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German is good in Ulan Bator

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Believe it or not, but you can see a lot of German influence in Mongolia’s capital Ulan Bator.

Everywhere you go, you’ll come across advertisements for Khan Bräu, for instance. The Khan Bräu brewery has been around since 1996. It’s run jointly by a German and a Mongolian.

Khan Bräu makes its beers in Mongolia, but they’re brewed in strict compliance with the German beer purity law. This law dates back to the year 1516 and dictates that beer should only be made from water, hops and malt.

Consequently, Khan Bräu imports its hops from Bavaria to give its beers that special German flavour.

Brauhaus and Biergarten

But Khan Bräu doesn’t only make beers. It’s taken the German idea of Gemütlichkeit even further: Khan Bräu also runs a “Biergarten” restaurant in Ulan Bator. Here, they serve their Pilsener and dark beers and also classic German food specialties like Leberkäse and Bratwurst.

If you don’t have the time to sit down in the Khan Bräu beer garden for a hearty German meal, how about some fast food? You can stay with the German theme even if you just want some junk food: there are at least three fast food joints called Berlin Burger in Ulan Bator.

German meat products seem to have a pretty good reputation in Mongolia. In downtown Ulan Bator, you’ll see German-language billboards for the Makhimpex meat processing factory.

The text on these billboards reads: “Europäische Qualität, Geschmack und Verpackung in der Mongolei”.

The German may be a little rough, but what this friendly butcher is trying to tell his Mongolian clientel is that he’s providing European quality and taste, but that his products are made in Mongolia.

They need a little help with their advertising

According to the Makhimpex website, the company slaughters and processes sheep, cows and horses. It also tells us that its daily production includes:

  • 4 tonnes of blood
  • 1 tonne of meat and bone meal
  • 8 tonnes of blood meal
  • 10 tonnes of food oil

Reading this, I’m glad once again that I’m a vegetarian.

Tune in to German radio

Maybe the Makhimpex meat processing company should try advertising on Ulan Bator’s German radio station? Yes, German radio also exists in the Mongolian capital.

Deutsches Radio Ulan Bator (DRUB) broadcasts three hours a week to the capital area in German. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from five to six p.m. it’s the German hour on FM 98.9 in Ulan Bator.

Three Mongolian journalists put the programs together – with a little help from Germany’s foreign broadcaster Deutsche Welle. The three have been on the air since March, 2008, and hope to reach a sizeable amount of the German-speaking crowd in Ulan Bator.

So far, they haven’t gotten much feedback from listeners, though. They want to improve their programs, however, and are willing to learn.

The Leipzig connection

One reason why German products and the German language play a role in Mongolia is that many Mongolians have personal ties to Germany.

Before the 1990’s, Mongolia was a staunch ally of the Soviet Union and had excellent connections to the other Eastern Block countries. One of these countries was communist East Germany.

Consequently, many Mongolians who wanted to study abroad went to the German Democratic Republic.

And while they were studying in Leipzig, Dresden or East Berlin, they also developed a taste for German beer, German food and German Gemütlichkeit.

It’s estimated that some 30 000 Mongolians have been educated in Germany over the last half century. 30 000 may not sound like a lot – but if you keep in mind that Mongolia only has a population of less than three million, you realize that this “Leipzig connection” must be a pretty strong force in Mongolian society.

Most of the 30 000 Mongolians who studied at German universities now hold important positions in this country. They’re a powerful group in Mongolian society and most of them are pretty wealthy for Mongolian standards.

At least they make enough money to be able to afford German beer, Bratwurst and all the other things they grew to love while they were in Germany.

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Dinner doggie-style

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Dog meat butcher I’m a vegetarian. I don’t eat meat. And though I don’t like the smell of raw meat at butcher shops, it usually doesn’t bother me very much.

But when I looked around an open-air market in Hanoi today, I did get slightly nauseous in one corner of the market. I came across something that I hadn’t anticipated: dog butchers.

Nothing for the faint-hearted

There were about three or four stalls selling dog meat. All of the animals had been skinned and grilled. Some were lighter in colour, others reddish brown and crispy looking.chopping up dog meat

As I walked by, a Vietnamese woman was buying some dog meat. I guess she didn’t want the whole animal, because all of a sudden, the butcher swung her big knife and hacked the dog that lay in front of her in two. WHACK!

And CHOP, WHACK, CHOP, the butcher continued her mad frenzy. In the end, she had chopped the grilled animal to pieces the size of goulash.

The butcher put everything in a bag, the Vietnamese housewife took it and walked away happily.

Dining with the dogs

I knew that there are dog restaurants in a northern suburb of Hanoi. But I hadn’t expected to stumble upon grilled dogs at the market stalls just outside my hotel. After all, it’s an upmarket hotel in downtown Hanoi.

But I suppose not many of the hotel’s international guests venture into this Vietnamese market – even though it’s just a few steps from the hotel.

It must be an acquired taste

The smell at the dog meat market stalls was strange. Hard to describe. Was it the smell, the sight or the idea of the dead dogs that made me feel sick?

The Vietnamese clearly aren’t as sensitive. For them, dog is just as common a dish as pork, beef or chicken.

A tourist from New Zealand, whom I talked to a few days ago, said he had tried dog meat at one of the city’s dog meat restaurants. He said he liked the taste.

dog meat butcher

I don’t think I could have eaten dog meat. Even if I wasn’t a vegetarian, dog is where I’d draw the line. Seeing and smelling those grilled dogs at the market made that very clear to me.

In Vietnam, it’s mostly men who will eat dog. Women don’t seem to enjoy it as much. Eating dog is associated with aggressiveness.

But even the Vietnamese men will not eat dog meat at the beginning of the lunar month. That’s considered bad luck.

So At the beginning of every lunar month, Hanoi’s dog meat restaurants stay closed.

And the ladies selling grilled dog at the street market have a few days off. To walk the dog?

Written by Thorsten

June 2, 2008 at 12:03 pm

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