Tales from Tomsk

I wanted to go to Tomsk to see the architecture. German-Russian house, Tomsk Peacock House

Tomsk is famous for its “wooden lace” carvings that adorn many of the houses around town. They look like fairy-tale houses or gingerbread houses. Irkutsk has a lot of it too, but the examples in Tomsk are in much better shape. It was fabulous; I was not disappointed. But, as we found, there is so much more to Tomsk. Walking around on our first day, we discovered…. Baby in a cabbage, Tomsk

a baby in a cabbage.

On our second day, we found a public square with fountains. Someone had put foam in one of the fountains, and we watched the kids playing. Kids playing with foam, Tomsk

Kids playing IN the fountain

Every day we were there, we saw wedding parties, even though it was midweek. After leaving the ceremony site, groups of friends would go out to take photos together, riding in ridiculously over-the-top decorated cars, and the bride and groom would hang an engraved lock on a bridge. Russian wedding car Locks on a bridge, Tomsk

Luckily for us, we were couchsurfing in Tomsk, and our host was able to help us solve all these mysteries. The baby in the cabbage is the Russian version of the stork. When Russian kids ask their parents where they came from, their parents say that they were found in a cabbage. That particular statue is outside of a maternity hospital. Cute, no? Kids playing in fountains is normal in summertime, because it’s so hot out. Personally, I don’t think 70 degrees Fahrenheit is that hot, but then again I’m not used to Siberian winter. The weather explains all the weddings too. The main wedding season runs from June to August, when it’s possible to wear strapless dresses and not freeze your buns off. It’s so busy at this time that weddings are held every day, not just on weekends. As for the lock thing… he didn’t know. Further investigation has shown that while this is a popular trend in a lot of eastern European cities, no one knows where it started. Any thoughts?

This is just one of the many reasons I love couchsurfing: greater cultural understanding. Another reason: making lots of new friends from around the world.Asya, Bob, and Dan at the Buddhist center in Tomsk

Our host introduced us to one of his friends from the local Buddhist center, who also happened to be hosting a surfer. Over three nights, we had dinner and drinks, went to meditation and a cookout at the Buddhist center, visited a banya (Russian sauna) together, and stayed up till 3:30 am to watch the sunrise (and then some, because we were having such a good conversation.)

Anton Chekhov came here over one hundred years ago, and didn’t have very nice things to say about the city. The Tomskians (Tomskites?) were not pleased, so they erected a not-so-flattering statue of the playwright.Chekhov statue, Tomsk

“Tomsk is a very dull town. To judge from the drunkards whose acquaintance I have made, and from the intellectual people who have come to the hotel to pay their respects to me, the inhabitants are very dull, too.”

Well, Mr. Chekhov, you should’ve been couchsurfing.

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