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This article continues our series of “Travel Notes” by the folk musician and journalist Maria Kirilova. Maria kindly suggested writing travel notes for tyva.me during a trip to Tuva this year for the celebration of Shagaa – the Tuvan New Year. Maria will share her insights about the sternly beautiful winter of Tuva, how the Tuvinians survive in the -40 degree frosts, how the Shagaa is celebrated, and what is sung in the winter folk songs.

Author: Maria Kirilova

It was still dark, when we got off a train Novosibirsk-Abakan in the freezing morning. A driver met us to take to a maral farm, and then finally to Kyzyl. It became my tradition to enter Kyzyl at dawn and leave at sunset. So it happened again. As soon as the sun lit up our path, my eyes saw what I wanted to see: snowy steppes and fluffy mountains. In the summer, the steppes looked comfortable and soft, like trampolines , and I could not imagine how they would look during winter. Their image was now stern! The northern landscape of cold whites, blues and greys was by no means unfriendly, but commanded respect for sure.

The weather was sunny when we arrived in Turan . Animals were kept in large pens of land, females separated from males. An iron grid separated them from the visitors. However, as the driver said, he is not often asked to come here, and today we were, it seems, the only guests. Most of the marals (local red deer) had small horns. When they grow up, they are cut and used as components for various medicines. Female marals showed more curiosity about the passing car, but people with cameras still preferred to move away. Some males engaged in power displays despite the modest size of the horns.

I visited the Centre of Asia in Kyzyl earlier, but I inspected it more thoroughly during my second visit. I won’t describe the monument again, instead share the memory of the huge and impressive sheets of ice across the frozen Yenesei river. Its huge width brought the message home that Kyzyl is “on the Yenisei”, and not just next to it. Vivaldi, reproduced on the embankment, brought a funny dissonance with it. To be accurate, when we just came up, it sounded “Summer” from the “Seasons” cycle. Selection of European classical music in the Centre of Asia sounded unforgettable.

After walking around the city a little more, we met an interesting person who finally explained to me why the Tuvans often say that they had once been blond and blue-eyed. As it turned out, these were still not exactly Tuvans, but other peoples who came to Tuva to avoid flooding in their lands. I hoped to learn more about it the day tomorrow at the National Museum.

Soon we had already settled in a rented apartment, and next day we had a meeting with a shaman and a visit to the museum. Further to my list of culinary impressions, I added a hodgepodge and lamb in the cafe “Choduraa”. Food is pleasantly cheap out here. I was looking forward to the next day.

Always here,


Written by airamo