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The Land of Blue Skies

It's Monday, a perfect day to -
wish we were somewhere else. So, come on!
Let's go to... Mongolia
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Sweetness, from here via Pinterest.
Today I'm dreaming about a trip--to Mongolia. This is one of those out-of-the-blue places that has always been on my life list, every since studying about 'ole Ghengis Khan back in high school. Normally, tales of brutal conquerors doesn't really spark my interest in travel, but for whatever reason, the Mongols seem very romantic to me -- their lifestyle, so free and connected to nature on the steppe, their innovations in government, mathematics and trade, even their names - can't get much more prolific than calling someone "The Great Khan." But that's the history nerd coming out
(if this stuff floats your boat too, check out this great biography.)

On to the travel:
1. Arrive in Style: For ease of travel, you can fly in and out of Mongolia's capitol city of Ulaanbaatar, but I don't have any real desire to hang out in the cities - it's the countryside of Mongolia that calls to me.  If you can avoid flying, all the better -- travelers can enter Mongolia via the Trans-Siberian Railroad. As one of the few remaining great railroads, the TS travels across Russia, through Mongolia and into China. Take it all the way, or just part, and get a magnificent view of the steppes.
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Mongolian Steppe, from here via Pinterest.
2. Visit the Great Khan: Karakorum was the original capitol of the Mongol Empire. This UNESCO World Heritage site is where the Khans oversaw the world's largest empire and maintained the safety of the Great Silk Road. Feel the power.
Erdene Zuu Monastery at Karakorum, from here.
3.  Get cozy in a yurt: These domed tents are the lodging of choice of the nomadic people of the Mongol steppes. Mongolia has one of the largest populations of nomadic people left in the world. And the country is so sparsely populated that you can literally set up your own tent anywhere - it's all public land- as long as you're not encroaching on another person's space. If you're not into setting up your lodging yourself, there are numerous low and high level tourist yurts to check out.

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Yurt at sunset, from here via Pinterest.
4. Try out the national pastimes: Mongolians are famous for three things: horseback riding, archery and wrestling. I'm only interested in the first two. I want to ride the steppes, hair whipping behind me in the wind, hearing only the sounds of my horses hooves hitting the grass and the eagles soaring above me. And I want to hit a bulls eye. And maybe also pretend I'm Katniss from the Hunger Games. Or I could just ride a reindeer, like this girl. Can you even do that?!?

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From here, via Pinterest.
5. Eat Some Meat: Finally, as on all fantasy and real adventures, I want to try the local cuisine. When I said what Mongolians are famous for I left out two things: drinking pretty much every liquid from a horse and/or cow and barbecue. Yes, milk tea, fermented mare's milk, milk vodka, even horse's blood. In my fantasy world, where I am not lactose-intolerant, I'd try them all save for the blood - that was mostly just for soldiers on the move, anyways. Real Mongolian barbecue is apparently nothing like the stir-fried stuff you get at BD's. Traditionally, Mongol cooks kill a lamb, or other critter, clean out the guts and fill the carcass with hot stones, cooking the meet from the inside. It's like a hot pocket - without the indigestion (I'm assuming.)

So what's the verdict, have I made you want to go to Mongolia? Or just made you sick to your stomach on that last item? Sorry 'bout that.

Happy Monday!

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