Monday, 16 April 2012

Yekaterinburg to Tomsk


Finally started on the Trans Siberian part of the trip, first leg Moscow to Yekaterinburg, 1814 km, roughly around 26 hours on the train. An enjoyable enough experience, managed to read a lot of my book, eat some decent train snacks and relax, to a certain extent. To the side was a group of  screaming children who didn't let up and opposite me was this Lenin-looking bloke who took it in turns to stare at me and then the kids. I wasn't sad to see the back of him when he eventually left, a few hours before I arrived in Yekaterinburg.

Upon arrival, I found the hostel quickly enough and settled in for the night. Even though I had been on a train for the past day, I was somehow still tired. The following day, the hostel owner was great  and made sure I knew where everything was in the city and that I knew all the sights to see.

Would you believe that Yekaterinburg is home to the world's tallest unfinished tower and the world's most compact zoo, or so the locals would have you believe. On top of these gems, there were loads of pointless statues and on top of that, one of the most famous local sights is a qwerty keyboard. Yes, they built a massive keyboard next to the river, and yes, I spelt my name on it.

However, there are actual places of significance here, non more so than the Romanov Death Site with its aptly named Church of the Blood to honour the last Russian royal family who were exectued there, and Ganina Yama, the sight where the family were then secretly buried. To honour them, there are a few churches built among the forest, including the Monastery of the Holy Martyrs as the focal point of the area.

Church of the Blood, Yekaterinburg

Church of the Blood, Yekaterinburg

Ascension Church, Yekaterinburg

Around the grounds of Gamina Yama

Monastery of the Holy Martyrs, Gamina Yama

Gamina Yama

Evenings were filled with chatting with other guests, relaxing, drinking beer at the local micro brewery and spending one evening in a restaurant eating amazing food and drinkng homemade beer with a Czech influence. In short, my three days in Yekaterinburg was the perfect way to unwind after Moscow. 


A short night train was all that was between Yekaterinburg and Omsk. In hindsight, I should have stayed on the train! Up to this point, whenever I told someone I was going to visit Omsk, they always looked at me like I was strange and asked why, usually followed with various reasons why I shouldn't go. Generally, I don't listen to people when they say a place isn't worth checking out, I would rather find out for myself than miss something I may have potentially liked. In this case, I should have listened.

However, I don't feel too aggrieved. It would be unrealistic to go on a trip of this size and expect every place I visit to be amazing and awe inspiring. I guess you need to have the odd let down, if only to help you appreciate the better places more.

Bar at Omsk train station
In a nutshell, Omsk had a few Lenin statues, a restaurant where, to be fair, I actually got some delicious pizza, one big church with no name to be found anywhere, and its highlight, for me, the poxy little bar in the downstairs of the train station. Only here for the day though so I can cope with the decision to come here, there's more fun to be had further along the track for sure. 


After another relatively short train ride, 928km, I arrived in Tomsk, a student town about 80 km off the main Trans Siberian line. Described as Siberia's most attractive city in the Lonely Planet, I was looking forward to some beautiful wooden lace architecture, but instead there were only worn-out, old wooden buildings! Still, the town had a certain charm to it and I enjoyed wandering around, aimlessly taking pictures and walking along the river front.

Random wooden house, Tomsk

This was one of the nicer ones

Lookout Tower on Resurrection Hill, Tomsk

Just off Lenin Square by the Tom River, Tomsk

When travelling alone, bumping into people always helps to make a place much more enjoyable, and this proved to be the case in Tomsk. Halfway through the day I met a lad called Alex, who happened to be a translator, and who was only too happy to hang out and practice his English. I was used to that from Korea and welcomed the company anyway.

There was another lad called Alex in the hostel, so we went for drinks together and met some more of their friends, who in turn knew some English students studying Russian in Tomsk, and it just happend to be one of their birthdays. Of couse things escalated with one too many shots, with the night ending in a stupidly cheap night club and eventually making it to my bunk just before sunrise.

With the help of good people and a little luck, I managed to spare myself another Omsk and instead had a great time in Tomsk, both during the daytime and at night.

Next stop, a 32 hour train ride to the heart of Siberia in Irkutsk and the shores of Lake Baikal.

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