Siberia, Russia In Summer
Brrr! Blizzards remind us of Siberia, leaving our predisposed notion of what freezer-frigid places are like and the two words, blizzard and Siberia, cuddled up well together.
It is hard to conceptualize Siberia with almost the opposite but in Asian Russia summer is more likely a chemistry of humidity from downpours, the thermometer entertaining over thirty Celsius, and the occasional temporary flooding everywhere. What would be the agenda in Ulan Ude, Siberia, the first major pit-stop northwest into Russia from Mongolia, on such a day? Never mind the mandatory umbrella and puddle jumping. Permeating the air is the smell of ageing architecture saturated with moisture overload and fireplaces burning to take away the dampness, setting the stage for an architectural tour. So don the best cover you have (not from the cold but from the wet) and enter the world of century old crumbling facades, reflections and water-intensified colours. You will remain primarily unnoticed, meandering the back streets capturing moments in time, all of the locals are just trying to keep dry.
Siberian Art On Every Street
Walk about Ulan- Ude, Siberia after a day of rain and art is popping out at you on every corner. Take me! Take me!
Of course, there is the signature feature of western Siberia, little wooden houses. Combine these architectural gems, located on most street corners and in between, with the saturation of a recent torrent from the skies and copious material awaits capture. Don’t let the overabundance of this Siberian architecture stifle your enthusiasm; it is a new day, take on a new outlook. The canvas is empty.
A country involved in conflicts for most of the last century and for many before that, any Russian city has at least one war memorial. Although the plaques are in Russian (in Siberia, the local language, Buryat) the nonverbal message of hero tribute is clear. Hostile faces, palms outstretched, armaments at their side, these fellows deserve a “click” or more. Be sure to work a new perspective to add interest, crouch under those menacing faces and dare to face their weapons. You will probably get off unscathed aside from a little knee knock. Turn around and there is another era of Siberian architecture from the Soviet era on display in the industrial district. It is just over the barbed fence that is keeping observers out or workers in, as the case may be. Finally, don’t miss the Siberian graffiti; it will have you scratching your head over the deeper meaning of love. The variety in art, perspective and inspiration is always worth the walk.
Siberian Fresh Food Market Photography Experience
To travelling photographers Asian markets are an element of street photography not to be missed. Vendors and patrons usually offer up a liberal smattering of people watching not to be missed.
The shops in the Ulan-Ude Fresh Food Market did not disappoint. The stalls were not just an escape from the depressing weather (http://heathersimondsphotography.com/2013/01/28/rain-rain-rain-in-ulan-ude-siberia/ ) but under the skylight roof (no dank, questionable Asian roof coverings here) was a network of uniformly displayed offerings, foodstuffs in a pleasing array of brilliant colours, habitually tidy, not a fly buzz to be heard or any other wayward insect to be fanned away. Another delight was the staff, primarily coiffed women in matching (not exactly slim) costumes, including lace-adorned head coverings and aprons, adding an old fashioned “ice cream parlour facade” to the commodity scene. Aside from predictable and locals only delicacies, perishables and dried, our interest peeked over widely available brown, sticky slabs, amounts cut to request. A local delicacy no doubt. Opting for a trial size, upon disembarking from the stall its curious nature was promptly tested. Sticky and smooth, mud coloured, a distinct smoky aroma with hints of foliage and texture of gum might be the tasting notes. The next English speaking Russians confirmed, smoked spruce gum. Not everyone’s liking but given the surrounding countryside, this byproduct made sense and smoking it was a local variation Wrigley’s might consider. A good winter chew for those long Siberian days might work better than the height of summer.
Within seconds of whipping out a camera a uniformed “guard” descended from somewhere and jabbered in stern Russian what could only be interpreted as “No Photographs”. Where do those guys hide out? It’s hard to argue with a century of practise at putting people in their places so changing physical camera location to “shooting from the hip” kept the guards unaware for the rest of the market experience. One can only wonder what state secrets could lie embedded between the apricots or under the neatly arranged bags of potatoes. As goes travel photography, closer examination later reveals more than what was absorbed from the scene. When I look at the metal boxes in the ceiling my imagination goes back to the security guards protecting the secrets of the fruit and vegetable vendors. Russian spy cameras, perhaps?
For more on Siberian photography see http://heathersimondsphotography.com/2013/01/17/siberia/