Yekaterinburg (Ekaterinburg) in 3 days

Aaron/ February 3, 2016/ Russia, Singapore to Europe Overland/ 3 comments

I made a stop midway of my Trans-Siberian adventure at Yekaterinburg, a vibrant yet unassuming city with a colourful past (probably a little dark).  It was 3 days well spent immersing in the confluence of influences at the city straddling Asia and Europe.

Yekaterinburg (alternatively, Ekaterinburg), city of contrasts/ contradictions, where Asia meets Europe, classical meets modern architecture, communist symbols meet capitalist ones, and industrial icons meeting historical ones. With a vibrant mix of cultures, architectural styles and industries, the city may seem enigmatic to the curious onlooker, who upon deeper venturing may accidentally be stuck spellbound. Formerly Sverdlovsk (during the Soviet-era), it is probably most well known as where Tsar Nicholas II and his family were executed during the Russian Civil War. Today, it is the fourth most populous city in Russia.

 

Church on the Blood, Yekaterinburg.

Church on the Blood, Yekaterinburg.

I began where I left off, from the capital of Siberia, Irkutsk, to the capital of the Urals, Yekaterinburg. I arrived in Yekaterinburg late on a Friday night, after my first ever experience in a third class sleeper. Energised and excited upon reaching my second Russian city, I proceeded to the metro to head to the hostel.

 

Uralskaya metro/ subway station. Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Uralskaya metro station for my first metro ride in Russia. Russian metros, though a little dated, are clean, efficient, and beautifully decorated.

Hostels appear to be a little less common here in the middle of Russia, as compared to larger cities such as St Petersburg or Moscow. The ‘hostel’ i stayed in was a converted apartment in some private housing area. Nevertheless, it was clean and comfortable, and good for a short stay.

 

Day 1: Walking tour around Yekaterinburg/ Ekaterinburg city center

On the train to Yekaterinburg, I met a friendly local who happened to be from this city, and he offered to show me around for the day. Couldn’t have been more thankful for the offer, and it was an awesome day exploring the city on foot, while getting to know each other’s cultures and countries better.

As I made my way to the place we agreed to meet, a couple of sights caught my eye. At a pedestrian street near where I stayed, people had erected a sort of memorial to Michael Jackson, which included many large posters and a life size statue of him. On hindsight (after visiting 4 cities in Russia), interest in western pop culture is quite evident in Russia, and it is not some isolated country cut off from the rest of the world that western media paints it to be.

Monument to Michael Jackson at Vaynera Street. Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Monument to Michael Jackson.

 

Vaynera Street. Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Vaynera Street. Pedestrian street with international brands and interesting art pieces.

 

Vaynera Street. Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Street art.

 

Iset River Dam, in the heart of the city.Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Iset River Dam, in the heart of the city.

 

Ploshchad Truda. Yekaterinburg, Russia,

Friends I met on the train. Amazing people I’m really glad to have met, one a Russian, the other, Australian.

 

Our first stop was at a popular fast food chain (in Russian canteen style), Vilka-Lozhka, for lunch. You’d take a tray at the start of the queue and pick items you’d like, and pay at the end.

Vilka-Lozhka. Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Lunch (₽164 rubles) at Vilka-Lozhka. Point and pick the dishes and pay at the end of the line. Similar to the one I had in Irkutsk, where I was never sure what I was ordering.

 

It was satisfying, first proper meal in half a week (I had mostly noodles and bread on the train and the previous night). With lunch done, we headed off to discover the interesting sights in the city, such as the buildings below, skyscrapers from distinctively different eras standing side by side. Ok, not exactly side by side, but almost.

Skyscrapers in Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Skyscrapers from different eras.

 

The Iset river runs through the heart of the city, and the landscaped banks of the river make them ideal for picnics or, more commonly spotted, wedding shots.

Along the Iset River. Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Along the Iset River.

 

The Soviet Union produced a couple of distinctive architectural styles during the decades of their reign. I’m not educated enough to be able to name/ effectively distinguish them, but a few of these styles can be found in Yekaterinburg. Sounds like an ideal place to study the evolution of such styles, Given the distance from Europe, buildings here were spared of the heavy bombing experienced further west during the WWII.

Soviet-era architecture. Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Soviet-era architecture.

 

Dinamo Sports Station, Ekaterinburg, Russia.

Dinamo Sports Station, and more wedding shots.

 

Church with many names: Church on the Blood, Church of All Saints, Church on Blood in Honour of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land. The Ipatiev House, where the last Tsar of Russia and his family were executed, once stood on this land. Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Church with many names: Church on the Blood, Church of All Saints, Church on Blood in Honour of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land. The Ipatiev House, where the last Tsar of Russia and his family were executed, once stood on this plot.

