Mave On The Move - Week 37

David M. Byrne

Well-Known Member
Russia - a country in which things that just don't happen happen - Peter the Great

Hello again,

Last time out you left me as I was approaching the end of my first extended, wholly Russian train trip, a 28-hour jaunt west to the Siberian city of Tomsk, 1,700km & one time zone west of my last (& first) stop in Russia, Irkutsk. I’m now in the Golden Ring town of Vladimir, not far (less than 200km) from Moscow, the Russian capital. The distance between Tomsk, in Siberia, and Vladimir, in European Russia, is about 3,500km. I’ve covered that distance this week, the bulk of it in one foul swoop, crossing over the Asia/Europe boundary as I went. This week has been a combination of (more) Trans-Siberian train travel, snow-covered Siberian & and overcast European Russian towns, all with a sprinkling of architecture (I sure hope you like churches). So, & as always, here is a selection of pictures, pictures 195-201, representing week 37, days 251 to 258, of my on-going trip.

Tomsk, Siberian Russia
Tomsk is a university town and a true Siberian gem. Founded in 1604, it was once an important administrative & commercial town. However, the city’s importance declined when its forefathers made the ill-fated decision not to welcome the Trans-Siberian railway at the time of its construction – Tomsk lies about 80km north of the main Trans-Siberian line, necessitating a connection from the Trans-Siberian town of Taiga. Having made the effort to get here I’m glad to report that Tomsk didn’t disappoint. It's an awesome place to explore, something I did for most of a snowy day 251.

Picture 195, Day 251 – World War II Memorial in Lagerny Gardens, Tomsk, Siberian Russia. November 11th 2012

You’re never too far from a World War II Memorial in Russia, the country that lost more people - a lot more people - in The Great Patriotic War, as the Russians call WWII, than any other nation; estimates put the combined civilian & military deaths at a number exceeding 24 million, about 14% of the total Soviet Union population at the time (by comparison the combined losses of the USA & UK totalled less than 1 million). The Tomsk WWII memorial is very striking, set as it is in a gorgeous park of beech trees overlooking the Tom River. On this day it was snowing, as it has been seemingly since I arrived in Russia. It – the snow – made the scene all that more special.

Picture 196, Day 251 – The Epiphany Cathedral, Tomsk, Russia. November 11th 2012

I’ve visited countless cathedrals &/or churches in Russia already (I challenge anyone to visit Russia and not do so) but this one, the Epiphany Cathedral in Tomsk, was a little special. I'm not sure if photography was allowed in here or not (the 'No Photo' signs I’d seen in every other place of worship until now were missing) but I took a few discrete captures regardless (the above image was unframed & shot from the hip). The inside of Russian Orthodox (derived from the Byzantine Church and adhering to Byzantine rites) churches follow the same formula – large arched/vaulted spaces with no seating & with walls covered or brightly painted with iconostasis, icons and religious paintings separating the nave from the sanctuary in a church.

Back On The Rails

The only way of catching a train I ever discovered is to miss the train before - G.K. Chesterton

After a few nights in Tomsk it was back on the train again for the longest train trip of the lot – a cabin fever-inducing, 3,200km, 49-hour, 3 time zone & 1 continent ride west from Tomsk to Nizhny Novgorod in European Russia. I had my supply bag stocked with the usual train fare of bananas, bread, dodgy dairy spread, mystery meat & biscuits, not forgetting the just-add-boiling-water staples of tea, 3-in-1 coffee, instant noodles & mashed potato with freeze-dried vegetables. The contents of the bag lasted the distance. Over the course of the 48-hours of the trip I travelled the busiest stretch of freight rail line in the world, the 625 kilometre stretch of rail between Novosibirsk & Omsk, Siberia’s 2nd largest city. On day 253 I left Siberia (and Asia), officially crossing over the Asian/Europe boundary near the 1,778km marker (meaning 1,778km to Moscow). The landscape stayed the same for most of the trip, and hasn’t changed much since crossing over the Mongolian/Russian border; snowy landscapes (pine trees covered with a heavy sprinkling of powdery, virginal snow) interspersed every now and again by the sight of yet another small, picturesque village whose dainty wooden houses looked like they were suffocating under the blanket of snow that makes them look so idyllic, but so inhospitable at the same time. I wasn’t any more successful in photographing this section of the journey than I had been to date - as before, & much to my camera’s disappointment, all windows in all carriages of this latest Russian train were nicely sealed tight. So again I was restricted to pictures on train station platforms during regular, scheduled stops in the journey.

