Since my last post I took a train to Novosibirsk. The first day I walked around the city, saw the sights, lamented that the opera house is shut until October, etc etc. The train station is shaped like a giant steam engine. By giant I mean 5 stories high, about. Maybe bigger. I tried to take a photo but it doesn't fit in my camera. In the evening I cooked dinner for my CS host and had a grand ol' time.
Yesterday, on the other hand, was slightly more interesting. I took a marshrutka (taxi-minibus) to Akademgorodok, the academic city, and checked the place out. I snuck into a few buildings, including a very classy dorm for visiting academics and a few of the physics institutes. I found it interesting that the students were quite easy to detect - we have a dress code which, it seems, stretches the world over. I also walked down to the beach. The beach? I hear you (all my 2.5 readers) cry. Indeed. In the middle of Siberia, the crafty Russkis built a very large dam, with a beach at one part for the people to come in summer (it was nudging 30C) and strut around in bikinis. Well, the men, not so much. Still, it was a bit of a surprise.
Later that evening I went to a concert in the philarmonic hall. Most of the numbers were performed at a standard I'd associate with middle-highschool (I think they were students from the local conservatory?), but towards the end a man walked out with a piano accordian and wowed us for about 20 minutes, then later two girls played selections from Porgy and Bess (Gershwin) on Violin and Piano. It was pretty extraordinary.
That evening, we were joined by two more CS guests from Belorus, who cooked dinner (yum) and entertained us with their chit chat about travelling to the Altai to meet the traditional villages and shamans, etc etc.
I bought a ticket to Krasnoyarsk. It will be interesting to visit in summer and see how much has changed. Unfortunately I can't spend too much time in this part of Siberia, so I will probably have to skip Bratsk, and maybe Tynda. I plan to spend a few days at Baikal, though.
Also, yesterday was (I think), the point at which I have completed 1/3 of the trip (by time). I think I am a little more than 1/3 of the way through photo memory, and a little less than 1/3 of the way through my money, which is probably the preferable circumstance. My Russian improves, but glacially.
It occured to me, though, that wandering the streets of Novosibirsk I probably look enough like a foreigner that the locals know, but enough like a Russian that other tourists don't know, and don't say hi. I haven't talked to a native English speaker for maybe a week, and I haven't seen an Australian since I left (I think). Bizarre.
This morning I walked into a pet shop and they had, inter alia, budgies and a cockatiel for sale. They call the cockatiel a corella, but I was unable to explain why this is wrong... damn!