October 27, 2008

Ekaterinburg, Russia

I chose to visit Ekaterinburg (ye-cat-er-in-burg) based on an online description of it being an industrial city that hosts the sights of the last Tsar, Nicholas II, and his families’ untimely end; nothing like a murder mystery mixed with some great factory photo opportunities to peak my interest. I had been following the trail of the Tsar, visiting his final resting place at the Peter and Paul fortress in St. Petersburg, and it was time to complete this grim tale in Ekaterinburg by visiting the house, which is now a church appropriately titled the Church of Spilled Blood, where the entire family was murdered by revolutionaries intent on bringing down the monarchy and the place in the forest, where in 1979, almost all their remains were discovered.
I was staying at the hostel of Anatoly and his access to a car made my one-day journey there well spent. We headed out the next day to visit the Church of Spilled Blood and then out of the city, through forests of the elegant, white-stained Birch trees found in this region of Ural to Ganina Yama, which is an abandoned mine shaft and the site where they found the royal remains of the Romanovs to which they erected a collection of intimate log cabin churches and a board of personal family photographs as a shrine to the family. Even though the premise of the place where we were was, well… a bit gruesome, the beauty of the surrounding nature and the calm that bristled through the trees was palpable; maybe it was the ghostly spirit of Nicholas that I felt swirling through the brisk air telling the visitors that he was in peace, thanks for stopping by. Each log cabin church has it’s own distinct alter design, some shimmering in gold while others display the lapis stone common in Russia, and they all create a beautiful contrast against the simple, candlelit wood interiors common to all. Unfortunately there were no pictures allowed and I put my illegally-wandering-to-my-camera hand to good use by lighting candles of peace and goodwill for my family and friends instead.
I expressed my interest in industrial factories and Anatoly was kind enough to take me on a tour to see some of the many production plants that are housed in this city. In fact, Ekaterinburg has been labeled the “Detroit of Ural” and driving through the streets I would definitely agree with this association. All through Russia’s vast landscape there are many factories producing all kinds of things and the tall, striped, smoking chimneys dot the horizon in great frequency. This city has a very 1950’s working-man’s feel, where groups of young men walk on dusty streets to and from their jobs with lunch boxes in hand while women push baby carriages balanced with grocery bags and school boys skip rocks by the river’s edge next to abandoned factory sites. But big industry does not usually breed creativity, and while this city was a creative outpost, becoming a meeting place for exiled writer’s, academics, and intellectual’s under the Stalin regime, the architecture was like walking through a child’s Lego creation; all the buildings, with the exception of a few new commercial developments, were huge block-like structures with windows cut out. The original wooden homes which are still in existence all throughout the countryside of Ural and it’s neighbor region to the East, Siberia, have mostly been knocked down to make way for these static mega-dwellings, save for a few on the outskirts of town. This short stop-off from the train gave me a good glimpse of life in Russia outside of the major and well-known hubs of charming St. Petersburg and glitzy Moscow and made me see just how varied this country really is.

No comments:


blogger templates | Make Money Online