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 17 - July 13

Hiking trails in the Akademgorodok neighborhood of Novosibirsk

  • Novosibirsk
  • On the train toward Yekaterinburg

We sleep in again.  I take a quick shower and read ready for Father Pavel to meet us for another walk through Akademgorodok (Академгородок), the beautiful Novosibirsk neighborhood that
is the "educational and scientific center of Siberia."  We visit the little rustic Orthodox church in the woods where I continue buying small icons for souvenirs for friends and family back home.

A friendly Russian Blue cat greets me in the church yard.  We visit the inside of the church, and we are told not to take pictures.  I had already snapped one - and the flash was accidentally on.  There was no-one inside except for two women who was overseeing things in the absence of the parish priest.    Father Pavel explains that this congregation is very strict.  It is simple by Orthodox standards.

We leave the sanctuary and enter the kiosk on the church grounds where icons are sold, and I buy a few.  We leave, and I am a bit concerned that the cat is going to follow me.  He tails us for a good while, but ducks into one of the outbuildings after saying goodbye.

Pavel takes us along a gloriously picturesque path that leads past the houses of some professors and research scientists: nice by American standards, affluent by Russian standards.

We drop into a Chinese restaurant near the shopping center.  They take Visa, and so I pick up the tab.  It is one way for me to say "thank you" to our gracious hosts.  It is a very nice and cozy place, decorated in typical Chinese restaurant style that one sees in the States - except for the Cyrillic lettering (which is stylized to look like Chinese characters).  I have a ginger beef dish and a Coke - and I use chopsticks.  Pavel is a good sport and takes up his chopsticks as well, but gives up and returns to his fork about halfway through.  Dan sticks with western cutlery and enjoys his meal as well.

Father Pavel and I enjoying the cuisine from south of Siberia

We stroll to the shopping center, where Father Pavel purchases some chocolate bars for Father Dan to present to an American pastor and his family as a gift.  I buy a few bars for Grace as well.

We walk to Pavel's flat for coffee and dessert.  He retrieves three varieties of ice cream from the freezer, and makes coffee in the auto-drip.  Pavel is very fluent in English and has a quick wit and sharp sense of humor.  We take our chairs into the bedroom and set up a small coffee table for our visit.  Father Pavel also presents some chocolate chip cookies, and pronounces them to be a great import from America.  I reply that we export both good and bad - like chocolate chip cookies over and against Lady Gaga.

We walk back to the seminary as we need to start getting ready to catch our train.  With a twinge of sadness, I realize that we will be leaving Novosibirsk, not to return this trip.

I pack hastily and drop off the room key for Pavel's office with the guard.  I need to return Olga Suhinina's phrase book, and I ask the guard where her mailbox is.  The guard does not speak English, but he gestures to indicate that Olga is upstairs.

I find her in the translator's office, say goodbye, and return her book in person.

I meet Dan outside where we wait with our bags packed and ready to go.

Father Pavel and the bishop drive up.  Bishop Vsevolod presents us with gifts.  Dan is given a genuine Russian Army canteen, and I am presented with a Soviet sports jersey, as the bishop explains that I am now "part of the team."  We pose for pictures and say goodbye to Father Pavel.

We pile into the bishop's car and drive to Alexey's.

Father Andrey is there to greet us.  He is concerned about his eight-year old daughter Alexandra , who is having heart problems.  We say goodbye and take pictures.  Father Alexey emerges from his building wearing a New Orleans t-shirt.

The bishop drives aggressively, often driving on the lines instead of between them.  Dan and I both check the buckles on our seat belts.  The bishop is playing his eclectic collection of favorite Beatles' tunes - which he explains helped him to learn English many years ago.

After driving a ways, we turn back toward Alexey's, as he forgot something back home.  I begin to worry that we might miss our train.

Siberians are delightfully phlegmatic about such things.

Well, we actually arrive with plenty of time to spare.  We hang out at the Novosibirsk train station.  I realize that I have left my camera in the bishop's car - again!  Unbelievable!  I left my camera behind in my first ride with the bishop, and now have repeated the error in my last ride with the bishop.  I'm rather embarrassed by this.  Undaunted, Alexey calls Vsevolod on his cell to check for me.

Dan and I take a little walk around the station.  I found a kiosk selling icons.  I buy a couple.  I check back with Alexey who hands me my camera.  I apologize.  He shrugs and says: "It happens."  Dan and I went upstairs to see the the huge mural of the map of the Trans-Siberian Railway.  We take some pictures.  A uniformed guard comes over to us and explains that we can't take pictures.  We apologize ("Извините!"), and he is very nice about it.

A picture James Bond would love to get his hands on...

One of the kiosks is also selling matryoshka dolls.  Funny (considering the Transsiberian movie).  We board our train - which is nice, new, and has air conditioning.  It is nicer than any Amtrak train that I have ridden.

Father Alexey explains some of the history of Novosibirsk as the train lurches from the station.  We take pictures.  Dan shoots a picture of Alexey and me - he clad in his New Orleans shirt and I in my CCCP (USSR) jersey.

Father Alexey has brought water and delicious sandwiches for us - made by Elena.  We are avoiding the dining car as it is expensive.  Alexey also has tomatoes, cucumbers, and nuts.

I used Dan's phone to send Grace a text message that I was now on the Transsiberian Railway and that I have matryoshka dolls in my bag.  Ha!  She later tells me that she did not find that too amusing.

This is a very relaxing ride, and I greatly look forward to extended conversations with my clergy brothers.  We discuss American and Russian literature, Alexey's time in the U.S., and of course, church matters.

The bathroom on this train is top-notch - even by American standards - a bio-toilet that can be flushed any time and nice hot water from the sink faucet!

We stop at Barabinsk, between Novosibirsk and Omsk.  We step outside in the rainy cool air to buy chips from a vendor.  I get a Coke.  All that is available is a two liter bottle.  It costs 100 rubles (about $3.50).  I think Alexei is amused at this.

We fix up our beds - which are really nice - and we call it a night.  I journal in my bunk and shut off my light and turn in about 1 a.m. as it gets dark and the train rocks me to sleep.

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

Nothing like reading Dostoyevski on the Trans-Siberian

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