Saturday 29th July 2017
I woke up in the morning in the train still going from Novosibirsk to Yekaterinburg. For breakfast, I ate fruits I had brought and then walked all the way to the back of the train and passed through the third-class wagons in which each ‘compartment’ had 6 sleeping beds but no doors to separate all of them. It didn’t look that bad, it wasn’t particularly smelly nor noisy. I could definitely have booked these tickets instead of the second class kupe. At the back, the doors which open on the rails were not locked so I opened them to take some photos then closed then and went all the way to the front of the train. I couldn’t tell if there was a difference between a second class and a first class apart from the walls which sometimes were white and sometimes made of wood.
Here is a map to give an idea of the scale of this 21-hour train journey covering 1,550 kilometers from Novosibirsk to Yekaterinburg. So much more in between to explore! Russia is really huge!
I came back to my compartment and talked more with the couple and their grand-daughter. They had just spent a week with the sister of the woman who lived in a village near the Altai and they were now going back home to Yekaterinburg where her son, the dad of the girl with them, was living too with his wife. We arrived in Yekaterinburg at 12.37pm and said good-bye.
It took me a while to get a Uber and I finally made it to the Yekaterinburg airbnb place we had booked around 3pm where I met a Russian girl Victoria who gave me the keys and explained to me how it worked. Then she left and I spent the rest of the afternoon sorting out photos and preparing blog articles.
Sunday 30th July 2017
My parents arrived with an early train and I had prepared their bed in the apartment and some breakfast for them. After some rest, we went outside to go explore Yekaterinburg. We walked around first, we passed through a market, saw a tram with Leroy-Merlin advertising, passed through a park where some guys were dressed as sailors with some flags, we wondered if some celebration was going on. In the garden we saw some beautiful roses, then walked through other streets. There is a red line in Yekaterinburg on the ground indicating a tourist trail to follow to see specific sites.
The earliest settlers were religious dissidents fleeing the reforms of the Russian Orthodox Church who settled there in 1672. They discovered that the area was rich in iron ore and the first iron mines started in 1721. A fortress was built and in 1723, Peter The Great gave the name of Yekaterinburg in honour of two Yekaterinas – Peter’s wife (later Empress Catherine I) and Russia’s patron saint of mining. After discovering his wife’s infidelity a year later, Peter had her lover’s head cut off and placed in a jar of surgical spirits in her bedroom. The railway arrived in 1888. In the 19th century, gold was also discovered. During the Civil War between the White Army and the Red Army (Bolcheviks), the tsar Nicholas II and his family were brought to Yekaterinburg, imprisoned and tormented for 78 days and finally murdered in horrible conditions. When it was acknowledged that the murder had been arranged by a party official named Yacob Sverdlov, the city was renamed Sverdlovsk and kept this name from 1924 until 1992 where it was renamed Yekaterinburg. Yekaterinburg got famous again when the American U2 pilot Gary Powers was shot down, survived the crash, confirmed he had been spying which triggered the collapse of the Summit conference in Paris. The city was closed to foreigners until 1991. The fourth biggest city of Russia with 1.3 million inhabitants, Yekaterinburg is a fascinating city full of history but also very pretty to discover.
We arrived at a restaurant recommended in the Lonely Planet called Pashtet which turned out to be the best restaurant we went to during the entire trip. The setting was beautiful with Impressionists paintings on the walls. The food was delicious and they had a kids corner and were giving cooking classes to other kids, it seemed like an idea which should be standard in all restaurants as it would probably work really well with many parents.
After lunch, we went to the Metenkov photography museum dedicated to the work of this photographer Veniamin Metenkov. It was on the first floor above a shop selling film cameras.
After that, we visited the Ascension Cathedral.
Then we walked into the nearby Rhastorgeyev-Kharitonov palace gardens where kids were playing, dogs were swimming, a man was renting boat, some people were feeding pigeons and one man was giving away little kittens.
Then we went to visit the Church on the Blood, a memorial to the ‘Tsar martyrs’ as the Romanovs were declared when they were canonised by the Russian Orthodox Church.
After that last visit, we bought some veggies and fruits, walked to the Dynamo metro station, took the metro and went back home to our airbnb appartment where we had dinner and rested.
Next day, let’s see a bit more of Yekaterinburg!