June 30, 2018
Ah Yekaterinburg. We arrived at 4:45am, and planned to leave at 9pm. Unfortunately, we didn’t find a local Yekaterinburg person show us around. Also, we had nowhere to stay, and the Romanov museum and church was supposed to take about one hour. So how to spend the other 15 hours? The day quickly turned into an exercise in keeping ourselves busy. By any means necessary.
The Yekaterinburg Squad: Avery, Melody, and Marcelo, who we met on the train.
5:30-8am: Quest for coffee.We foolishly thought that Yekaterinburg would have an American-style café, open at 6am, with WiFi. This quest predictably ended in futility and a compromise on cheap coffee in a plastic cup. However, we did eat some delicioushomemade chicken pastries for breakfast. While eating our breakfast, we watched a nearby taco stall, and placed bets on what color taco would be sold next (pink, orange, green). Avery bet pink, and Marcelo and Melody bet green. The next taco was orange, so we all lost.
On the way to coffee, we found these creepy grass-animals playing eerie instruments.
8-9am: People-watching. We wandered back to the main square, and wondered why so many young people were out so early. Some drank beer casually on park benches. We also tried to read Russian signs for theatre productions, thinking maybe we could catch a matinee opera show. We mocked the racist posters of Russians in yellowface. Sigh.
We did not see a show.
9-9:30am: Romanov Church. Stopped by the Church on the Blood, erected on the place where the Romanovs died. There was a beautiful choir!
Church on the Blood. All the Romanovs have been made saints by the Russian Orthodox Church.
9:30-10:00am: Playground. At this point, we realized we would have to make our own fun. So, we found a playground/outdoor gym, and gave ourselves blisters doing the monkey bars. Melody and I flipped on bars and tried to climb to the highest point, while Marcelo did some pull-ups.
Marcelo on the bars, me laughing because the monkey bars hurt my hands a lot.
10:30-11:30am: Park. Yekaterinburg people are super fit! There were countless groups of runners, the women wearing sports bras and shorts with 0% body fat. We camped out near the edge of a river and settled down to sunbathe and waste time. Melody dropped her passport in the water, and laid it out to dry. I put my scarf over my face and fell asleep. When I woke up, head foggy and mouth dry, Melody and Marcelo were discussing the nature of God.
11:30am-12:30pm: Romanov Museum. We put cheap cloth slippers over our sneakers and went to the Romanov Museum, which was really more of a collection of items related to the Romanovs. As we looked through old hairpins and portraits, we discussed how morbid it is that an entire city’s claim to fame is the murder of a young family. But here we were, tourists, looking at Romanov relics…
A photo of Alexei, heir to the throne, with his favorite dog.
12:30-2:30pm: Hunt for food. We tried to decide between sushi and burgers for lunch; Marcelo pointed that as a landlocked city, Yekaterinburg was probably the last place on earthwe should eat sushi. We cheered up considerably after eating. Then we went to the grocery store, desperate for some vegetables.
2:30-3:30pm: Russian movie, no subtitles. Brought our raw cucumbers into the theatre to watch a Russian movie and snacked on them as we tried to understand the plot. The cucumbers were cooling, but bitter and made my mouth numb. I fell asleep again in the air-conditioned theatre. Melody told me the prince and the rogue found love eventually.
3:30-5pm: Street performers. The night before had been the Ural Music Festival, and there were still some other random street performances, including an African dance group from South Africa. An interesting example of globalization—odd to be in the middle of Russia watching a dance group from Africa. We wandered around, watching Yekaterinburg families and their children. One boy was lost, and we followed him until a woman took him to a missing child police tent.
5-5:30pm: Shower. We paid to shower at Marcelo’s hostel, but then found we overstayed our welcome, so we said goodbye and walked back to the train station.
Melody and I feeling fresh post-shower.
5:30-9pm: ICE SKATERS at the train station. No, there weren’t real-life ice skaters at the station. But after we drank some watered-down Ribena, we had to kill time somehow, so we used the station’s WiFi to watch videos of figure skaters. We are so thankful for Shoma Uno and Yuzuru Hanyu, the most graceful and skilled men we have ever seen. As a sidepiece, we also appreciate the talent of Javier Fernandez. Why is ice skating so beautiful? Why are ice skating men so beautiful? My face hurt from laughing and smiling.
Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma Uno.
Yekaterinburg proved once again that meeting local people is vital for appreciating the city. But without someone to guide us, we just made our own fun. We are rarely stripped of my phone, computer, Internet access, or a place to stay, so it took a new kind of creativity to entertain ourselves. And that’s something I really appreciate about Melody—even in the 30oC heat, she still kept up her spirits, cheerfully suggesting the next thing to do.
Marcelo suggested day drinking to pass the time, but instead we returned to our childhood for 15 hours. I may not have appreciated Yekaterinburg fully, but the experience made me appreciate my friends more. Thanks Mel.