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Eastward Ho!

sunny 18 °C

We have passed the midway point of our journey across Russia; however the bulk of this vast country still lies ahead. The train will be our home for the next few days as we travel across Siberia deeper into Asia, but first a tour of the fascinating, historical city of Yekaterinburg.
We had read that Yekaterinburg, known as Sverdlovsk by the Soviets, was a grey industrial city and we didn’t have high hopes. But this place has shrugged off its dismal past and is a bustling international city that, inexplicably, pays tribute to The Beatles…
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…and, even more bizarrely, Michael Jackson…
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There are few vestiges of the murky Soviet years here apart from a large statue of Lenin in the city’s central square...
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We could be wrong but it looks like old Len is now advertising the popular Russian SUV, the Land Rover, (known here by its Russian name - The Land Rover). But little here today would be recognisable to the Comrades of even thirty years ago.
Most of the concrete highrises like this...
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...have been swept away and replaced with smart modern buildings of glass and steel...
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While buildings like the Soviet Bank have been left to stand as a warning to future generations not to repeat the disastrous social experiment that communism became...
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This is today’s bank…
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And this is Elena…
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… a happy young IT professional in the new Russia, who met us outside a supermarket just bursting with the finest products from all over the world: French cheeses; Spanish hams; English teas; American breakfast cereals; Italian wines; and every kind of smoked salmon and caviar imaginable. This place is a gourmet’s delight.
The upscale malls and pizzerias of Yekaterinburg bustle with smart young people, but the city is steeped in history...
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This magnificent cathedral is relatively new – it was built on the orders of Boris Yeltsin, a son of Yekaterinburg, in the 1990s – and it stands on the spot where Nicholas II, the last Czar, and his family were massacred by the Bolsheviks on July 17, 1918. By all accounts Nicholas was a poor ruler whose mismanagement caused the deaths of millions by famine and war. However, in comparison to Stalin, he was a saint. The bodies of the royal family were unceremoniously dumped in an old mine in 1918 and, interestingly, it was a mystery writer who eventually discovered their remains. DNA from Prince Philip, a close relative, was used to establish their identities. Today, Nicholas II actually is a Saint and many come to pay homage at his shrine...
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However, Yekaterinburg is best known in the west as the unintentional landing place of American CIA agent, Gary Powers, when his U2 spy plane was shot down by a Soviet rocket in 1960.
But why does Yekaterinburg have a Scottish pub?
While visiting the royal shrine in the Cathedral of Spilled Blood we were intrigued to discover that, from 1894 until his death, the Czar was Colonel-in-Chief of The Royal Scots Greys – the oldest surviving Scottish regiment – which is now part of The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, and that a white bearskin presented by him to the regiment is still worn by the drum major.

That's it for European Russia. Our next stop is Krasnoyask in Siberia - unless we get hauled off the train and sent to a Gulag for poking fun at good old Uncle Len!

Posted by Hawkson 04:14 Archived in Russia

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