Ekaterinburg

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The temperature is noticeably colder in Ekaterinburg than it was in Kazan and Yoshkar Ola.  The bitter cold wind bit into my nose, ears, and hands.  As I began my walk from the train station to the city center, I spotted an outdoor vendor who was selling gloves and hats.  I picked up a pair of leather gloves and a wool black watch cap.  I was immediately more comfortable.  As I shot some photos around the train station, I spotted a reflective window and shot a self-portrait of myself wearing my new cap and gloves.

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Walking towards the city center, I looked at the shops and stores, checking out the Russian people as they went to and from work.  I passed the Church Upon the Blood cathedral and stopped to shoot some photos of it and some other sights.  In town I visited the post office and used their internet services to send an email home.  Another American man came in and sat next to me.  His name was Dave and he is from Los Vegas.  We chatted a bit and agreed to meet for lunch to swap “war” stories.  He was going in the opposite direction; Vladivostok to Moscow, passing also through China, Kazakhstan, and finally to Ukraine.

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Mass transport is the norm in Russia.  Some have cars, but certainly not like the US.  Most take the train, trolley car, bus, subway, short metro bus, or taxi.  Everywhwere I go, I see people cued up to board the bus or tram.  It is a good chance to see young and old, all different types of Russians as they make their way around the city.  Of course, the woman, as always, are dressed up in the cutest and most stylish fashions.  And of course, one of the most popular forms of transportation is also the oldest; ankle express.  People walk and walk, always walking somewhere.  It is no wonder everyone is in such good shape.  I would estimate that the average Russian woman walks at least a kilometer a day, and in 4″ high heels!  The constant day-to-day walking excercise certainly burns a fair share of calories; I eat EVERYTHING I can get my hands on, I seem to be eating day and night, and I can’t barely keep my weight up…

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In the city center I visited the city pond where I saw a cute Russian couple taking pictures of each other in front of a gazeebo near the pond.  I offered (as I always do) to take their photo.  It is a good way to get them to reciprocate and take your photo.  I usually target the Japanese if they are around.  Confirming one sterotype; yes, they take the best photos – and, you don’t have to show them which button to press – they know how to operate every make and model.

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Nearby the pond, I witnessed a rally of some type at the Lenin statue.  It seems that every Russian city has a Lenin statue downtown.  I went to the Uspenski shopping center and did some browsing before heading to their top floor for lunch.  The food court at this center provides a nice view of the city center and later Dave joined me.  We shared travel stories and discussed the Russian language and communication barriers that we had experienced.

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I continued walking towards the city center passing the government administration buildings and finally making my way to the walking street.  The Uspenski shopping center towered over the plaza and the book said that the food court on the top floor of the mall had excellent views.  I agreed to meet Dave there for lunch/dinner where we could swap travel stories.  We settled on pizza; when you’re on the run, you can pretty much eat what you want and not put on any extra pounds.  I could probably sell this diet in Hollywood; the “trans-Siberian Railroad diet.”  The English professor at Yoshkar Ola asked me if I ever dieted, “Yes,” I told her, “I’m on a sea food diet, I SEE food, and I eat it.”  She loved the joke and vowed to use it with future students.

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Dave and I met and chatted over dinner.  Sure enough, the guidebook was right, the view was nice.  We watched the sun set and shared travel stories.

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Later, after sunset, I continued touring the town visiting the famous dam that creates the city’s lake.  Reading about the different buildings from my travel book and snapping pictures along the way.  I continually find that I’m pushing my little Sony Cybershot camera to its limits; I wish I had my SLR with me.  But, unfortunately, I shipped it home to save space in my luggage, and it arrived after I had already left for this trip…

