Up for a tour this morning that started at 10am so we needed coffee beforehand to get us going at that ungodly hour.
Our tour guide was Maria, a student with really good English, and a Dutch boyfriend, so she had a dry sense of humour which suited us. Our driver was a typical 50 /60 yr old Russian guy, smoked and the car had 2 massive cracks across the windscreen. These didn’t change throughout the day. The main road was closed for a running event so all other roads were chokka which made him quite grumpy, understandably, as there didn’t seem to be any warning of this event.
First site was Church of the Spilt Blood, built on the site of the house the Romanov family, Russia’s last tsar, were held in captivity and then executed on 18 July 1918. The church was full of incense and military men. Morning service was in progress so we avoided getting in anyone’s way and learnt about their execution and subsequent canonisation. Maria was very knowledgeable about the history and her English was excellent.
Next we were off, 30km out of town, to the site where the bodies of the Romanovs were first disposed off, down a mine shaft. The place is now a monastery and ladies need to wear a long skirt to cover their legs if they are wearing trousers so they don’t put the monks off their deliberations, although it is o.k. for knee high skirts and bare legs to be on show. The buildings are all really new and have been treated with paint to stop wood decay so it does look quite theme park like which is strange.
There are plenty of pilgrims and Russian tourists there. We also saw an icon owned by Nikolas II and a relic of Mary Magdelene, apparently. There was also a museum showing relaxed family photos of the Romanovs and some photo’s with the rest of the royal families from around Europe as they were all related.
We were then driven to the final resting place of the bodies, according to scientists who have done DNA tests.
The execution of the Romanovs is seen as the crime of the 20th century in Russia, Lenin supposedly signed the document to execute them in revenge for his brother, who was killed by the Tsar as a terrorist. The whole investigation has been a struggle between Soviets, the church, scientists and modern politicians to find out exactly what happened, but with no one really believing the others due to religious and political differences.
As the traffic was so bad back in town we were dropped at Yeltsin Institute on the recommendation of our guide. It is a brand new building that has a very, unsurprisingly, biased view on Yeltsin’s career. The building itself is very futuristic with massive open space for conferences and exhibitions, an art gallery and a museum to the Great Man himself. We accidently got a ticket to gallery AND museum but were glad we had in the end.
The art gallery was full of black and white photos from late 1970’s and early 1980’s on everyday life in Russia at that time. You could easily think they were taken about 50 years earlier, they were of schools, industry, orthopedics hospital. It was a truly fascinating insight into Russia that we had looked for in other museums but not got. Another part of the museum photography was about the 1991 Military Coup with photos from around Russian cities of the protests and also newsreels of the events. It was an excellent exhibition especially considering it took place less than 20 years ago and you can see the effects of it throughout Russia today, it was really moving and real.
Onto the Yeltsin Museum, which is unashamedly biased but hey, if you can’t blow your own trumpet in your own museum where the hell can you???
It was set out as 7 days which shook the world, in reality it was about 10 years that reshaped Russia but quite a bit was in English, not all, but extremely interesting and moving (again!).
Suitably educated we wandered back into town alongside the edge of the City Pond (I kid you not!!!!) past Hari Khrishnas to a restaurant called Horseshoe recommended by our guide. It wasn’t the best experience ever. Although they had an English menu no one spoke English, although that means they will speak to you in Russian and they think that you will somehow understand what is being said.
We were told about this trait in St Petersburg in that Russians just don’t understand why you would go to a country if you don’t understand the language, so will speak to you in Russian regardless of you understanding them.
Anyhow, this is our excuse as to how we ended up with double set of shots and 2 other random shots we weren’t expecting. The food was O.k. although we did avoid the bollocks sauce on the menu.
Next stop Barrel Bar next door, yep you guessed it, another craft ale bar in deepest Russia!!! Again not much English spoken but with the aid of Google translate we kept the bar staff entertained for the duration of dreadful beers. Again, another example of really friendly Russians.
Last bar on our way to the supermarket was a German bar, complete with scantily dressed buxom whenches. Guy wanted to stay longer than me! We left after one.
We weren’t expecting much from Yekaterinburg but we have loved it, it is small enough to get around, friendly people, excellent (mostly) food and fascinating history. The only annoying thing is all the speakers outside the shops demanding (we assume) you to buy more stuff.