Published: July 7th 2011July 7th 2011
Just for you, Darja!
In Novosibirsk I got picked up by Nadezhda – she is the university friend of my friend’s mom’s friend. In Russia you don’t necessarily need to know people directly, as long as you know the name of someone they know you’re pretty much welcome in their home [if this works on a private level, I can only imagine how business is done in Russia:)]. Even though I knew that connections are working like this in Russia, I didn’t feel very comfortable using these connections in the first place due to the fact that they pretty much didn’t have a choice to say no. After a while I however realized that I kind of represent a pleasant change to their normal routine in life – when I offered to do things on my own and to get out of their apartment, they usually wanted to join me.
Novosibirsk has roughly 1.5 Mio inhabitants [3rd biggest city in Russia] and is slightly over 100 years old. Apparently it was the fastest city in the world to reach 1 Mio inhabitants after its foundation; Krasny Prospect is the longest avenue in Russia; and the Novosibirsk Opera House has the biggest stage in Russia.
Most of the architecture is in Soviet style and in general everything seems built with the aim ‘the bigger the better’. Apparently, when Nadezhda finished university she had the choice of going to Novosibirsk or Riga – her brother told her “why would you want to go to Riga, they only have tiny streets and everything is so narrow and small there’’ – well, she ended up in Novosibirsk ;) She loves Russia and she wouldn’t want to live anywhere else – and this despite living in the in my opinion [!!!] least beautiful city that I have visited so far in Russia.
First day, after the desperately awaited shower after the 20h sauna train ride, we went to visit the Novosibirsk Zoo – yes, there aren’t many sights in Novosibirsk ;) In Russian the zoo is called zoopark, which in this case is very true. The whole area is a beautiful park with here and there cages with animals. For my taste, they could have just made the nice park with fountains and left the animals away – poor things. So we had a nice walk through one of the few green areas in the city.
next day, Nadezhda was working and I went for the mission “train & bus tickets’’ – spent about half a day on that and the other half I went for a walk in the city center. 30 degrees in the shadow make walking in the city center not the most pleasurable experience ;) In the evening we went to the opera [after in all other cities the opera & ballet seasons were already over I was happy to have found on city which hasn’t started the summer break yet] to see Iolanta from Tchaikovsky. Nadezhda and me, we both would have preferred to watch a ballet, but you gotta take what you can get – so we went for the shorter opera which was still running ;) The size of the opera is really impressive – I guess the singers were also impressed by it – their voices weren’t quite strong enough to fill out the volume of this massive space. The orchestra did a better job :) The evening turned out pretty arty – coming out of the opera there were street musicians all over the place – so very slowly we made our way back home :)
We watched Iolanta
The next day I thought I was smart – given the high temperature I skipped the walking around part and headed directly for the closest park. I packed a bottle of water, my headphones, a blanket and my laptop to write blog entries. I arrived at the park, looked out for a nice spot and sat down. Within minutes I was surrounded by plenty of flying animals – I’d say a mix of mosquitoes and flies – there was no way to escape them. So my adventure to the park ended pretty fast. I decided to head back to the apartment to write on my blog. On the way back I passed by a door saying ‘’manicure/pedicure’’ – I couldn’t resist and gave my nails a treat.
In the evening, Nadezhda’s friend picked us up and gave us a tour through Novosibirsk with her car – I guess the only way to actually see this big city! It is quite impressive though to drive on these 6-lane avenues through the city, especially in the evening. I also got a lesson on how to read street signs: if there is a speed limit of 60, it means you must at
In front of the library
least drive 80, if there’s a speed limit of 80, it means that you must drive like 120 ;)
In Novosibirsk the effect of the crisis is still quite visible. Apart from drastic salary cuts, in summer some people work only 4 instead of 5 days a week. Some of my Belgian friends were also put on forced unemployment for a day or two a week which is covered by the unemployment insurance – in Russia this means purely one day’s salary less. Walking around the city you can also discover plenty of construction sites where the investors seem to have had enough money to buy the land and put a fence around it, but then the projects were stalled. Once out for a walk with Nadezhda I asked her how the apartments are sold in Russia [there are plenty for sale in newly constructed apartment buildings]. Apparently, the Russians did something like the Ponzi scheme for apartment sales before the crisis: a company raised funds by pre-selling [certain % deposit] apartments before a building was actually constructed – they did that for another building and used both buildings’ deposits to build the first one. They kept doing that
until the crisis hit in, so the last people pre-paying their apartments never actually got one, but also never saw their money back as the construction company already invested all the money. Most of the people buying an apartment obviously took a credit for that which they are now working for to pay back…
Next day, Friday, I packed my small backpack for the weekend and caught the bus to Tomsk!
There are more photos below