Yekaterinburg , founded in 1773, was a city designed to be the link between Asia and Europe and the industrial centre for Russia. It is the third largest city. It’s position was chosen for its geographic position being in the centre of the Ural mountain. These have abundant mineral resources and in fact provided the metal for :the English House of Parliament roof,the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty. A dam was built to provide ready water for the foundries. This was built with Larch wood and now 296 years later is still in place. Larch becomes hard when soaked in water and doesn’t rot…….no termites here!
As a city , Yekaterinburg is quite pretty with parklands within the city and many different and impressive buildings. We were shown some buildings in the constructionism design( where a building represents an machine from an aerial view). It takes a bit of imagination to see what the architect was aiming to show.
There are other odd buildings where one side represents an outgoing personality and the other a reserved personality or buildings that are just ornate for the sake of it. The other peculiarity this city has is that many official buildings are green to reflect the Urals cities connection to nature and the forest.
This connection with nature was reflected when we visited the border between Europe and Asia. It is called the Bridge of Love and is popular for newlyweds to have photos taken. Every Friday a folk story is acted out. A girl from the local town is chosen to be the Mistress of the Copper Mountains. She is dressed in green and is surrounded by dancers who represent stone cutters. She greets everyone with wine and bread that you dip in salt. Legend has it that if she bestowed you with talents ,you would be successful. She was a witch who could also turn into a lizard that left gem stones in the surrounding area. Each guest is given a piece of stone to remind them of her story.
There is a darker side to this city’s history. The last Tsar and his family was brought to the city by the Bolsheviks. When it appeared that the white army may try to rescue them, the family and four companions were marched down to the dungeon and slaughtered. This was not the worst of it. In trying to dispose of the remains, the Bolsheviks dismembered the bodies and poured acid over it. These have now been exhumed and some buried in the Church of the Spilt Blood. The rest are in St Petersburg.There is a display of photographs outlining their life. Apart from this, at the place where the bodies were originally buried, a monastery has been built. A church has been built for each family member. Woman have to wear a skirt because it is a male only monastery. I don’t think any of our trousered legs would have inflamed a monk to great passion. Here the churches are surrounded by gardens and beech woods. There is an air of serenity , peace and a connection with nature. It is no wonder it is a popular place for people to come and pray. For some members of society who struggle with modern life, it is a sanctuary where they can live.
We have visited many different Russian restaurants. A meal in a restaurant consists of a salad, followed by soup. The main course is generally meat or fish served with potatoes or pasta and then fruit or a desert. I think now that food is plentiful, people are enjoying the experience.
Homes here are small. You pay per square metre. In Yekaterinburg,some people were still living in barracks or in the Russian units, known as Stalins Slums, even though these are falling apart. In this climate any house is welcome. Heating is by gas. The pipes run above the ground at just above head height so pipes run in front of every house and are frequently painted yellow.
People as we go have been friendly although not many speak English. As we travel west people appear more dour. There is less smiles when you say thank you or compliment them on something. You wonder if it has been more difficult living closer to big centres like Moscow, queues would have been longer and more officials to check on you and your family. Now Russia is open to foreigners in ten years time, you suspect they may again have achieved the European feelings that once existed before the terror of Stalinism.
War has influenced Russia as much as it has any country that experienced it. They say here that Russia won the Great Patriotic War( World War 2). Each town has an everlasting flame lit from that of the Unknown Soldier monument in Moscow . In Yekaterinburg, they also have the Black Tulip monument. This honours soldiers who have fought in wars and civil unrest campaigns since 1979. It has the name of Black Tulip from the plane that returns soldiers to Russia. The monument is here as many of the munitions were made in the city and the soldiers trained here. Extra photos!