Southern Buryatia

My most recent Russian dream featured a pleasant excursion in the wooded, hilly terrain of southern Buryatia.  Narrow dirt lanes wound along the slopes above remote, shallow valleys covered in scrubby forest that was punctuated by the occasional bog.  At least three other people were in the car with me, but they were people I’ve never (yet) met:  no familiar names or faces.


At one point, we got out of the car to explore a marshy pond where huge, iridescent birch logs floated amid lilypads and other aquatic plants.  Or maybe they weren’t exactly birch logs, because the trunks’ bole was at least 3 feet in diameter and there was a somewhat metallic character to the sheen of the birchbark.  We walked on some of the logs, but no one started a birling contest.

And then … in the way that dreams have, things changed.  Small gaps in the surface of the forest floor showed us that beneath our feet there were manmade subterranean chambers hidden in the earth.  A closer look revealed that these underground rooms contained scattered pieces of obsolete machinery and miscellaneous spare parts.  No instruction manuals, no warning signs in Cyrillic characters, just discarded objects.

Back at the side of the road, wondering what we’d actually seen, a stranger materialized from pretty much the middle of nowhere.  He wore nondescript clothing, but had a hairstyle that was unusual –even by Russian (or Buryat) standards– and basically indescribable outside the dreamworld.  It was he who remarked, simply, “southern Buryatia.”



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