So what does one do on a train for two days ? Honestly a whole lot of nothing. It became a cycle of napping, reading and watching things on the computer. I became even more grateful for the large amounts of media I brought with me. I read three books (one space opera , a young adult novel and nonfiction book about the Romanovs ) , slept for numerous hours, listened to podcasts and quietly watched the scenery go by. It went by surprisingly quickly and in no time at all we were in Ekaterinberg.
Now, we really didn’t know what to expect with Yekaterinburg. We mainly picked it because it seemed like a place to stop off before hitting the western cities of Moscow and St. Petersberg. All I knew about it was that the Romanovs perished in a basement in Yekaterinburg in the nineteen teens, and that it is one of the larger cities in Russia, so our expectations for things to do were a little low. Luckily it ended up being one of our favorite stops on the trip…
First off we went to our hostel, which was a renovated apartment in an old ‘constructivist style’ apartment building. From what I understand, ‘constructivist’ refers to the style of Soviet block apartments which were meant to promote a more communist style of living. None of the apartments had kitchens, to free women from the kitchen to work in factories, and families were expected to eat in the buildings communal living spaces, as well as go to school, go to the doctor among other things. Our hostel was conveniently right around the corner from the KGB building, which housed young, single KGB operatives; while its now a hotel, the buildings still stand, while inside their apartments are renovated in include kitchens and have private areas.
After dropping off our stuff we started to explore the town. Following the “Red Line”, a volunteer organized project for tourists to explore Ykaterinberg, we had a full day exploring the city. We quickly found out that the day of our arrival is the towns 992nd ‘Bell Day’ or naming day. This meant that sound stages scattered around town with exhibitions and concerts all over the place. We walked wide avenues and parks, and there must have been several thousands of people out on the streets as well. Music has special meaning here, mostly cause Ykaterinberg is known as the home of Russian rock music. All over the place we found tributes to a native son Victor Soi, a famous musician from the area and in true idol style , he died young in a car accident. As a result he is memorialized in many places around town . We also saw the many fabulous buildings that were built by merchants in prerevolutionary Russia, which were in dazzling colors like burnt orange and teal. Ykaterinberg was also home to some famous photographers, and we visited museums commemorating them and displaying modern artists work.
If anything, our last stop of the Cathedral on the Blood , which was built to commemorate the site of the Romanov massacre – the original building where they were put under house arrest and then eventually killed in was demolished sometime in the 1970s – was the most lack luster. Ever since the 1990s and the Russian Orthodox church has been revitalized, the Romanovs have been given sainthood and proper burials, mainly due to their extreme devoutness in life, and in reading about them they were an incredibly devout family… almost to their detriment. The church it self is quite dramatic, being built out of white granite and gold accents. There is a small alcove inside that is a tribute to the Romanovs and their families, but all of it is in Russian. I couldn’t help but think that a bit of historical amnesia happening as I looked at laminated pictures of the last Romanov family . Yes it was tragic to see a family die so senselessly .. But there was also a bloody civil war happening, where many more families also perished, midst huge social and revolutionary change.. . Just a thought.
Anyways, we left Yekaterinburg with good impressions, and as one of the hosts of the 2018 World Cup, I’m sure we will hear a little more from Yekaterinburg in the future.
Till next time -V.