Changing Minds and Hearts in Siberia

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When we were invited by Follow Up Siberia to enter a contest to visit that far-away land, we were both excited and curious. We had been in Eastern Europe, not far from Russia, but the country, and especially Siberia, remained mysterious.

The first thing we learned was that Siberia is huge, comprising virtually all of Russia that is not within the bounds of Europe. Our trip took us to Chita, a mid-sized city in the south, near the borders of Mongolia and China. It is home to the Buryat, a people whose Asian descent and Buddhist faith make their region unique in their country.


The city of Chita was the heart of our Siberian adventure. The hills surrounding it were truly epic!

One of the first places we visited was a local chapel atop a hill, which gave us a view of much of Chita.


The chapel that we visited is a popular local spot for wedding photos. When we arrived, multiple just-married couples were already there!

From the chapel, we had a great view of the rail station. Chita is one stop on the famous Trans-Siberian Railroad!

As well as being a busy city, Chita is also a big stop for rail transport.

It is easy to imagine Siberia as a place with very little going on. We discovered a number of local past times, the most treasured of which is the Buryat tradition of archery. We got a first-hand demonstration of this art at a local archery academy.

A Buryat archery expert demonstrated this ancient form of martial arts for us.

This was followed by a visit to one of the region’s major Buddhist monasteries. There were so many beautiful sights here that only photos can do them justice.

The Buddhist monastery was a blast of color on the landscape!
The monastery’s main building is currently being rebuilt after a fire. Work is underway to restore the interior’s beauty.
Prayer wheels send the user’s prayers to the heavens with each spin.
One of the monastery’s crowning glories is its giant golden statue of the Buddha. Dwarfing the monk who explained its history and significance, this object can’t help but awe the observer.
This room, home to many of the monastery’s treasures, is a visual spectacle not to be forgotten.

Following the monastery, we were taken on an off-roading excursion into the hills above Chita. A group of local men who drive their tough-as-nails vehicles along these routes for fun transported us to lovely views of the city (see top photo of this post) and a nearby river.

This fleet of intimidating trucks and their equally rugged drivers served as our guides to the wilds around Chita.
This river, with bare trees on one side and green firs on the other, is an impressive demonstration of Siberia’s natural beauty.

Finally, the off-road drivers took us close to a nearby rocky summit, where we hiked to the top for an especially beautiful view of the region around Chita. Then it was back to the bottom for a hearty meal cooked over a campfire. Our experiences that day showed us that, far from being the flat and barren land that many imagine it to be, Siberia contains great geographical diversity.

It doesn’t get much better than this! The view from the top of Chita’s rocky hills let us see the lay of the land in the midst of autumn.

Our journey into Siberia lasted only a few short days. But in that time, the city of Chita showed us the enormous cultural and geographic variety of the region. We met many kind and fascinating people who were interested in getting to know us, showing us their city, finding common ground, and sharing their dreams and ambitions. Thanks to them, our preconceptions about Siberia have been changed for good!