Siberia

Samara drops below 40 degrees starting January. I decided that it would be a good idea to go to Siberia… because, why not? Siberia turned out to be awesome! I returned later in the year to visit the Kyzyl, Ulan-Ude, Abakan, and Krasnoyarsk. On my first taste of Siberia, I visited Yekaterinberg and Tyumen.

Yekaterinburg

Yekaterinburg is not actually in Siberia. It is the fourth largest city in in Russia. Other than Moscow, it is the only other city with an American embassy. I went with a girl friend and we stayed with a local Couchsurfer. Couchsurfing is one of my favorite ways to travel because you can meet locals who can tell you what their city is really like. But now that I’m older, I prefer hostels and hotels to Couchsurfing.

Yekaterinburg is trendy and cosmopolitan. There were so many things to do there. I loved the arts scene. There were so many independent artists and small, funky galleries. There were cool spots for vegan and vegetarian food. There’s also a large cemetery where some gangsters are buried, with gaudy monuments in their place. My friend and I scoped it out, against all sensible advice.

Yekaterinberg is also the site of The Church on the Blood (it actually has like five different names, depending on who you talk to), where the last tsar of Russia and his family were killed. Yep, the family in Anastasia.

Yekaterinburg is a good city to visit to get the true Russian feel. It’s not too contrived like how Moscow or St. Petersburg often gets characterized.

Tyumen

Tyumen is the capital of Siberia. I headed there after visiting Yekaterinburg. I met some friends there to compete in a Model UN competition. I had never done anything like that as a student, so I was excited! I choose Turkey, which is still one of my favorite countries that I have ever visited.

It was January, the coldest month. It was gray but it didn’t feel sleepy. At the university I was staying at, I met foreigners in the dorm, hung out in multiple bars, and felt very welcomed. The university was a hub for students from many places: Nigeria, Cameroon, Palestine, to name a few.

Tyumen is known for it’s oil and gas industries, so the people live a much comfortable life than people in other Russian cities.

My favorite thing about Tyumen was visiting some natural hot springs. Imagine soaking in hot sulfur springs as snow falls down around you. It’s an ethereal feeling that can’t be replaced.