 

Church on Blood in Honour of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land. Ekaterinburg, Russia.

Cross in front of the church.

 

More Soviet-era buildings. Yekaterinburg, Russia.

More Soviet-era buildings, of a different style this time. Something interesting about the styles, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

 

Soviet-era architecture. Yekaterinburg, Russia.

And some more.

 

Adventures in Altai.

Had a tea break after that. The guy who brought me around Yekaterinburg was on his was home after a hiking trip in the Altai Mountains. Like, a real hiking/camping trip complete with real maps. Not my carry-a-small-bag-looking-for-a-nice-hostel-in-the-woods kind of hike.

 

Adventures in Altai.

Here’s his planned route. I remember never ever being able to follow the marked out path during navigation exercises in national service.

 

Dvorets Detskogo I Yunosheskogo Tvorchestva. Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Some palace-like place near the church under renovation.

 

Monument to Ural Komsomol. Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Monument to Ural Komsomol.

 

The Church of Ascension. Yekaterinburg, Russia

The Church of Ascension.

 

Park usadby Kharitonovykh-Rastorguevykh. Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Peaceful park behind the Church of Ascension.

 

Park usadby Kharitonovykh-Rastorguevykh. Yekaterinburg, Russia.

With many little birdhouses.

 

Afghanistan War Memorial. Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Afghanistan War Memorial.

 

We covered a few more places along the way, not featured here, and it was getting slightly late in the afternoon by then, so we ended the tour and went for dinner.

Dinner at Vilka-Lozhka. Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Dinner (₽293 rubles) at another Vilka-Lozhka. Accidentally picked ‘little birds’ hearts’ (as explained by my Russian friend after I’ve paid. Can’t say it was the most pleasant tasting thing, but like almost everything else, it was interesting.

 

Prospekt Lenina is the main avenue through the city center, and several prominent landmarks line the avenue.

Monument to Yakov Sverdlov. Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Monument to Yakov Sverdlov. Key figure among the Bolsheviks, after whom Yekaterinburg was renamed (Sverdlovsk) from 1924-1991.

 

Ural State University, along Prospekt Lenina. Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Ural State University, along Prospekt Lenina.

 

And with that my new friend bade farewell and skated away, refusing a picture because it’s the memories that is the most important, according to him. So I continued my tour of Yekaterinburg alone with a walk along Prospekt Lenina to the Iset River, back towards the hostel.

Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Down Prospekt Lenina, through the heart of the city.

 

City Administration Building. Yekaterinburg, Russia.

City Administration Building, similar to the grand Stalinist style architecture found in Moscow.

 

I’ve (almost) always enjoyed both the times with company, and the times I’m alone. Time spent with good company allows for an exchange of ideas, the creation of shared memories and emotions that can only be understood by the company you’re with. Time spent alone, on the other hand, allows for reflection, introspection, and a deeper searching within oneself, the meaning of everything, if there were a meaning at all.

Sunset along the Iset River. Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Sunset along the Iset River.

 

As the Iset River flows through Yekaterinburg, it meets a dam at Prospekt Lenina, which withers it down to a little stream on its journey down south.

 

Iset River, after the dam. Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Iset River, after the dam.

 

Buildings along the Iset River. Ekaterinburg, Russia.

Buildings along the Iset River.

 

 

Iset riverside. Ekaterinburg, Russia.

Iset riverside.

 

QWERTY monument. Yekaterinburg, Russia.

QWERTY monument. One of the quirkier sights in the city, a giant keyboard. Wikipedia has an interesting description of it.

 

Iset riverside. Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Iset riverside. Some hipster area.

 

The incomplete Yekaterinburg TV Tower on the left, and the Yekaterinburg Circus on the right. Yekaterinburg, Russia.

The incomplete Yekaterinburg TV Tower on the left, and the Yekaterinburg Circus on the right. The tower, intended to reach over 400m, stands at 220m. After fatal (and illegal) base jumping incidents, the site has been sealed off.

 

Trams in Yekaterinburg. Russia.

Trams in Yekaterinburg.

 

Yekaterinburg FIFA World Cup 2018.

Guess I visited a little too early.

 

Uralskiy Gosudarstvennyy Gornyy Universitet (UGGU). Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Around the neighbourhood, the Ural State Mining University.

 

Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Catch the wave.

 

Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Housing estates.

 

Huge wall painting in Ekaterinburg, Russia.

The past, the present, and the future.

