Tour to the Old Believers

Previous page - Ivolginsky Datsan


Excursion to the Old Believers

Natasha #2 was just as lovely as Natasha #1. She is a very sweet soul who speaks English much better than she thinks she does. We all said goodbye to Natasha #1 and climbed into a private car for our ride to the Old Believers. Before we left home Ian and I had some knowledge of the Datsan Monastery but we had never even heard of the Old Believers until we got to Ulan Ude. Even as we climbed into the car we had no idea just how special this excursion was going to be.


Who are the Old Believers?

A bit of history - In the 1660's there were reforms within the Russian Orthodox Church. These reforms met with opposition from many people and this caused the split of the Russian church into many factions. Many believers didn't like the new rules and were ostracized. Consequently they became separated from the hierarchy of the Church of Russia. They were named "Old Believers" and had to flee their homes into Siberia and abroad in order to practice their religion the way they wanted. Those who arrived to Buryatia built new villages, and were quickly nicknamed "Semeiskie", which means "Family".

We were going to a village inhabited by Old Believers and we were going to find out about their history and way of life. It cost a total of 1500 roubles for our transportation to the Old Believers and 700 roubles for the guide for the duration. The entrance fee is 600 roubles each.

When we climbed into the waiting car we noticed the front seat head rests had covers on them that gave the appearance of knickers' elastic. On the elastic part were the words "Lady panties". Chuckle, chuckle!

The Old Believers is about a 40 minute drive from Ulan Ude through fabulous countryside. Our driver was a mad man who drove at speeds up to 130 km. per hour over bad roads. The car was a right hand drive vehicle so when over taking other vehicles he couldn't see what was coming. He overtook on blind bends and hilltops. Us three passengers had seat belts on but not the driver.

Added later:

Little did we know at the time, but the majority of Russian drivers are like maniacs behind the wheel. Most seem to have little sense of road danger.

We were so stressed out by his driving that we later contacted Natasha #1 and told her how frightening the ride was. I think she was horrified but I believe she would have attended to this matter by now. Back to the Old Believers......



Us with the Old Believers Us two with the Old Believers

We reach the Old Believers Village

We reached the Old Believers village and pulled up outside a little cottage with a high wall around its grounds. Straight away, the lady of the house greeted us out the front of her property and we were given freshly baked bread which we were to dip lightly in salt. This is an old tradition.

We then went into the grounds of her cottage that was over 200 years old. The lady then gave us a talk outside and Natasha #2 translated for us. She did a very good job of the translation. Then the lady sang us a cultural song. She introduced us to her mother and showed us the areas where the animals were fed and showed us her vegetable garden. Then we got a tour of the little house. She explained that everything they grew was organic.

Jack their dog Jack their dog
... and one very frightened looking kitten One very frightened looking kitten









We were introduced to Jack the dog who was capable of shaking hands and we also met the cat and her tiny kitten. The the cat sat on the drivers lap for the rest of the night. They were special Russian cats but we don't remember the breed name.


A monstrously large meal at the Old Believers

We were then seated at a table and given delicious meal with a huge array of courses. We started off with soup and this was followed by other items such as a special mushroom pie made from their own dried salted mushrooms preserved from last year. There were potatoes, sliced gherkins, finely chopped spring onions plus curd cheese and rich sour cream. There were sweets such as creamy rice pudding which is cooked for 4 hours and is absolutely yummy. The rice pudding was served with preserved raspberries in a jam consistency and preserved wild apples. There was also bread served with the meal. We were totally full at the end of the meal.


The food just kept coming and coming The food just kept coming and coming
It was organic food and totally delicious Organic food and totally delicious










We were dressed up in traditional clothing We were dressed in traditional clothing

Drinking Vodka at The Old Believers

We had to take part in a toasting ceremony that involved Vodka. I had to quickly explain to Natasha #2, that we don't drink alcohol but we didn't want to offend out hostess. She spoke to the hostess who said that was fine with her. We were to use water instead. A small amount of water was put into our spirit glasses which we had to place in the palm of our left hands and then skull using our teeth and not our lips. Then we had to instantly turn the glass upside down onto our right palms. The amount of water left in our right palms then signified whether or not we would make good marriage partners. The more left over water then the better the marriage - I think ???

Traditional Cossack Costumes

Then we were dressed up in traditional costumes and took part in a mock wedding ceremony. We had lots of laughs and took heaps of photos. It was such good fun. We reluctantly said our good byes.

We then drove back to Ulan Ude at a huge rate of knots. The driver only put his seat belt on when he saw police ahead of us. As soon as we had passed the police off came the driver's seat belt again. The safety message about seat belts obviously hasn't sunk in here.

We meet a couple from Italy

Back at Olga's B&B we meet a couple from Italy who are now also staying at the B&B. They knew Olga speaks French as they had read it online and they had chosen to stay there at her B&B for that very reason because they spoke French too.

They were quite cross to find Olga was not there - remember she went off to Baikal a short time after we arrived. Now they would have a language problem with Tatiana. We felt sorry for their disappointment. With our Russian phrase books and a good bit of sign language we got along very well with Tatiana. She is a lovely lady.

Well we are back on the train again tomorrow morning.



Next page - Ulan Ude to Irkutsk


Our trip in the order it happened:

Travel Planning Necessities
World time zones, world weather, currency converter, language translator services.

Search over 25,000 hostels.

Trip Advisor Forum - Russia
The place to find information about Russia when you can't find it elsewhere.

Way To Russia
Another very good forum

Getting A Russian Visa
The process is explained

Trains between Moscow & Saint Petersburg
Explanation of the types of trains on that route.

Firmenny Trains
An explanation of what they are.

Moscow's Railway Stations
A map of their locations and proximities.

Learn How To Speak Russian
Free lessons.

Map of St. Petersburg
Lonely Planet's map of the city.

Map of Moscow
Lonely Planet's map of the city.

Moscow Times Newspaper
English version.

The Russia Club
A forum for all those interested in anything "Russian".

Russian Rail Timetable
It takes a bit of mastering but Ian managed it (eventually).

The Art Of Travel
Very interesting travel information for all locations.

Smart Traveller
Australian Government's site dealing with current travel advice.

Travel Independent
A site written by travellers for travellers. Lots of information.

Things To See And Do In ...
Alice Springs

History of ...
Alice Springs