Established in the 1950s Academic Town is the home of Novosibirsk State University and located outside of Novosibirsk in the midst of birch and pine forests. The town is comparable to a ‘university town’ in America with the University providing the foundation and sustenance of the city.
I came out here to visit the Archaeological Museum, which is connected with the University’s Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography and is the head branch of Siberia. I visited the museum, purchased my fair share of print publications and explored the small city. I stopped at a cafe, which catered to international tastes in Western European coffee selections and imported Chinese teas.
Hiking through the forest trails to reach each destination we came across a small street with a local ‘farmers market’ operating from the trunks of private cars and fold-out tables. There were choices of fresh fish, canned vegetables and dried fruits. A little deeper into the University campus, Gleb and I followed some students to a university cafeteria. We climbed to the second floor of a deteriorating, but brightly painted building. There we entered a large bare high-ceiling hall filled with students, professors, and eclectic tables and chairs. On one wall a troop of babuskas (grandmother, or a general terms for a older grandmotherly-like lady) operated a Soviet-period steel buffet and were taking rotations scoping meals with gossiping to one another on lunch breaks. The manty (a meat-filled dumpling popular in Central Asia) seemed to be the most popular so I decided on that option, plus a warm cabbage dish on the side and a small cucumber tomato salad. I also took hot tea to drink since the windows were enormous and letting a brisk winter draft slip through into the space. All of that was 117 Rubles, which at the current exchange rate makes out to 1.89 USD for a meal I could barely finish, because it was so filling.
After lunch, we wandered a bit more through the forests exploring the university buildings and the apartments constructed exclusively for students and professors living in this town that is covered in blankets of snow over half of the year. I talked more with Gleb about his own experience growing up in Novosibirsk and living in a place where winter reigns from October until April. He always has problems with the heat (this means anything over 70F or 21C), but he misses the snow that is for the most part absent from Western Europe’s temperate winters. I think that it was this visit to a university in Russia that made me realize I would most probably take a job out here if the position opened and if welcome to be filled by an American.