Also worth visiting: the recently opened museum dedicated to Boris Yeltsin, a native of the city.
After Yekaterinburg, we enter Siberia. Omsk is not among the must-see stops, but I really liked its Orthodox cathedral, one of the most beautiful that I have seen in Russia. I just spent a few hours there between two trains, which is enough to see the two three landmarks of the city.
Then it’s Novosibirsk, the largest city in Siberia. Very austere with its huge gray Soviet bars, the city still has an interesting cultural life and quite a few trendy bars and restaurants. This is where we start to get into the real Siberian climate. The first time I went, mid-September 2010, it was 3 degrees and the snow was starting to fall… (the photos below are from my second trip in November 2018). With a large student population, it’s a bustling city on Friday and Saturday nights for those who like to go out. Novosibirsk, I had a very bad image the first time I was there, thinking it was one of the most depressing cities in Russia. Well in 2018, I totally changed my mind: after going through Komsomolsk-on-Amur, Tynda and Severobaïkalsk, Novosibirsk almost made me feel like a “little paradise”… Like what, all impressions are always very relative.
Ulan-Ude is the last stop on the Trans-Siberian before crossing the border with Mongolia, but in fact, culturally we are already in Mongolia. It is the capital of Buryatia and the Buryats are a people of Mongolian origin. You hardly feel like you’re in Russia anymore, if not one of the city’s main curiosities: the biggest head of Lenin in the world, who watches over the main square. Lovers of Soviet art will appreciate …
A stop in Khabarovsk provides a break on the long journey between Ulan-Ude and Vladivostok. This is also where you can branch off to the Baikal-Amour line (or come back from it) because you can reach Komsomolsk-sur-l’Amour by train. The main attraction of Khabarovsk is that it is located on the banks of the Amur River, one of the largest rivers in Russia, which notably marks the border with neighboring China. Regarding Komsomolsk-sur-l’Amour, I was quite disappointed … You should not be “seduced” by the romantic name of the city: it is awful. It’s just a stop to make the junction between the two sections of the Trans-Siberian Railway.
Tynda, it was actually the stage of the Baikal-Love line that I found the most interesting. So not because it’s a beautiful city: like the other BAM stops, Severobaikalsk and Komsomolsk-on-Amur, Tynda is an ugly and charmless Soviet city, where large inhuman building bars instantly give the want to drown their despair in a few glasses of vodka (note bene: this is not a trip that I recommend for people with depression). The first reason that made me appreciate the city is probably because I did couchsurfing (a free homestay website) with a very nice young Russian and that it was probably the best way to discover the place.