Siberia is quite a different experience during this journey. Upon arriving in Novosibirsk, temperatures at 6am were around the freezing point – which is actually not too bad. But to explore the city I needed some extra effort, avoiding to simply stay inside in a cozy little cafe instead.
It is Sunday morning and the streets are quite empty, since most shops open around 10am only. This gives me actually a fantastic opportunity to take pictures of buildings without the usual Russian traffic jams in front of it. One rather unusual thing bugged me after a while: There was a constant loudspeaker noise coming from police cars shouting something in Russian as soon as any car would stop or slow down in an attempt to park alongside the main avenue. Actually the policemen would not even bother to go out of their car, they simply would move towards the “offender” and start yelling using a loudspeaker. I later realized, that there was an upcoming sports competition event that morning, where students from different universities would have to run on this avenue. Timing therefore was perfect: I got my picture shots, and later had the opportunity to watch the sports event and the cheering public.
Yes, I liked Novosibirsk for the duration of my stay which was roughly ten hours. Maybe there is more to see, but I felt that I wanted to continue and therefore I left around 4pm to Tomsk. While being on the train, I decided to walk with my full backpack to the hostel. I did about five kilometers back in Tashkent and the map in the Lonely Planet guide looked quite easy to memorize. Plus, the distance would be only about 500m. A no-brainer.
Arriving in Tomsk, I soon realized, that someone at Lonely Planet, must have messed up the scale of their map. The road to the hostel was substantially longer as I anticipated (I measured later using the GPS on the way back 3.4km). Normally, this distance wouldn’t have been a problem, but here it was snowing. Moreover, it was 10pm, so I was worried of the hostel giving up my reservation. And my bladder doesn’t really enjoy the cold. I really needed to pee halfway through – and I didn’t care whether Russian police would stop me (again).
To make things worse, the hostel (TGU hostel) simply would not let me enter. I was probably arriving too late. I almost wanted to go back to the train station to sleep there, when I met a student, Aleksej, who directed me to the Sputnik Hotel. This turned out to be a perfect place. I had a single room with television and shared bathroom. Sheer luxury after all the train journeys I had been through. Staff was very friendly and the price was actually quite OK.
Next morning, Tomsk greeted me in a white dress. It felt like Christmas, only Rudolph the red nose reindeer was missing. This city’s university is actually quite big and therefore there are many students and the related infrastructure. Means: Tomsk features a lot of interesting places to go out.
Aleksej joined me later that morning to show me the more historic aspects of the city. Unfortunately I had my ticket for Irkutsk already booked for that afternoon, because it would have been very easy to fill a second day visiting this place. So sadly, I had to bid farewell to Aleksej and the city of Tomsk. It is shortlisted as a re-visit, should I ever come back to this region.
Oh – just if you wondered about the title: Being from Switzerland, we measure the cold in centimeters – not in centigrade. While in Novosibirsk, it was between two and four centimeters cold. Tomsk was definitely a two centimeter town. So this was definitely too cold. I’ll be interested in how many centimeters Irkutsk will be.