Mon 3 Jun ’13 – day 23 I was up and down all night and had barely four hours sleep, so when the alarm woke me at 05:00 hours I was soon up and ready to go, however I am still very upset with myself for losing the guidebooks and map.
Having checked out I noticed that there was an ATM in the foyer with an English button, so I used my debit card to withdraw some more roubles. My Transfer was waiting and it was a quick ride to the station as there was virtually no traffic on the roads. We went straight up to the platform and as the train started from Perm it was in, but not yet ready for boarding. On the other side of the platform a very long train bound for Moscow arrived and crowds of people got off having probably been away for the weekend.
When the Train Manager arrived he opened the door to my carriage and the Provodnista then cleaned the handrail, something that they do at every stop. After my ticket & passport had been checked the Transfer helped me put my luggage in the compartment and I was quickly squared away and had been allocated the lower forward facing berth this time. I am sharing with a man who speaks pretty good English and a couple; we leave the compartment so that the lady could get changed.
We left on time and the train is five carriages long with no restaurant car and is going to Ishom, which is a city to the west of Irkutsk.
Once the beds were made everyone settled down for a couple of hours sleep after which I watched the world go by; it’s mainly farmland interspersed with the occasional forest, but there are some massive open-cast mines which are quite a blot on the landscape. All the stops are only a minute or two long, so there is no time to get off and stretch your legs. After another snooze it was time to have the camera at the ready as the train passed the obelisk that marks the high point of the Ural Mountains and the transition from Europe into Asia.
The train arrived in Yekaterinburg one minute early. If British trains were as reliable as the Russian ones we would be much better off; excuses that trains are delayed because of snow, leaves on the line or inclement weather are unheard of and if they did happen would be considered a reason to sack people.
The Transfer was waiting right by the carriage door and said “Hallo my dear” as a greeting!! It was a short walk through the very crowded station (it’s a major rail junction), across the even more crowded bus station, and through the underpass on the main road to arrive at the hotel which was about 100 meters from the station in a straight line.
No Russian building I have seen had a disabled access, so it was up the steps, which were crumbling away in places, and into the foyer. The Marins Park Hotel was a Soviet eyesore but is steadily being refurbished and the lobby and dining room were now quite plush; there is even a MacDonald’s in a separate part of the ground floor. The Transfer made sure that I was correctly booked in and the registration completed as President Putin is in town tomorrow for a conference so security will be very tight.
Up in the standard small lift where there was no room to turn around, so I had to back out when the lift reached the correct floor. My room was clean but very old-fashioned and needs gutting and starting again; it was obvious that this floor has not yet had the upgrade treatment.
Having unpacked and got the laundry sorted out I had to go down to reception as housekeeping didn’t speak enough English to understand what I wanted when I phoned them.
Off to find the internet and for a change the post office terminals were working, so I went online and answered my e-mails.
Having finished my updates I then wandered around the city but had to be carefully where I pointed my camera as there were police everywhere, moving incorrectly or illegally parked cars and making sure that the beggars went elsewhere.
A lot different to the normal war memorials that I had seen was one to the Russians who had died in the invasion of Afghanistan. The face of the soldier showed real pain and sorrow and the memorial was not in a place of prominence, but on a patch of land on the edge of a housing estate.
Although the sun was hot, the breeze made it feel cool in the shade. Trolley buses and trams rattle along the streets and along with the buses are mostly driven by women.
As my lower spine was aching because of the weight of the cameras in the rucksack bearing on it, I decided to return to the hotel for a rest. However no sooner than I had laid down then there was a knock on the door and my laundry was returned – a very quick turnaround.
When I went down for dinner the Lonely Planet Russian phrasebook proved to be useless at helping me decipher the menu. I ended up ordering pasta and a beer and it was a decent meal.
I got chatting to an elderly Belgium couple who were going to China and then on to Vietnam.
Bed at 23:00hours.
Tue 4 Jun ’13 – day 24 Having had breakfast I strolled to the far side of the lake which is a very attractive feature of the city having been created by damming the river in order to provide a source of drinking water for the ever increasing population. Paths had been created on either side of the river / water feature so that people could stroll along, or just sit and enjoy the view. There were also some interesting pieces of art.
Boris Yeltsin was the city’s mayor before he went off to Moscow and eventually became the Russian President; after completing his term in office, he return to Yekaterinburg where he eventually died and was buried.
I found a bookshop and looked for a Russian / English dictionary but had no luck. My wandering then took me down to the city’s main shopping area and through the pedestrian precinct and it was while I was here that I had to get inside a building as the pavements and street were being cleared before President Putin drove passed. Luckily I was near an internet café so went inside and spend about an hour sorting out all my future travel arrangements while drinking some of the best coffee that I have had on my trip so far. The cake was pretty good too.
Once I was allowed to leave it was a case of walking where I could in order to get back to the hotel. On the way I did some shopping and brought some water (fizzy unfortunately) coke, apples and two Kit Kats ready for the journey tomorrow.
There is a statue showing the family group by a cross and adjacent to the Church was a small wooden chapel dedicated to the memory the Tsar’s sister-in-law, Grand Princess Yelizaveta Fyodorovna, who, despite being a pious nun, was thrown down a mineshaft, poisoned with gas and buried. She and her faithful maidservant have since been canonised.
The only postcards that I managed to find were in the main post office, but they were all of Sochi and next year’s Winter Olympics; they also had virtually no room on which to write a message.
By the time I reached the hotel I had drunk most of the water I had recently bought as I was feeling dehydrated.
I had dinner in the hotel again; just a small meal as I was not very hungry plus a couple of local beers and then it was time for bed.