 

While it was still bright, it was getting late by then, and I was getting a little worn from the days on the train and the full day of walking, so I decided to call it a day. After all, there was to be a long day ahead tomorrow.

 

Day 2: Europe Asia Border Monument and the Ganina Yama

Spent the day visiting attractions that were a little out of town (though in different directions), the Europe-Asia Border Monument and the Ganina Yama.

 

The day didn’t start off too well. I did manage to find the right bus to take and managed to get tickets (not a small feat in Russia), but that did not stop me from ending up in the wrong place. I thought I had successfully told the bus driver to drop me off along the highway near Europe-Asia Monument (bus 150 from the bus station beside the railway station, ₽84 rubles), but apparently not, as he went all the way till the terminal stop at Pervouralsk, some industrial looking area. I had to walk back probably around 5km to get to the monument. It wasn’t that bad in the end though, as it was an interesting walk, passing by places such as this huge complex complete with railway tracks running through, some rural villages and a short stretch through a forest. I was really fortunate to have gotten a data plan, to be able to find my way out, as the area was too rural to be included in offline map apps.

Pervouralsk, Russia.

At Pervouralsk.

 

 

Pervouralsk, Russia.

Passed some villages.

 

Pervouralsk, Russia.

And some forests.

 

Before finally arriving at the monument. Honestly, nothing too impressive about it, but pretty symbolic. There’s some history behind this spot too. A newer monument was erected closer to Yekaterinburg city for the convenience of travelers.

Europe-Asia Border Monument. Ekaterinburg, Russia.

Finally found it.

 

There’s also a marker along the highway, after cutting through the woods.

Europe-Asia Border Monument. Ekaterinburg, Russia.

Cut through the woods and got the the highway. This is the marker along the highway, complete with red line on the ground to demarcate where Asia ends and Europe begins.

 

Having been convinced that Russia lies in both Asia and Europe, I crossed to the opposite side of the highway to flag a bus back to Yekaterinburg city, After frantically flagging at countless buses that didn’t want to stop for a lunatic in the middle of the highway, I finally got on one and got back the Yekaterinburg (₽80 rubles).

TVTs "Evropeyskiy". Ekaterinburg, Russia.

Back in the city. Here’s another interesting looking building near the bus station.

 

The grand railway station is a short walk from the bus station. Dropped by for lunch at the dependable Vilka-Lozhka. I probably wouldn’t survive anywhere else for food, without being able to just randomly point at dishes.

Ekaterinburg Railway Station. Russia.

Yekaterinburg railway station.

 

Vilka-Lozhka. Ekaterinburg, Russia.

That’s how it’s spelled in Russian/ Cyrillic.

 

Vilka-Lozhka. Ekaterinburg, Russia.

Lunch. (₽136 rubles) Not too sure what as usual.

 

Monument in front of the railway station. Ekaterinburg, Russia.

Monument in front of the railway station. The Soviets seem fond of huge and grand monuments.

 

Ekaterinburg Railway Station. Russia.

Crest on the facade of the railway station. That’s ‘Europe’ on the left. ‘Asia’ on the right, ‘Yekaterinburg’ in the middle, and the monument above it.

 

I did a little subway/ metro tour before making my way to Ganina Yama in the afternoon, stopping at a couple of interesting looking stations. The layout/ design of many of them reflected Yekaterinburg’s role as an industrial city.

Uralmash metro station. Ekaterinburg, Russia.

Uralmash, near a famous heavy machinery production facility.

 

Mashinostroiteley metro station. Ekaterinburg, Russia.

Mashinostroiteley.

 

Mashinostroiteley metro station. Ekaterinburg, Russia.

Mashinostroiteley.

 

I got off the subway for the bus to Ganina Yama. Buses are a little trickier than trains in Russia, as I was to learn later that day, in the second bus related confusion of the day. The bus (₽41 rubles) was supposed to get me all the way to Ganina Yama but it stopped abruptly in the middle of nowhere and I was told that I needed to get off. A kind old lady directed me to a stop nearby to hop on another bus that eventually got me there, but I’m still not too sure what had happened. Trusting strangers work sometimes. Especially when you don’t have much of a choice.

On the way to Ganina Yama. Ekaterinburg, Russia.

The bus to Ganina Yama.

 

After hanging in uncertainty for an hour or so, I arrived at the Ganina Yama, a former mine where the bodies of the last Tsar of Russia and his family were allegedly dumped after their execution at the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg in 1918. Now a beautiful monastery dedicated to the royal family. There was a solemn mood at the monastery. It was after an afternoon shower, with the smell of nature filling the air.

