I left home early on Wednesday 30th July to get the morning Transaero flight to Moscow Domodedovo, and after a short pause got the longer, domestic flight from Domodedovo to Novosibirsk Tolmachevo airport, arriving bleary-eyed at midnight British time and 06:00 local time on Thursday.
It was my first time in Russia since 1963. In England, Siberia has a reputation for being cold, but it was cetainly not cold for my visit - tipically it was 30 degrees Celsius.
My host, Irina, a friend of my friend Yuri who visited Rubric a few years ago and entertained us with his guitar playing, took me on a tour of the area near her flat – I was most impressed by the memorial to the victims of the Great Patriotic War – and then into the centre of town. The visit to the cathedral was most interesting, but little did I realise that the next day I would look down on the cathedral.
On Friday 1st August, after trying to complete the formalities of registration with the local police, Irina took me back into the town centre and to the block of flats were her work colleague Maxim lived.
Together with a few of Maxim's friends, we went onto the roof of the block from where we had a panoramic view of the town, and saw the cathedral and the adjacent circus from above. The sky was beautifully clear and blue, with hardly a cloud to be seen.
After a bit, it began to get dark – something was blocking the sun. Minute by minute, the sun became more and more obscured until eventually the sun was completely covered by the moon – the 2008 Total Solar Eclipse. It was fantastic. The town was as dark as night, but on the horizon it was possible to see daylight.
As the moon moved away from the sun, the first view of the extreme edge of the sun was the most beautiful sight I think I have ever seen. Many people have seen a partial eclipse, and they are interesting, but the view of a Total Solar eclipse is infinitely more spectacular and no-one should miss the opportunity to see one.
The next day, Irina took me on the Electrichka to her family's dacha and gave me a wonderful insight into the life of ordinary Russian people.
And early the next day I went home. К сожалению, my plane from Новосибирск was 2 hours late, I missed my connection in Moscow and eventually got home very, very tired (but elated) after a 26 hour journey.