Long live to conductors!
Drinking a tea in the train while we’re approaching Tobolsk. This is the way my day starts. I’m very relaxed. I slept perfectly in my “own” compartment, with no one disturbing me. What a difference with previous night train ride! In the ‘breakfast box’ offered by Russian Railways there is a decent muffin that is fitting perfectly with the black tea. Railway station is very far from town, something like ten kilometres but there should be a bus going downtown. Once we’re arrived I pack my things and I reach the apron facing the station waiting for bus. But how far we’re really from town? I would like to find an answer in the GPS of my phone but there is a problem. Where is my phone? OMG! I left it in the train. I was really too relaxed. I run back to train that it’s still there. I jump down the desert rails going next to my coach. Door is closed and stairs I used to come down were put away since the train is likely going to leave. I yell calling the conductor (cabin attendant) and in a while she opens the door with my phone and my charger in her hands! How I love her! It was really last minute rescue because the train leaves the station while I’m reaching back the platform. I left all my luggages there but honestly I didn’t feel at risk and everything is actually still there. Bus to town is gone and I don’t want to wait for next one so I take a taxi. After all this stress I need it.
Something is happening…
My hotel is a Soviet style “gostinica”. At the reception they don’t speak english but ok, we find the way to understand each other. The importante thing is that they give me the room immediately and not only that, they even serve me breakfast, in the room!. Some noodles, bread and cheese. Not my style but not bad in the end. I take a shower and I go immediately in town. I need to take a bus because Kremlin is about 4 km far. Along the road I notice a building with periodic table of elements painted on it. It is appropriately located in Mendeleev street. This is not by case. Dmitri Mendeleev was born in Tobolsk in 1834 and for sure he is the most famous citizen of the town. I left showers in Yekaterinburg but here the weather is still mostly cloudy and it doesn’t allow to fully appreciate the beautiful square where the Kremlin is located. Differently from Moscow, Novgorod and Kazan, here separation between Kremlin and town seems to be less evident. The square is not part of the fortress but it is hard to define where it ends the square and it starts the Kremlin. By the way, I guess there is something running here. I see group of people dressed in traditional costumes. I first think about some folk group but after a while I notice that there are also an orthodox priest, other religious people, many police officials with different kind of uniforms, mostly police women, one with a police dog. This doesn’t look normal and in fact after a couple of minutes I see that they’re turning some sort of promotional video. It is maybe for the town or who knows what, however in my opinion they want to give the idea of a united community in favour or against who or what I don’t know.
Little tour of the Kremlin.
Whether seems to improve a little bit so I decide to walk around the Kremlin taking a look at the river Irtysh that flows down in the valley. I can realise only now that even this Kremlin has the usual dominant position, it is only that is should be referred to the lower town laying by the river, remaining part of the town is at the same altitude. I will visit the lower town tomorrow. For now go on walking. I have the chance to appreciate the old wooden houses in Russian style laying by the river from the top. I’m starting to be familiar with them but I still amazed by their beautiful colours and by the shapes of the windows. I keep going around the Kremlin outside the walls and I quickly arrive on the other side. In spite of the lack of evident gates around the Kremlin I find an inner ones leading to a courtyard from where have access to the two beautiful churches located within the Kremlin: the Saint Sofia’s Cathedral and the Intercession Cathedral. Here is very quiet since there are no tourists at all. Tobolsk, being a bit out of the Trans-Siberian route, gets probably a lesser part of the international and local tourist flow. The guy I met yesterday in Yekaterinburg told me that he was surprised I’m going to stay here for two days because there’s not much to do. Question about what I will do in my second day here will get an answer while I will have access to my Mac and to Internet. Getting out of the courtyard I notice that also here within the Kremlin’s walls something is running but completely different from what I saw before.
Back to Golden Horde time.
Out of the blue, as sinked by some time machine in the old times I’m now living in the XIII century when this area and most of Asia and Eastern Europe was under the rule of the Golden Horde. Golden Horde, just for who doesn’t know, was an empire built by a nephew of Genghis Khan, Batu that ruled over most of current Russia. Of course there isn’t any supernatural event occurring, is just that they are clearly using the beautiful Tobolsk’s Kremlin as a location for a movie or a TV series. In order to make it more realistic the ground is covered by straw and soil. All around people is dressed with medieval costumes and there are horses and camels. At the moment the whole crew seems to be in a break so the fact they’re talking each other in a relaxed way and someone is attending the animals in the same way as they would have done centuries ago since the animal needs are not changed, gives the entire situation a very realistic atmosphere. You must be focused on the fact we are in 2017 to be aware this is fake. There are red and white ribbon to limit the reserved area but someone doesn’t seem to care much about it so I decide to do the same and I jump in the middle of the reserved area. What is surprising me is that I don’t see any video camera or other equipment probably because where I am now is a sort of staging area maybe used as a set maybe for previous scenes. This is good because this way the illusion is perfectly preserved. A day that started so and so, with my telephone almost lost and cloudy weather is becoming one of the best in Russia so far. I don’t even need a special dinner to complete it but ok, I’m starting to be a bit hungry and I need to eat something. I don’t want to go to the hotel first and then coming back here because it would take too long and on the other side I don’t want either eat in the area around my hotel. So, only possible choice is to eat right now. I have my dinner in small restaurant close to the Kremlin, eating herring and a meat dish with mushrooms and potatoes. Nothing special but not even that bad. I hope that instead you are going to have a better opinion about my photo gallery of Tobolsk and surrounding areas.