Ganina Yama. Ekaterinburg, Russia.

Ganina Yama.

 

Ganina Yama. Ekaterinburg, Russia.

Ganina Yama. Ekaterinburg, Russia.

 

Ganina Yama. Ekaterinburg, Russia.

The mine pit where the bodies where allegedly dumped.

 

Ganina Yama. Ekaterinburg, Russia.

Ganina Yama. Ekaterinburg, Russia.

 

Tsar Nicholas II bust at Ganina Yama. Ekaterinburg, Russia.

Tsar Nicholas II.

 

Tsarina Alexandra bust at Ganina Yama. Ekaterinburg, Russia.

Tsarina Alexandra.

 

Something in the atmosphere which made the place feel special. Nothing too exciting, but glad I made the trip. The next bus out from the monastery back to the city was rather late, and not wanting to spend a couple of hours in some deserted place not knowing if the bus will eventually come, I decided to try to find the nearby railway station (that wasn’t exactly near).

From Ganina Yama to the nearest railway station, Shuvakish. Russia.

From Ganina Yama to the Shuvakish railway station. Was getting a little dark by then.

 

From Ganina Yama to the nearest railway station, Shuvakish. Russia.

Passed some forests and isolated roads, as I did in the morning.

 

From Ganina Yama to the nearest railway station, Shuvakish. Russia.

Through some isolated tunnels.

 

From Ganina Yama to the nearest railway station, Shuvakish. Russia.

Relieved to finally see the railway lines.

 

From Ganina Yama to the nearest railway station, Shuvakish. Russia.

Limited view of the Urals from the overhead bridge crossing the tracks.

 

And at the Shuvakish railway station. First part of the problem, getting to the station, down. Next, getting the right tickets and finding the right train. There were some people waiting for the train too so I attempted to ask them how to get tickets. They were helpful but I didn’t quite get them. I think I understood that the train would be coming soon and that I should just get on.

Shuvakish Railway Station. Russia.

Railway station in rural Russia.

 

Houses beside Shuvakish railway station.

Houses beside the railway station.

 

The train arrived not long after, and it was a short ride back to Yekaterinburg city. No one came to ask for tickets all the way and I got off in the end, feeling a little confused but glad to be back in the city.

Train from Ganina Yama to Ekaterinburg. Russia.

Train to Yekaterinburg from Shuvakish railway station.

 

Back in the city, dinner at where else, but Vilka-Lozhka.

Dinner at Vilka-Lozhka. Ekaterinburg, Russia.

Dinner at Vilka-Lozhka at the railway station (₽211 rubles). So many different dishes to pick from, I’m not sure if I was halfway through their selection even after so many visits.

 

Had a little more energy after dinner, so I decided to check out a couple more subway / metro stations before calling it a day.

Dinamo metro station. Ekaterinburg, Russia.

Dinamo metro station, with the sculpture reflecting the nearby sports center.

 

Dinamo railway station. Ekaterinburg, Russia.

Dinamo.

 

Chkalovskaya metro station. Ekaterinburg, Russia.

Chkalovskaya metro station.

 

Botanicheskaya metro station. Ekaterinburg, Russia.

Botanicheskaya metro station.. The honeycomb design something to do with the botanical gardens nearby.

 

With that, completed my Ekaterinburg metro/ subway tour. Interesting places to visit, but they could barely compare to the splendour of the metro systems in St Petersburg and Moscow, which kept me in constant awe.

Day 3: Visotsky Business Center and random musings

Spent my last day in Yekaterinburg mailing postcards, getting a haircut, and explored the streets a little deeper. I started the day early and caught some landmarks along Prospekt Lenina.

The beautiful Sevastyanov’s House along Prospekt Lenina, beside the Isset river dam. Yekaterinburg/ Sverdlovsk, Russia

The beautiful Sevastyanov’s House along Prospekt Lenina, beside the Isset river dam.

 

Monument to Alexander Stepanovich Popov, inventor of radio. Ekaterinburg/ Sverdlovsk, Russia

Monument to Alexander Stepanovich Popov, inventor of radio.

 

I was planning to visit the lookout on the roof of the Visotsky Business Center upon recommendation from the friendly Yekaterinburg guy who showed me around on the first day, but it wasn’t open till a couple of hours later so I spent more time exploring the streets.

Visotsky Business Center. Yekaterinburg/ Sverdlovsk, Russia.

Visotsky Business Center.

 

More Soviet-era buildings (I think). Ekaterinburg/ Sverdlovsk, Russia.

