Tuesday, July 24, 2007
We have begun the train journey towards Ulaanbaatar by Eurostar from London to Paris, then by sleeper to Rome, to Naples, Sorrento and now Florence. Drawing statues and buildings in Piazza delle Signorie today I was thinking about Western European history, having sat in the same spot 20 years ago, and how much I have still to learn about Mongolia. I have a copy of "Modern Mongolia a Concise History" with me (Tsetsendambyn Batbayar UB 2002) and have been discovering facts like ..
. Mongolia is similar in land size to Alaska
. It has 257 cloudless days per annum on average
. 1% of the land is arable
. 8 to 10% is forested
. the rest is pasture including semi'desert
Batbayar also points out that the Mongol people have nothing in common with the Chinese in their way of life or language. 90% of the population of Mongolia is made up of subgroups of the Mongol nationality, the largest being Khalka.
This will be quite a change for me from my home London, which I enjoy for being cosmopolitan and multicultural. However the isolation of Ulaanbaatar and its time zone should be points of some familiarity in relation to Perth. The summer in Italy, surrounded by travelling Italian, German, Australian and English folk etc with good coffee, summer berries and pizza will become stranger as we move east.
Later this week, en route from Venice to Berlin, we will stay in Vienna, minding some friends' cats, Gina and Kisses.