Who ever thought I’d spend a day in Krasnoyarsk? Anton Chekov called it the most beautiful city in Siberia, which I assume he meant as a compliment, so there’s a statue of him just a stone’s throw from our hotel. To give Krasnoyarsk it’s due, it is beautiful – or at least the part of it we saw -and it’s not a small city. With just under a million residents, it would be the 10th largest city in the U.S., after Dallas and ahead of San Jose.
Much of our day was spent walking to the Stolby Nature Preserve. Getting there, as they say, was half the fun. We weren’t sure exactly the route and so we kind of wandered for a couple hours. It’s amazing what you can see when you’re either lost or at least unsure of the relationship between your current location and your destination.
Like presumably any city in a former Soviet Republic, architecture is a mixture of old and beautiful, on the one hand, and monstrous, on the other. There was plenty of the latter – large apartment buildings that are just stunningly awful; the sort of thing where apparently getting it built had a lot more backing than doing it right. Sad playgrounds that are run over by weeds and just not maintained at all. Industrial buildings that may have been beautiful once but are collapsing eyesores now. The one shown here appears to be or have been part of something called KrasnoPharm; if it’s their pharmaceutical industry, Kendall Square in Cambridge has got nothing to worry about!
We were amused to find, though, that apparently there are human resources available for some public works maintenance. We found these nine workers sprucing up this single bus stop on our route, precisely four of whom were actually working. You’ll be glad to know that when we came back after hiking in the Nature Preserve, it was … better.
To our surprise, we actually found the place we were looking for. There was supposed to be a chair lift going up into the preserve, a 180 square mile park famous for its granite rock formations. As is starting to appear common we weren’t at all sure we were in the right place and after two hours were starting to think about packing it in. Suddenly, though it began to look as though we were in the right place, so we turned up into a valley that looked promising.
We were optimistic, when a young guy asked us in pretty good English where we were from. We stopped to chat and ask him about the chair lift we were looking for; he explained that we were in the right place generally, but needed to go back and take a different street. Ultimately he drove us there, telling us about his year in Milwaukee and a couple side trips to Duluth; you could tell he thought I was something of an amateur for calling Duluth “cold.”
So finally we made it to the Stolby Nature Preserve, and it was totally worth the effort. Beautiful views, some great hiking trails, nice weather. The guidebook made clear that there are an abundance of ticks in the woods there, just two days after Mark had gotten his first woodtick ever while hiking around Lake Baikal, something he was none too keen on. Then when I saw a snake on the trail it was clear we weren’t going to linger up there. But it was beautiful.
Lunch, before we went up the chairlift, was a treat, too. We sat on a balcony overlooking a beautiful little river and town. Blini with caviar, lightly pickled herring on rye bread, some venison-filled dumplings. That can make a man happy.
The trip home was amusing. There is a bus stop at the bottom of the chair lift, and we figured it would take us somewhere near the city center, so we got in one that came just as we were getting there. We didn’t know really where it was going, but we knew it would start in the right direction and just figured if it made a wrong turn we’d get off; at worst we’d be out the 65 cents each. Turns out it dropped us off across the street from our hotel. In other words, 135 minutes outbound and maybe 15 minutes back. I love it when things work that nicely!