Next stop Yekaterinburg
05/08/2013 - 07/08/2013
View The Adventure Begins on Nicola_C's travel map.
Today was our second day in Moscow and we headed out on another tour. This time we were visiting the Kremlin grounds and cathedrals and the Armoury Museum and Tsar treasures. We began with another trip on the Moscow Underground. Easy enough with the guide, but especially busy at this time of day. It wasn’t long before we were heading into the Kremlin. It’s one of those places that is so iconic but I never thought I would actually be able to visit. We had a guided tour along the set route that visitors are allowed to travel. They blow a whistle at you if you step off the route at all. The tour finished with the Tsar’s impressive treasures, including a range of carriages, jewellery, and the famous Faberge eggs, and the armoury which the boys had been particularly looking forward to.
Later that day we were catching our next train, from Moscow to Yekaterinburg. This time I was sharing a compartment with our new travel buddies, Emer and Gertrud. It was an opportunity to spend a bit more time with them and get to know them a bit better. They are both a little older than myself and have such fascinating stories to tell. We also had a lovely Russian lady in our compartment called Deena. Although there was a language barrier as she spoke very little English, we all got along really well and she was a pleasure to share with. She even bought us each a little souvenir on the train, mine was a Russian fridge magnet with three Russian dolls, which she said were the three of us.
Myself, Steve, Chopper and Kipp spent the evening in the restaurant carriage with Valera, a young Russian guy who was sharing their apartment. Kipp joined our tour after we finished in Moscow and will be travelling on the same tour the remainder of the journey to Beijing. He also speaks very Russian so is becoming an invaluable help as a translator. Valera spoke little English but was able to understand enough to play cards with us and have some conversation. He seemed like a very nice guy, but we were still surprised when he paid our bar tab and brought more drinks for us to take back to the compartment when the restaurant carriage closed. He even bought me a bottle of Russian champagne! He was married and had a daughter but he gave me his telephone number anyway and told me to call him if I visit Moscow again in the future; Kipp assured me he was serious but I don’t think I’ll be taking up his offer. After Kipp retired to his compartment it led to some slightly awkward conversations between the four of us. Still it was a fun night, and a great continuation of our train journey.
We arrived at the hotel and checked in before Steve led us on a mission to find a brew pub he had wanted to visit. I don’t drink beer at all but I decided to go along. We jumped in a taxi no problem and the driver took us straight to the place. The place that was apparently closed. Steve was very disappointed as he was looking for his first really good beer since starting the trip. Instead we headed to a nice looking hotel for dinner and a quiet drink. Me and Steve managed to nab the comfy sofa so it wasn’t all bad.
The following day…
Yekaterinburg lies where the Ural Mountains form a natural border between Europe and Asia. There is a monument at the border, where you can complete various fun and impressive feats such as straddling the border, jumping from one continent into the other, throwing things from one continent to another, wear green and jump across the border like a frog while making ribbit sounds (you know you want to!) and many more. There’s not a great deal to see really (hence our imaginative ideas above) but it was a fun excursion.
Yekaterinburg also became the place of imprisonment and tragic events in the life of the last Russian Tsar, Romanov Nicholas II and his family. Following our trip to the border we headed to the memorial churches which have been constructed on the site where the bodies of the family were taken. During the drive, our guide told us about the tragic events which unfolded in 1918. After the February Revolution, the former Tsar and his family were taken captive and held as prisoners during the Russian Civil War. Tsar Nicholas and his family were at first kept at the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoe Selo outside St. Petersburg. Alexander Kerensky, leader of the provisional government feared for their safety and moved them to the former Governor's mansion in Tobolsk. Later they were transferred to the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg. With the advance of the White Russian forces towards Yekaterinburg, and fears of a potential attempt to liberate them grew, the local Bolshevik leaders after consulting with the Kremlin in Moscow decided to execute the former imperial family. In the early hours of 17 July 1918, the former imperial family, Tsar Nicholas Alexandrovich, Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna, Grand Duchess Olga, Grand Duchess Tatiana, Grand Duchess Maria, Grand Duchess Anastasia and Tsarevich Alexei were taken to the cellar of the Ipatiev House and murdered. Hearing the guide telling us the details of this tragic story was very moving. In a turnaround of popular opinion the former Tsar and his immediate family were controversially recognised as saints in 1981. After visiting the memorial churches we took an excursion to the Church on the Blood, which was built at the site where the family were executed.
The Church on Blood in Honour of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land is a Russian Orthodox Church built on the site of the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg, where Nicholas II and his family were shot. The church commemorates the Romanov sainthood and houses a small exhibit giving information and photographs of family. It is a beautiful church and its history makes the visit all the more memorable.
There was no city tour of Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth largest city so we made a second trip to the brew pub, but again it was closed. This time we headed just across the road to a place called ‘Wine and Chocolate’. Why did we not just go here in the first place?! We ordered a bottle of wine and a few chocolates each and had an enjoyable afternoon. They even brought us a cute little cheese platter to share. Much better than the brew pub in my opinion and I think we all enjoyed it.