Old Town and Kremlin by a Quite Riverside

Trip Start Feb 19, 2010
Trip End Jan 31, 2012

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Where I stayed
hotel Sibir

Flag of Russia  , North-West Russia,
Thursday, August 4, 2011

Day 13 - Tobolsk - Transit, Kremlin, War Memorial, Upper Old town
The train to Tobolsk was almost an hour late and so were almost all the other trains shown on the arrival/departure board. This is unusual for russia since the station masters pay depends on trains departing on time and so they are usually very punctual. The schedules are designed to try and ensure this by making them generous in the amount of time a train stops at any given station. Am guessing that something must have been slowing the trains down on part of the track for so many of them to be so late.

Not much happened on the train to Tobolsk besides me getting a bit of sleep. Seems that the alcohol is wearing off and while I didn’t have a hangover I was a bit light headed and queasy due to the trains motion. Don’t normally get motion sickness on cars or trains (unlike boats) but after a night of drinking I tend to be more susceptible to it.

Arrived in Tobolsk and caught the bus the 10km into the old town passing a bunch of communist concrete apartment blocks along the way. Once here started to look for a hotel and tried the two I had in the book. First and cheapest place I tried seem to be under reconstruction and had no sign saying it was a hotel. Managed to get in after asking someone who pointed me to reception and found that no single rooms were available (1500R, expected 850R) and only doubles were (2800R, expected 1200R). Seems that prices have pretty much doubled. Had expected to pay for a double but as you can see the price was more than double what I expected and that was to much. Also worth noting that the receptionist was particularly stern and rude here.

Tried the second choice in my book which had singles for 2350R (expected 1200R-1600R) or 3100R. While this blows my budget completely I didn’t really have a choice since there was only one other place and the book had a price similar to the one I was paying anyway. Seems like all the prices in town have basically doubled the last 3 years.

Once again the receptionist was rude and I basically got the impression I was giving her more work than she needed. Even got a sign when she talked about having to return my passport later since she needed to photocopy it. Found that the room was nice enough (best sheets in a while) and that breakfast was included but I would have preferred a dirtier room for under 1000R any day.

Sort of wish I hadn’t booked my train tickets. While the Kremlin and old town here are definitely worth a visit and have a great location on a hill overlooking the river and surrounding flood plain, the lack of reasonably priced accommodation means that I would have pushed it and tried to fit my visit into a single day. Can live with the rooms expense for one night but two nights is really a waste of money. Decided to try the other place one more time on the following day. Never know I might get lucky.

After checking in headed towards the Kremlin which I am guessing is the russian way of saying castle though it does seem to contain a lot of religious building so maybe not. Something for me to look up I guess.

Walked into the courtyard area with the walls and then towards the two cathedrals. Only wandered around the outside here since everything seemed to be locked up and closed. Ended doing a loop around the outside of the Kremlin walls and had some great views towards the old town. Unfortunately it seems that the old town that use to be just beneath the hill is no longer old town. At least the new building have a complementary architecture for the area and aren’t just concrete blocks.

From here went over to the other side of the gate and kept following the wall around until I reached a lookout point over the river. This time under the hill could see more of what I assume were the traditional wooden houses of the region. From here could see how the river was cutting under the hill and assume that at one time it flowed all the way around the bottom of the hill but at some point the area south of the hill became a flood plain and the river started to flow further away from it.

While wandering around noted that there seemed to be what seemed like a fair number of russian tourist (at least russian speaking) around the place.

Kept wandering around along the path and made my way to the war memorial which had some pre arranged flower beds out to one side of it. Must say that these pre arrange flower beds seem to pop up in all of russian towns and cities I have been.

Before reaching the memorial also saw a sign for a pizza shop and entered the building. Didn’t end up buying a pizza but did see a lot different little shops selling groceries, fruit and veg, fish, meat or milk products. Ended up buying a few rolls for dinner here since I didn’t want to spend to much money today.

From here decided to wander back around to the hotel but ended up getting side tracked down a dirt road that took me through the local neighbourhood of wooden houses. Quite a few people walking about and kids playing on the streets. Along the way passed another hotel not in the guide book and thought I would return the next day to see if they had a cheaper room than I currently had.

Kept wandering down various streets and until I reached the hill that was across the road from the Kremlin. Had some nice views of the forest covered hill that ran east of the Kremlin as well as the town below. Found that this also seemed to be a place for couple to hang out and view the city. Ended up sitting here for a while before heading back to the hotel. 

