Mark Elliott in Siberia, Russia travel blog

Summer cafes and fountains in Krasnoyarsk (photo 2002)

I'm in one of Krasnoyarsk's super-modern new entertainment complexes. It's all glass and chrome intersecting at futuristic angles. The computerized cash-registers are spitting out cinema tickets. Juvenile couples sit canoodling in corners. Kids are comparing dial tones on their new mobile phones. It could be almost anywhere in the west. And that's rather uplifting considering the poverty and dejected hopelessness in the region's more rural areas, or the niggling seediness of Irkutsk. Krasnoyarsk is a go-ahead city with a business-like air and a modest scattering of old buildings amid plenty of new construction. Even the train station has been totally rebuilt, and tastefully so in pseudo-classic style with a pronounced central spire. Not every project is successful, however. By far the city's tallest building is a never-completed multi-storied concrete skeleton towering above the Chinese market. And wind blows dust about the stalled building site where a station for the unfinished city metro is supposed to be. Overlooking the main avenue Lenin stares determinedly past the encroaching capitalist glitz. But despite his pompous metallic gestures, he's become as ignored as Queen Victoria on a British town square.

Like everywhere else in Russia, prices here seem to have soared in the last three years. But, as in other big cities, the secret of eating cheaply is to opt for the 'Bizniz Lanch' (business lunch). Deals vary, but often you can get three courses at lunch for the cost of a starter at dinnertime. And in Krasnoyarsk, competition seems particularly fierce. So options here are superb.

On the top floor of the entertainment complex is a café with a panoramic view from a glassed in terrace. I'd come for a coffee. The place looked a little exclusive so I wasn't entirely surprised to see that on the menu my Americano would cost a relatively hefty R70 (2 Euros). But when I tried to order the coffee, the black-jacketed waiter did a double take.

"You want just a coffee?!!!"

"Is that OK?"

"Sure. But it's R70"

"Yes. I saw"

"You know it's lunch time?"

"Oh - do I have to eat?"

"You don't have to eat, no. But there's a business lunch. Have you considered..."

I looked at the menu again as he pointed.

For R100 I could get soup, salad, bread, main course, dessert, a drink... PLUS my coffee thrown in!

"Good idea"

Great service!

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