Our school is on the way to the Zaisan area in UB, and when we get off the bus, I can see the Zaisan Memorial from the corner. Yesterday, I took a walk on my own to Zaisan and climbed the 612 steps that leads from the base of the hill to the memorial at the top of the hill. Like most notable places that we have discovered in UB, the Zaisan Memorial holds multiple types of significance. The monument itself is in memory of Soviet forces that joined Mongolian forces in the pursuit of independence in 1921. There is a lot to be said about the monument that I will have a hard time explaining without pictures because, brilliant as I am, I still forgot to bring a camera along. Once we have a chance to go back in the future, I’ll remember to bring my camera and take notes along the way so that I can properly tell the story.
The hill the monument is on has further historic–possibly legendary–significance. From the plaques along the many steps to the top of the monument, I gathered that the area used to be between two monasteries on opposite mountains. Wild weather in the area indicated to the monks that there was a demon living below the ground who was about to come out of the ground and cause catastrophic weather conditions. In order to prevent this, Zaisan Hill was built above the demon’s home to prevent his escape, and the weather settled down. Again, I’m not entirely sure if I understood the story correctly, so take what I’ve written here with a grain of salt and correct me if you’ve heard otherwise. I noticed spiritual elements on the hill–silk scarves tied to objects, a porcelain saucer for an offering, and a few ovoos–so clearly the area is not just politically significant.
That said, the view from the top of Zaisan Hill is amazing. Even with a haze of smog over the city, it was incredible to see just how big UB is. I tend to forget how large the city is because I have a bit of a routine in where I go and what I do, so it was definitely worth it to be reminded of the size of the city. Also, upon crossing the bridge over the Tuul Gol, I could see that the river is starting to freeze over as winter approaches.
Speaking of winter, you know you live in Mongolia when you look at the forecast and get excited that the current temperature is literally freezing. That’s practically warm! It got up to 40 F today, and I was regretting layering a zip up under my jacket. Next week’s forecast predicts no temperatures above freezing. Woohoo! It should be cloudy on Monday and Thursday so maybe we’ll even get some snow?