Thursday, 31 March 2016

Omsk – don’t skip!


Omsk is a city in the Western Siberia with the population of over a million people. It is a city on the Transsiberian; it is celebrating 300 years anniversary in summer 2016. There are numerous buildings dating back to the 19th and even the 18th century making it similar to Kazan, St.Petersburg and even Moscow. 


Omsk was a birthplace of a number of famous Russians and some others visited it and lived here, for example, Admiral Alexander Kolchak, the leader of the White Army and the Superior Russian Governor in 1918-1919, chose the city as the that-time capital of Russia and some decades earlier the famous Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky was in an exile here. In fact, Omsk was an exile place for a lot of Russians, both during the tsarists and the Bolsheviks time. However, despite all its attractions and rich history Omsk is hardly visited by tourists, both Russian and foreign. I must confess that, though my hometown Novosibirsk is only 600 km to the east of Omsk, it was my first visit to Omsk, and it was a business one.

As I had nearly a week and one full weekend here, I explored the city thoroughly and now I strongly recommend making a stopover in Omsk during a Transsiberian travel. Basically one day is enough to explore the city, but if you have more time, the locals recommend visiting Achair monastery, which was a GULAG site once and now the holy well attracts hundreds of those seeking for health and wealth. Besides, it is really a pleasure to walk along the embankment of the Om and the Irtysh rivers, to explore the historical downtown with plenty of cute modern monuments and sculptures, to sit in one of numerous cozy cafes.


One of Omsk’s undoubted advantages is its relaxed and quiet ambiance and complete lack of tourists. The latter also makes it very affordable in terms of going out, transportation, entertainment and accommodation. Sometimes there are traffic jams, but they are twice as smaller as traffic jams in Novosibirsk. Local cafes and restaurants offer delicious food at nice prices.
For me Omsk is now one of the favorite destinations. I liked it even more that Tomsk, which is much more famous among  travelers.   

What do I recommend doing and seeing in Omsk?


It is its historical downtown, of course, which I divided in two days and in two sides of the river Om. I spend one day exploring the right side, where the old Omsk fortress is situated. \





If fact, it is the second Omsk fortress, the first was situated on the left side of the Om, but there is nothing left of it, and there are just a few genuine buildings left of the second fortress, too. Some buildings still exist, and currently all of them are under reconstruction. Not far from the fortress luxurious Lenin street, or Lubinsky Prospect in the past, is situated with stylish buildings from the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, 


expensive shops, cafes and restaurants and nice monuments including the monument to Lyuba, the local beauty who lived here more than a century ago and used to walk along the street a lot,

 and a monument to locksmith Stepanych looking out of the hole in the asphalt right in the middle of the pavement.

Here you can also see a luxurious building of the drama theatre and one of the buildings the arts museum on the opposite side. 


The second building of the arts museum is located on the left side of the Irtysh.
Moving up the hill you quickly reach the Cathedral Square with the magnificent Assumption Cathedral built more than a century ago, demolished during the Soviet period and restored in 2005. 

Opposite the Cathedral you see the Regional Administration building, 

and if you walk a couple of hundred meters more, you see a grand building of the library.

 Here you will be surprised to see the metro station, but don’t be too happy – Omsk has the shortest  metro in the world consisting of 1 station only!

In this area you can also walk along the pedestrian Tarskaya street with one more beautiful church in the end of it and a lot of nice wooden and stone houses dating back to the 19th and the 20th centuries. 

In close proximity you can visit a big department store built in the Soviet period and buy souvenirs on the ground floor.

After looking at everything on the right side of the Irtysh you can proceed on to the left side, and it is best to start the sightseeing from Buchholz Square with a great sphere in the middle of it. 

What exactly the sphere means I cannot say for sure. 
From this place on you can walk along the Irtysh embankment, which should be quite nice in summer. I was there in a rather cold March day, so it was not exactly fun, but you might have more luck.  


One of the most beautiful buildings here is a house where Alexander Kolchak used to live during his stay here, 

and a couple of meters in the direction of Lenin street you see the posh restaurant ‘Kolchak’ with Kolchak’s monument at the entrance, which is the only monument to this famous person in the city. The locals say they wanted to install an official monument, but the authorities refused because Kolchak was a convicted military criminal never acquited.



Military theme is one of the core points. The Siberian Cadet Millitary College building is definitely one of the main attractions.

Moving on you reach Chokan Valikhanov Street with the consulate of Kazakhstan and a lot of other nice buildings. The relations with Kazakhstan are of special importance, as this country is less than a hundred km away from Omsk. 

The most of Chokan Valikhanov Street  is pedestrian, too, and it ends in a modern installation overlooking the river, the goal of which I don’t know.

In the very center you see a modern building of the musical theatre, which, according to the locals, is a very good one. 

Next to the theatre there is a building of the city Duma, where Dumskaya street with a lot of old wooden and stone buildings and one more arts museum starts.



 In one of these buildings you can visit vegetarian café Govinda with a choice of delicious food at extremely affordable prices. The café must have been opened by Krishna followers, as it is decorated with numerous Krishna images, but even if you are not one you are sure to love the desserts, the variety of which is great.

 Iа you are a follower of traditional cuisine or love coffee, there is a great choice of places for you. TinTo Coffee Chain offers good coffee and a rich choice of sandwiches and delicious desserts.

Close to Ibis hotel, also Lenin Street, there is a history and nature museum, where you can learn a lot about the nature and the history of the city and the region starting from the ancient times.


I explored a lot in Omsk, but definitely not everything. Still I am sure now that Omsk is a fascinating city definitely worth a visit.













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