23 Feb 2013

Yekaterinburg: & the Romanov Memorial

We had been forewarned by internet reviews that our hostel - *Allis Hall Hostel* - would be difficult to find, but that was an understatement.  Tucked around the back of a row of shops and office blocks, its metal door had nothing to distinguish it from all the others.  After randomly pushing doorbells to no avail, we finally found one door slightly ajar.  Communal stairwells in Russia tend to have a bucket serving as an ashtray on every few landings, and this one was no exception.  The result is a lingering smell of cigarette smoke.  But once inside the hostel we had a very warm welcome, and the room was large and bright.  So after a quick rest and wash, we set about seeing the sights.


Day No.
Day
Date
Countries travelled
Country
City
City
Trans-port
kms travelled
kms total
Hours travelled
Night accommodation
9
Thur
21/02/2013
0
Russia
1
Yekaterinburg
-
0
5424
0
Allis Hall Hostel
10
Fri
22/02/2013
0
Russia
0
Travel
-
0
5424
0
Train
11
Sat
23/02/2013
0
Russia
0
Travel
Train - 2nd class
2282
7706
37
Train

First stop was the Pokrovsky House Museum, Pokrovsky was a wealthy Yekaterinburg business man who set up a lot of industry including providing jobs in a new local copper mine in the 1700’s and he also did a lot of charity work to the benefit of many locals.  It was interesting but not as informative as we had hoped.  So then on to the Regional History Museum, which looked brand new and heavily invested in, giving us high hoped for our 200 rouble tickets (expensive by Russian standards).  As Yekaterinburg is most famous for being the setting of the execution of Russia’s last Tsar Nicolas II and his family in 1918, we were expecting that to be a key feature.  The museum itself was rather disappointing, being an uninspiring celebration of Yekaterinburg’s industrial achievements, past and present.  It seemed to be more of a marketing exercise for local investment than anything else.  There is certainly evidence of a lot of construction activity going on across the city. 

But later that afternoon we visited the excellent Romanov Memorial Museum and Church of the Blood dedicated to Tsar Nicolas II and his family who were all canonised by the Russian Orthodox Church in 2003.  Being the only visitors there, we were given a private guided tour in English, learning a lot about the build-up to the revolution, and the final months of the Tsar.  With the feel of being a shrine to Nicolas II as much as a museum, it’s a rather biased take on his life and views, but an excellent insight none the less.  One of the highlights was being invited to sit at the Tsars Grand Piano, which had been perfectly restored.  

  

   

  

Walking the city, this was also the first time that we saw some really nice examples of the traditional Wooden Architecture and detailed lattice work that typified 18 Century architecture.  We also enjoyed the Ice Sculptures and watching people taking shortcuts across the river of the city - only a small measure of what was to come on Lake Baikal!

  

  

    

The next day we went to the Military Museum, which houses a great tour-de-force of Russian military might.  Yet again, we had the place to ourselves until a Russian General arrived and introduced himself (complete with Vodka breath!), followed by a group of fresh faced army cadets who, in their oversized trench coats, looked harmless enough, and like toy soldiers.  

 

On route to the train station we had dinner at another excellent Ukrainian restaurant called *Xytopok* - dumplings, borscht and meat & tongue sausage – a traditional selection.

Then on to the train for another 37 hour stint to Krasnoyarsk.  This time splashing out on a 2nd Class (4 berth) carriage.  

  

  

Fortunately we were sharing with a very nice English speaking Russian Geophysicist (Paul) who had been visiting his mother for the weekend and was also on his way home to Krasnoyarsk.  He shows us photos of his “datcha” (Russian summer house), complete with Banya (Russian Steam Room/Sauna).  Due to his love of animated cinema (showing us a funny Russian short animated clip) and uncanny resemblance, we nickname him Mr. Fredricksen from “Up” (a film which he says he also loves).  Unfortunately the carriage attendant is as surly as ever, throwing our bedding at us, but even she mellows as the miles roll by…

  

  

J&J


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