We arrived in Yekaterinburg, our last stop before we reach Moscow, late on Wednesday afternoon. The weather was fine but cool. There was plenty of daylight remaining, so we decided to walk the couple of kilometres to the Novotel, on Engels St. (The Russians have changed some city names, and removed many of the statues of their former communist leaders, but street names continue to carry their names.)
We found our Novotel hotel, and saw some of the city during the walk. And we were pleasantly surprised. Yekaterinburg appears to have more of the attributes of a European city – decent footpaths, street trees, parks and open spaces, long avenue vistas, and a mix of new high rise buildings and older, more gracious reminders of the past. There are trams, and trolley buses, and diesel buses, and the now common array of modern luxury cars and SUVs. Given the chance, the traffic moves at a very fast pace.
We walked across and along the River Iset, which forms a large decorative (currently frozen) lake in the city centre, then we had coffee at a well-known Scottish restaurant.
Yekaterinburg’s main claim to fame these days (apart from it being the home town of the late Russian President Boris Yeltsin) is that it is the city where the Romanovs, the Russian royal family, were shot by the Bolsheviks in 1918. Since the fall of communism in the 1990s, the former royals have been ‘rehabilitated’, along with the revival of the Orthodox religion. We visited the Cathedral on the Blood, built on the site of the house where the Romanovs died. Their remains have been interred in Saint Petersburg, but this Cathedral is a memorial to the family, who have also achieved the equivalent of sainthood in the Orthodox religion.
The Cathedral is large and impressive, with its golden domes visible from many places in the city. As seems to be usual in Orthodox churches, the public can gain access to only a small part of the building, with much of the space being behind closed doors. Photography was not forbidden, so I managed a couple of pictures which show the richness of the decoration and ornamentation. There was also a constant stream of people coming in to light candles, kiss the icon images, cross themselves and genuflect repeatedly. Not just the old, but young people too.
There was also a series of gift shops selling all manner of cheap and very expensive souvenir junk. We were not tempted.
We continued our walking in the afternoon discovering more of the city, as the photos below show.
My deciphering of the Russian written characters is continuing to improve, but I doubt I will become proficient at it. I asked in one shop yesterday if anyone there spoke English. Rather than the usual ‘Nyet’ response, this time the girl said ‘No’. Welcome to modern Russia!!