Yekaterinburg: Where dark history is good for tourism

For those of you who are not in the know, Yekaterinburg is in the limelight for being the location where the Ural Soviet killed Nicholas II, his family and four of his servants. Disney even had a movie called Anastasia, which is based on the tragedy. It was also one of the reasons why this place is chosen as my pit stop for I wanted to visit the Church on the Blood. An uncanny name for a horrific tragedy I suppose.

I only had 3 full days in Yekaterinburg, so I tried my best to make a full use of it. The weather was always gloomy while I was there. No sight of sun in the morning and the warm bed always look inviting. Alas life goes on for its people. Every morning, I wake up and ask myself: What would Spongebob do? The downside of travelling in winter is definitely the shorter daylight but there is a magnificent beauty in winter. Summer is nice but at times it’d feel just like back home plus the peak season rates. For someone who wants to stretch my budget, this is definitely the way to go. And with no snow in Malaysia, it is enough reason for me to travel in winter.

By the time I reached Yekaterinburg, my body was already used to the negatives Celsius. On my first night there, it was 0 C and my body kept telling myself that it was a tad warm. So I ended up wearing just a fleece jacket to the supermarket. High heels crossed my mind at this point but I love my back more than blending in with the locals. I suppose it was a wise decision to start from Beijing so that my body would gradually get used to the cold weather.

First day was spent at the cool Tea Bar in the hostel and made some new friends of course. Olesia and Dmitri own the Tea Bar, with a wide selection of teas from Asia. They have a wide knowledge on tea and I learnt lots of things during my visit. Their tea selection is not the only reasons to visit but of course the great conversation while having tea. In the land of vodka, this is something really refreshing!

Later in the evening I paid a visit to Yekaterinburg’s Opera House for the Four Acts Opera entitled The Tsar’s Bride with my hostel’s roommate. We got the front row seat for 1,000 rubles. It’d be enough for 2-3 days meal in Russia as a not-yet-frugal backpacker but the experience would be priceless. I’ll stick to bananas and porridge the whole way through then. The Opera and Ballet Theatre is very well maintained and there are a few articles, which had been used in the theatre productions being displayed all over. It was quite a full house for the night. Since it was a Four Acts Opera, there were several intermissions in between. My hostel’s roommate and I been guessing on the storyline since we both don’t speak Russian. In the end, the storyline wasn’t matter but the experience is the only thing that counts.

Museum is always my favourite place and I could spend hours just marveling at the artifacts displayed. Yekaterinburg has 30 museums so it was hard to decide on which museums to visit. So off I went to Yekaterinburg’s Museum of Fine Arts since it is in my hostel’s neighbourhood and for its great collection of Kasli mouldings (traditional cast-iron sculpture in the Ural), Russian paintings and Ural jewelries. I paid 150 rubles for entrance fee and additional 50 rubles for my camera. I spent around three hours here and went into every hall. Unfortunately, most of the descriptions are in Russians. Hopefully, they would come into their senses before the town is due to host the World Cup in 2018. I do hope that the Mayor will wake up one morning and ask himself: What would Spongebob do?

Emercom building is listed as the highest in Yekaterinburg and it has a viewing deck. It is a 54-story building and of course it makes any Yekaterinburg native proud with its existence. It’s no PETRONAS Twin Towers but the view from up there really was stunning. A new friend met at the Tea Bar took me to the viewing deck and we spent a good one-hour just viewing the city from different angles and chatting away. The wind was really strong and snowy a bit but I believe Spongebob would just march on and brave through it for the price of several pictures!

The trip to Yekaterinburg won’t be complete without visiting the Church of Blood. I stopped at the Museum of Photography on my way there. The man in the cloakroom asked whether I am a Vietnamese for he had meet with one before and she looks a bit like me. I politely said no and explained using my Google translate that Vietnam and Malaysia is in the same region, so it is ok to make a rookie mistake by thinking that I am from Vietnam. Metenkov House Museum of Photography is the place where you can see the pinhole cameras and pictures of the Olden Russia. Worth my 150 rubles is all I can say. One of the crucial observations that I made from my visits to the museums is that all the employees look as old as the artifacts. The woman in the photography museum kind of freaked me out a bit for she just stood still and I thought that she was part of the exhibition!

When I reached the Church of the Blood there was a shooting in progress. So I just walked around for some pictures. Luckily, I already went in the night before and had the chance to look at some of the things displayed in the Exhibition Hall. Some of the artifacts include the bayonet used to kill the Romanov’s family. I left with such a heavy heart after seeing all the items displayed. People could just go bananas over power and money for it is always a deadly combination.

I concluded my trip in Yekaterinburg by visiting the City Pond and enjoyed some moments with ducks and birds. The other half of the pond was already frozen that time. In the evening, there are lots of people stop by to feed the ducks. It felt a bit like the St James’s Park in London, minus the big trees and squirrels of course! All in all, Yekaterinburg is a very pleasant town with lots of cool peeps living there. It is good to learn that the younger generations are now trying their best to build Russia based on their mold. All the best for 2018 World Cup, Yekaterinburg!