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The Hotel Novosibirsk Does Not Skimp On Breakfast

We woke up that next morning in Novosibirsk, and headed downstairs to see what the breakfast was like at the hotel Novosibirsk.

And we are pleased to announce, dear reader, that it was a breakfast buffet unprecedented since the Hotel Puri in Malacca Malaysia. There were many kinds of meat, hot and cold, eggs to order, porridge of all kinds, fruit, many selections of breads and pastry, a large station just dedicated to a kind of mashed up cottage cheese called Tvorok, a made to order Blin station, and last but not least plenty of good strong coffee.

On top of that, there was some more of that blazingly fast wifi right there in the breakfast nook, in case we wanted to download copies of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan at 500 k/s. As you can imagine, we spent quite some time lounging around computing before heading out to do a little more serious Novosibirsk wheeling. And so we ran back up to the room to grab our Dawn Patrols, checked in once with the front desk to confirm that our registration had gone through without a hitch, and to ask the best place to buy leather jackets in town before then hit the road. Our first stop was the train station. We had purchased our train tickets online (way to go PЖД!) and so we had only to head over to the local e-ticket window to pick them up .Unfortunately, the e-ticket pickup window had a most complex schedule imaginable, and we had managed to come during one of the many 45 minute long hour e-ticket window closures which are randomly dispersed throughout the day. Rather than wait around, we decided to do a little wheeling and stop back later.

So we wheeled on, away from the train station, past a “Fennimore Cooper” branded wild west themed restaurant, and on towards the main drag, known as Krasny Prospekt, or red street.

The women at the front desk at the hotel Novosibirsk had directed us to a rather giant mal. Not long after wandering into the place, we began to become pretty sure it would not be the place to buy the AsiaWeeling leather jackets. It was very posh, in a way that only stores in Russia can be. There were, of course, your international name brands here and there, but what made it so startling was that all around us there were totally unheard of and completely wild domestic Russian brands selling for truly absurd amounts of money.

Just for fun we wandered into a leather jacket shop and tried on some truly intimidating specimens, double breasted, and covered in zippers and studs. The prices were in the thousands of dollars, through, despite stange and un-known brands emblazoned all over them. Eventually, we lost interest and headed back out for some more wheeling.

From there we headed down the road further in search of a more manageable market for leather goods. The sun came out as we rode, and soon we were bathed in that most uncommon and glorious thing, I beautiful warm day in Siberia. When we rode by this amazing umbrella concept doorway, we had no choice but to stop and appreciate it for a moment.

But a moment only, for there was much more wheeling to do, and the streets of this city were too inviting and  sparsely trafficked to resist. We rode on, then, by a giant central park, where old men played chess on concrete outdoor tables, and onwards past crumbling imperial style housing blocks.

We took a right onto a forested street the skirted the back edge of the park, and followed it until it brought us to a large church. It had been quite some time since we’d seen one of these… in Lebanon, perhaps? This one was of course a little different than any Lebanese church, with huge metallic onion domes and double perpendicular bars on the crosses.

We continued to wheel on past the church and into a more industrial neighborhood. We took a right turn once again onto a muddier and more crumbling drive, which took us through a neighborhood of sagging wooden houses and untamed prairie-like yards. We stopped at a kiosk in this neighborhood to purchase some water, but finding that it was well over a dollar for a medium sized bottled, we decided to wheel on.

I apologized to the woman, saying it was a bit too expensive for us, and just as we were about to go, she asked me to stop. “What do you want to do with the water?” she asked.

“Well, drink it.” I replied. She then told me to wait a second and went into the back of her Kiosk to dip a plastic container full of water from a large vessel she had in the back.

“Here have some of this. It’s free.” We thanked her and drank deeply.

The water tasted good. We have no idea if it was tap water or not, but it certainly did not make us sick. I thought then back to the Russian cyclist, Elya, which we’d met in Cambodia. She had said the water was safe to drink all around Russia… I hadn’t believed her, but maybe she was right all along.

We then ordered a couple of cups of coffee from the lady, which where were priced at a much more reasonable 12 cents per cup, and along with the coffees came two complimentary sausage rolls. “Please take these. For your health, she said.” We tried to refuse, Arab style, for a bit and then accepted them, for they smelled amazing. They were something like a cross between a croissant and a corn dog.

We munched down on those, and I did my best to make small talk with the lady in between customers. She was a new entrepreneur here. Recently having parted ways with her husband, she had bought this kiosk and erected it here. She explained that she did not have to pay for the land, here, since it was on the roadside, but that she did need to pay quite a lot to get a certificate of health approval from the powers that be. She pointed up proudly to here certificate.

“How often do you need to get a new one?” I asked.

“Only if a cop comes by and makes trouble with you.” She said smiling and winking. Quite a place, this one.

We hopped back on the bikes then, and headed back towards the heart of the city. Notice here, how differently Beeline advertizes in Russia as compared to the Uze and the Kaz, or even Vietnam and Cambodia.

