Without question this is the city’s most spectacular spot. No matter whether it is the middle of winter with river frozen over or a lazy summer evening, it is guaranteed to offer breathtaking views, and this is mostly thanks to the substantial investment the city government has made in the riverside promenade.
When I arrived in Tyumen six and a half years ago, there was virtually nowhere comfortable or convenient on the banks of the river for people to walk freely, but slowly the steep inclines were dug up, relaid with grass, bushes and trees, and the immaculate walkways that now traverse the slope began to take shape. The work is still not completely finished, but it is already a stunning spot that has developed a character of its own.
Not content with simply installing a straight path following the course of the River Tura, the designs included multiple levels that each offer a different pace of their own. Right by the water’s edge, the wide ledge by the water’s edge is often occupied by couples taking pictures or dangling their legs, while the main pathway behind them is popular with skaters, skateboarders and cyclists. There is a wall running along the back of the first level that is decorated with freizes and statues of historic moments and people that have shaped the city.
Halfway up the bank mothers push buggies slightly away from the busier lower level as occassional joggers pace their way past, while the highest level is reserved for those who prefer a more leisurely pace, and is often much quieter. There is also a pavement at the very top of the slope which is set back from the street for those who don’t have the time or inclination to make their way down the steps.
At night time in summer, the whole area is abuzz with popup coffee stalls while younger generations play music and an almost bohemian atmosphere takes over. I ventured down at about 10pm with my wife and two daughters aged four and two, and although there were some groups smoking shisha pipes who we avoided, it was a spectacular treat for Sophia and Dasha, especially when we passed an ice cream stall.
Perhaps the most iconic part of the area is Lovers’ Bridge itself. It is a simple pedestrian suspension bridge that is covered in graffiti of declarations of eternal love between partners, and is one of the traditional places for newlyweds to take photographs after their ceremony. It used to have thousands of padlocks attached to the railings with names of lovers inscribed – the tradition was for the man to throw the key in the river after attaching the lock as a sign he was never going to need to remove it, and therefore remain ever faithful.
Unfortunately, the local government decided to remove the padlocks a few years ago. Nevertheless no visit to Tyumen is complete without a casual stroll along the river from Lovers’ Bridge.