Today started slower than planned. Ekaterinburg is a noisy city at night and I had no idea if the constant yelling and bellowing was just a good Saturday night our or a repeat of the events that happened here in 1918. Fireworks – proper display ones, not the ones you buy from a cabinet in Tesco – going off quite literally in the street below my window at 4:35am did not help. Neither did the extra two hours time difference or the amazing jacuzzi in my own bathroom which I didn’t want to get out of.
So, first stop today was the supermarket, which is in the huge shopping centre (biggest in Russia outside Moscow) just visible from my living room window. Breakfast of nearly-Weetos and apple juice (no bits! More luck than judgement) and then at last I went off into the city.
This is the fourth biggest city in Russia and at the moment, it feels like it. All I can see from my window is high-rise glass towers. This is far more of a city than even Moscow felt like. Pity its metro is only nine stops on one line – I actually have to walk from the stations!
My main stop today was the Romanov death site, the little collection of cathedrals and churches built on the site where the last of the Russian ruling dynasty that began with Peter the Great was slaughtered -Nikolai II (who used to be bizarre, as they say) and his wife and son and four daughters, plus a handful of friends and allies. They were taken by Bolsheviks into the basement of a local engineer’s house and killed. Shot, and then when that didn’t work because people don’t always stand quietly facing the wall when a firing squad comes for them, stabbed. It took forever to kill them all. The house was demolished for fear it would become a focal point for pro-Tsarist anti-Soviet chaos and in the 70s, the current Church on the Blood was built.
It’s free to go inside. It’s a working church. That’s presumably why you’re supposed to cover your head there when I never had to in any of the churches in Moscow or St Petersburg – they’re all museums now. The “exhibition” downstairs is a low dark room full of gold and icons and a wall of memorial stones to the Romanovs. Their bodies are now in a tomb in the Peter & Paul Cathedral in St Petersburg along with their official memorial.
Upstairs is the main church and that looks a lot like most other churches. It’s high and light and covered in nearly-pastel paintings right up to the ceiling. However, there was a ceremony going on, probably a Russian Orthodox wedding, with a girl in a white lacy dress (not a huge wedding cake with train, just a simple dress), two singing priests in gold outfits, candles, incense, quite a few people taking photos. Some of which I’m now in the background of, with my hood up because it never occurred to me to take a headscarf to the death site.
I sat on the steps outside and wondered what it would look like if we had a revolution like that. How many Mountbatten-Windsors would you need to kill to end our monarchy? More than six. How wide would you need to go? How many cousins and distant relations would you need to wipe them out? Now, a revolution like the one Kyiv had five or six years ago, that might not be so bad for our current predicament…
Next I walked up the main road. This end of Ekaterinburg is less glass and towers. I don’t imagine there’s much that’s recognisable from 1918 but there are some older buildings there. And then I went into the station and bought my train ticket to Perm. It took a few attempts – the machine wanted my card and PIN before I even started telling it where I wanted to go and the list of trains is given in Moscow time, local time not appearing until one screen before the end and you have to enter all your passport details – no wonder the guard wanted my passport when I boarded the St Petersburg train. I even know I’ll be departing from Track 1.
And then I got the metro home and had a very late lunch and jumped back in my lovely jacuzzi.