Day 14 – Tobolsk – Kremlin, old town and various churches
Had decided that after the buffee breakfast today I would go back to the hotel I had visited the day before as well as the other one I had seen to see if I could find a cheaper room. Unfortunately the small hotel I had seen in the back streets the day before had lots of cars in its car park and had no single or double rooms available. The hotel I had visited the day before also had no single rooms and I got the impression from the strumpety receptionist that none were available because of the renovations going on.

Headed back to my hotel and tried to extend my stay but had a different receptionist (friendly one) who thought I wanted to check in. Dont know how she couldn’t have seen me put the old room key on the counter but am happy she didn’t understand. Ended up getting a slightly cheaper (200R less) room because of it. Also saw that there was a menu of rooms that described each room and what it contained. This menu had two columns with the first one starting at 1,500 and the second one at 3,500R. Not sure what the different columns represent but the price I was being quoted was somewhere in the middle.

When she realised I was actually staying an extra night she wanted to put me in the same room again (heard something about not having to needlessly was sheets) but I put my hands together in a pleading gesture since I didn’t want to pay the higher room rate. Thankfully she let me keep the new room.

After changing into a slightly smaller room one floor up I headed to the Kremlin to wander a bit more thoroughly around the grounds. Nice to see a bit of sunshine today.

Wanted to wander into the church but found a wooden fence with a sign maybe 1m in front of the door. Decided at this point not to enter. Headed to the smaller chapel but found that a mass seemed to be taking place so didnt enter. At this point saw someone coming out of the cathedral and decided to use it as an excuse to go in.

Found that a number of people were inside painting the walls and ceilings. Went in and looked around a bit without going to far in. People seemed to pretty much ignore me but when one person was heading out they indicated I shouldnt be there so I also headed out at this point.

Something worth noting at this point. It seems that with the russian orthodox church the women all put on head scarfs before entering a church. Very much like the muslim tradition but in this case its only while they are in a church.

Continued wandering around and thought of heading into a museum but the person selling tickets talked me out of it. Not sure if she was saying the signs were in russian (dont mind) or whether I had to do a tour in russian. I think it was the former but decided not to go in anyway.

Headed back to the small market to get some food and drink. Bought what I though was going to be chicken with cheese but found that it was fish. Bit more expensive the I expected but after biting into it found that it was actually fish and looked like samon. Tasted nice but read somewhere later that there is a local fish that is very much like samon and so not sure what type of fish I ended up eating.

After that caught a bus into the old town. Had thought I had gotten the bus that ran near the mosque but this wasnt the case. Ended up somewhere out in the sticks and when I got to the end of the line I caught the bus back. Had some nice views of the cliff faces along the way.

Once I got back closer to the Kremlin I got off the bus and just wandered around town. Lots of decrepit churches which seem to be being restored and a few interesting houses. Wandered around a bit and made my way towards the river before heading back to the kremlin. My foot was aching by this point and even though I am taking progout I am guessing that I have some gout. Have got very little chinese anti-inflamatories left so wanted to rest the foot a bit. Also remember reading something about fake chinese medicines and am starting to wander if I actually have progout or just some white powered pill.

Day 15 - Transit to Kazan
Train wasnt until 4pm but since in a hotel rather than hostel had nowhere to leave my bags so had to head to the train station around 12pm. Slept in and then spent a couple of hours writing up blog entries for russia in an attempt to keep this up to date as cleared my Mongolian backlog.

Also headed down for breakfast with was a small buffee. Guy was asking me in Russian what I wanted but had no idea. Ended up getting some oatmeal. Am guessing that you have two options for the hot part of the meal of either eggs or oatmeal and it was just chance I ended up with eggs the day before. Guess he wasnt asking me about how I wanted my eggs done the day before but rather what I wanted.

Worth commenting on the shower at this point which I decided to take a photo of. Very space age looking tube with water coming from the top and if you switched the power on and pushed the buttons you had small jets of water shotting out. Bit ticklish feeling.

Foot once more sore and basically running out of the chinese anti-inflamatory so didnt end up heading to the supermarket before heading to the bus stop as I had originally planned. Checked out just before 12pm and headed to the bus stop where I got the bus to the train station. Had 4 hrs to kill and basically sat and waited in the chairs waiting. No Schedule displayed so just had to wait until it was almost time for my train to arrive. Number of trains passed by before this but to early for me to get on.

Jumped on the train and no russian drinking buddies this time. Had a family instead with a little kid who liked to talk. Ended up on the top bunk as well which once again was to short and had little head room. Did some reading, sleeping and blogging but not much else for the rest of the day before going to sleep..

At one point the train stopped for a while at a station but only the local kiosk selling food and no locals so didnt end up buying anything. Just have to hope I can grab something somewhere on the following day otherwise I was going to get hungey.

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