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Published: July 26th 2018
World Cup meets Russian Orthodox church
The train sped through the night and we slept pretty well. We stopped at Kirov for about 20 minutes and were able to walk along the platform. Nice to have a break and breathe the fresh air. Breakfast was fine with cereal, fruit and yoghurt and omelettes and eggs cooked to specification if wanted. The view from the window was mainly of birch tree forests with small towns containing wooden houses and unmade roads. We did go through some larger cities and our next stop was at Belezino station. Here we watched as they changed engines.
The train is very comfortable. We have a cabin to ourselves but it could be a four person with two sleeping on fold down bumk beds. There are many Italian speakers in our carriage and they are all crammed in, four to a cabin. They are a cheerful lot though! The food on board is fantastic. At lunch we have four courses, a big salad to share, then soup, then a main course and dessert.We can buy beer or wine to accompany the meal. We have our assigned seats with the English speakers sitting together. Elizabeth sits with us and the other four across
In the afternoon I read, wrote a blog or two while nothing deters Fletcher from doing his statistics. The time passed very quickly and about 10pm it started to get dark as we approached Ekaterinburg.
There we alighted from the train with our carry-on luggage and were taken by bus to our hotel for the night, The Double-Tree by Hilton. This was a very modern hotel and we soon found our room, 356 and quickly connected to WiFi. I uploaded two blogs, checked email, before going to sleep about 1am.
In the morning we had a welcome shower and yummy breakfast and were able to use the internet until checkout at 10am. Then it was off on our city tour of Ekaterinburg. This is most famously the place where the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas 2nd and his family were incarcerated and then murdered back in 1918, just one hundred years ago. Then it was a very pro Bolshevik city with major industry and mining interests. Now much of the malachite and other minerals have been exhausted but there is still major manufacturing here. It was also host city for four World Cup matches and
A foot in each continent
evidence of that was obvious everywhere we went.
With only 7 in our group we had a guide and a whole large bus to ourselves. We headed out of the city to our first stop which is on the border between Europe and Asia. We are in the Urals but they are not really evident, At the border there is a monument, an A entwined in an E and the line showing where they meet. I stood with one foot in Asia and the other in Europe! We checked out the small souvenir store there and Fletcher found a statue of a mammoth made from local stone. Another one for his elephant collection!!
We then drove on to the place where the Romanovs were buried in an abandoned mine, deep in the forest. This has now been turned into a shrine to the Holy Maryrs as the whole family has been canonised by the Russian Orthodax Church. This has only been built since 2003 and consists of several churches and the pit into which the remains were thrown. This is called Ganina Yama.It is very interesting to see how history can be rewritten, with the once hated autocrats
now revered saints!! We saw individual busts of Nocholas and Alexandra as well as a group statue of the 5 children all wearing crowns and holding candles. The 100th
Anniversary was celebrated on July 17th
so there were the remains of the banners surrounding the pit featuring portraits of each family member.
After spending about an hour there we drove back to the city and were shown various major buildings and historical sites. This included a very modern building with a large statue of Boris Yeltsin in front of it. This is a cultural centre, commemorating his memory as he was state governor of Ekaterinburg for a while before becoming president of Russia.We were taken to the Onegin Hotel for lunch. This was in a private dining room on the 14th floor, opposite an important cathedral. Again we had a great four-course meal. I am trying not to eat it all but it is hard to resist. From there we drove to the centre of the city and Lenin Avenue. There is still an imposing statue of Lenin n the main square. After looking at the elaborately decorated city hall we were given a half hour of free time
and we wandered along a nearby pedestrian Mall where some of the old mansions have been preserved and turned into shops.There were many statues depicting ordinary life here in the early 20th century. We did venture in to a large modern arcade to find a loo. This could have been anywhere in the world, except the signs in Cyrillic which are everywhere.
When we reconvened we walked to the river and a large square which contained the first dam used to power the city's industry. Ekaterinburg had been established in 1723 as a suitable place to harness the wealth in minerals and natural resources of the area. This dam was vital in that process. Across the other side were more statues to the founders and a small chapel. Our final stop was at the Church of the Blood. This was built in the late 1990s on the site of the Ipatiev House where the Romanovs had lived and then been murdered in the cellar. Nicholas and his son had been shot but the women had sewn jewels and precious ornaments inside their clothes and the bullets were deflected so some of the more enthusiastic Bolsheviks had then bayoneted them
statue of the five children
to death. It was said that the cellar was awash with blood. Now there is a modern, beautifully decorated church with golden domes built in the Orthodaox style, consisting of a lower chapel where the cellar used to be and an upper church where a ceremony was proceeding as we entered. The walls are covered with paintings of the family and the iconastasis is beautiful. We stayed for a few minutes listening to the chanting of the priest and watching the devotees responding.Then we went outside and saw the main Cathedral behind this , the Cathedral of the Assumption, and another elaborate building established by the ultra-conservative arm of the church.
Then it was back to the bus and down to the Railway station to rejoin the train. I was puzzle d to see that the time of our train departure was listed at 4-30pm when we arrived at the station at 6pm. Olga, the local guide, told us that all train times are given in Moscow time. We boarded and the train pulled away on time at 6-30pm. At 8 we went to the dining car for dinner and vodka tasting. The staff were dressed in traditional costume
Elizabeth and I in our headscarves for the monastery
and gave us some of the local brew to try. It was accompanied by music and song and a very happy night was had by all. I was glad to get to bed and was asleep rather quickly, Another fascinating day, The Russians are great hosts!
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