Wednesday, February 2, 2011

August 17 Yekaterinberg

Bruce and Penny on the Asia-Europe dividing line marker.

Last night’s fireworks show was quite spectacular. We were a bit late
getting to a good viewing spot. That was entirely my fault for not having
looked closely enough at the map. Butch, Delna, and Penny all seemed to
take it pretty well. The fireworks pictures that Penny took with the digital
camera came out very nicely. We slept pretty well.

In the morning, we had a nice breakfast at the Park Inn restaurant.
Alaine reached the Sundowners agent in Beijing, and that person authorized
the hotel rooms for us clients for one extra night, but told Alaine she had to
sleep in the lobby. Pretty shabby! Both of us couples offered to share our
room with her, but she would not do that. She did agree to leave her luggage
in our room for safekeeping.

We then went off with Yadia on the city tour of Yekaterinberg. Yadia
is a very knowledgeable and cheerful tour guide. We started off at the dam
which makes a reservoir out of the river and lets into a canal surrounded by a
large public plaza. The city (named Sverdlovsk during the Soviet era)
received the Order of Lenin and that is commemorated there. We learned
that the city was founded in 1723 when Russians forced out the indigenous
people. A founders statue memorializes that. The original cathedrals were
destroyed during the Soviet era, but a small chapel has recently been erected
Founders statue (above) and plaza (below).

Then we went to the Church of the Spilled Blood. This Orthodox
church was erected on the site of the Ipatiev house where the Romanovs
were murdered. The cellar location now holds a downstairs chapel, and the
main nave above is laid out in a typical Orthodox church fashion. But the
walls are painted in a light color instead of with murals, and so it has a sort
of hybrid appearance that reminiscent of some Western churches.

We went to the Urals Mineralogical Museum which has a beautiful
collection of semi-precious stones. Our groups also had lunch at a local
restaurant that had very interesting restrooms. We took pictures of the

We went out to ul. Lenina, saw the very nice façade of City Hall, the
statue of V.I. Lenin, and then walked along the open air stalls. Butch, Delly,
and Alaine stayed a bit, and Penny, Yadia, and I returned to our rendezvous
point at the Lenin statue. A Russian man, probably a bit older than me,
approached from behind and started talking with Yadia. More accurately, he
talked at her. He was big, wearing camouflage pants and a denim jacket.
He seemed rather threatening, and so I positioned myself where I could
intervene if he tried to strike her or somesuch. I kept looking at him. Yadia
showed tremendous poise as she replied to his utterances. After a few
minutes of trying to “buffalo” her, he gave up and went off. Penny had also
come up and joined us by that time.

We asked Yadia what it was all about. She said he didn’t like her Old
Navy shirt with a U.S. flag on it. I should mention that Yadia’s English is
superb and that she spent a year in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The guy
ranted that she should respect Russian history and should not wear that shirt
around the Lenin statue. She replied, very evenly and without giving an inch
or even a millimeter, that the Soviets had destroyed churches that were built
when the city was founded, and so they didn’t respect Russian history. He
asked what she was doing, and she said she was a Yekaterinberg city guide
who was giving a tour to these two American tourists. He said that he hated
Americans and wanted to fight them. Then he shuffled off. I must say that I
was very impressed with Yadia’s handling of the whole business. I think
she appreciated Penny’s and my help during the confrontation.

The imperial Romanov family is a major part of the Yekaterinberg scene. The Church of
the Spilled Blood, at top left, stands on the site of the Ipatiev House in which Tsar
Nicholas II, Tsarina Alexandra, and their five children were killed. The Monastery of the
Holy Martyrs is an extensive complex of religious buildings, such as the church at top
right, on the site where the Bolsheviks executed the family. The garden at left is the first
burial site, and the small plot at right is where the bodies were moved immediately
afterward. Photographic displays about the Romanovs are at several locations around

We then went to the Romanov burial site in the forest. Ganina Yama
is its name. There is an Orthodox monastery on the site where the bodies
were first burned and buried. It turns out that some children in the forest
saw some of the goings-on, and so they took the bodies to another place not
far away where they were again buried. This information is all contained in
a Communist Party document which is now declassified.

Monastery buildings commemorate the site where the Romanov bodies were first buried.

Alaine and Yadia at the Asia-Europe border.

We got back to the Park Inn Hotel at about 1845. It turns out that
Sundowners headquarters in Melbourne had texted Alaine with orders that
we were to stay in the lobby because the expense of the two rooms was not
authorized. But it was too late because the 1800 deadline to vacate a room
at the day room rate had already passed. We did have the hotel dinner that
was included in the Sundowners trip dossier.

This last bit shows that the decision to list one thing for prospective
clients and then to reduce it after it has been paid for, came from the highest
levels of the Sundowners organization.

After dinner, we all showered immediately and packed up before
going to bed, just in case we were suddenly evicted from the rooms.
Bruce, Penny, Yadia, Delna, and Butch.

1 comment:

  1. An indelicate, but important thought: This trip visit raises another issue of travel. Travel with one of those little tissue packages at hand, at all times. You never know when you are going to need it.

    Take for example, the monastery at Yekaterinberg. It is a brand new place, of very recent construction. Outside, there is a refreshment place selling ice cream, drinks, candy, and the like.

    But when designing the place, they seem to have forgot to include restrooms. The women's restroom consisted of a hole in the ground, with two boards to stand on. No paper, no water, nothing else. Our guide became quite uncomfortable when Penny asked for the facilities.

    Those of you who have travelled in Asia are probably familiar with "squatty" toilets. Conquering those was a part of growing up in Japan for Bruce. I even saw an older one of those in a public park in Nancy, France. You all have seen port-a-potties and the facilities in the national parks. All of those are far superior to what was available at this monastery that was intended to be a tourist attraction.

    Forewarned is forearmed! Pack several travel packs of tissue in your suitcase, and have one at hand during all excursions. You will be glad you did.