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2013 Aug by Veikko Huhtala*
When we left Sakha Republic, our next destination was Chita in Zabaykalsky Krai. Population in the town is 320000 and it is the biggest town in this Krai. Our hotel was named as Visit and it was also most expensive on our trip, almost 200 Euros one night. Russia is not cheap country to travel any more. Chita was one of the most beautiful towns on our Siberian journey. After one night in hotel we continued by train through Burjatia to Irkutsk and then via Mongolia back to Beijing. |
2009 Sep by Jorge Sanchez
One of the most interesting cities in Siberia is Chita, the capital of Zabaykalsky Krai.|
I had transited many times through this town, during my frequent trips by train between Russian Far East and Moscow and vice versa. But I never resolved to stop for a day or two in Chita to get to know the town better than with a half an hour call in the railway station. Never until September 2009.
This time I arrived at about 1 AM to Chita (I was coming from Blagoveshchensk) and for 400 rubles rented a bed in a kind of dormitory inside a train carriage stationed in the same railway station. In fact it was a “platskartni” compartment that I shared together with three Russians.
At 7 AM I woke up and went out of the railway station. Then I exclaimed: “… Oh! What a beautiful cathedral!” It was stunning, just at about 50 metres from the railway station.
That would be the first of a long series of pleasant surprises offered by that admirable city.
The cathedral was already open and I visited its interior.
After that I walked around the town without interruption (except the breaks for lunch, internet, beers, etc.) until late in the night, when everything was dark, to board another train further West, in direction to European Russia.
Since I never carry tourist “guides”, as the tourists use to do, I asked to the people:
- “Excuse me, tovarish. I am a traveller, and want to know the most interesting places of your beautiful city. Please, advise me which wonders I should not miss during a whole day that I plan to stay here”.
And the Russians used to give some advise, so after three o four street consultations, it was clear that I should visit the following places:
- The Church/Museum of the Decembrists.
- The New Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in the outskirts of Chita
- The old Buddhist temple in Chita downtown
- The Tibetan Monastery (Datsan) Aginskii (at two hours by car from Chita)
When I visit a new town, I never miss the central market plus the religious buildings and some interesting museums, if any. In Chita the religious buildings predominated.
I went everywhere on foot, in spite of the nasty rain. Walking is the best way to get to know a city.
The Church/Museum of the Decembrists was still closed, so I went to a street kiosk nearby to buy something for breakfast (a coffee with milk called “three in one”, plus a pirashki filled with kapusta) and then I returned to visit the two floors of the Church/Museum explaining the history of the Decembrists sent to Chita.
When the tsar Alexander I died, without direct descendants, he was substituted by his younger brother Nikolai I, with a military career, instead of being Constantine, tsar elder brother, who enjoyed the favours of the officials with liberal and reformist ideas.
During December 1825 (that is why they are called Decembrists) the intellectuals protested against the new tsar Nikolai I and five of them were executed, but 116, all aristocrats, were condemned to forced labour and dispatched to Siberia in exile. Among the several inhospitality places where they were sent, there was Chita, where they performed an educative task with the population, were very much appreciated, and considered martyrs and heroes.
Then I walked until the new monastery (or Datsan), which had just been inaugurated one of those days. It was Gelugpa, or belonging to the Buddhist sect of the Yellow Caps.
In past journeys crossing Russia I had already been in fantastic Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in Buriatia, like the famous of Ivolginsk, near Ulan Ude, and recently (July 2009) in another Tibetan monastery in Severobaikalsk (north of Buriatia, besides the Lake Baikal), but this one was special and depended of the famous Datsan Aginskii. In fact it was a reconstruction because the first one had been burned down in 1914.
The old Buddhist temple in the downtown was hard to find. Finally somebody helped me. It is located at the intersection of the streets Amurski with Juravleva. The name is “Predstavitelstvo Aginskogo Datsana”, what means “Representation of the Datsan of Aginskii”.
Inside the atmosphere is very intimate. I bought several brochures; one of them was very useful and didactic because it explained the history of all the Buddhists monasteries (Datsan) of Buriatia and Chita.
After visiting the rest of Chita tourists’ attractions, I returned to the railway station and took a night train to Novosibirsk.