Cultural Connections

Musings about my experiences, art, and life in Mongolia and beyond.

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Location: Ulaanbaatar, Tuv aimag, Mongolia

Native Chicagoan currently teaching in Mongolia.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Peking to Paris Rally

I was beginning to think this was going to be a dull summer around here in UB. It's June 1st, classes are over, no adventures planned thus far for the summer. Still trying to figure out what to do next - stay another year? Go home?

This evening, I was walking home, trying to dodge crazy drivers as I crossed the street, when suddenly, a couple of antique cars came rolling by. I had to stop and think for a moment where I was. For one thing, owning an automobile is a fairly new concept here in Mongolia that has only skyrocketed in the past five years. Even rarer, to see a vintage vehicle. I suddenly had this flash of being in a small town in Wisconsin at a Fourth of July parade! The cars pulled onto the ramp at the Chingiss Khan hotel across the street from my apartment. Whoa! (This morning it was young kids riding horses down the streets of UB in honor of Mother and Children's Day – another rare site as horse and cattle have pretty much been banned from the city) A few minutes later, another old jalopy drove up. High up on the hill, I looked up at the hotel entrance and noticed a whole bunch of old cars sitting up there. On closer inspection, they all had placcards that read "Peking to Paris, 1907-2007".

It was 8:45 pm and the sun was beginning to set, so I ran up three flights to my apt., grabbed my camera and dashed across the street. I noticed one of the cars had Illinois license plates! So I told the guys I was from Chicago and apparently one of their partners is from Chicago as well. They explained a little bit to me. Above is the webiste for more history and information. They showed me the original Italian car that won the first rally in 1907.

The photo of the old black jalopy covered with mud kind of sums it all up though. I sympathize with these guys having driven through parts of Mongolia with no roads, just tire tracks and the occasional unsuspecting marsh. At least they survived the Gobi and a torrential sandstorm - should be the worst of it... weatherwise. Although it will be curious to see if the Jaguars and Aston Martins make it across the Steppes!

So I think I found my new motto: “Peking to Paris!” I've always wanted to travel through Central Asia and Eastern Europe....and of course, Paris…


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