I’ll Trade Ekat for Novi Any Day!

1999 > Siberia

A few reasons to skip Ekaterinburg for the glory of Novosibirsk

Look, Mom! Pine Nuts!

Stocking up on my protein

The Tzar dies and there's not a tourist in sight!

Who was shot here?

Nothing like a good pomnick in the morning!

I just love Soviet statues!
I’ve crossed into Siberia, but not without the hassles that
make life in Russia so, um, interesting. The Russian Railroad, not know for
innovative activities, runs on a peculiar logic I’ still trying to figure
out. Let’s take the simple idea of time…

In every train station there are several clocks to tell travelers what time
it is, so they can be ready to catch their specific trains. All these clocks,
whether the station is in Volgagrad, Toglatti, Ekaterinburg, or Vladivostok,
show Moscow time. Luckily, all the trains run on Moscow time too, but it
gets quite confusing the farther east you go.

In Ekaterinburg, two hours ahead of Moscow, ya have to add two hours onto
each train departure time (on top of checking the day or season the train
runs) to figure out which train is yours. Then, when your preparing to leave,
ya have to remember that your hotel clocks are two hours faster than the
train station clocks, or you’ll be waiting a long time at the Ekaterinburg
station. Oh, but first, you have to get to Ekat!

Two days ago I was standing in the Kazan train ticket hall, looking for a
good train to Ekaterinburg, when it dawned on me that there were no trains
to Ekat. Yep, I checked all the names again, and not one to Ekaterinburg.
How could that be? Both cities (Kazan and Ekat) are on main Trans-Siberian
lines. Both are major cities outside of Moscow. Why are they not connected
by rail?

Just before I started to loose it, I asked a local and learned the secret.
In the Soviet days, Ekaterinburg was called Sverlosk, and so the train schedules
have kept the Soviet name, even though the city reverted to its historical
name around eight years ago! Maybe the railroad is still in shock that the
Soviet system is gone?

Once I made it to Ekat, I was in shock. I’d heard how beautiful the city
was. How cool the locals were, and how I should definitely spend a bit of
time checking the place out. Maybe it was the midnight arrival, maybe it
was the odd placement of the train station behind a row of apartments, or
maybe it was the glue-sniffing kids following me down the street, but I was
not impressed with the city one bit.

Even the main historical event in the city, the killing of the Tzar and his
family by Yakov Sverdlov, is neither that pleasant of a memory or that pretty
of a sight, when compared to Kazan’s walking street or Samara’s beaches.
Luckily, I didn’t stay in Ekat very long, since my next stop, Novosibirsk,
turned out to be quite a gem in the middle of Siberia.

Now I must take up with the Lonely Planet Russiawriters their odd bias against
Novosibirsk. Of all the Siberian cities, I’ve liked it the best so far. Yes,
it is a Soviet city, big, gray, and imposing. Yes, it has little history,
only really growing since the 1920’s, and yes, I tried not to think about
those big, spewing smokestacks just outside of the city, but it still felt
like home.

I guess it’s the resemblance to Moscow that I liked the most. The grand avenues,
with cars zooming past an oversized Lenin, the tall buildings creating
comfortable canyons at street level, and the great beach with a serious
volleyball competition, all reminded me of summer dayz I spent chilling in
Russia’s capital.

Ah, memories! Time to pull away from the computer and go make some more!