A photographic journey through Tomsk
Led by Elana (vocalist from my favourite of last night’s bands), we hit the road and to be honest, my brain switches off. The sun is shining, sky is blue, air is fresh, no-one is talking about politics or music and we’re wandering through a city in Siberia.
I decide I’m going to spend this afternoon not worrying about keeping a log of what happens or my thoughts. In fact, I’m going to make a concerted effort to not have any thoughts at all. I succeed at this on a daily basis without trying, so I doubt it will be a struggle.
I’m just going to photograph everything we see and hopefully, that’ll be enough to successfully convey the day’s story.
So, a purely visual journal of our day through Tomsk:
“Let’s climb a really fucking tall building”
I’ve seen this shit on YouTube
My plan to avoid keeping a log of today’s proceedings, is sharply cancelled when a new, exciting plan formulates among the group.
I hear it mentioned that we’re going to watch the sunset from atop a building.
Awesome, I think to myself. I like large, expansive views and I like sunsets. This is a good combination.
We’re eventually joined by several others and begin our journey. I’m expecting the building in question to be a garage, or maybe just a small block of flats.
What I don’t factor into this, is the fact that we’re in Russia. This place popularised youths climbing up ridiculously tall structures with no safety gear. Well, I say ‘popularised’. That word suggests literally anybody else has bothered doing the same. To my knowledge, this is an exclusively Russian past-time. Except for that video I saw of the lads in Blackpool
A test of stupidity
We congregrate in a small park just infront of the complex. It might be part of it? I’m not sure.
Conversation is underway and since I can’t speak Russian, I’ve little in the way of contribution or observation. I think they might be discussing “Who’s dumb enough to come up here?”.
I honestly don’t even know what the deal with this building is. It looks pretty empty, but there’s also seemingly no security on any of the doors or gates. We literally wander straight into the downstairs lobby.
Our group comprises myself, Alex, Matt, Riley, the tall dude who played drums in my favourite band of last night’s show, a couple who joined our group along the way and a chap who has spent much of today showing us round. I forget his name, but he’s super friendly, intelligent and I want to name him Frank.
Frank is the guy in the middle.
Just keep climbing, just keep climbing
I’m not sure if drummer dude’s finger notion is an instruction to be quiet, or he’s posing for a political campaign poster. Either way, the effect is working. I really want to vote for this guy, as quietly as possible.
As we’re chatting, a ‘ding’ signifies the arrival of a lift.
It’s more of a half ding, if I’m honest. It almost sounds like the ding gets bored of itself half way through and just gives up.
It’s exactly how I feel when attempting to feign interest in somebody else’s day.
I take it as further evidence that perhaps this building isn’t entirely in working order.
In addition to heights, I’m not the biggest fan of lifts. Especially super small, cramped lifts in buildings I’m not convinced are even finished yet. But I’m frankly relieved not to be taking the stairs up what appears to be a good seventeen floors.
I clamber in. It takes a moment for the lift to respond to button presses. This doesn’t fill me with confidence that the damn thing is remotely reliable. Only in Russia could a piece of equipment so new seem to be so old.
I survive . As the next group follows shortly behind us, the look on Matt’s face pretty much captures the collective sense of confusion and slight dread.
But you know what, when else am I going to find myself toward the top of a seventeen story building, overlooking a vast city in a region of the world I’d never thought I’d see?
Times like these are worth just putting your natural inclination to assume ‘worst case scenario’ about every new prospect to one side, and just embracing the moment. That sounds awfully dramatic for what is a essentially a group of losers going up a building.
But new experiences are new experiences. They all chip away at your programming to some extent and there’s nothing worse than looking back on things, however seemingly insignificant and thinking “Balls, I wish I’d made more of that opportunity”.
Then I peer over the edge of a window frame on floor fourteen.
I am unable to capture the moment to a degree which really does the view justice.
What’s getting me though, is the wind. It’s not heavy, but its audible and strangely dusty, if only lightly so. Feeling it flow past my shirt as I peer down into the pitch black descent, sends several additional chills up my spine.
I wonder if I fell l from here, whether I’d turn into rubble or soup?
Maybe a combination of the two? Sobble? Roup?
My decision to put initial concerns of this whole endeavour to one side and just ‘embrace the moment’, are challenged when I hear something that amounts to “The top few floors aren’t really finished and there’s no lights, we we need to climb the rest of the way, anyone got a phone?”.
Climb… the stairs, right? It’s stairs we’re climbing? Not ladders?
Yes, for the first couple of floors. Then we’re outside and I’m watching drummer dude climb a ladder.
A roof with a view
The ladder itself is not one I would describe as massively secure. It shakes considerably as each person climbs it. None of these people are fat either, so the shaking can’t be attributed to body mass.
Matt elects to remain on this level and I don’t blame him. The height we’re at has taken on a completely different feel now that we’re outside and exposed to the elements. I’m fairly sure parts of the roof are just shaking around in the wind. Speaking of which, the wind is colder, harsher and the muffled echo of life on the streets below comes as a stark reminder of just how high up we are.
But the view is still mega.
