Yekaterinburg

About 1000 miles from Moscow, Yekaterinburg is on the eastern edge of Europe at the foot of the Ural Mountains. Surrounded by the iron rich Urals, Yekaterinburg was an early industrial center and gateway to Siberia to the east.

I arrived early in the morning to fresh snow and decided to walk the couple of miles from the train station to the hotel. I only had about a day and a half before moving on to Irkutsk.This was just enough time to explore the central part of the city. The Iset River runs through the city and widens to a large lake which was already half-frozen over during my visit in early November.

By the time I had gotten to Yekaterinburg I was a little burned out on museums and Russian Orthodox Churches, so I decided to just wander around the city. The river front was mostly pleasant, dotted with small quiet parks. I also took the opportunity to go to the top of Visotsky Business Center. Even at 52 stories high, the views above Yekaterinburg aren’t breathtaking by any stretch but it was interesting to see the hills of the Ural Mountains (the Urals are really low and basically just hills this far south) and the massive industrial areas surrounding the city.

Yekaterinburg with fresh snow. #yekaterinburg #russia

A photo posted by @henchcliffe on

I also visited the Cathedral on the Blood which was just recently built on the site where the Romanov family was murdered during the Russian Revolution. The site of the Romanov murders was a house that had been fenced off and neglected for most of the 20th Century until then governor Boris Yeltsin had it torn down in 1977 to prevent it becoming a shrine.

Yekaterinburg is a large enough city that it did have a more cosmopolitan feel compared to Kazan. There were definitely more franchise fast food places (Subway, McDonald’s, KFC, and a Carl’s Junior of all things) and international hotel chains. Before leaving I also went shopping at what I would imagine to be one of the fanciest grocery stores in Russia, so I was well stocked for my epic 50 hour train ride to Irkutsk.

Yekaterinburg to Irkutsk

Irkutsk is about 2,200 miles from Yekaterinburg and a 50 hour train ride. During this leg of my trip I booked a first class berth which meant I had the possibility of sharing with just one other person. The trip, however, was one of the least crowded trains I would ride. There were long stretches when I think I was the only person in my entire car.

During the trip, I was able to finish the Russian history book that I had started the week before and about a dozen Chekhov and Gogol short stories. Reading material that was a perfect fit for the Siberian scenery rushing along outside the window. As we headed further east, the dense birch forests gave way to more and more evergreen trees and the terrain became hillier. The most striking detail was, even in the most remote, tiniest village, the houses were painted in bright pastels of green, yellow, or blue.

Occasionally, the train would pull into a station where hawkers would sell everything from smoked fish to children’s books and toys on the platform; I guess you have to find some way to occupy your kids on such a long train ride.

What do you do on a 50 hour train ride?

In no particular order:

  • Sleep
  • Read
  • Drink Tea
  • Look out the window
  • Walk up and down the cars
  • Read
  • Look out the window some more, until your eyes get tired
  • Sleep
  • Drink Tea
  • Read
  • Drink Tea
  • Look out the window
  • Eat
  • Drink Tea
  • Read
  • Sleep