Somehow I had had a completely wrong idea about Ekaterinburg. I thought it was a nice, historical town. But you can’t find historical buildings at all – in fact, it was founded only in 1723 by tsar Peter and its historical core were a dam at the river Iset and an iron forge.
Also today it is mainly an industrial town which lives on the mineral reserves of the Ural and became big through WWII weapon industry. But it is a town that is doing well – everywhere modern buildings are growing towards the sky.
The day of our visit was a nice Sunday with pleasant warm weather. We first walked towards the “old center”, the above described dam, the “Plotinka”. At a cafe by the water we had a Shashlik. Then we headed to the probably biggest attraction of the town, the Church of Blood which was erected at the site where the last tsar and his family had been killed. The church is visible from far, crowned by a large golden dome. Inside, old ladies bow and cross themselves in front of the Romanov’s (now all elevated to saints) commemorative plates.
Later on, we strolled back to the city center, where Ekaterinburg’s numerous youth was promenading. They seem quite well off these days, all sporting modern cell phones and compact digital cameras. In general I noticed that the price level in Russia is now in general at the usual European height (contrary to my experience 11 years ago, when everything was essentally for free for a Western tourist). All the fashion labels you can find in Western towns are here, too, even though many shops still seem suspiciously empty. Also new shiny shopping centers are appearing. Everything is there for the consumer, only the consumers themselves seem to be a bit missing. But they’re definitely getting there. Also Ferrero seems to be investing in the Russian market – were were offered a big box of “Raffaello” sweets for free when crossing a small park.
Our day in Ekaterinburg was on the whole very pleasant, even though the city itself is not an architectural beauty.