How not having a plan turned out to be the best plan...


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Europe » Russia » Siberia » Altai Republic
October 26th 2011
Published: November 13th 2011
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the center of the Artybash villagethe center of the Artybash villagethe center of the Artybash village

there is some open theater that probably works well during the summer time
We arrived in Novosibirsk late in the evening and we went to our hostel that we booked prior to leaving Moscow. The size of the city we could observe from the train really surprised us. How on earth such a big city can exist in the middle of nowhere? We became very curious of what is the main industry of this place for it to be so big. We could not find anybody from CS in this town and there were only 3 hostels available so we did not have to think long. Cheapest would do. We had a plan to drop our bags and go back to the city centre to have some dinner.

In the hostel we met a nice French guy – Cyril - and we were asked by the administrator if we all minded to meet her friend who would show us around the town for free. Immediately we thought that it is a kind of weird that some single girl wants to meet us and have dinner with us, but Marina (the admin.) explained that she just likes to meet foreigners and speak English. Together with Cyril we took the underground (yes, even Novosibirsk has
Sleepy village of IogachSleepy village of IogachSleepy village of Iogach

just one bridge across the lake connects the Atybash and Iogach
underground system) that is half price of the one in Moscow (12Rub, 0.25£) and we then met Snezhana in a Georgian Restaurant (LP recommended, I really wanted to have some nice khachapuri). Snezhana came across very serious as for 22 year old speaking confidently about Russian politics and Soviet times that she cannot even remember. We have never met a young person with such a strong opinion on communism and how great it was. Most of what she was saying was quite contradicting as well. The communism would be fantastic as long as they could travel abroad, have all the western things, internet, TV and news. Well, from what I remember as a child growing up in Poland in the 80-ties, these things don’t go together. Anyhow, Cyril had a lot of discussions with Snezhana, as he is also specializing in politics and international relations. We managed to 'soften' Snezhana up and we all had vodka and gherkings in the park behind the main square hahha Do you thing all Russian people drink a lot of vodka? Well, this did not happen to be true for us for many days and the first vodka we drank was with French guy in the middle of Siberia hahha

Novosibirks has nothing special to offer except for being a nice stop for visiting other places around. We did not have any plans whatsoever for what to do and where to go and we were really lucky to have met Cyril. As he just came back from Altay Republic he managed to convince us to go as well. We previously read about permits and visa registration and that put us off to be honest. Only when we found out from Cyril that this is actually not necessary we started looking into our visa deadline. We only managed to get 19 day visa from a 'kind' consul in Krakow, so we had to really plan wise where to go as again we were a bit scared of consequences of not meeting this deadline. Where does this fear for Russian Police even come from?? Have no idea!!! The other thing was that we have not registered our visa when we arrived. Every person we asked about it was saying sth different. We even meet people who registered twice just to be sure. Back in UK I had an email confirmation from a Russian Agency saying that we would not have to register at all and that was supposed to be our point of explanation.

Anyhow we looked into the visa and we decided to go. In worse case scenario we would make our stay in Baikal area shorter. Next morning we booked the overnight bus to Gorno-Altaysk (the capital of Altay Republic and the only town as well) and we headed to the near by Akademgorodok (academic town outside of Novosibirks) to see the Railway Museum and Ob Sea, that is actually a massive lake. The Railway Museum got us angry straight away as not only entrance fee for foreigners is nearly 3 times higher than for locals (250Rub = 5£ vs 90Rub) but also they closed all the trains and you can only see their exterior. There we some nice old trains with beautiful interior but we could only see it from the outside and from photos. When we asked one of the guards why they closed them – he answered that it is all because people would touch and destroy them!!! Really? So why you are charging for the museum at all ?! Ob sea was just a walking distance from there and surprisingly it was quite nice, with a big sandy beach and taiga forest surrounding it.

The next day, 6 am we woke up when our bus parked in Gorno-Altaysk and we quickly discovered that there are no morning buses to Artybash at Lake Teletskoye where we were heading. We checked all the minibuses and taxis but the price difference (250Rub = 5£ each for a bus vs 3000Rub = 65£ for a taxi) made us wait till noon for a bus. The minute we got outside of Artybash we started to notice changing landscape. Suddenly it was not flat and steppes disappeared and we could admire beautiful valley with loads of pine trees, river in the middle and cute, little Siberian cottages at its banks. It took us 4 hours to get to Artybash (20h all together from Novosibirks) and we were told to get of the bus in the middle of the crossroad of the only road in the village. Hmmm – what to do now?? - we thought. We could already see some stunning views and we really enjoyed the fact that there were no tourist around. We went into the souvenir shop and king lady called some one to show us cottages available for rent.

