Friday, September 14, 2012

Playing the Tourist

I suppose, technically, I AM a tourist here in Yekaterinburg, considering I've only been here 2.5 weeks. But for some reason, when you know you're going to live somewhere for a while, it's harder to justify shelling out for a tour guide. Fortunately, my parents are here, which has given me a great excuse to hire someone who speaks English to tell me what the hell I'm looking at when I walk down the street.

On Wednesday, the nanny took us to the Yekaterinburg museum, which is quite nice actually. Unfortunately, I was chasing after Jack while the nanny translated for my parents, so I missed a lot of the history of the city (along with the 3-D movie!). I plan on going back at some point so I can get up to speed. On the bright side, there's a theater museum upstairs, and I got to check out some of the beautiful costumes used in stage productions.

Jackie plays the role of the black knight.

They also had some amazing puppets on display. I wish I'd had more time to look at them, because they were truly impressive.

Isn't she fabulous??
On Thursday, we went on a guided tour of the Church on the Blood, probably Yekaterinburg's most famous site. It was built in 2003 to commemorate the Romanov family, who were murdered there in 1918. Since then, the Romanovs have all been made martyrs, and members of the Russian Orthodox church go there to pray and repent. I found it fascinating that most of the iconography was made recently at a nearby convent, although there are a few old icons and relics there. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to photograph the inside, but the outside is beautiful as well.

The Church on the Blood
Afterward, we traveled to Ganina Yama, the site where the bodies of the Romanovs were thrown into a mine shaft. There are seven churches there, one for each member of the royal family. It's actually a working monastery, so once again, we couldn't take photographs inside the churches, but as you can see, the outside more than made up for it.

One of the seven churches at Ganina Yama.
Today we went on another trip with our lovely English-speaking tour guide. We visited the village of Sysert, where the author Pavel Bazhov lived as a child. He is known for his fairy tales, which are all based on the folklore of the Ural mountains. As a writer I found this utterly fascinating, so I ordered an English translation of his most famous book, The Malachite Casket. I don't have it yet but I promise to fill you in once it comes.

The inner courtyard of Bazhov's childhood home.
After a brief lunch where I managed to thaw slightly, we headed into the woods for a hike up to Talc Lake, which is actually a flooded talc mine. The Ural Mountains are rich with many different kinds of metals and minerals, and Bazhov's tales are as much about the mining people of the region as they are about fairy stories (or so I've been told).

Chillin' (literally) at Talc Lake.
Of course, having spent some time in that forest, it's not hard to see why Bazhov was so inspired to record the region's folktales.

One of the many mushrooms we saw (this one was NOT edible).
Another view of Talc Lake.





One side will make you grow smaller...
Unfortunately, Daddy took a bite of that mushroom and shrank to the size of a shrew. We haven't seen him since.

Just kidding. Those lovely women actually found that in the forest. Apparently it's edible, if you're inclined to eat twenty-pound mushrooms.

It's been lovely exploring this fascinating region for the past few days, and I'm thrilled to say there's far more to see. So if you're contemplating a visit, I PROMISE we'll keep you busy. There's cross-country skiing and dog sledding in the winter, horse-back riding and fishing in the summer, and something like twenty theaters, thirty museums, and so far at least five good restaurants in the city itself (give us time - we're just getting started on eating our way through the next two years). And I haven't even gotten started on the shopping.


5 comments:

  1. I love hearing about your adventures!! How great that you are so good about writing down everything so Jack will have it in the future. I'm bummed we aren't in Japan anymore which would have made for a much shorter plane ride. Take care and have so much fun exploring!

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  2. Holy cow, everything looks amazing! I'm so glad you're documenting your adventures!

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  3. YAYY!! So glad you're able to explore with an English speaker AND with your parents!! So wonderful Mar..fantastic!! HUGS!!

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  4. Can't wait to visit - it looks so awesome!

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  5. Sheila...What a history in your area....I have always been fascinated by the Romanov story and mystery and to think they are now commemorated where you are. Sure wish we could get in a visit but in the meantime, your blog takes one there and into your new world....wow!

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