20. Ekaterinburg: going out, entertainment and sights
Next day, Saturday, we attended a beer festival. It did not differ much from the festivals that I had been to previously. Russians drank beer at the festival and not Vodka, as many people would expect. I would probably have enjoyed it much more if I could understand the Russian language. For me it was very interesting to be between people of a different culture. It was also at the beer festival that for the first time I saw Gypsies that were living in Russia. The Gypsies are Russian citizens but they are a nation on its own that originated from Romania. A few hundreds year ago they travelled to Russia and stayed there. They have their own language and culture and prefer to mix with their own people only. Cross marriages between them and Russians happen seldom. They live all over the former USSR between other cultures and still succeed in maintaining their culture and traditions. In Ekaterinburg they had a place where only Gypsies were staying and built houses close to each other; it’s even called “Gypsies neighbourhood”. It is not unique to find these types of nations in Russia with their own cultures. The difference is that gypsies do not have an autonomous Republic like the other nations that live in Russia. There are 21 autonomous Republics in Russia.
At the beer festival we also went for a ride on the big wheel at the merry-go-round that gave me the opportunity to have a good view of Ekaterinburg. Ekaterinburg, founded in 1724, is the third biggest city in Russia with a population of more than 1.5 million people. It is situated more in the middle of Russia, between European part of Russia and Siberia, on the way to the east from Moscow. People in the city live in apartments, and therefore the city is not wide spread. It is highly industrialized and was always closed for foreigners until the middle 90’s, because of its enormous arms manufacturing plants. I was one of the first foreigners allowed to visit Ekaterinburg since foreigners were allowed in the city.
On our way back to my hotel, we also made a stop at the zoo. I was the most impressed with the different types of bears and their intelligence. Like most other places in Ekaterinburg, it was also an old place, but well maintained.
Ekaterinburg was named after Ekaterina, the late wife of tsar Peter The Great. The city is probably best known for the killing of the last Russian tsar Nicolay II in 1918. During the Communist rule the city’s name was changed to Sverdlovsk according to the nickname of one of conspirators of the Bolsheviks’ take over in October 1917. The killing of the last tsar took place after the revolution and the establishment of the Bolsheviks party in Russia. Tsar Nicolay II, his wife – a former German princess, their six kids and two devoted servants were executed in the basement of a building in Ekaterinburg. This building (which was a registered historical monument) was later destroyed because the government was afraid that a US delegation that was due to arrive in the city could try to visit the building. The former president Boris Eltsin was the city mayor at the time the building was destroyed according to a secret directive of Politburo.
After the execution, the remains of the family were buried at an unknown place about twenty kilometres outside Ekaterinburg. After perestroika in 1987 it was established where they were buried and the remains were found. After many tests the remains were identified as the tsar’s and his family. The remains of the youngest daughter, Anastasia and the youngest son, Mikhail have never been found. Many people believe that the two kids were never executed and the possibility exists that someone else could have brought them up. The official Russian version is that the two youngest kids were buried somewhere else.
At the time of my visit in 1998, the place where tsar Nicolay was killed was in the process of development. There was a small wooden church and some wooden Russian crosses on the premises. A Russian cross differs from other crosses as can be seen on the photos. In the literal translation from Russian it is called “the eight ends cross” and associated with Russian Orthodox Church only. During my visit in 2000 a new wooden church was built and the area was developed. Shortly after my departure from Ekaterinburg in 1998, different services were held for the reburial of the tsar and his family. The one service was held at the civil war monument outside the city (close to which the remains have been found) and another; big service was held at the Voznesenskaya church in Ekaterinburg which was situated right in front of the (now destroyed) building where the tsar’s family was executed. This church used to serve as a museum during the communist era, and was returned to the Orthodox Church only after Perestroyka.
During my visit to St Petersburg in 1998 I attended a Sunday service that was held for the reburial of the tsar. The remains of the tsar were eventually laid to rest in St Petersburg (if it was really the remains of tsar Nicolay II – there are still some doubts about it and some members of the tsar’s family living abroad never recognized the remains as that of the of tsar’s family).
In my free time (while Elena was working) I enjoyed walking around in the city center of Ekaterinburg. Like with the most cities in Europe the city center in Ekaterinburg is the place where everything is happening. I particularly enjoyed street artists at the market places that will draw a picture of you for a few Roubles. More serious artists had daily exhibitions of their work in a small park in the city center under the trees. The beautiful parks in the city impressed me. Elena and I often went for romantic strolls in some of the parks. The strolls were wonderful memorable experiences and I enjoyed Ekaterinburg’s parks immensely, they are very well maintained.
As mentioned before at the time of my visit, Ekaterinburg had not been open for foreigners for long and they therefore were of great interest to many of the local people. I once went with Elena to a transport company where she had to dispatch some stuff for her company. The courier’s office was in the outskirts of Ekaterinburg. I was waiting in the car for Elena, but it took her a while because she had to wait for the truck driver before it could be dispatched (the driver left for a lunch after waiting for the manager – Elena – for a few hours while she was busy somewhere else). We arrived there nearly after hours; this was the reason why I was with her – we were heading for a dinner afterwards. The security policeman at the transport company asked Elena who was waiting in the car, and she told him that it is her foreign boyfriend that cannot speak Russian. That was like oil on a fire, because he then insisted on seeing me and would like to talk to me. Elena acted as our interpreter and that made the delivery trip another memorable experience.
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