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Published: January 27th 2014
Yekaterinburg was nothing like what I expected it to be. It went above and beyond my expectations, this was made possible by my hosts Vadim and Marina. They were FANTASTIC to say the least! They made me feel very comfortable and redefined 'Home Stay' to reflect its literal meaning.
We started by visiting the Europe and Asia border, surrounded by the Ural mountain ranges. There have been a few created, one just for sake of convenience, closer to the city (17 kms) so that the foreign delegates who visit Yekaterinburg can visit and check their boxes of 'visiting the Europe-Asia border'. The government had plans to build a tall structure over 100 meters to symbolise this border, however due to budget constraints and no sponsors the plan was shelved and instead they created what you see in the picture below! Apparently it was a big joke amongst the tourist organisations and guide community, Vadim was being honest and sarcastic about the story. He didn't feel obligated to display his love for his country 24x7, just because of the profession he was into. Here's an anecdote, I asked him if he could recognise Russians in a crowd of other Europeans, he
said 'yes, it's simple, Russians don't smile!' 😊
After having a good laugh at the fake border we left to see the real border which was about 50 kms away from Yekaterinburg. It was surreal to be there! The Soviet Geographical Society at Yekaterinburg suggested the border line based on the Ural mountain range, the Ural river, vegetation and the cultural differences. There are a lot of Fir trees on the European side of Russia whereas on the Asian side one sees more of the Pine. We drove on the old Moscow road which was used in the olden times for trade, delivering mails and escorting convicted criminals to be put in Yekaterinburg prison. Another anecdote here by Vadim, the old Moscow road was quite curvy, this was because in the olden times horses were used as means of transportation and when the rider fell asleep, the horse used to make its way based on the patches where there was grass, hence creating a path which was never straight. On the way were several small villages, we stopped by one and visited Vadim and Marina's friends. They were extremely hospitable and wanted to know all about me! They didn't
The ribbons, to give the 'Asian' feel! NOT tied by the travellers though :)
understand why I was travelling in Russia in January! But then again everyone I met on the trip had the same question 😊. We had some tea (Russians call it chai too!) and delicious pancakes with home grown and home made raspberry sauce.
We then did the city tour, Yekaterinburg was named Sverdlovsk from 1924 until 1991 after the politician Sverdlovsk, it was reverted to Yekaterinburg or Ekaterinburg in 1991. I found it to be a very friendly city unlike Moscow which I thought was very cold with no soul.
After seeing the ballet and opera house, Ural mineralogy museum, city admin building and a few other significant monuments we went to Church on the blood. I was eager to go there because of its reference in the book (Aleph). It stands on the same ground as the Ipatiev house (200 mts away) where the last of the Romanovs were killed. The family of Nicholas II was executed along with 3 servants and their doctor. Sverdlov ordered their execution on 16 July 1918, although nothing was mentioned about the family, they were killed too. Their bodies were buried secretly, the last two of the bodies were found in
2007 when a Russian archaeologist uncovered them near Yekaterinburg.
After a long day we got back and had the awesome dinner and chai that Marina made for us. Next day was going to be epic!
It was the day of christening and once a year some of the Russian men and women take a dip in ice cold water in a lake in Yekaterinburg. Vadim wanted to capture these moments on camera and I wanted to see the madness! It was -22 when we left for the lake and I couldn't imagine doing anything like what I saw. I wouldn't have been able to watch this unless it was for Vadim, it was a once in the lifetime opportunity and I thank Vadim for this experience! I had planned to walk around the town by myself after getting back from the lake, but I was SO cold that I decided to get home first! We had some steamy hot chai and I set out to visit the fine arts museum.
For the evening we had booked tickets for a ballet, another amazing experience that I wouldn't forget. The girls were beautiful and fragile and the boys complimented
them perfectly. Watching them perform was soothing, almost therapeutic! We watched 3 types of Russian ballets with completely different themes, it wasn't the first time that the Russians had impressed me! 😊
On my first day of arrival in Yekaterinburg Vadim had made a statement 'Moscow is not Russia, this is real Russia', end of my stay at Yekaterinburg I understood its real essence!
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