Monday, June 12, 2017

Yekaterinburg Day 1

Yekaterinburg, Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russia
Karina and I took the overnight train to Yekaterinburg, and it was incredibly convenient. We left Ufa around 6pm and arrived in Yekaterinburg around 8am - just in time for breakfast. After filling up at McDonald's we started walking towards the city center. Neither of us had been to Yekaterinburg before, so we didn't really have a plan. I saw that a main road near the train station headed towards The Church on the Blood so we took off in that direction. It's never a good idea to judge a city when you first arrive, but my first impressions were, "This is not what I expected." Of course, we were not in the center, but it didn't seem that much different than Ufa. Sidewalks were falling apart and everything was kind of just bland. I definitely had a different reaction when I first visited Kazan; however, my impressions of Yekaterinburg changed later.
Our first stop was The Church on Blood. This place is historically significant because it is where the Romanov family, the last royal family of Russia, was killed. The house they were assassinated in was torn down and this church was erected in it's place. It was so surreal being at the place that made me fall in love with Russian history. Out of all my high school classes I remember sitting in Mr. Kimmy's world history class learning about the death of the Romanov family like it was yesterday. I remember learning about Alexei's hemophilia, the strange Gregory Rasputin, and the fact that it took the women longer to die in the basement of the house because their coats were lined with jewels. Russia became a fixation after that, yet it always seemed so far away. I never would have guessed that I would end up living here one day. Also, if you were wondering why I am so fascinated with Vladimir Lenin you can thank Mr. Kimmy. I remember we got a list of topics for a project and while I wanted to research the Romanov family I knew it would be something other people would choose, and I wanted more of a challenge. Sticking with my new found love of Russia, I somewhat randomly chose Lenin. The rest was history.
After visiting the church we continued to make our way around the city. I didn't plan too well on this trip because I was busy all the way up until we got on the train. For this reason we didn't have much of an itinerary to follow, just a handful of places we wanted to see. This was fine for both of us because we enjoy walking. About an hour in, though, I started experiencing problems. The first was that we couldn't bring our bags to the hostel beforehand because the fine print told us we would be charged for a day (or half a day depending on the time), and I didn't know this until after I booked the room and it was too late to cancel. Check-in wasn't until 2, and carrying my bag full of stuff for just one day didn't seem like a bad idea until it was. Side note: what hostel doesn't allow you to leave your bags there for free? Secondly, we expected it to be cold and rainy the entire time we were there. Fortunately, the rain held out for most of the trip, but it was so hot and we were not dressed appropriately. We also didn't want to pack a ton of clothes because we knew we'd be carrying our bags with us.
One of the places I wanted to see was Sevastyanov's House. I didn't know much about this house, but based on the colors and intricate details, I knew I had to see it. The house had several lives. First, it was a home that changed owners until Nikolay Sevastyanov came to own it in 1860. Under his ownership, the house was designed to look like it does today. Then, the local government came to own it after his death in 1880, and during Soviet times it was a home for labor unions. Today, you can't go inside because it houses Russian presidents, most notably Vladimir Putin when they come to visit the city.
I only took the picture above because I'm immature, and I thought the bird sitting on his head was hilarious.
Across the street from Sevastyanov's House was this cute little church and a few hundred feet away was the river embankment. There were a lot of tents set up and later in the day there were a lot of people walking around. I think it might have been some kind of food festival because there were many tents offering different kinds of foods. There was also some music. We continued walking a lot more but it started to get too hot. We decided to try to seek some relief at Vystosky Tower.
We were finally able to check into our hostel, and when we felt rested and our phones charged we decided to grab some lunch, and then we headed to Shirokorechenskoe Cemetery. The rain held out until we were on the bus back to the center. It wasn't raining hard enough to go back to the hostel, so we decided to suck it up and continue walking around. Not long after the rain stopped, but we continued to see dark clouds coming in from the distance. At first it looked like it was going to miss us so we continued around "Gorodskoy Prud" (City Pond). At a certain point the rain, wind, and lightning got so bad we made the conclusion that being out in the open with umbrellas probably wasn't the best idea. In fact, the umbrellas weren't even helping at that point because they kept flipping inside out. We sought refuge under the Yeltsin Museum. The rain lasted about 10 minutes and then we were back out walking. We went to McDonalds because my blood sugar was starting to drop (I'm not diabetic but this is a common occurrence for me). We sat and talked in McDonald's for over an hour.
We eventually made our way back to our hostel where we both were both desperate for a shower. Before I continue, I want to just say our hostel was very nice. The woman who ran it was friendly, and the building and rooms were beautiful. It was an old house that she is converting into a hostel. However, when we got into our room our two roommates were already sleeping with the lights off and curtains drawn. It was only 8:45 pm. I was incredibly annoyed, and I wish I was vindictive enough to turn on the lights and be as loud as possible. I made the suggestion that we go into the common area/kitchen to organize our things and charge our phones. Everything was fine, then the one roommate came in and turned on the tv without asking me. I completely get that it is a common area, but, for me, I was just so annoyed with the whole room thing that her not even asking if she could turn on the tv really rubbed me the wrong way. I would have completely said, "yes," if she had asked, but it was more just the principle. After a while, many people came in, including quite a few babushkas. It was kind of awkward and I'm pretty sure they thought Karina and I were weird because we were just sitting there on our phones and laughing at the texts we were sending each other. Oh, well, it's not like I will ever see them again.
Have you ever been to Yekaterinburg? What did you think of the city?

4 comments

  1. Never been there before, but you had me at "Sidewalks were falling apart and everything was kind of just bland." :) And it's my namesake city!

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    1. Haha! Yes, it is a typical Russian city, but I imagined it to be more like St. Petersburg or Moscow. Ah, yes it is! I'd definitely recommend visiting!

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  2. In love with all of these photos but especially The Church on the Blood! I recently read "The Last Tsar" and although it was a bit hard to keep up with, the Romanovs are endlessly fascinating! I know I've said this before, but your photos make me want to go to Russia ASAP.

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    1. I hope Russia will one day ease up on their visa requirements. Their economy is terrible, so I don't know why they don't. I know so many people who'd visit. You'd love Russia! I saw where the Romanov's are buried in St. Petersburg, and it was kind of eerie. Alexei and one of the daughters were never found.

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