About This Blog

This is my travel journal chronicling my 2011 tour of Siberia, visiting with our Russian Lutheran brethren in the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church. Hopefully and God willing, there will be future adventures for me there.

The title is based on a remarkable book (that I actually read after returning home from Russia) called Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier. I found much of his writings to mirror my experiences as an American in Siberia - though Mr. Frazier has made many more trips and experienced many more things than I did - not to mention that he is a better writer. At least for now. Practice makes perfect! Frazier's book (here is a review) is also an interesting look at Russian history and gives an overview of the past writings of American travelers to Siberia. I'm humbled to be yet one more.

I hope that readers of TILS vicariously travel with me and enjoy what I have posted. I hope that it provides a small window into the life and work of the pastors and laity of Siberian Lutheranism (and their extraordinary history) and Russian culture in general.

It is also my hope that readers will: 1) Pray for our Christian brothers and sisters in Russia, 2) Support the outstanding missionary work of the Siberian Lutheran Mission Society, and consider sponsoring a Siberian congregation, 3) Consider visiting Russia for themselves, 4) Support the work of the faithful LCMS pastor Rev. Prof. Alan Ludwig, who has taught at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Novosibirsk for many years and has much of interest to say from his perspective, and 5) Read Ian Frazier's wonderful book
Travels in Siberia (which by the way is available on Nook and Kindle for $9.99)!

Of course, a disclaimer is in order: Ian Frazier has never endorsed this blog, nor have I ever met him or communicated with him. I thoroughly enjoyed his book, however, and am playing with his title for the title of my blog. However, Mr. Frazier, if you're out there - I would love to hear from you some time! I grew up in Cuyahoga Falls - and for some reason, Siberia seems to attract people born in Ohio who feel compelled to write about it. I really did enjoy your book, and I hope you are pleased by my reference to it.

One other disclaimer: other than being a supporter of the Siberian Lutheran Mission Society, I'm not affiliated with SLMS. The material on this blog is mine, and I take sole responsibility for it.

Note: Since I arranged this blog chronologically - which is backward from the way blogs usually work - the buttons at the end that say "Newer Post" and "Older Post" are reversed - just as the "hot" and "cold" water taps are often reversed from the way we're used to them in the states. In other words, if you want to read the next day's installment, click "Older Post" instead of "Newer Post." Just consider this another delightful quirkiness of an American writing about Siberia.

Большое спасибо! Thank you very much!

2011 Journal - Day 11 - July 7

The Lutheran Center, Novosibirsk
Home to Lutheran Theological Seminary and St. Andrew's Parish

  • Novosibirsk
  • Berdsk

Dan and I have breakfast in the bishop's office.  After a while, the bishop
arrives and we have a nice visit.

Dan and I then go for a long walk from the seminary to the shopping center.   We're not exactly sure where it is.  This part of Novosibirsk is very amenable to walking.  In our strolling and conversing, it seems like we have gone too far.  Three young people are walking toward us.  In as primitive a Russian as possible, I offer up: "PuhZHALstah, g'DYEH SHOPping CENter."  "Shopping Center" is actually Russian for "shopping center" - though I try to Russify it up a bit like this guy.  My Russian was obviously not impressive, as my youthful interlocutor replied in English and pointed us back the way we came.  But then again, if the object is to communicate, it worked well enough to get us where we needed to go.  It helps that young people both know English and shopping centers.

We can tell we are getting close, as the density of people increases and they are carrying shopping bags.  We walk past the old iconic crumbling Soviet-era movie theater.  In the mall, I buy a few gifts and souvenirs.  Dan wisely buys us some ice cream.  We are, after all, trying to fit in.  And as the bishop explained the native affinity for ice cream: "We are Siberian.  We like ice."

We meet a map dealer selling maps on the street.  He looks like a bum, but is polite, almost courtly.  He is selling maps of Russia for 200 rubles (about $6).  He has them strung up on a clothes line.  I buy one.  He meticulously refolds the map and places it in a plastic sleeve.

A traveler and his coffee

On the way back to the seminary, we stop at Traveler's Coffee - a fairly new chain of western-style coffee shops.  I have a Coke and a капучино большой (large cappuccino).  A double cappuccino is only 10 rubles (about 30 cents) more than a single.  My blood-caffeine level is beginning to creep back up to acceptable levels.  Dan has a Coke.  Cokes in Russia have real sugar - not high fructose corn syrup.  On the down side, the Diet Coke ("Coke Light") seems to be flavored with saccharine.

We hang out on the outside patio and relax.  We are under an overhang and face the street.  This is the lovely Akademgorodok neighborhood - a university/scientific community partially set in the woods.  It combines forest trails with an urban setting.

After our little caffeine respite, we start the hike back.

Upon our return, we chat with the bishop, who suggests we try some Arminian шаурма  (sharma - which is called shwarma in North America).  We take a drive to Berdsk where Natasha lives.  We buy food, pick Natasha up at her flat, and drive to the central town park where she is planning on doing some rollerskating.  We eat with our food on the roof of the car as Natasha skillfully glides away.  It's getting chilly.  The bishop shares vanilla powder with us - not as a spice, but as a black fly repellent.  As this is one of the feasts in the Orthodox Church honoring John the Baptist, young people partake of the ancient custom of shooting one another with water pistols.

After we finish our sharma - which is outstanding, by the way! - we drive to a local Orthodox church,  newly constructed, and take pictures.  The bishop tells us the story of the local bishop who is buried in the small graveyard behind the church - a man who suffered at the hand of his own church, who died of a heart attack while still in his forties.  It seems that he was not abusive enough toward religious minorities to satisfy everyone.  He once raised eyebrows by greeting the local Presbyterian minister (whose wife was pregnant) in a TV interview.

An Orthodox church in Berdsk

The Orthodox building is impressive, and was built with government money after the fall of Communism.  The Orthodox churches typically have highly-polished gilded onion-domes.  All over Russia, these buildings have either been restored or built.  In spite of her legal status and the fact that her churches were also destroyed by the Communists, the Lutheran Church doesn't get the same treatment under the law.  There are a lot of hoops to jump through for Lutheran churches.

Even small things - like registering the official seal of the church - can become a bureaucratic nightmare that requires the hiring of lawyers.

"First and Ten!"

We take pictures of the local Lenin statue (this one, interestingly and inexplicably, is flanked by a dinosaur).  Lenin is often portrayed with his arm extended, pointing like a football referee signalling "first down."  So Dan, who is a high school football referee, poses beneath the statue signalling "first down" as I snap the picture.  This high jinks happens under the watchful eyes of security guards in a car and an older lady who is amused and delighted at our antics.

There is another tableau worth a picture or two - a sharma kiosk whose logo is the McDonald's golden arches, only upside down.  Such restaurants are run by Armenians all over Russia.  But this may be the only one with inverted golden arches.

Back at the seminary, the bishop shows us pictures on his computer of his episcopal consecration at the Lutheran Cathedral of St. Mary in Tallinn, Estonia.

Here is a link to all of my pictures of Day Eleven.

McSharma, anyone?

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