Monday, 27 December 2010

Altai Mountains, Chuya Road and surroundings. Part 1.

I've been silent for so many days and even week. A lot of work, a typical situation for the end of a year.
And today I've managed to finish the last project I had to translate, to cope with the necessary bookkeeping and even to clean the house.
It's quite cold outside, which is typical for the middle of winter.
Real Siberian Christmas and New Year frosts...
I'm looking forward to New Year's Eve and thinking about summer.
It's quite a long time to wait, and too early to make plans, so I'd rather remember the last summer.
It was really great, with our travel to Altai Mountains. It is something like a tradition for our family already.
It was the second time we went to Altai with our kids.
And for me it was somewhat the 10th travel there.
The first time I visited Altai was when I was 16. My cousin, who was 26 at that time, took me with her. She was with her boyfriend and paid almost no attention to me, so I had a lot of time and opportunities to walk around, to look and listen and to fall in love with that wonderful region so deeply that all my numerous travels to Europe, which I also love, cannot replace that passion for Altai.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Snowfalls in Western Siberia are turning into severe frosts

Winters in Siberia are something special. Very special even for the locals.
Snowfalls of the last three days are turning into severe frosts.
It was -5C in the morning and -17 early in the evening. The forecast for tomorrow is thrilling, about -30 in the night and between -24 and -29 in the daytime. Tomorrow we'll check what it will be like.

But today's morning was fabulous, if you just try to forget about traffic jams, which trapped the whole city.
But I don't drive a car, and as the weather was wonderful, I decided to take a little walk. It was snowing heavily, but there was no wind. A kind of perfect winter weather!

Just try to imagine what winter in Siberia is!
Would you like to experience it? Come to Novosibirsk somewhere in late November - late March. I bet your travel will be unforgettable!


Traffic jam. A typical picture these days

An interesting sign, but even mites in Siberia are very strong

 And this is what I see from my window now


 And it's just the beginning of winter. Who knows how much snow we'll have by the end of March?

Monday, 6 December 2010

Snowfalls in Novosibirsk

Winter is getting stronger and stronger each day. Until the middle of November we had no snow at all, and everyone was wondering what kind of winter we are going to have this year.
The winter in 2009-2010 was stressful. Extreme colds from December till late February, no winds, terrible smog. Cold temperatures made it impossible to go skiing, skating, sledging... When it was -20 the streets were full of people and a lot of skiers in forests and on slopes. Sounds crazy? Yes, it was a really crazy winter.
That's why we were thinking of the coming winter a lot and that's why we were shocked when in mid November we realized there was still no snow at all.

But it changed quite quickly. Somewhere on the 20th of November it started to snow, and it seems it has been snowing since then.
It snows almost every day. It starts to snow in the morning and it snows the whole day long.
And today it's the same. Snowing, snowing and snowing... Snow everywhere.
Looks beautiful, and it could be beautiful somewhere in the country.

Snowfalls in a big city are terrible. It's not a city any more, it's a big and terrible traffic jam. Cars can hardly move around because of this snow. The streets, which used to have 3 or 4 lines in summer, now hardly have two. It takes about an hour to manage 3-5 km.
 And a lot of accidents. Mostly minor and nothing dangerous, but they make traffic much worse.

Typical problems we have to cope with in a big city in winter.

But still, winters are beautiful. Streets don't look dirty, trees dressed in white, as if in a fairy tale.

Would you like to experience this? I welcome you to Novosibirsk! I promise you will have an unforgettable holiday!

Friday, 3 December 2010

Biysk. Siberian peer of St.Petersburg.

Have you heard of Biysk?
'What is it and where is it?' is a common answer. No wonder, a small city in Altai Region has no bright moments in its biography, but it's of the same age as St.Petersburg and was founded by the same person - Peter the Great, and it is an honorable fact in itself!
And not only this makes the city interesting. Later on, in the 18th and 19th centuries, the city became the starting point of Chuysky Tract connecting Russia with Mongolia and China. It was a big and important trading center.

