Tag Archives: Yekaterinburg

Yekaterinburg, Russia

Yekaterinburg is the fifth largest city in Russia, the third largest in Siberia, and sits on the Europe-Asia border. But it is perhaps most famous as the place where the last Russian Tsar was murdered at the start of the Soviet Revolution in 1917-18.

20130604-230902.jpgYekaterinburg train station

The story of the Romanov’s transportation to Yekaterinburg via Tobolsk, their murder in the basement of the rich merchant’s house they were held in, the disposal of the bodies and their subsequent exhumation, canonisation, and state-funeral in St. Petersburg is lengthy and morbidly fascinating.

The merchant’s house was demolished on orders from Boris Yeltsin in 1976, the then mayor of the city, later to become president of the Soviet Federation. The site is now dominated by the shiny Church on the Blood, dedicated to the Tsar martyrs.

20130605-182124.jpgThe Church of All-Saints Resplendent on Russian Land (aka Church on the Blood)

This was the second time in a row we’ve hit the jackpot with our accommodation choice through airbnb.com – Irina and her son Igor picked us up from the train station, showed us around their apartment which we’d booked a double room in, then promptly left – we had the whole place to ourselves!

20130605-182201.jpgIrina’s spotless apartment in Yekaterinburg

The plans for our first day in Yekaterinburg were somewhat thwarted as the local micro-brewery was closed to visitors for refurbishment, and we couldn’t find our second choice which was a fire-station themed restaurant (!). Instead we had pizza, beer and cake at a cafe called Tchaikovsky. Mmmm, cake :o)

Next we made our way to the Romanov Memorial Church on the Blood, via the Ascension Cathedral opposite, and the striking memorial to the Russians lost in the Afghan war.

20130605-182242.jpgAfghan War Memorial in Yekaterinburg. Not your usual depiction of a soldier

20130605-182353.jpgThe Ascension Cathedral

20130605-182621.jpgChurch on the Blood – Downstairs is the memorial and history of Tsar Nicholas II and his family

20130605-182635.jpg.. Upstairs is a working church, which reportedly contains the most expensive icon ever commissioned

The next day we attempted to get into the largest private collection of precious stones, metals and crystals collected from the Ural region, but despite the Mineralogical museum building being open and the signs outside and in saying it was open, the main museum doors were locked. Thwarted again, we started to wonder if we had overbooked our time in Yekaterinburg as the city seemed to be shut.

After picking up a map from the tourist information office, we spotted that the “QWERTY” art installation was on the way back to our apartment, along the river Iset.

20130605-182714.jpgThe QWERTY art installation, or the “ЙЦУКЕН” in Russian, as it’s in Cyrillic as well (It might not be “ЙЦУКЕН” – I just made that up..)

There was some cool graffiti on the way home too..

20130605-182726.jpgGraffiti along the Iset river

That night we decided to get a little more organised, so we made a list of what we wanted to do, planned our days to try the sights we’d missed again, and asked Irina if we could stay a couple of extra nights.

The next morning we walked the length of Yekaterinburg to the train station which took us about 85 minutes! Tickets in hand, we headed back into the centre and took Irina’s suggestion to visit the viewing platform of the city’s tallest skyscraper – the Vysotsky Tower

20130605-182821.jpgYekaterinburg’s City Pond, from the top of the Vysotsky skyscraper

Speaking of tall things, Yekaterinburg has the worlds tallest unfinished structure – a TV Tower that stands at 220m. They got to half of its intended height before construction was abandoned in the 1990s and after a number of trespassing free-climbers died attempting to climb it, it has been fenced off. It’s visible from almost anywhere in the city.

20130605-182837.jpgYekaterinburg’s abandoned TV Tower

The following day we tried the Mineralogical Museum one last time, and.. it was open!

20130605-183458.jpgUrals Mineralogical Museum, worth the perseverance!

The Mineralogical Museum contains raw minerals, crystals and chunks of metals, but also some statues, ornaments and trinkets made from minerals too. We really enjoyed the variety and scale – some of the pieces near the door were really big.

20130607-004715.jpgWe loved the variety of minerals on display – so many different colours and shapes

While researching, I’d read that the world’s oldest idol is on display in Yekaterinburg. The Shigir Idol, dated 7,500 B.C.E was found in the Urals and what remains of it can be seen here, that is, if you know which of the 4 museums with “History” in their title it is in. I couldn’t find any mention less vague than “a history museum”, so we took a stab at the Icon History museum, and I can tell you the Shigir Idol is NOT among its exhibits.

Still, the Icon History museum was nice for a few reasons; it was small but full of really ornately painted religious icons – so ornate they had magnifying glasses dotted around for closer inspection; it was raining outside, and there was what I can only describe as a church in the style of a doll’s house, which the museum staff took great delight in opening up and showing off.

20130606-132837.jpgYekaterinburg Icon History museum

A little tired of walking, we got up early the next day and headed east of the city centre by tram to the nearby Kamennie Palatki (which means ‘stone tents’) and Lake Shartash, where, after some inventive sign-language that included me saying “ding-ding” and miming the bell on handlebars, we successfully hired a couple of mountain bikes and cycled it’s 12.5km circumference.

The Kamennie Palatki were formed by volcanic eruption, and afford a lovely view over the park with bits of the city visible over the tops of the trees

20130606-142438.jpgView north of the park from the easily climbable Kamennie Palatki

There isn’t a clearly marked cycle-way, but starting at the water’s edge we just kept the lake in sight as we made our way on the various pathways, access roads and muddy tracks. We were surprised at how many lone fishermen lined the shore, most with a rod and net, but some with multiple lines and hideaways, and even one or two in waders!

