In 1972 the Russian Revolution was part of my ‘O’ level history course at school. Yekaterinburg was forever linked to the Romanovs and Russia was a totally inaccessible place. And yet here I was.
The Yeltsin Museum was my first stop, housed in a start-of-the-art conference centre on the banks of the Iset River.
Boris Yeltsin came from the Sverdlovsk region before going to Moscow and becoming the first President of Russia. I learned a lot in the museum and left with three volumes of his diaries and a copy of the Russian constitution.
In the warm sunshine outside I talked to a woman. I think she was telling me how she used to live in Khabarovsk and went to the university there many years ago. Then Lydia approached me. She was a guide in the museum and on her days off she liked to find people to chat to in order to practice her English. She had found the right person. Over a drink of mors (cranberry juice) she added to my understanding of the events of the 1990s.
Next stop was the Church of the Blood, built on the site where the Romanov family had been killed in the basement of ‘Dom Ipatyeva’, the house of a local engineer.
Following the ‘red line’, painted on the pavements to guide tourists, was an excellent way to take in the sights of Yekaterinburg, Russia’s 4th largest city.
The next day Nataly whisked me off to the divide between Europe and Asia. Standing with one foot in each continent was a worthy spot to inflate the globe.
Onwards to Ganina Yam, 16 kilometres outside Yekaterinburg and the site where the Romanov family bodies had been hidden down a mine shaft. A monastery has been built there and a viewing platform around the entrance to the mine shaft, discovered in 2002 by a local geophysist. It felt very peaceful in amongst the pine trees.
Nothing can beat a local person’s knowledge and enthusiasm of an area and Nataly was no exception. We went up to the 54th floor of the Vysotsky tower for a panoramic view across the city and far beyond. A delicious lunch with a fine view and then it was time to say goodbye as my train was ready to leave.
There’s a lot more to Yekaterinburg than being the place where the Romanov family met their fate. Thank you Nataly and Victor for showing me your city.