Posts Tagged ‘Ekaterinburg’

Last day in Russia

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

Ganina YamaIt’s been almost a week since I hurriedly posted an update in Ekaterinburg. The girl who came to meet me was a couchsurfer that had offered to show me her city, and we met up with two more surfers as well, and we drove around to a couple of locations outside the city. The first one was a monastery called Ganina Yama, which was founded in 2001(!) at the site where the remnants of the last tsar and his family were found. The whole family are now saints in the Russian orthodox church. Before I met up with my guides, I found the church devoted to them in the city, Church of the Blood.

In Ganina Yama I tried to make another short piece of film, featuring two of my guides talking about the monastery, but it had already gotten a bit dark, so I don’t know if it’s of any use. When I was transfering the shots from St.Petersburg to the computer, I made a mistake, so I lost the files. Having time to come up with good ideas for these little pieces, and then filming it, is turning out to be rather more difficult than I had anticipated. Hopefully it’ll be better when I leave Russia, and have more time. I have really felt the time pressure of my visa these last few days!

EurAsian borderAnyway, back to Ekaterinburg: After Ganina Yama we grabbed something to eat, and then drove some kilometers west of the city, where there is a monument marking the official border between Europe and Asia. It’s not just a random line on the map, it is the actual area where the continental plates meet, the climate changes, and the water divide, where the european rivers run west, and the asian rivers run east. One foot on each continent, that’s not something you do every day! 😉

That night I got on the train to Irkutsk. It was my longest train ride so far, two and a half days! That does not mean I was bored, however. I’ve only travelled on the cheapest tickets so far, and it really feels safe. The train car is open, but with sort of coupĂ©s with no doors or curtains between. In each are three double bunks, two on each wall of the “coupĂ©” and one on the wall along the “corridor.” The landscape is beautiful, with picturesque Russian villages, and long stretches of forest, but you can’t look at trees for 60 hours, so luckily people are very sociable! On the train from Ekat to Irkutks were a bunch of soldiers on their way home to their families and friends, after two years serving in Moscow. Needless to say, they were in a good mood, and anxious to meet everyone back home again. None of them spoke any English, but one knew a little German, and I know a little German, so he acted as translator. Before long the beer was passed around, and toasts made to meeting new friends, and to seeing old friends and family again soon!

I also met a couple of students on their way home from Moscow, and they spoke a bit of English. After talking for a couple of minutes, the guy says “wait here”, goes back to his place in the car, and returns with a Russian military hat, schapka, and says “Here, take it to remember Russia!” Shortly after that a guy in the next coupĂ© leans over, and asks in Russian where I’m from. My heavily accented “Ya iz Norvegie” immediately caused him to produce a bottle of vodka from his bag, proudly pointing at the name on the bottle, saying it is the pride of his home town of Krasnoyarsk, and hand it over. When I make to open it and pour us a little, he shakes his finger at me and has me put the bottle in my bag, produces another bottle of the same kind from his bag, and pours two shots… Luckily I’ve found out that by proclaiming “Ya svisjenjik”, “I’m a reverend” I can get exempted from the Russian custom that you have to keep drinking with your host until the bottle is empty… 😉
The other student who spoke a little English, Anastasia, was from Irkutsk, and we exchanged phone numbers, so she could help me around the city if needed, and in return she’d get an opportunity to practice her limited English skills.

I arrived in Irkutsk three days ago. I was picked up on the train station, immediately bought a ticket for Ulan Baator, and I’ve stayed in the suburbs, in a flat of rather low standards, where my host actually lives for free! She also works in a hostel downtown, so that’s where I’ve been getting online. My host has been working a lot, so I’ve been spending the most time with another traveller, Leonid, and with Anastasia from the train. NastiyaLeonid is a hitchhiker from western Russia, who got here a month ago. Now he’s working at a tecnical museum to save money for a Chinese visa, and then he’ll hitchhike to China. His goal for now is Bali…
Last night I went to the first CS meeting in Irkutsk EVER, which was kinda cool! With the night spent at bar Liverpool and then a pizzeria, it got too late to go out to the suburb where I’ve stayed, so I got a mattress on the floor at Anastasia’s. This morning I got up early, and I’m taking a bus out to Lake Baikal with two Dutch guys I met at the CS meeting last night. 🙂 Gotta run to meet them at the bus station! (Pictures later…)

PS: Thanks for the comments, it’s good to know someone’s actually reading this! 🙂 Keep those comments coming!

Tsaricide? Is that a word?

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

The Latin American party rather turned out to be an info-evening, where Latin American students at the university of Kazan presented their country. It was kind of fun, because I never expected to see something like that in Russia, and also it reminded me of my time in the United World College of the Adriatic in Italy, where such things were rather commonplace. It wasn’t a party, however, so Pavel and his friend and I went to a restaurant after a while, had some REALLY GOOD Italian pizza and some beers. Afterwards, they showed me the town, and helped me by tickets for Ekaterinburg.

Annunciation cathedral and Kul Sharif MosqueThe next day I spent the morning trying to contact my host in Ekat, and surfing for a host in Irkutsk. I went around town by myself, and Kazan’s a really beautiful city. I went around the old Kremlin for a while and took some pictures. Like the heading in my previous post hints at, Kazan is a multireligious place. It is the capital of Tatarstan, and the Tatars are Muslim. About half of the 1.1 million inhabitants are of Russian ethnicity, and they are of course Orthodox. The result is that inside the Kremlin, the heart of the city, are both the beautiful Kul Sharif Mosque, and an Orthodox church, side by side!

Steam BarrelIn the evening, Pavel showed me a really interesting place. It was a sort of bath house, where we were first put in big barrels, where only our heads stuck out. There we were steamed with herbal steam, like veggies in a pot, until we were nice and cooked. They even measured our blood pressure both going in and coming out… Then we were led out, served herbal tea made on the same kinds of herbs, and ordered to lie down under heavy blankets to keep the heat from the barrels while we drank. After a while, some big Russian men came and gave us a massage that could knock the wind out of a medium sized rhino… An experience I won’t soon forget!

My train left Kazan at 2:28 am, so we sat up with some beer and snacks and watched The Simpsons on my laptop(!), and then Pavel even followed me to the train in the middle of the night! An exemplary host, he was amazingly helpful!

When I arrived in Ekaterinburg, I still hadn’t managed to contact my host, so I took the metro downtown, and went to an internet cafe where I posted an emergency message on the CS Ekaterinburg forum. After about an hour, I was contacted by a girl who could host me with her family, and then immediately after, my original host called me! One of her cs friends had seen that I couldn’t get in touch with her, and called her. It turned out she was having troubles with her cell, so we couldn’t call each other!

Today I am looking around town, and a nice surfer just came to meet me, so now I’m off.

(If you’re wondering about the title, look up Ekaterinburg on Wikipedia…)