We continued wheeling, past more giant cookie cutter housing blocks, and eventually noticed we were thirsty, so we wandered into a giant grocery store, bought waters there and investigated the giant selection of frozen Russian dumplings, called Pelmini. We drank deeply and talked about how every culture seems to have its dumpling. The Turkic cultures have their Manty, the Chinese their Jaotse and their Baozi, the Russians their Pelmini, England and America, their dumplings to name a few.

We headed back out to the street, unlocked the bikes, and spent a while staring at an amazing copper colored classic soviet car before climbing back on the cycles.

From there, we wheeled on to a more central market district where we continued the search for leather jackets. The jackets still proved difficult, but we were confident we’d find the right ones eventually. We did find this fantastic mathematically based advertisement for… we’re not sure… reading in the city?

Anyone that can unpack this in the comments is more than welcome to. Here’s their website… still confusing…

We dodged in and out of malls and shops, finding some fantastic huge Russian women’s boots, but still no Jackets.

We headed from there back towards the train station, timing our wheel to shoot the window when the e-ticket kiosk would open back up. In doing so, we found ourselves on the wrong side of the station, which gave us the opportunity to take a giant overpass above the tracks of this cities huge Trans-Siberian station.

We spent quite some time lingering above the tracks, taking in the operations.

The ticket office was indeed open when we arrived, and the woman who worked there was very patient and methodical as she prepared our tickets for us, showing us exactly how the schedule would work, and underlining that all the train times would be in Moscow time, and not to let that confuse us. Fair enough ma’am.

Tickets for the trains all the way to Ulan Ude in hand, we wheeled from there to a large park, where it seemed it had become city wide cocktail hour. Cocktail is also not quite the right word… It was more like city-wide I’m-off-work-it’s-time-to-Gulyat-with-a-beer-in-hand-hour.

We passed by this very loud and interesting statue.

Your guess is as good as ours as to what components of this are intended by the artist and what are graffiti. From there we headed out of the park, past an interesting geodesic dome and a large wavelike seashell opera house.

For dinner that night, we decided to sample the fare at one of Novosibirsk’s many Traktirs.

The Traktir is a kind of Russian Institution. It’s a theme restaurant that is privately duplicated thousands of times in nearly every Russian city. The algorithm goes like this: Decorate the interior of the place with tons of wood, or fake wood if you can afford it. Make it look as much like the inside of a log cabin as you can. Then fill the walls and ceiling with as much rural schlock as they can hold up; I’m talking hoes, buckets, ropes, saddles, chains, quilts, whatever you can get your hands on. Windows should be minimized, and the staff should be hired only if very attractive, blonde, and female, and placed in a truly ridiculous costume, bright red britches will do, excessive bits of lace and shiny clasps are preferred. Then after all of that is done, you can start thinking about the food.

This is the Russian way, in restaurants at least: concept first, then everything else.

The food should be homey, though, nothing too spicy, nothing too loud. Plenty of meat, plenty of potatoes, a few soups would be good. Black bread is a must, and above all else plenty of booze, for that Russian stereotype is not so far from the truth.

We ordered Borsch and Solyanka (both came with plenty of sour cream and fresh dill), and a large plate of meats which was from the “to beer” section of the menu, which featured dishes paired with beer. We got our giant plate, which turned out to be filled with 4 kinds of meat (sausage, chicken wings, lamb Shashlik, and roast chicken skin), fresh cukes, onions and tomatoes, and plenty of deep fried potato wedges. Petty darn American if you ask me. And it came included with a couple of large glasses of Siberian Crown Lager, a sudsy local cheapo.


Comments

  1. Helen | December 27th, 2010 | 9:30 am

    Hey! I know what that sign means, it’s an ad for school supplies. It says:

    september+school=first call (as in first day of school)+happy parents+a full bag of school supplies.

    Read-City (we have everything for the school year, we’re just waiting for you)

  2. Helen | December 27th, 2010 | 9:30 am

    Hey! I know what that sign means, it’s an ad for school supplies. It says:

    september+school=first call (as in first day of school)+happy parents+a full bag of school supplies.

    Read-City (we have everything for the school year, we’re just waiting for you)

  3. Helen | December 27th, 2010 | 9:30 am

    Hey! I know what that sign means, it’s an ad for school supplies. It says:

    september+school=first call (as in first day of school)+happy parents+a full bag of school supplies.

    Read-City (we have everything for the school year, we’re just waiting for you)

  4. Christi Johnson | December 28th, 2010 | 4:07 pm

    Hi and Happy New Year Almost,

    I have been behind in reading your blogs, much less commenting – but good news I caught up with you in Russia. A cross between a corn dog and a croissant is kind of hard for me to wrap my mind around but it looks good.

    Safe travels!

  5. Elena | August 29th, 2011 | 5:22 am

    Hi,
    I am a journalist from Novosibirsk. I am working on an article about the way foreign tourists see our not-very-popular-for-tourists city:). So I had come across your blog where Novosibirsk is mentioned & I really need your opinion for my article.

    I will be very much obliged if you answer a few questions. Please contact me polyakova.elena (at) gmail.com

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