Picture 197, Day 253 – Party. Tyumen Train Station, Siberian Russia. November 13th 2012

The above picture, of some kind of brief platform birthday celebration, was captured at 9:30am on day 253 when it was still dark. It was taken from a bridge overlooking the icy platform of the train station in Tyumen, Siberia’s oldest town (founded in 1586). (The last time I was in this area I disembarked here and headed 250kms inland to the old Siberian capital of Tobolsk (& what a photographic treat that was)). Just seconds after this picture was captured I took a tumble on the icy steps of the bridge when returning to my train carriage. My camera (lens, actually) took quite the wallop, but no damage was done, seemingly.

European Russia - Golden Ring: Nizhny Novgorod & Vladimir
Both Nizhny Novgorod & Vladimir, my two ports of call after Tomsk & prior to arriving in the Russian capital of Moscow, are so-called Golden Ring towns as they are situated in Russia’s most historic region, the ancient birthplace of the mighty Russian state. In their heyday they were political, religious & commercial centres but over time their importance & influence was eclipsed by that of Moscow.

Nizhny Novgorod
After covering 3,215 kilometres over the course of 49+ hours I made it to Nizhny Novgorod, itself only some 7 hours shy of Moscow. This was my third stop in Russia and first in European Russia. Having boarded the train in Tomsk & disembarked over 2 days later Nizhny Novgorod the differences between Siberia, where I’d come from, and European Russia, when I’d arrived were stark – whereas Siberia was quiet, cold & picturesque, European Russia was busy, mild & dirty, as slush tends to be. It was in Nizhny Novgorod where I finally got a picture that I liked of Russia’s most quintessential sight – the onion dome.

Picture 198, Day 254 – Onion Domes. Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. November 14th 2012

The distinctive domes, shaped so as not to allow the accumulation of snow, look stunning against a blue sky, something I haven’t seen much of during this trip. One normally views these domes from below but I took this picture from a hill behind this particular church, giving me something of an unusual perspective. As for the church itself. I have 2 different guidebooks with me in Russia, a Lonely Planet & Bryn Thomas’ well-known Trans-Siberian HANDBOOK. This particular church didn’t even receive so much as a miserly map icon in either of them. Not to rib on the books of course because with so many it’s really not practical to list every church in a Russian town on a guidebook map.

Picture 199, Day 254 - New Fair Cathedral (Alexander Nevsky Cathedral) Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. November 14th 2012

Another picture from the inside of a church (one that seemed ok with photography), this showing the iconostasis inside the New Fair Cathedral/Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, a relatively common name – there are Alexander Nevsky Cathedrals in Tallinn, Estonia, & Sofia, Bulgaria, both of which I’ve visited – named after Russian saint Alexander Nevsky.

Picture 200, Day 255 - Bolshaya Pokrovskaya Ul, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. November 15th 2012

Russia: mysterious dark continent, remote, inaccessible to foreigners, inexplicable even to natives. That is the myth, encouraged by Russians themselves, who would prefer that no one discover who they really are and how they really live - Robert Kaiser, Russia: The People and the Power (1984)

Nizhny Novgorod, as one of the oldest cities in Russia, has some amazing churches and an ancient Kremlin, all showcasing its medieval roots. Its main pedestrian street, Bolshaya Pokrovskaya Ul, proved quite photogenic on this day.

Picture 201, Day 256 - Assumption Cathedral, Vladimir, Russia. November 16th 2012

My last stop before Moscow was Vladimir, 180km from the capital. An ancient capital of the country, its main attraction is this, the majestic, gleaming white, golden-domed Assumption Cathedral. A UNESCO listed building, it was begun in 1158 to announce Vladimir as the then capital of Russia & at the time it was the tallest building in Russia. Blue skies in Russia aren't exactly 10 a penny these days so when the clouds broke just before sunset on this day I raced down to cathedral in a bid to get this shot. Taken just after dusk, the lighting was nice, helped by the lights of the cathedral which were turned on just as I was setting up the shot. This is probably one of my favourite shot captured in Russia so far.

Week 38?
Next week will bring the 3-week Russia leg of the trip to an end with pictures from Russia’s two biggest and most influential cities, Moscow & St Petersburg. No more train or train-related pictures I’m afraid but I’m guessing there’ll be quite a few more architectural pictures. And not just churches either.

dMb Travel
You can keep right up to date with all aspects of my trip, including my present whereabouts, from-the-road updates, tweets & archived links to all previous RealPhotographersForum Mave on the Move entries by visiting the dedicated travel page of my photography blog, dMb Travel, a page I set up to specifically chronicle this trip. Also, if you're only interested in the Trans-Siberian leg of the tip then you can read a chronological recap of most of the journey here.

Until next time.

David M
Enjoyed it very much, David. Looking forward to your next post. I will visit your blog. Have a safe trip. :)
Another super entry David. I love the shot looking down on the passengers and the balloons as well as the view looking down the street. The few flakes of snow contrasting with the war memorial also adds a lovely touch of atmosphere to that shot I think. :)