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Guest country

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Guest country

Guest country

2019 guest country: Mongolia

The land of blue skies, steppes, nomads, Genghis Khan’s homeland ... Mongolia. Located between China and Russia, Mongolia has always been a source of fascination.

Countless lakes, high mountains and valleys, the Gobi Desert as well as prehistoric rock art, ruins of ancient temples and different cities are just waiting to be explored by visitors to Mongolia. Its history is just as exciting. During the times of Genghis Khan (approximately 1162–1227) and his grandson Kublai Khan (approximately 1215–1294), the Mongol Empire became the largest contiguous land empire in history, spanning half the world. Nowadays, around three million people live in this country of nomads, which is around 38 times the size of Switzerland.

Genghis Khan (1162–1227)

 - Genghis Khan (1162–1227)

Genghis Khan shaped Mongolian history like no other figure. His reign lasted from 1206 until 1227. During this time, he united the Mongol tribes of present-day central and northern Mongolia and conquered numerous areas between the Sea of Japan in the east and the Caspian Sea in the west. The Greater Mongol Empire, which was founded by Genghis Khan, united the entire Eurasian world. It allowed free trade and cultural exchange between states and exercised religious toleration towards its inhabitants. After his death, the Great Khan bequeathed the largest land empire in the world to his sons, though it was to fall apart two generations later.

Genghis Khan is still highly revered among the Mongolian population – the emperor has been considered a symbol of the country’s independence and a great idol for centuries now.

Life as a nomad

 - Life as a nomad

The nomadic lifestyle is grounded in a philosophy that closely bound to nature. Each action has a deeper meaning: from greetings, the telling of myths and epics and the proverbs used in everyday life to the rearing of the herd. For the Mongolians, music is just as important as nature. With throat-singing and long song, they express their view of the world and their distinctive culture.

The traditional dwellings of nomads

The yurt, the traditional tent of the nomads, is still commonly found in today’s Mongolia. Not only nomads, but also some members of the urban population may live either part or all of the year in a yurt, since it is easier to heat in winter than the solid buildings in the city.

The Gobi Desert

 - The Gobi Desert

Fossilised dinosaur skeletons and eggs, sparse plant life, the singing sands of Khongoryn Els, green oases, the flaming cliffs of Bayanzag, and the Tsagaan Suvarga waterfall: these are just a few of the natural wonders to be discovered in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert. The Fata Morgana mirage, which tricks visitors to the Dundgovi aimag (district), is particularly magical. If you look closely, you see the sand glistening like gold, and grazing camel herds nearby.

The arid region extends for 2.3 million square kilometres to northwest China, making it one of the largest non-polar desert regions in the world. The Gobi Desert and, above all, the Nemegt Basin, which is renowned among specialists for its dinosaur fossils, rose to world fame in the 1960s. At that time, palaeontologists discovered a wide range of fossils across several excavations, including one of a carnivorous dinosaur, which today bears the name “Nemegtosaurus”.

Eastern Mongolia

 - Eastern Mongolia

Eastern Mongolia and Genghis Khan are closely linked. The Great Khan was born in the region and returned to his homeland after every victory to observe the sky and the infinite steppe so that he could collect enough strength, calm resolve, and courage to set out on his next campaign. The vastness of the country’s eastern region has remained untouched up until the present: in the Menen steppe, the largest and flattest steppe of Mongolia, visitors encounter wolves, wild herds of horses, and white gazelles. As biologists have noted, a quarter of all gazelles in the world live in Mongolia. A Mongolian gazelle herd usually consists of 10,000 animals, which dash across the flat landscape of the steppe – an amazing experience that visitors should not miss. The mountain of Burkhan Khaldun is also worth seeing. Legend has it that Genghis Khan hid from his enemies as a small boy in the forests of the mountain.

Western Mongolia

 - Western Mongolia

Western Mongolia contains an ecologically unique landscape that combines desert, steppe, taiga, tundra, and glaciers. The westernmost and highest point in Mongolia – the Tavan Bogd mountain range – offers visitors a unique spectacle. The weather is so changeable on its five peaks and three glaciers that it’s not uncommon to experience all four seasons in a single day: sunshine, snow, rain, and storms alternate on the mountain, which is called the “roof of the country” by the Mongols.

Don’t miss the chance to follow in the footsteps of ancient Palaeolithic peoples: the blue cave of Tsenkherin Agui still preserves drawings of the mammoths, lynxes, Bactrian camels and ostriches that lived in Mongolia thousands of years ago. Rare animals such as snow leopards, ibexes, foxes, wolves, and very shy Gobi bears still make their home in the western part of the country.

Northern Mongolia

 - Northern Mongolia

Northern Mongolia brings to mind the Khoridol Saridag mountain range together with vast steppes, dense forests, high mountain peaks, glittering lakes, crystal-clear rivers, and man-made deer stones. It is especially beautiful to gaze out over Khuvsgul Lake, whose deepest point is 262 m: a wonderful natural spectacle both at sunrise and sunset. When the sun sets behind the mountains, the lake’s surface resembles a glassy mirror. When the sun rises, the seven colors of the rainbow can be discerned on its surface. A special nomadic people live in harmony with the flora and fauna in the far north of Mongolia. Both in the summer when it is 27°C, and in the winter when temperatures can drop to –60°C, the Tsaatan people herd and breed reindeer. In order to ensure that their animals have access to a sufficient supply of food, the herders make the journey of 50 to 70 kilometers from their spring pastures to their autumn grounds together with their animals.

Central Mongolia

 - Central Mongolia

The Mongol Empire was founded in Central Mongolia, and the nomads there have preserved the culture, history, and faith of their ancestors up until the present day. Stone inscriptions, stone paintings, and stone figures from the 13th century offer a window into the past for visitors to the ruins of Karakorum, the former capital of the Mongol Empire at the foot of the Khangai Mountains. The sheer natural expanse of Khorgo Mountain is overpowering. The nine-million-year-old and now inactive Khorgiin Togoo volcano is located 2,240 meters above sea level. During one of its two recorded eruptions, lava flowed for 100 kilometers to the Suman and Chuluut Rivers. Those looking for relaxation should not miss the hot springs of Tsenkher in Arkhangai aimag. The spring water is said to have healing properties, which is why the thermal baths are very popular with both the locals and tourists.

Ulaanbaatar

 - Ulaanbaatar

The journey to the homeland of the nomads begins in Ulaanbaatar, which almost half of Mongolia’s population calls home. The city was founded 375 years ago under the name Urguu on the shores of Lake Shireet in central Mongolia. It frequently changed location before finally developing into today’s city of Ulaanbaatar (or UB for short) with its square buildings. Gradually, neoclassical buildings such as the opera house, the university, and a library with traditional stylistic touches were built during the communist era. When Mongolia became a democratic country in the 1990s, modern Western glass-facade buildings sprang up like mushrooms after a rainstorm and completely changed the cityscape. Today, tradition and modernity go hand in hand in the Mongolian capital: horse breeders wearing traditional deel (tunics) and richly decorated silver belts can be seen side-by-side with smartly dressed young inhabitants who wear branded clothing from all over the world.

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