Ufa

I spent an entire week in Ufa, Bashkortostan, Russia. When I told people in Russia I was headed there, the immediate reaction was why? Bashkortostan is a sleepy Muslim republic off of the White River. I was like, why not? I want to get to know every inch of Russia.

I rode a thirty hour train from Tyumen (Siberia) all the way to Ufa. I met some people through Couchsurfing and stayed in their child’s nursery, in a sleeping bag on the ground. It was perfect. I got to be the fourth member of their cute family for one week.

First order of business: I tried horse milk, known as kumiss. It’s the Bashkir national drink. Imagine regular milk, but carbonated and alcoholic. That’s what horse milk tastes like. In addition to Russian food, Bashkir have their own dishes, a celebration of their Turkic culture and nomadic roots.

There are some famous mosques in Ufa such as Tukayev and Lala Tulpan. In Ufa, Russian Orthodox Christianity and Islam coexist peacefully. Also, you can hear both Bashkir and Russian on the streets. Both are taught in schools.

I didn’t plan to be in Ufa during a special time, it just happened. I was there for both a jazz festival and a reunion show of a beloved Russian band, Chaif. The energy at the Chaif show was incredible, as it was an extremely popular band in the Soviet Union and still has the most diehard fans. The lady at the ticket counter said I bought the last ticket available.

Ufa is a special little place in Russia. Forget Moscow and St. Petersburg. I met the most memorable people in Ufa. I met people who love where they live.

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