More Soviet-era buildings (I think).

 

Statue of signaller. Yekaterinburg/ Sverdlovsk, Russia.

“5 more minutes. I’m stuck in traffic.”

 

186m off the ground, at the top of Vysotsky Business Center (₽250 rubles). Tallest Russian building outside of Moscow and northernmost building above 150m worldwide (according to Wikipedia). The TV tower apparently counts as a structure, not a building. Feeling a little high.

Vysotsky Business Center viewing gallery. Ekaterinburg/Sverdlovsk, Russia.

From the Vysotsky Business Center lookout.

 

From the Vysotsky Business Center lookout. Yekaterinburg/ Sverdlovsk, Russia.

Every side shows a difference face of the city.

 

Visotsky Business Center Lookout. Ekaterinburg/ Sverdlovsk, Russia.

Picture perfect panoramas.

 

Visotsky Business Center Lookout. Ekaterinburg/ Sverdlovsk, Russia.

The Iset River flowing through the heart of the city.

 

Visotsky Business Center Lookout. Yekaterinburg/ Sverdlovsk, Russia.

Housing estates.

 

Visotsky Business Center Lookout. Yekaterinburg/ Sverdlovsk, Russia.

Everything looks so small from up there.

 

Back down on the ground. Got a nice big bottle of Kvass (traditional fermented beverage, ₽95 rubles for a litre) for the next train trip.

Kvass at a roadside stall. Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Kvass at a roadside stall.

 

Lunch at Vilka-Lozhka. Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Simple lunch (₽106 rubles).

 

Lenin at the 1905 Square (or Ploshchad 1905 Goda/ Площадь 1905 года). Yekateirnburg, Russia.

Lenin at the 1905 Square (or Ploshchad 1905 Goda/ Площадь 1905 года).

 

Church at Ploshchad Malysheva. Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Church at Ploshchad Malysheva.

 

Yekaterinburg/ Ekaterinburg/ Sverdlovsk, Russia. A step back in time.

Shuttling between the 20th and 21st century in Yekaterinburg.

 

Ploshchad 1905 Goda metro station. Yekaterinburg/ Ekaterinburg/ Sverdlovsk, Russia.

Ploshchad 1905 Goda metro station.

 

I went to look for a haircut in the afternoon, and it turned out to be less straightforward than I thought. First was identifying a hairdresser. Check. Then I realised it was in a gated compound, so I had to tailgate someone in. Check. Finally, getting the hairdresser to understand that I wanted a haircut. By then I just wanted to get my hair cut and couldn’t really care how the hairdresser did it. After intense gesturing, I got a new haircut. Not quite what I envisioned, but got the job done. And ready for the next leg of my adventure.

Last meal at Vilka-Lozhka. Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Last meal at Yekaterinburg (₽269 rubles).

 

I went to the supermarket near the hostel to stock up on more food for the next train ride, another one and a half days to the long anticipated St Petersburg.

Grinvich, ulitsa Vaynera. Yekaterinburg/ Ekaterinburg/ Sverdlovsk, Russia.

Shopping mall near the hostel, along ulitsa Vaynera. Really convenient to get stuff at the 24 hr supermarket, though a little more upmarket.

 

Yekaterinburg metro escalator. Moscow.

Long rides on metro escalators are good times to reflect on life.

 

Into the time warp at the railway station. Trains on Russian railways run on Moscow time, so as I stepped into Yekaterinburg railway station, I took a step 2 hours back in time.

Yekaterinburg railway station. Russia.

Inside Yekaterinburg railway station.

 

On the platform, Ekaterinburg railway station. Russia.

On the platform, Ekaterinburg railway station.

 

All ready for the next part of my Trans-Siberian adventure, a one and a half day ride on a comfortable air-conditioned train (though in third class), before St Petersburg, possibly the most beautiful cities on Earth. And then Moscow, eventually.

Train to St Petersburg. Russia,

All aboard the train to St Petersburg!

 

Yekaterinburg in numbers:

Actual travel dates: 20 June 2015 – 22 June 2015
Accommodation: ₽1500 (3 nights)
Food: ₽1468
Attractions: ₽250 (Vysotsky viewing deck, the rest were free)
Transport (within Yekaterinburg, to the Europe Asia Monument, and the Ganina Yama): ₽297
Total Yekaterinburg expenses: ₽3515 (~S$87/ US$64 at June 2015 rate) 

 

3 days in Yekaterinburg, Russia. 4th largest city in Russia and a host city of the 2018 World Cup.

 

 

3 Comments

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