Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Tomsk, a historical city in Western Siberia

city administration of Tomsk

Tomsk is one of the oldest cities in the Western Siberia, located about 250 km to the north of Novosibirsk. Among western travelers Tomsk is very well known and often preferred to Novosibirsk. I read in many tourist forums and discussion boards that Novosibirsk should be skipped in favor of Tomsk, and the only reason to come to Novosibirsk is to catch a bus/train to Tomsk. Though I don’t agree with this statement and definitely think there’s a lot to see in Novosibirsk, I can’t help loving Tomsk. I have visited the city many times and of course I’ll visit it again and again.

For us, citizens of Novosibirsk, Tomsk is a perfect destination for weekend and day trips. If you catch a bus, the way there takes 4.5 hours, and if you go by your own car/taxi/rented car, you can reach it within 3 hours or less.
Tomsk is the oldest educational, research and innovation center in Siberia. Like Novosibirsk, it also has Academgorodok (academic town).  The city is very rich in monuments of wooden and stone architecture built from the 18th to the 20th century. It was founded in 1604, and though there are nearly no objects from that period left, you can still feel the spirit of that time. The city is relatively small, it has slightly more than 500 thousand population.

Tomsk was founded as a fortress to protect the Russian border from the nomads coming from the south. The fortress was built on a hill over the river Tom, where now the museum of the history of Tomsk is situated, with a reconstructed tower.
In the 18th century the nomads stopped attacking the town, and Tomsk lost its military position, but it started to be used as a place of exile. Soon after that it became an important trading town, and in the 19th century it started to develop as a center of education and science.
Once Tomsk has also been a transportation center, but after the Trans-Siberian Railway did not go through Tomsk, but 250 km to the south, where Novosibirsk stands now, the city lost its transportation significance. The construction of the Trans-Siberian railway was the beginning of decay of Tomsk. Though the city is much older than Novosibirsk, it is now considerably smaller and poorer to some extent. During the Soviet period no industrial enterprises were built in Tomsk, and its cultural life was getting poorer and poorer. But it was not the case with science, research and education. The graduates of many Tomsk universities are valued very highly in Russia and abroad, and many employers prefer them to the graduates of Novosibirsk high schools.
Bakunin street
 Now Tomsk is actively restoring its meaning and positions. Many industrial and IT enterprises are opened there, and tourism is now a great source of income. Tomsk is widely known for its architectural and historical monuments, which attract foreign and Russian visitors. During the Soviet time Tomsk was closed for foreigners for some political reasons, but now it welcomes visitors from all corners of the world. The city offers its visitors numerous hotels, guest houses and hostels. And cafes and restaurants in this city are very good and cheap in comparison with Novosibirsk.

A house in Shishkov street

A house in Shishkov street

A uviversity
I invite you for a day trip to Tomsk or help you to get and find accommodation there. Contact me for more details.

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