It was a long train trip to Ekaterinburg, and we were glad we’d broken up the journey in Novosibirsk or it would have been even longer! We arrived just after noon, and set about getting to our hostel. The hostel, like many in Russia, was a disappointment – no common areas at all, no atmosphere, and doubling as a rooming house. Our dorm was full of older Russian men who slept all day and didn’t leave to go drinking until about 9pm, making it impossible to hang out in the room at all. It was incredibly uncomfortable being in there with a bunch of older men lying around in nothing but their jocks.
Still, we weren’t there to stay in the hostel but to explore the city. And while we’d heard mixed reviews of Ekaterinburg, we both rather enjoyed it.
The ‘main’ sight in Ekaterinburg is the ‘Church on the Blood in Honour of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land’ [Храм-на-Крови́ во и́мя Всех святы́х, в земле́ Росси́йской просия́вших] – possibly the church with the longest name as well, at least of those I’ve visited. The Church on the Blood was built on the site of the building in which Tsar Nicolas II and most of his family were murdered by the Bolsheviks on 17 July 1918. The Romanov family was canonised as Passion Bearers in 1981, and construction of the church began in 2000 as a memorial chapel to the Romanov sainthood. Tours are available in Russian, which we skipped, but we saw groups of Russian women on a tour and in tears, as though the murdered Imperial family were close relatives – intimately known and mourned. The tour guide must have been good at her job! Inside the church no photography is permitted, and as in all Orthodox churches women are requested to cover their hair. Small chapels are dedicated to each Romanov killed – Tsar Nicolas II, Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna, Grand Duchess Olga, Grand Duchess Tatiana, Grand Duchess Maria, Grand Duchess Anastasia and Tsarevich Alexei. It was a depressing church, unsurprisingly, and photography wasn’t allowed inside.
Near the Church on the Blood is another large Orthodox church, painted a beautiful blue colour. We had a brief peek inside but didn’t wish to disturb the worshippers there.
This church had a large park behind it, and we thought we’d wander through that. We were surprised to find not one, but six different couples having their wedding photos taken. This surprised me as to be honest it wasn’t really a particularly attractive park.
There was a spinning thing in the kids playground, and of course while I just wanted a nice peaceful spin John went a little crazy and wouldn’t stop spinning the damn thing. Fortunately I remembered the old spotting trick so didn’t get too dizzy and managed to get off without falling over – most likely to John’s disappointment!
Being a somewhat rainy day, we decided to hit up some museums. The one of most interest to John was Military History Museum. It was easy to find – the big white building with a tank out the front. We were the only visitors at the time, and although there was virtually no English information it was still fascinating, with collections of weapons and medals and photographs.
They were installing or renovating a war memorial just across the road.
After escaping the rain for a while in a cafe with giant coffees and hot chocolates we headed to the ‘literary quarter’ which failed to excite us regarding the advertised wooden houses, but did have some interesting street art. And we did stumble across the Literature Museum, and this was a gem.
The museum is dedicated to literature either by regional writers, or those writing about the region. While the exhibit is in Russian only they have folders of information in English – and, even better, when we were there one of the guides spoke English and showed us all around the museum, explaining the exhibits and the history. It was really quite interesting. The museum, although small, was very carefully and creatively set up and allowed you to engage with the subject. They had a great little ‘secret’ room with a sculpted book tree and collections of objects under perspex in the floor. What I really liked though was that the building itself is still actively used for writer’s workshops, poetry readings and other literary events.
We also wandered along the main street of Ekaterinburg, marvelling at some of the gorgeous old buildings. A bridge crosses two big, rectangular dams linked with canals to the river, and the south lake has a beautiful fountain that doesn’t get turned on until the afternoon.
A little further up is a tiny little chapel dedicated to St Catherine [I’d told John I was a saint, but he hadn’t believed me!] sitting behind a small fountain that hadn’t yet been turned on. The inclement weather only allowed us to do so much, but we thoroughly enjoyed the city.
The next morning, we took an early tram to the station to hop on a short train journey to our next destination, Nizhny Novgorod. And, of course, Ekaterinburg also had a cute train station!