We were pretty lucky as we stayed in the middle of the village (near the cross road) where we had easy access to the only cafe in town as well as the bus stop for the return journey. Our little cottage had two double rooms, one of which was for us and small kitchenette on the veranda (600Rub/night = 12£). Quite funny as it was already -5C but I guess they don’t expect tourist in the winter season. There was no toilet and no bathroom. We could use the outside toilet at the rear of the garden and as for bathroom we booked the long awaited Siberian Banya (sauna/bath, 500Rub per hour = 10£).

Altay is very famous within Russian community and we even heard it is called the Swiss of Russia. The Lake Teletskoye we visited is a very popular destination but there is more places worth visiting if you have time. The night came very fast upon the sleepy village so we just followed through and went to bed. Next day we had some trekking planned so we wanted to be in good shape. When we
Siberian wooden architectureSiberian wooden architectureSiberian wooden architecture

blue is the main decorative color and somehow the satellite dish is very common as well ;-)
woke up in the morning it was all white outside (then melted down a bit). We were more counting on some sun but snow made the place look quite impressive to be honest. I made us breakfast from locally bought eggs, sausage and bread (all around 100Rub = 2£) and you can imagine how quickly we ate it in this low temperature. We also shared it with 3 dogs and 2 cats living on the farm as they were starving (or at least I always thing animals are starving). I had never seen a cat eating dry bread before... poor things;-(

We headed alongside the lake and the only street in the village admiring the views, local architecture and fishing stations. There was no one around to be seen, almost like a ghost city. Just some freely walking cows or wild horses were cutting our way. Dogs were following us from time to time counting on some snack on the way and that was pretty much it. Just nature and we loved it!!!

We walked until the village ended (around 7-8 km) and then some dog joined us. It or rather she was very cheerful jumping around and
Sabaka on the bridgeSabaka on the bridgeSabaka on the bridge

our tour guide...one of the best we ever had ;-)
willing to play with us. We got a bit wary as she could have had rabies (and dogs with rabies are initially very friendly) but after some time the excitement was gone and she was just walking in front of us almost as if she was leading us somewhere. We stopped – she stopped as well. We turned to the bridge – she did the same and so on. She was not following us though but walking upfront occasionally barking on some other dogs ;-) She was very beautiful as well – looked like a cross of husky and wolf. We suddenly came to the end of the road and we wanted to come back but we noticed that Sabaka (means dog bitch in Russian)– as we called her - was showing us a way in the forest. So we decided to follow her as we did not have anything better to do anyway. And we were led by this amazing dog up the hill through the forest until we reached an amazing spot from where the views were incredible. Probably only by buying an expensive boat ride (3000Rub = 65£) you can get the same. We decided to stop there for a quick snack we bought earlier in the bakery and all three of us had some yummy sweet buns. Sabaka worked hard for this food in the end ;-)

The night before the local cafe happened to have only 3 dishes out of the whole menu (which we tried) and they came out of the microwave, we decided to cook for ourselves that night. We bought some frozen 'pelmeni' (dumplings) and some beers and we had really nice, but quick meal on our veranda. Later on was just the pleasure of Banya. We had a 3 day journey ahead of us so we really needed it.

In the end we totally loved the experience of Altay. Was it worth it to travel so many hours to and from this place? Yes and we are planning to go there again to see it in the summer. Surprisingly how things that we take for granted like: running water, toilets, bathrooms and internet are not really needed over there. Life goes on like it did years ago. Animals walk freely, people spend their days on fishing or looking after their little farms and they seem happy. We loved the experience because such places that are 'unspoiled by tourism' are harder and harder to find in the world.


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The only church in the villageThe only church in the village
The only church in the village

a lot of Atlay people still follow shamanism
For Sale!!!For Sale!!!
For Sale!!!

property investment anybody??
local marketlocal market
local market

closed for the day we visited


14th November 2011

Happy journey!
About http://www.travelblog.org/Photos/6593339 It's a rail spotter. Well done! You are rare guests in the Russian provinces.

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