Here is the train that was zipping to Moscow.


Here is my train to Yekaterinberg.


Ksenia settled me on the train with my new cabin buds, a group of middle-aged ladies on their way back from a holiday to Europe, apparently to tour the major war sites. How do I know this despite my limited lingo? Because we sat and went through all of their holiday snaps. Every single one. Some cracking Russian catalogue-classic poses which involved tree blossom, fountains and umbrellas. Aside from the photos, we were forced to mime our jobs to one another and finally resorted to simply exchanging food. We hunkered down in our bunk-based reveries and 22 hours later, arrived in Yekaterinberg.

This is an industrial city that grew up around mining in the Urals but has stayed the distance and is today the fifth largest city in the country (or thereabouts). My couchsurf hosts here were Sergey, his partner Sveta and their baby son Maks, 7 months old. Not forgetting the dog, mother-in-law and two teenage sons from Sergey’s first marriage. A busy but happy abode, even if the bed on the enclosed balcony next to a water butt was one of my least conventional beds over the trip.

Welcome to Yekaterinburg

The city

Trams and whatnot

Yekaterinberg is famous for scoring the border between Europe and Asia. The name is also Russia for Catherine, named after one of the Tsarinas. There are a few monuments to mark it. It’s also famous for being the site where the last Tsar, Nicholas II, and his family were murdered in the cellar of a house that had been made their prison. The assassins shot them repeatedly, finishing those who didn’t die off with bayonets, kids, servants and all, before mutilating their bodies (so that they couldn’t become martyr idols afterwards) and burning the princes’ bodies in nearby woods. Cos everyone knows it’s utterly dastardly to kill kids as part of political power games. Today a lovely, graceful cathedral stands on the spot but back in the day it was a small palace.

Church of the Spilt Blood

From the park

Poor kiddies

That happened in 1918 and in 1998, Boris Yeltsin held a long overdue funeral. After a sunny picnic in the park outside, I nipped in and happened to catch a service in action. The choir was beautiful, even if the bowing and scraping was a bit much for me.

Took an evening stroll around the lake, where gents like to gather daily for games of chess and parents take their kids to practice roller-blading. I passed the fine arts museum and the pretty Soviet administration building on 1905 square but there isn’t otherwise very much remarkable about Yekaterinberg so I hopped the next train outta there to Tomsk. My first stop in Siberia…

Tchaikovsky, also a home-boy

Gagarin, famous cosmonaut, too

Government building

Gents playing chess

Soviet admin building in 1905 square

Lenin statue

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