Welcome to the Tomsk Diary. Over the next few posts, we shall try to recreate a great experience that we had recently for our online poker blog readers. Yes, this a is poker entertainment blog, but some stories just have to be told. And we promise not to renege on the ‘entertainment’ bit.
So this is what it’s all about: a trip to Tomsk, Russia. Trust us when we say, that nobody goes to Russia with a spring in their step as they would for a tropical paradise. Now that the trip is over, however, we know that we’ve come back from a part of the world that is every bit as fascinating as Tahiti or Bermuda. We know that some part of Tomsk, Russia shall forever be with us, which is why we’re sharing our Tomsk diary with you. But first things first; allow us to introduce ourselves and our purpose for this trip.
Working for Cybertech: Our Tomsk Connection
Cybertech is a multinational business concern in just about every sense of the world. We cater to a global clientele, with offices, teams and associates in various locations across the world. Recently, our team of web developers from the India office got an opportunity to experience this diversity first hand, as we spent a two-month tenure at Tomsk, Russia. If the mention of Russia sends a shiver down your spine, let us assure you that it really was extremely cold; not that that changes anything. In a manner typical to the fun and learning culture that we are familiar with in Cybertech, the trip was quite literally an amalgam of hard work, harder partying and was overall a great learning experience both professionally and personally.
A Prelude to the Tomsk Diary: The Journey Starts
We first landed at Moscow after an uneventful flight from Mumbai, via Dubai. An exhausting journey in its own right, we still had some way to go. There was a seven hour stopover before we could catch the flight to Tomsk, and unlike Dubai where took the lounge a little too literally, we spent a better part of our time in Moscow shopping at the GUM Department Store. While some of it was pure retail therapy, we did need the trip to the store anyway as we didn’t have the right clothing to brave the -15° C temperature here.
Where it all begins
The final leg of our journey brought us to the Siberian city of Tomsk, our destination and where our Tomsk diary narrative actually begins. At Tomsk we were greeted by Evgania, and what a great host she turned out to be! Throughout our stay in Tomsk, she was our tour guide and interpreter, both rolled in one. The latter made her particularly indispensable, as few people in this part of Russia speak English. Later, at an English language session with our Russian colleagues, we were to learn that Russian gentlemen do not greet ladies by shaking hands; not even in a workplace setting. This was quite a revelation, and a cultural lesson for us.
As we would discover over the period of our stay here, this area is culturally rich and there’s plenty of sightseeing that can be done. There were many beautiful churches and cathedrals built in a distinct architectural style. We even experienced a slice of India when we visited the local ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) compound and saw many Russian nationals dressed in traditional Indian vestments and offering prayers to Lord Krishna in Sanskrit and Hindi songs.
Tomsk Diary: Of Food& Drink (Potatoes Everywhere!!)
A trip to the nearby city of Novosibirsk was one of the highlights of our Russian sojourn, as was our visit to a local beer brewery. Our entire team was instructed in the art of brewing, with all of us eventually earning our brewer’s certificates too! There shall be more on all that in later posts. We also visited the zoo while in Novosibirsk, where we saw exotic creatures that we’d so far seen only on Discovery Channel.
As for food, guess what do a bunch of hungry Indians do when in a foreign land? Go hunting for flavors and spices from the motherland, of course! One can hardly blame us, what with potatoes being a staple part of the diet and thus being added to virtually every Russian culinary preparation we’d come across, in manners we’d find quaint back home. Add to that the fact that two of us were vegetarians, and we were in a fix. That was eventually remedied, as you’ll read in subsequent posts on this poker blog.
The Russians love their vodka—no brownie points for guessing that—which is distilled from potatoes and is drunk neat with every meal. Where there are spirits, though, there is a night life and the night life in Tomsk is quite simply smashing. Teatro in particular was a favorite and we went there frequently. The ambiance was great, the vodka (and other drinks) was flowing and on more than one occasion, we partied into the wee hours of the morning.
This is the story of our brief but heady love affair with Russia. We shall soon be back to our online poker blog as each of us regales you with our own tales of Tomsk, Russia; it is an experience none of us will forget in a hurry. Hopefully, by the time you’re through with the Tomsk diary series, neither would you.