the nomads. I hope you find it an interesting & insightful read. . . Knocking on the door of a ger is seen to be rude. . When entering a ger, never step on the threshold but step over it with your right foot. . Do not roll up your sleeves in a ger, doing so indicates that you want to fight. . Do not pass through or pass food between the two centre posts or touch them. . If you would like to walk across a ger, do so in a clockwise direction & never cross the middle. . Never step over food or over someone's feet. . Do not accept anything with your left hand. Instead receive what is offered with your right hand, your left hand supporting the right at the elbow. . Pick up things with an open hand with your palm facing upwards. . You are expected to at least taste what you are offered lest you appear rude. An empty bowl or plate also is an indication that you want more so, of you have had enough, simply leave a little food/drink in your dish. . Do not throw trash in the fire. . It is taboo to ask a nomad "When will we arrive?" or ask the number of heads of livestock he owns. They believe that giving an ETA will curse & delay things in the same way they believe that naming the exact number of their herds will curse them & cause animal numbers to decline. If they do give an ETA it will be wildly approximate. . The top of the ger is an honoured position. Do not sit there unless the place is offered to you. . No one is ever in a hurry. Always be patient & never raise your voice. . Guests sit on the left side of the ger, the hosts on the right. . If vodka is offered, it is done so using one bowl for all. Drink then return the bowl back to the host so he can refill & pass onto someone else. . .
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Blown away by nomad hospitality... . There's no place quite like the Kharkhiraa/Türgen mountains of remote Mongolia. Here, situated far west of Ulaanbaatar & hidden from view by snow-capped mountains, it is not just the pace of life that is different but the general lifestyle, hospitality & reception towards strangers as well. . In the Western world the concept of "stranger danger" is hammered into our minds from an early age & we've long been taught to both be wary of those we do not know & that even kindness can be a cover for more sinister intentions. This is not so in the mountains of Mongolia. . Each time that I came close to a ger, I could start to see smoke rising from the flume, a sure sign that the occupants inside had spotted me. And, as the details of the ger become clearer, the front door was always opened & a nomad would appear with his children in tow. All are smiling & talking is taking place between him & the Mongol nomads that accompany me. I do not understand the language, but I knew what it is that he's saying before Tsengee translates the words into English for me: "He says to come in & have tea". . A once off invitation by a curious stranger? Think again! . For this was not just a daily occurrence for me, but one that repeated itself multiple times a day. The same warmth & greeting followed by being led inside to be served bowls of steaming tea paired with dried curd or fried dough. Other times a bowl of vodka was also presented. Within no time I felt like I was the closest of friends with these strangers that had invited me in just moments beforehand. As a guest, inside a nomad's ger, I can tell you that you will not be able to escape the hospitality of your host. . Initially I was unsure whether the kindness was only extended to me as I was accompanied by other Mongols but I found instead that this was not the case when I visited gers alone . I was just as accepted alone as I was accompanied by other nomads. I was also regularly told that I could just enter a ger without having to knock on the door first & could do so as I pleased, whether it be day or night. . . What a pleasant, yet alien, world this was & oh how much I loved it. . . . .
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En contre-bas l'immense vallée des Turgën dans une partie, soyons clairs, peu fréquentée de Mongolie : l'Altaï. Nous montons un belvédère situé vers 3000 mètres d’altitude pour admirer les grands sommets glaciaires de Türgen Uul (4245 m) et le Tsagaan Doglii (4215 m). #mongolie #mongolia #visitmongolia #Türgen #OulanBator #ulaanBaatar #nomade #wanderlust #voyage #trekking #türgen #uvs #landofthenomads #rivervalley #altai #travel #nature #discover #mountains #landscape #tirawa #asia #aventure #kharkhiraa #westernmongolia
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