Arrived in Tomsk early on a Saturday morning. There was a fresh blanket of snow on the ground and the town was not yet awake. I decided to walk the mile from the train station to hotel so that I could see the town, take some photos, and get some excercise. Haven’t been to the gym in weeks and I thought a rucksack march would be some good excercise. Lugging the heavy load in the cold air did bring back some Army memories.
I walked through town and watched as the smoke began to drift out of fireplace stacks and some business owners began to shovel snow off of their sidewalks. The streetcars and busses were running and some people who had to work queued up for their ride. I tried to take a self-photo but all of the windows were double-paned and the glass didn’t reflect well. I did get a passerby to take my photo as I departed Tomsk a week later (above).
The main street in town is Ulitsa Lenin (Lenin Street) of course; it seems that every main street in every Russian city is named Lenin. I found a decent cafe on Lenin that had good internet that would allow me to post a bit to this blog and keep in touch with friends and family. After so much travel, I decided to stay in Tomsk for a few extra days and while seeing the sights and doing some relaxing at the same time. With the cold weather, going outside for more than a few hours gets a bit much so I think I’ll alternate touring and sipping coffee or tea in the cafes while checking the internet.
The hotel Sputnik was nice enough, once you get used to the cigarette smell. Cigarettes are everywhere in Russia. No smoking signs are often ignored and smoking areas are often in the next room or on the same floor with many smoking in the hallway. After a while you get used to it, but often, in the morning, I wake up with a heavy feeling in the lungs. How you smokers do it, I’ll never know.
I have noticed some differences in conversation mannerisms between Americans and Russians. Americans smile at everyone; Russians think you are retarded if you are always smiling. No seriously, they think you’re handicapped. Another difference that I noticed is that Russians are less likely to chat with strangers than Americans. Perhaps this is from 90 years of Communist repression and hundreds of years of Czarist repression before that. The surest way to NOT get picked up by the secret police was to talk to no one. So, after a long day on the town, I come back to my hotel. As the receptionist is fishing out my key, I decide to end the long heavy silence that has been hanging over me since I walked in. Trying to be chatty, I say, “It sure is cold outside tonight.” The receptionist looked at me, and then said, as though I were really retarded, “Of course. This is Siberia.”
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