A Classic Tours Collection
2008 SIBERIA - Russia (August 1)

This journey to Siberia presented unique challenges, as we were visiting small towns (such as Novosibirsk), with limited accommodations and travel infrastructure. Professor Jay Pasachoff visited Novosibirsk a few years in advance and helped us find a small boutique hotel hidden in the woods for our stay. Our accommodations were the best in Siberia. We were blessed with clear skies and saw the entire eclipse, which was a very quiet experience away from all the noise and city celebrations that usually accompany a total eclipse.

The best experience was visiting a Russian post office on the morning of the eclipse. Thanks to David Foot, a frequent traveler on our eclipse expeditions , we make it a habit to collect special eclipse stamps (or create our own), getting them cancelled on the eclipse day and handing them out as souvenirs to our travelers. Five of us went to a local post office with help from a Russian taxi driver. Neither the driver nor the post office staff spoke any English, and one of our travelers, Rollie Anderson, tried to help with some Russian that he remembered from his school days. After half an hour of negotiations with the post office clerks, they agreed to sell us envelopes and covers. They just could not understand why we needed to purchase them and not post them. The final challenge was to get the stamps cancelled with the Aug, 1 post office mark. The post office staff simply refused to do so. After much haggling, the counter staff got frustrated and walked away in disgust. Seizing the opportunity, I grabbed the hand-held marker and stamped all the envelopes. Away we went happily as the locals were wondering what we Americans were doing (or at least the East-Indian American). Some of us thought I would be arrested, but the risk was worth it as we are now the proud owners of the unique and exclusive first-day covers. Later, I was offered a large sum of money to sell my prized possession. Do you think I sold it???

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