11 July – 3 am. I am jet lagged and I cannot sleep. Having slept for most of the day probably hasn’t improved my current state, either. Night flight from Moscow got me to Barnaul at 7 am yesterday morning exhausted. The flight was ok, Siberian Airlines provide better service than British Airways have been doing lately, but the four hours difference between Moscow and here make me feel a bit drowsy. I feel adventurous, ignore the cabs and decide to get to my hotel by public transport. Well, public transport…. The “bus” is a minivan of sorts, able to carry about ten people, it has fabric curtains in the windows, the interior is covered in fake ivy, and to crown things, there is a giant plastic spider hanging from the ceiling. Beautiful. It’s damp and hot, too. And the mosquitos are vicious. Siberia, my arse.
The city of Barnaul became important in the 1940s when many factories from the west of the country were evacuated here to escape Nazi raids. The savage redevelopment destroyed anything with a remote historic value in town, leaving the place plain ugly. The roads look like the tanks left last week. I don’t want to sound harsh, there are many places all over the Czech Republic that look similar, after all, communism isn’t known for aesthetics and architectonic miracles. Oh, and then there is a monument to Lenin – Toreador. I kid you not. That’s the nickname of the statue.
People are lovely. They cannot be too used to foreigners here – at least not in the restaurant where I had dinner. The phrase “Gavarite pa anglicky” (Do you speak english) creates an expression of sheer horror on the faces of the locals. I use it as a shield, to make them understand that they have to speak in a way that I can get it. Then I switch to slow Czech, Slovak mixed with random russian word and it normally works.
I am starting my trek in about 5 hours, I will not be online for about two weeks. I will report back from Novosibirsk.
Note: the photo courtesy of barnaul.amic.ru