As I climb the ladder to the next level up, I feel a strange sense of pride that my aversion to heights hasn’t beaten my will. This changes when I take a step forward and plummet. Straight down. My heart shoots up past my ears, body freezes and an almighty cry explodes from my lungs for what feels like an eternity.
I honestly can’t have fallen more than three inches. It barely even qualifies as a step. It might as well be flat. I’ve seen wheelchair ramps steeper than this. It’s possibly the most unmanly moment of my existence. But this is 2019 and being masculine is parasitic anyway, so on balance this is probably the most progressive and forward thinking thing I’ve ever done.
Only in 2019 could such a blatantly ridiculous sentence sound so credible.
Anyway. This puts me on edge until I approach the opposite wall. The view is boss.
Moments like these justify a bit of recklessness
Again, my crappy photos don’t do the moment justice, but it’s a genuinely fantastic sight.
I recognise even as I write this, how melodramatic much of my commentary might be coming across. That’s probably accurate. We’re not jumping into an ocean full of sharks, being held at gunpoint by military or fighting the almighty Ballrog, afterall.
But shit like this is unreal. I’m absolutely fixated on the world that has just opened up before me.
Other members of the group continue on, but I’m absolutely frozen to the spot in awe of what I’m looking at. I love seeing things from this sort of distance, when countless large structures compress into a rich tapestry of colour and shape.
It’s why I always make my bases as tall as possible in Fallout 4, I like seeing the world stretch on into the distance. At least reality doesn’t have any problems with view distance clipping or LOD rendering distance objects into low poly meshes. That’s a game joke.
A couple of the group walk past me, grabbing my attention and pointing to my right. The view’s even better from here. More importantly, they’re signalling that part of the climb still remains.
Maybe enough is enough?… nah
It’s hard to describe from this angle, but the roof is far more exposed than it looks and there’s nothing in the way of a cage or some sort of safety guard.
While drummer boy and the young lady whose name I keep forgetting (I’m going to go with Russian Linda) shoot up the ladder in less than a second. Riley and myself are not quite so enthusiastic. It’s bloody high .
Then after a couple of moments, Riley muses “Bah, fuck it, I’m probably not going to get chance to do this again”. Deep man. Deep.
Alex and Frank are enjoying simultaneously enjoying the view and some good conversation, electing to stay on this level.
I climb the ladder and the view awaitng me is…. Well, shit.
I mean, I’m sure that if I could see the city, it’d be amazing.
But there’s a wall and I’m short. Alex and Matt are quite tall, but I think even they’d struggle. It’s probably for safety or something.
Fortunately though, it turns out this isn’t the top afterall.
No, there’s one final ladder.
It’s not even that large (wheeey!). I’m not entirely sure if this area would’ve even been worth the cost of the bricks, insignificant as it appears to be.
Not that I know shit about buildings.
Finally! We make it to the top and are immediately followed by Frank.
The view continues to be boss and definitely justified the last couple floors worth of ladder climbing.
Russia is pretty stunning from up here.
The four of us spend a few moments discussing how great the view is.
Several pictures are taken to commemorate this momentus occasion.
We return to the park at the foot of the building. Everyone is jovial and somewhat surprised that we survived. Always good to hear.
I play on the swings for a few moments because I have nothing to contribute to the conversation. We eventually move on to find some food and booze, before a thirty or so minute walk leads us to a garage.
Said garage is more of a ‘den’.
It’s boss! Really cosy, warm and adorned in various trinkets that would make just about anyone feel at home.
Conversation spans Brexit, Jordan Peterson, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and cars. The first two topics I particularly appreciate getting these guys perspectives on. I tire of such discussions in the UK. As much as people like to think they’ve a unique, particularly deep insight into such things, it’s never long before they just sound like a Twitter bot. Reciting the same list of observations as anyone whose knowledge of the subject consists solely of articles their friends have re-shared across social media.
These seem to have a more nuanced view that’s sympathetic to those of people both within and outside their own idealogical bubble. Maybe it’s because they’re so distanced? I expect we might come across similarly to them if the shoe were on the other foot. Either way, it’s nice to have a conversation about typically polarising issues, that doesn’t just feel like a competition to see who can sound the most correct.
But maybe that’s the difference? That I’m actually speaking to people?
Here, I’m engaging directly with someone. It’s a physical conversation and there’s an organic, fluid series of intellectual transactions. That sounds like I’m trying to make it sound clever than it is, but I can’t think of a better description.
Conversely, most interactions I have on these subjects in the UK are via text over the web. Maybe the nuance of view and ‘openness’ to broader perspectives isn’t lacking, it’s just not as easily facilitated in this context. It’s easier to get high rate or feel your point is being dismissed when the otherside is just a screen with writing that pops up in an instant.
I think the truth lies, as it often does, somewhere between the two. It’s certainly helped by the fact that Drummer dude appears to be an intelligent and very balanced individual. The complete opposite of Krupskaya’s drummer.
A series of collective yawns mark the evening’s draw to a close.
It’s actually been a fairly demanding day, physically, with plenty of ground covered.
We return to the flat and within seconds of the lights going off, I’m deafened by a chorus of ground-shaking snores.
Refreshingly, it doesn’t take me long to join in.