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When I arrived back at the train station I saw one man frantically running around trying to apprehend the men that had just mugged him.  Finally, 3 policemen (militsia) arrived and the man frantically begged them to help.  He ran off towards the direction that the criminal(s) went and the policemen walked along at a leisurely pace.  It was then that I saw that one of the homeless people who lived near the train station had been assaulted.  They agreed to let me take their photo if I gave them some rubles.  After shooting their photo, I saw another interesting man who I thought would be a good photo subject.  I decided to add these two pictures because I have focused on the “pretty” things on this holiday.  Ignoring the ugly in Russia would only be ½ of the story.  For my Russian friends, don’t think I’m picking on your country.  I always take guests to 6th street “skid row” in downtown when I receive guests in Los Angeles.  There we see the homeless and the crack heads buy and smoke crack.  I took some friends from Idaho there once and they took home photos posing with crack heads.  They told me that it was the talk of the town when they got back to Smalltown, Idaho.

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Just as in Ukraine, the bank Certificates of Deposit are in the high teens.  If you can stomach a Russian bank, it is a handsome rate of return (17%).

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train to Ekaterinburg

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Another train ride.  But, the bus to Kazan will not make it to my train in time.  So instead, I hire a cab for the 2 hour drive and get my first taste for some Russian country driving.  A lot of passing busses on 2 lane highways, but the driver didn’t seem to take too many chances.

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I arrived early to the train station and was happy to find a pair of train attendants who were very friendly.  I snapped their photo and they smiled happily; too bad that it didn’t come out better, they were both so nice.

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I went to my compartment and found that a man and a woman had already gotten settled in.  They were playing cards, not sure the game, it looked like Spades.  The man was drinking large beers.  These beers were big, larger than the ordinary Russian beers which are in turn about twice the size of an American beer, even bigger than a tall can.  I mean these beers were big; they could go toe to toe with an American six pack.  Trying to “make friends,” I asked the man “skulka,” meaning, “how much?”  I was curious how much these monster steroid beer cans cost.  He replied how many millilitres they were.  So, I rephrased the question, “Skulka rublie?”  He replied that they cost 105 rubles, about 30 rubles more than a beer ½ their size.  He then asked me if I was travelling for work.  I recognized the word “rabata” from a previous train ride.  I replied, “Nyet, ya turista.”  I asked what card game they were playing, they asked where I was travelling, I asked where they lived, and so on.  In no time, the tense atmosphere that I walked into was gone and we were chatting away, me, with my nose buried ins the dictionary furiously taking notes.  The snack attendant came by and I purchased a beer and things were going along swell with my two new Russian friends.  But, after some time, the train attendant came in and told me that I was in the wrong wagon.  I had to move to the next car.  The two Russians in my room immediately broke into protests.  They wanted me to stay and argued with the attendant that I should be allowed to stay.  This went on for about 15 minutes but the attendant wouldn’t relent.  So, I packed up, bade my friends farewell, and then moved to the next car.  As I walked to the correct car, I thought to myself how nice it was that these people took enough of a liking to me that they wanted me to stay in their car during the journey.  Again, I had a feeling of connection with these Russian people and it was a good feeling.

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In my new car I found a middle-aged and older aged woman.  They were already getting ready for bed.  So, I adjusted my sleep plans and went to bed early.  The overnight train ride was smooth and in the morning, the ladies seemed grateful that I had not kept them up late.  I chatted a bit with them in Russian and they seemed to appreciate that I was trying.  As always, they were curious about where I came from, where I was going, whether I was working or not, and what exactly I was doing.  I find that many Russians do not like their photos taken, so I snuck a photo of them as discreetly as I could.  Of course, with no flash, it’s a bit blurry.  After coffee and tea, we enjoyed some breakfast and watched the Russian landscape go by.  It is just Amazing how big this country is.  For those that have driven across the United States, imagine twice the distance.  It is truly a massive place.

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And the kilometers just roll by… and the landscape looks colder and more bleak…

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Stories, posts, reports, photos, videos and all other content on this site is copyright protected © and is the property of Scott Traveler unless otherwise indicated, all rights reserved. Content on this site may not be reproduced without permission from Scott Traveler. My contact information can be found on the home page.

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