If you go from Novosibirsk to Altai mountains, Belokurikha or Mongolia, you have to drive through Biysk, which is 330 km from Novosibirsk in the southern direction, there is just no other way! But hardly any makes a stop here and spares a couple of hours for a little walk. And we always did the same. I went to Altai about 10 times, but it never occurred to me to walk around the city and to look at it.
When we were going to Altai in November this year for the weekend, I decided to correct that mistake. And we spent about an hour and a half walking around the old part of the city.
It was really wonderful! A quiet and peaceful atmosphere of the city makes you feel as if you are in the past, Soviet or even earlier...
Empty streets, stone buildings of the 19th century...  This is the oldest part of the city, it is here where one of the first Siberian fortresses was built more than 300 years ago. If it were Europe, the street would be full of tiny souvenir shops and cozy cafes. But it is in the provinces of Russia, and such regions suffered a lot during the perestroika period and have still not recovered after the crisis. Local people say the earnings are too low, and it shows: almost no advertisements and billboards in the streets, too few cafes, hardly any restaurants, business and trading centers, not so many cars...

Drama theatre. A nice building of the beginning of 19th century.
Post office
A former merchant's house. Now an administrative building

An orthodox cathedral.


A former merchant's house, bow belongs to the university.

Peter the Great, the founder of the city.


Former merchants' houses.
 The atmosphere of the city is calming, it's really nice to be there. But I don't think I could live here after crazy and busy Novosibirsk with a lot of opportunities. The locals say there are terrible problems with work, very few good schools and only one University with a moderate choice of courses.



Modern city districts are as quiet and calm as its historical center.
The central street of Biysk, Lenin street, with a nice park in the middle. Few people, low prices for ice-cream and other nice small things as compared to Novosibirsk.
Here we found a really good cafe with surprisingly low prices and a really rich choice of dishes and drinks. The cafe is situated Lenin Street, don't remember the exact address, but it's near the Hotel Biysk.





Now I recommend visiting Biysk to everyone who drives to Altai or Mongolia or back.
Moreover, unlike Altai mountains, it is possible to reach Biysk by train, it is the last station in this direction. It takes about 8 hours from Novosibirsk by train and about 4-6 hours by car, depending on the driving situation.

Would you like to have a guided tour around Biysk? I will be happy to be your guide!
It is possible to find a hotel here, the prices will surprise you!
Despite the city is small, there are a couple of really interesting museums, the Museum of Chuysky Tract among them. You will learn about the history of this important and famous road.
And in the Natural History Museum you will see hundreds of species of animals, insects, fish and birds living in Altai and close to it.

Interested? I would be happy to read your comments.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

About Novosibirsk, my home town

I started this blog to write about my homeland and my experience as a tourist guide, and to invite all my readers here.
And I find it reasonable to write about my hometown first.
I was born and have always lived in Novosibirsk, except for one year in Europe. That experience was wonderful, but I decided to go back home after that year, because I really love it here.

My city is unique in some sense, as it needed just 65 years to become a city with more than 1 million population. Thanks to this fact the city is often called Russian Chicago. Now 1.5 million people live here.
It's a big city. Of course not as huge as Moscow, the capital and most known Russian metropolis, but it's enough to make life really crazy.

The city lies almost in the very center of Russia and is a good way point if you travel along the Transsiberian Railway or wish to go to Altai Mountains and Mongolia after visiting something else in Russia.
The city has a lot to offer, though there are not many historical sights. No wonder, 'cause the city is just 117 years old. But it's a great example of the Soviet age with tens of so-called constructivism architecture specimen.
 And you will certainly like the chapel symbolizing the center of Russia and the opera and ballet theatre, one of the  grandest theatre buildings in the world.

And our winters! Come and visit Siberia in winter! You might dislike -30 and even -40, but you will certainly never forget it!