The warmth of Siberia


London to Ho Chi Minh by train (and boat!): Day 13.

So pleased that it was white with snow for our arrival to Siberia. Wouldn’t really want it any other way as it fit perfectly with my expectations.

The snow, however, is the only way in which my expectations have been accurate so far. First, because the ‘small villages and towns’ I was imagining along the way are, of course, bustling cities with vibrant histories and cultures (writing from a local art-cafe hipster place now). Oops.

Second, I forgot to look beyond the tough exterior of the people I was walking past on the street, past the stereotypes, past my own fears.

It feels as though the Soviet years have impacted the way that people interact with one another… Remaining respectful of public space and other people’s time, people don’t seem to need to small talk or hold eye contact when out and about. At first my preconceptions meant that I assumed people were aloof, standoffish, cold.

But every time we’ve made even the smallest effort, people have shown the most incredible warmth. All three restaurants we went to in Yekaterinburg gave us gifts to take away with us from pita chips to homemade vegan ice cream and amazing truffles.

If our countries would even permit these amazing folk to visit (sadly, visas are very difficult to receive the other way around), I wonder how many people would be so welcoming to them? We could all learn a lot from something that Siberia seems to be blessed with… Warmth.

Next stop: Irkutsk  — at Omsk Sibiria.

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