architecture · no recipe · on USSR / Russia · travel

Trans-Siberian Trip Part 4: Siberia Begins with Tyumen


On board of our crazy train from Makhachkala in the Caucasus to Siberia (its entire route is 3183 km and some 2 days 17 hours 5 minutes precisely) we reached one of Siberia’s most popular and Russia’s most energy-addicted city Tyumen early in the morning. Once the border with it crossed, we would experience Siberia for the rest of the trip.

Zlatoust – Tyumen

distance: plus 738 km

total distance from St Petersburg covered so far: 3360 km

local time: Moscow time + 2 hours

train: train Makhachkala – Tyumen (what a mixture of nations it was!); takes you to Tyumen from Zlatoust in 14 hours 59 minutes


They say that Tyumen is the first city in Siberia founded by the Russians in 1586. Its name is thought to derive from the Bashkir ’10 thousands’ meaning the 10,000-men army but there are also various other versions and legends that are equally probable. The city grew fast and became Siberia’s important trading point with prospering crafts such as the production of leather and carpets, but with the discovery of  oil and gas in the 1960s Tyumen launched a successful career. Its unofficial title now is the gas & oil capital of Russia. You could feel that in the style of some new buildings and the brands you could find along the central streets. But against the modern buildings as a background we mostly noticed small wooden houses of all sorts, e.g. glamour ones:


or with wooden ‘lace’:


or heavy window frames:


or showcasing the authentic logs:


as well as low-rising stone houses which belonged to the city merchants:


… all surrounded by streets lined with faceless Soviet blocks of flats. The city benefits from the presence of the river called Tura – its embankment is the place for walks and wedding celebrations (we saw quite a lot of them on our way as it’s the summer season!) and you can also take a boat trip which we did. It was windy and not that super warm, mostly cloudy. And there was no excursion as there was I should admit nothing much to see 🙂 So we had to listen to the ever-present Russian pop music and the stories of our neighbors.


We walked across the bridge to the other side of the river where we found a church (on the very first picture of this post) and this patriotic information board with very transparent information:


We also tried to get inside another monastery but got silently and somewhat menacingly ushered out as there was some church service going on and we were not appropriately dressed (all the women were in long skirts). That reminds me that it was a Saturday and we could notice that the people were dressed up for the weekend in the city. There was also some kind of a concert on the central square which we half-listened to but mostly ignored while enjoying the evening sun and a rye kovrizhka. As for the food part of it, we had our blini for breakfast at a local fast-food cafe (we were trying to avoid going to other – international – fast food chains) and visited the central market where we got our kefir fix (I think I almost made my friend addicted!). Then we lunch at a pelmennaya where my friend sampled the famous Siberian pelmeni (Russian ravioli) and I had my weird conversation with the cafe ladies who would not understand why I did not want any meat in my buckwheat :). The ladies were agitated a bit too much without this already – but then we realized that was just their style, shouting at one another. We also tried juice from sea buckthorn. All in all I would say that getting from the Urals into Siberia made us pay more for the food, there was a minor rise in the prices compared to Zlatoust but it was noticeable.


We even went inside two museums belonging to the Usadba Kolokolnikova museum which issued us numerous tickets to seemingly numerous exhibitions. In the end we discovered that both of these museums were limited to two merchants’ houses and their exhibits fitted in just a couple of rooms. Above is one of the museums recreating the store of the tea and coffee merchant (it had a charming old lady, a real babushka who should be ideally working in a kindergarten, who would call us tender names and let us leave our things in a room while we were in the museum). By the way, Tyumen was probably the only city on our way where we didn’t ind any decent postcards and the post office was already closed, so we left without sending anything from the first city in Siberia we visited.

Tyumen’s highlights:

golden (!) monument to cats which emigrated to Leningrad in 1944 to help eradicate rats there after the Siege ended

the embankment of the Tura river open to all winds, people watching included

a walk in the city center to admire the wooden architecture and trace the city’s merchant past

Torgovy Dom Kolokolnikova museum in the art-nouveau-looking merchant’s house (to the left of the less interesting light green house where the Red Army commander Blyukher had his HQ)

they say that the city’s parks and the botanical garden are worth visiting too

Tyumen in a few words: old Siberian city with enough to entertain you if you have just a couple of hours

Well, you see, Tyumen didn’t impress us much as we were expecting a bit more… moreover, originally I wanted to go to Tobolsk, an old city which ceded its place in Siberia to the growing and more lucky Tyumen – and which also preserved most of its heritage. It’s a pity to admit but in Tyumen we were mostly trying if not to kill time but to find something to do before our overnight train…

… which would take us to the next stop: Omsk.

This post goes to my On Russia and Travel series.



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