Recently we wrote a post how on our road couchsurfing enabled many memorable meetings with local people. In Abakan (the capital city of the Republic of Khakassia) it worked again amazingly when lovely Juliet responded to our request and offered to host us. 3 nights changed to 6 and one visit became two when we returned to the city after our hiking trip in Ergaki Mountains. First time in our travel we were in one spot for more a than few days and it allowed us to rest and just walk around from place to place. It was easy to fall in love with the lush streets of Abakan as it had lots of parks and buildings with unique details and quickly we started to know the city like our own pockets.
As we mentioned, Juliet welcomed us with a warm hug, offering us a comprehensive city tour on the very first evening. With her guidance and knowledge we saw many fascinating corners of Abakan where also ethnic Khakas people and shamans are living. We didn’t see many of them in the city which it’s not a surprise, because nowadays they represent only a little more than 10% of the population in the whole region. Shamanism with buddhist influences has been an important part of their society and it’s still common, even thought during the history many of them had to accept the Russian way of life and most were converted to Russian Orthodox Christianity. Interestingly enough they managed to keep their traditions, language and culture. Marek got inspired about traditional folk instrument khomus after we listened a lot beautiful Khakassian music. In Abakan it was easy to find and we learned that professionals are listening to the sound of it very carefully, “you have to play it a lot, savour the sound of it and when it comes close to your heart, it’s the right one.” Now Marek is a happy khomus owner and on our road some melodies might be heard. 🙂
During our stay the urban architecture, statues and green parks were absolutely something that we loved. Wherever we walked we found flamboyant pictures that adorned the walls of many houses. Soviet era mosaics never gets boring and there we were in a place where they are well preserved. Our favourite building, the national theater, had walls surrounded by huge mosaics presenting different kinds of theatre characters and symbols. This beautiful layout made the whole structure look very vivid and during our stay often times when we passed it, we stopped and watched its pictures again and again. Both of us agreed that it was one of the most charming theatre we have ever seen.
What comes to parks it was captivating to visit many of them. There the local youth – as well as the adults – all spend their time in a perfect harmony. You can find seating places, tables, canopies, fountains and carousels for the little ones. Not to mention a different kind of statues that are sprinkled not only in the parks but all around the city. The little prince, animals, local artists… in the center next to the huge sitting Lenin statue we were greeted by the boys who used a platform of Lenin to jump and play tricks on their scooters. Later on we found out that this mean of transport had some kind of fashion wave in the city – young people drove with them everywhere in the town. One evening we followed the sound of a live orchestra and found a park where a local band was playing and people were dancing a different style of couple dances to celebrate the Friday night. This all reminded very much of the Finnish 90s summer traditions, when the stage dance culture was at its hottest and a tango and waltz was heard through the summer nights.
During our stay we both caught a cold and after resting a bit, Juliet invited us to her dacha (summer house) located between Abakan and Minusinsk city, at the Yenisei river. It was an idyllic wooden house with a full bloomed garden where we were able to collect berries and vegetables directly from the garden to the dining table. From one neighbour we got also a full carafe of fresh goat milk. It was a joy to drink and eat fresh food! We also met her sympathetic friend, Sveta, and her charming boy Fiodor, who took us to the neighborhood tour. Although there was no common language (only our poor Russian language to help), not only it did not bother him at all, he wanted to introduce us to everyone that he knew. Soon we had a small chat in all nearby houses where all the neighbours seemed to know him. Like we later learned many people have their summer houses and on weekends most of them are escaping there to relax from the hustle of the city.
The best city views we experienced on the top of the Love Mountain, where war memorial statues and monuments reminds of 3144 fallen soldiers from Khakass towns. To visit the park may require a bit of planning as it’s farther from the city, also you need to prepare yourself to wave your way through it, as the mosquitoes are abundant there, but all that effort is worth it. It was already dark when we get there, but it gave us a chance to admire the whole city and its evening lights.
We were lucky that with Juliet we could experience a real local life, meet people from different kind of classes and see how they are living. Some people might be poor, but the hospitality that we encountered was something that touched our hearts. When it comes to the city it was very interesting for us, a compact packet with nature, culture and beautiful architecture. Unfortunately, because of the summer break, the theatre was closed, but we learned that lots of different kinds of festivals and other cultural events are happening all around the year (just when we had to go, an opening of the international theatre festival was coming). However we are very grateful that we had a chance to extend our stay and get to know the lovely city. And as we learned it was a perfect base for us before visiting Ergaki national park.