Arrived in Yekaterinburg after my 14 hour journey from Kazan. It was very pleasant and went by fairly quickly as there were spare window seats near my upper bunk, so sat there a few hours watching the countryside go by. One man came to speak to me in broken English (miles better than my Russian), and found out he was from Cheylabinsk and saw the recent meteor there before it struck.
Went to sleep early before crossing over my first time zone on the journey, meaning I arrived at 8am in Yekaterinburg – 2 hours ahead of Moscow time. Was disappointed to see that it was raining and cold at around 9C, a far cry from the tropical weather of Kazan.
Was staying at Omnomnom hostel, which I managed to find easily from the directions, and was handily near a metro station, so paid 26R to go by metro there. Was met by Ekaterina (fitting for Yekaterinburg) who was very helpful with directions and let me have a well needed shower when I arrived before check in. It felt luxurious to have the shower in the huge modern and clean apartment used as a hostel. It was definitely one of the best hostels I’ve stayed at in the world, so was very happy with my choice.
Headed out on the 223 bus to Ganina Yama, one of the most sacred places in Russia, as is the place the burned bodies of the murdered last tsar of Russia and his family were found in a pit. It took around an hour to get there, but only 40R on the bus. It seemed quite empty and a lot of building work was going on, but the chapels I did see were very beautiful. It was very serene out in the forests, but it was the sort of place where an hour maximum would’ve been ok, but had to stay 2 hours as that was the frequency of the bus, so waited around quite a bit.
When I got back to the city it was late afternoon but thought it would be my only chance to try to get to the Europe-Asia border marker as my train was 12pm the next day. Tried the taxis but their price quotes were way too high, so attempted to go by bus as wikitravel said it was possible to do. Got on the bus to Pervouralsk but couldn’t see where to get off, and no one near me knew, so went into the town before getting a taxi from there. It was a short 3 mile or so drive from there to the old granite border and my driver Erig tried to explain the history of the site, but as he only spoke Russian I only half understood. One of the things I did learn though was that the column was a copy of the one on the main square in St. Petersburg, and that there were a few markers, one on each peak. I did the customary standing with one foot in Europe and one in Asia before heading back to the bus station and then Yekaterinburg.
By the time I got back it was evening, so had a quick walk around the town centre around Ploschad 1905 metro. Saw the duma and other fancy buildings, then realised my hostel was a short walk from there so went back.
I realised that my hostel was opposite a huge hypermarket and 24 hour shopping centre, so used the chance to get as much non-pot noodle type food while I could. Getting back to the hostel I realised I had the place to myself which was awesome, so had a chance to relax after being in the 54-bed carriage dorm on the trains.
The next morning got up early to cram in a quick walking tour of the centre, and saw the Church on the Blood and the nice riverside area where there were great panoramic views of the city.
Got back to the hostel after with enough time to pack my stuff and have one last precious shower before my 23 hour stint on the train to Novosibirsk.