Five reasons to visit Elista

The first reason. Resembling a decorated festive cake, the capital of Kalmykia is located in the middle of the southern Russian steppes. It is impossible to see so many pagodas, stupas and eastern temples in any other European part of our country. However, it is a common scene in one of the centres of world Buddhism.

The main attraction is visible from any part of the city. The huge snow-white 56 meter high ‘the Golden Abode of the Buddha Shakyamuni’ was erected in just nine months.

The temple was blessed by the 14th Dalai Lama. It is known as the largest in Europe with the largest Buddha statue and the unique sculptural composition of 17 Nalanda Pandits. It was built in 2005 with the blessing of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and funded by the first president of Kalmykia, the head of FIDE Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. It became the symbol of Elista – the capital of the steppe region. They say that it is almost impossible to see the Khurul’s top:  it shines so bright in the sun that it is blinding for kilometers around.
In the centre of the main hall is a golden nine meter statue of Buddha (the largest in Europe). The real treasures for any Buddhist - sacred relics, mantras, incense, as well as a handful of earth from all corners of Kalmykia - are hidden inside the statue.
The second reason. Buddhism was persecuted in the USSR. Almost all the shrines were destroyed. Their restoration started when Ilyumzhinov became the head of Kalmykia. An extraordinary beautiful ‘seven days’ pagoda was built in the main square replacing the monument to Lenin. It was moved to some other place.
The pagoda was erected by Tibetan lamas. The main prayer drum contains about 30 million mantras. It is believed that Buddhist deities spoke Tibetan language only, and since few speak this language today, the prayers are put in the drum. Turn it with pure thoughts, and you will find harmony and peace in your soul.
Another impressive shrine is the Stupa of Enlightenment -- "Monlam Tamced Drupa", which is also called "The Answer to All Prayers". Parts of the structure symbolize the four elements and it also has the fifth element - the void, the origin of all the others.
The third reason. "Ostap was at his best. Dazzling prospects amazed Vasyuki fans. The rotten walls collapsed, and the glass palace of chess rose high in the sky." Ilf and Petrov did not know that their fantasy could become a reality. In Elista, this happened in 1997 before the Chess Olympiad. City-Chess was built on the outskirts of the city. As predicted by the great schemer, it was built by former head of Kalmykia, President of the International Chess Federation Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.
All houses bear chess names: "Queen", "White Rook"... The Chess Palace, where tournaments are held, is located in the centre. Nearby is the Chess Museum. On the first floor there are three huge marble plaques with chess pieces, where anyone can play a game or two.
Chess City has also a monument to its ideological mastermind Ostap Bender. The famous twelve chairs are behind the stately bronze statue. According to the urban legend, the sculptor hid a real diamond in one of them.
The fourth reason. Cuisine food of Kalmykia is of nomad’s origin – simple, satisfying and tasty. The main course is a thick, rich soup. Dotur is made of sheep's intestines and the Mahan sheltyagan, which is considered to be very healthy, is made from large pieces of meat with potatoes and onions.
The most popular dish is berigi –Kalmyk dumplings. After the main course, you can order traditional Jomba tea. It is made of milk, salt, butter and cinnamon with nutmeg.
The fifth reason. There are many unique places in the vicinity of Elista. For example, the salt lake Manych-Gudilo. The buzzing sound resonating over the lake scared the ancient people, who invented myths about evil spirits. In fact, it is caused by strong winds blowing over the lake.
In the middle of the lake there is a unique island of Vodny, where you can find the only herd of mustangs – wild horses that has been living in Russia for half a century. There are many explanations of their appearance. According to one of them, the North American mustangs were brought for the filming of the Soviet western "The Seventh Bullet". One shot frightened the animals and several horses fled, bred and spread.
An island of tulips is nearby. At the time of flowering there are so many of flowers that excursions are organized there from March to June. But it is prohibited to pick the flowers - they play an important role in the local ecosystem ...
Editorial note. We, journalists of kirsan.today, are very interested in the news of Kalmykia. Some of our staff grew up in this republic. Some worked in Elista. "Kalmykia," as Kirsan Ilyumzhinov likes to repeat, "is the land where the steppe touches the sky." And it is true. You will never forget Kalmykia. Incidentally, it is the sixth reason to visit this steppe region.