20130607-005140.jpgLake Shartash, lots of fishermen, and stopped for lunch

That night, two German guys arrived to share the apartment with us. Marcus and Michael found they shared a love of train travel, and had just 3 and half weeks of holiday to get from Moscow to Beijing. The next day, Irina had arranged to take the four of us to see a couple of the famous sights.

First, she drove us to the official Europe-Asia border monument

20130606-150502.jpgJulie, Irina, Michael, Marcus and I straddling the west-east divide

Irina translated the plaques on the monument – it contains stone quarried from each continent, and the European side is from Italy. There’s also a ceremonial area at the site where couples come to get married.

From there we went to Ganina Yama which used to be an abandoned mine, and is the site where the bodies of the murdered Tsar Nicholas II and his family were taken to be disposed of in 1918. Today the site resembles an outdoor museum of churches – there are beautiful churches, shrines and statues every few paces located in a secluded, fenced off area of woodland.

The highlight for me was the covered walkway around the series of pits where the bodies were found. We were fortunate that it wasn’t busy, so we had time and tranquility to reflect.

20130606-152138.jpgCovered walkway at Ganina Yama, site of the Romanov’s disposal

20130607-005337.jpgSpires, Julie and Michael in contemplation, statue of the Romanov children who were also murdered, my favourite of the churches as it has lots of outdoor staircases and balconies

Irina dropped the 4 of us in the centre on her way to work, and it was our turn to be tour-guides for our new found German friends as we showed them the sights. We had a great time chatting with Marcus and Michael – Marcus in particular has a very witty sense of humour :o) – and it was a perfect end to our time in Yekaterinburg.

Russian Haircut

Sounds scary doesn’t it? Maybe something like a Glaswegian Kiss? Well, thankfully it wasn’t that bad, but we were both a little nervous beforehand…


Andrew was first. By the time we got to Petrozavodsk (where we spent 3 days between St Petersburg and Moscow), we’d been on the road for nearly six weeks and his hair was getting pretty long. We looked up the word for barber/hairdresser (parikmakerskaya) and soon spotted a sign in the centre of town. We went into the row of shops and walked to the end, getting funny looks all the way. At the end we asked the woman in the last shop ‘parikmakerskaya?’ and with a certain amount of sign language she told us that it was shut and then enterprisingly tried to sell us some socks! Next we tried the modern looking shopping centre where we found a fancier looking salon, when we asked the price we were told 700 roubles (about £15) Too much for 10 minutes with the clippers we thought.

So, defeated, we returned to our hotel. But on the bus on the way back we noticed a few more parikmakerskaya signs and with hope that there might be a local option, we asked the lady on our hotel reception. Yes, there was a barber just 100m away. Great, we had time the following day before our train. Our ‘mini hotel’ was on the ground floor of a fairly new apartment block along with a supermarket and several other businesses, one of which was a barber as it turned out. Unfortunately, this one was closed as well. The area around was very residential, consisting mostly of quite deprived looking apartment blocks, and as we walked through to the bus stop, we spotted a sign over a corrugated iron porch and decided to investigate. Despite the less than salubrious exterior, the shop inside was nice enough and the girl who greeted us was friendly. Andrew mimed clippers and asked her how much – 100 roubles (~£2) was the answer – much better!

She then tried to ask what size guard he wanted on the clippers, but we couldn’t manage to communicate to her and eventually she gave up, put on the largest guard that she had, shaved a small patch, and then went down through the guard sizes until Andrew was happy with the length…

20130604-233431.jpgAndrew under the clippers

20130604-233445.jpgAnd afterwards outside the entrance


I’ve been going to the same hairdresser, Vicky at Fine Cuts in Dunston, for about 7 years and was very worried about going somewhere else. I’ve found that it usually takes hairdressers a few appointments to get used to my curly hair. But after 10 weeks my hair was really starting to frizz, and I was even more worried about getting my hair cut in Asia where it is likely that the hairdresser will never have cut curls before, so I decided to bite the bullet…

I’d spotted ‘Salon Okay’ around the corner from our apartment in Yekaterinburg. It started well, the price was comparable to what I paid at home (~£13), we had a bit of a conversation about (I think!) whether my curls were natural and what product I used on them – fortunately, I’d read ‘muss’ from the bottle. She washed my hair, clipped up the sides, and started at the back, indicating the amount to take off, just like Vicky does. She cut away, and when she reached the front, she parted my hair, and indicated a much shorter cut than I usually have. I shook my head and made the parting with the hair to the sides as usual, to which she wrinkled her nose and shook her head. So, unable to communicate in more detail and not wishing to have an argument in a language I don’t speak, I shrugged and nodded. She seemed to take this as agreement for a complete restyle, and started chopping chunks away from all over… By the time she got out the hairdryer I was nearly having a panic attack. Using the hairdryer and a brush, she tried to style my new “fringe”, but it just frizzed up. My hair always needs a wash after it has been cut to put the curls back properly, but by the time she had finished I was desperate to get back to the apartment and have a shower so that I could check the damage. As we left, Andrew said that he really liked it, and it was nice to see me with a new hairstyle, but I wasn’t reassured.

20130604-230845.jpgThat’s a lot of hair coming off…

20130604-230857.jpgAfter the hairdryer and brush treatment… I’m only smiling because we’re still in the salon!

20130604-234653.jpgWell, it’s not so bad after a wash. Much shorter than I would normally have agreed to, but I think I can live with it.