August 5th: Novosibirsk
Novosibirsk is the third most populous city in Russia after St.Petersburg and Moscow of course. It is also widely considered to the the geographic centre of Russia and the unofficial capital of Siberia. The average temperature in the winters is -30 degrees Celsius. Apparently, -25 degrees is good weather for a walk..according to some folks we were talking to! Crazy Siberians!:) We’re certainly not moving here in a hurry!:)
The city is relatively new and was founded around 120 years ago during the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway across the country. The city is at a strategic location on the banks of the river Ob and was basically the half way point the Ural Mountains in the west and Chita in the east. Construction of the railway line began in 1891 in each of these two places and they started building the railway line towards each other, meeting at Novosibirsk. The foundation of the bridge still stands today… The metal railings have since been replaced.
There aren’t any great buildings or cathedrals that hold any relics to the past…the city simply grew due to its strategic location and today actually has the largest train station on the Trans-Siberian network.
One of the city’s biggest attraction is however…their zoo. The largest in Russia! We weren’t planning to go there at first but then we found out that the zoo has a female Liger who just gave birth to three liger cubs. What is a Liger? Good question!:) A liger is a cross between a male lion and a tigress. This liger at the Novosibirsk zoo was thought to be sterile as they all are, but this one mated with another lion and gave birth to little cubs. They were really very sweet. Ligers aren’t found in the wild and the only ones alive are in captivity as sometimes zoos will let animals share cages for short periods of times..leading to accidents like the Liger. They sure are cute though!
Tonight we leave on a train to Irkutsk….the destination that I’ve been the most excited about right from the beginning. It is very close to Lake Baikal..the deepest, most voluminous and thought to be the clearest fresh water lake in the world! Every picture I have ever seen of it is simply stunning!
First up….40 hours on a train. Hopefully we’ll make some great new friends this time too! More from Irkutsk in a few days.