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Introducing Kyakhta

Kyakhta lacks the cinemascope landscapes of Novoselenginsk but retains three once-grand churches, a great museum and a surprisingly good hotel. Formerly called Troitskosavsk, Kyakhta was a town of tea-trade millionaires whose grandiose cath- edral was reputed to have had solid silver doors embedded with diamonds. By the mid-19th century, as many as 5000 cases of tea a day were arriving via Mongolia on a stream of horse- or camel-caravans, which returned loaded with furs. Compressed tea 'bricks' were used as money, a practice continued by Buryat nomads as recently as the 1930s.

This gloriously profitable tea trade was brought to an abrupt end with the completion of the Trans-Siberian Railway. Almost overnight, all commerce was redirected via Vladivostok or Harbin and Kyakhta withered into a remote border garrison town, bristling with weapons instead of gilded spires.

Modern Kyakhta is effectively two towns. The main one is centred around ul Lenina, where you'll find the bus terminus next to the 1853 trading arcade (ryady gostinye). Kyakhta's smaller Sloboda district, 4km south of the commercial centre (R50 by taxi), is where you'll find the border post.