09.09.2012 - 09.04.2013 11 °C
Episode 8: Tomsk to Yekaterinberg 9 September 2012
A dull day with angst
Yekaterinberg. The last city I would visit in Siberia as once you pass over the Ural Mountains, you are geographically and potentially politically in Russia. Train 037 Wagon 08 Seat 003 1st class, 22 hours and 56 minutes, 1,850 km from Tomsk.
I was not overwhelmed by Yekaterinberg. Maybe it was because of the weather, maybe it was because I expected more 'vibe' from a city and area so seeped in history. Maybe it was because I was getting saturated by the Big Three: museums, churches and architecture. It was not a bad city, but for me it was a city where the only thing that happened was that nothing happened. I was taken, however, by the street art I found in a pedestrian underpass.
Maybe it was the misunderstanding with the caretaker at the AllisHall Hostel. At least there was a small sign at the entrance of the tunnel you had to go through to again get to the back of the building. Plus, instructions were given on their webpage which I found most useful. It was a standard, reasonable hostel with a caretaker that stayed there during the day and disappeared at 5 pm.
When I arrived, I was dutifully registered by Annalea the caretaker for the day and shown to my room. I had indulged and booked a single room rather than share room filled with a multitude of Ikea decorated bunk-beds. My departure for my day trip to Tobolsk was late evening the next day so I asked if I could stay until about 630 pm. With some help from a voice on the phone, this seemed to be ok. However, the misunderstanding was that I could stay, but not in the room...I could hang out in the lounge area, but I was to be out of the room by 1100. One thing I noticed as I travelled east was that the hostels were much more strict regarding check in and check out times: up to that point, the hostels were very laid back as to when you appeared and disappeared.
So the next day was a tromp around town in the rain and cold, not really getting a feel of anything. I visited the Labour Union House, the Great Zlatroust Bell Tower, the monolithic Cathedral of the Blood (a memorial to the Romanovs who met their gruesome end nearby), the Plotinka dam in the central part of the city, the national museum that was built to look like an Egyptian artifact. Everywhere I went, the women amazingly tottered on their 6 inch stilettos despite rain puddles and uneven sidewalks. The most interesting to me was the literary section with the old, wooden buildings.
The wind picked up making it even chillier so I decided to go back to the hostel to put on another layer. To my great surprise and amazement, I was met by a very, very irate Annalea. It did not take long to figure out what was wrong....the gentleman holding his overnight bag tapping his foot with a very impatient look on his face was also a dead giveaway. It was luck that I returned to the hostel when I did - I normally don't return to my lodgings until the end of the day. I was only about an hour over the checkout time and it did not take me long to throw my meager belongings into my backpack.
But all turned out well...I stayed in the same place upon my return from Tobolsk, and with a bit of kowtowing, apologies and a box of chocolates, I managed to make Annalea happy enough that she voluntarily not only did my laundry but also ironed it. And it was sunny that day, I liked watching the people enjoy themselves, so all previous angst disappeared. Bliss.
Next stop: A side trip to Tobolsk