Blogs from Siberia, Russia, Europe - page 4

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Europe » Russia » Siberia » Novosibirsk May 25th 2013

As previously mentioned, I have spent a significant amount of time in Novosibirsk speaking English with Russians who are trying to learn the language. I also sometimes simply read out paragraphs so that the students learn how words are pronounced. For advanced students, these can be on strangely specific topics - like the full page I read out on the subject of arable farming. I am quite happy to do this as many Russians are helping me with Russian, and it also helps me when Russians can speak English :) Occasionally a student will pick up on my accent (which I think is quite impressive). I had a long conversation with a guy in his mid-twenties who was very interested in Manchester - asking me what became of the Hacienda, telling me how much he loved ... read more

Europe » Russia » Siberia » Novosibirsk May 21st 2013

Today I made my first-ever trip to see the Russian ballet, at the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theatre. The ballet, "юнона и авось" - I guess it would translate as something like "Unona and Avoss" - is extremely popular in Russia, on a par with Swan Lake, although I had never heard of it. I knew a little of the story beforehand thanks to my Russian family: a Russian man travels to Mexico, meets a Mexican woman, they fall madly in love, he has to leave, they promise to wait for one another, but he is killed, and she tragically waits forever. Apparently it is based on a true story. Knowing this did not make it much easier for me to follow the action, particularly as it is as much an opera as a ballet, and ... read more
Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theatre
Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theatre

Europe » Russia » Siberia May 21st 2013

Today we had an excursion to the town of Kolyvan, my first experience of small-town Russia, which was a bit of an eye-opener. Very different from the cities - most houses are wooden, have outside toilets and rely on wood (sometimes coal) for fuel. The shops, dotted around the town, were tiny and sparsely stocked, and the place felt very conservative, though that may be Kolyvan in particular, as its central feature is the monastery (they call it a monastery, though it is actually nuns who live there). By chance we happened to be visiting on the day of a festival celebrating the monastery's 300th anniversary, so various celebrations were going on: some church bells on the back of a truck were rung as they were driven around town, the nuns led a small parade, and ... read more
Kolyvan monastery
Celebration bells
Typical village store

Europe » Russia » Siberia » Novosibirsk May 21st 2013

The family I am staying with, unusually for Russians, are enthusiastic couchsurfers. It is typical to meet Russians who have never left Russia, or who have maybe been to Europe once or twice in their lives only (or sometimes Thailand, which is also very popular), and when they do go away, it is usually to stay with family overseas or on package tours rather than as independent travelers. Naturally, as couchsurfers themselves, my famiy often have couchsurfers to stay at their home. This week two people stayed on separate nights. By coincidence, they both happened to be Spanish guys couchsurfing their way along the Trans-Siberian from Europe to China. One was travelling because the economic crash in Spain had seen him lose his restaurant, and was planning to move to Portugal after he returned for a ... read more

Europe » Russia » Siberia » Novosibirsk May 17th 2013

For the next two weeks, I will stay in Novosibirsk, and attend a language school here with the aim of improving my (pretty basic) Russian language skills. I am also staying with a Russian family so it's meant to be "immersion", although my family speaks perfect English, so it's hard to resist the temptation to speak English around them, as Russian can be an uphill struggle. Today was my first day of lessons, and after over a month of "just" travelling, it took a bit of adjusting to: lessons from 10am-1:15pm, then a tour around the city, then a tutorial until 6pm. Although I have used my Russian over the past few weeks that I've been in the country, it's only really been for practical stuff - checking into hotels, ordering food in restaurants, and so ... read more

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Europe » Russia » Siberia » Novosibirsk May 17th 2013

Today we were given the opportunity to try our hand at traditional Siberian painting. In style it reminds me of English canal boat painting. In the Russian tradition the background is always black and the designs painted on top are usually primarily in red and gold, with small amounts of other colours. Usually the designs are flowers and leaves, or just swirling designs. It is popular as a souvenir, but unlike a lot of traditional crafts, it genuinely remains popular with local Russians - in my homestay there is a large table in the design, and many homes and public buildings have something - bowls, tables, spoons, decorative eggs - in the tradition. Today was my chance to have a go, though I am no artist! We were given boards that had been pre-painted black, given ... read more
Eggs in a dish
Silver birch coaster
More examples

Europe » Russia » Siberia » Novosibirsk May 17th 2013

One of the most interesting aspects of a homestay is discovering what everyday life is really like for the locals. In my case, the homestay has been particularly interesting as my "family" have many friends keen to practice their English language skills, so we have spent a lot of time comparing life in the UK with life in Russia. On the surface, the differences are not that obvious - in many ways, life in Russian cities looks the same as life in European cities, though poverty is more visible. Many Russians I met described life in Russia as very hard, and express envy for the apparent ease of life in Europe, although also great pride in being Russian. One regular complaint from the Russians I spoke to was that in Russia there is no middle class ... read more

Europe » Russia » Siberia » Novosibirsk May 17th 2013

Victory Day in Russia is a major event and a national holiday. The tone (in contrast to Remembrance Day in the UK) is celebratory, with military parades, fairs, and finally, in the evening, fireworks. The main military parade (complete with aeroplane flyovers) is in Moscow of course, but the Novosibirsk version is significant too and it felt like the whole city had turned out for it. We turned up for the start of the parade just before 10am, and it was hard to get any sort of view at all - the streets were lined 3 or 4 people deep. However, we could just see enough to make it interesting - a parade of various military companies, followed by a parade of military vehicles, including jeeps and tanks. I was amused by the speed at which ... read more
Victory day parade
Victory day parade - tank flashes past!
Victory Day fireworks

Europe » Russia » Siberia » Tomsk May 15th 2013

All across Russia, it is not uncommon to see wooden houses. These buildings are very distinctive and unlike any others I have seen elsewhere. They are often bungalows, in dark brown wood (I think they are made from spruce or pine trees), sometimes with ornately carved gables and window frames. In small towns, it is still sometimes the case that the majority of homes are wooden (the houses are also popular as dachas), and in the big cities it is possible to see them dotted around (usually appearing at random between Brutalist appartment blocks) and even occasionally to see a small cluster preserved somewhere in the city, as Yekaterinburg has. However, Tomsk is the only city I have been where a whole main street of wooden houses is preserved together. Walking around from Tomsk's busy main ... read more
House sinking
my first russian fountain!
wooden house in Yekaterinburg

Europe » Russia » Siberia » Novosibirsk May 13th 2013

Apart from a couple of days in Tomsk, I will be spending the next 2 and a half weeks in Novosibirsk, so we made an effort today to get to know it better. Novosibirsk is a new, unpretty, industrial city which developed from an unremarkable village because of the Trans-Siberian railway, part of which crosses the river Ob, around which Novosibirsk has grown. It is now the 3rd largest city in Russia. There is not a lot to do here in the sense of traditional sights, so most foreigners here are visitng for specific reasons (learning the language, work or, in the case of one English person I ran into, learning Russian martial arts) but Novosibirsk is interesting because it is a very typical Russian city, with everything you could expect to see in any Russian ... read more
communist statue, Lenin's Sq
Trans-Sib railway bridge over the Ob




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