15 June 2019
The day started with breakfast on board, then a free morning except for a team competition to complete the two large wooden jigsaws of all the regions and districts of the Russian Federation, with the TSR marked on the relevant pieces. Training for the event had been happening the previous evening, as we were pitted against the Spanish team. In the event it was a bit of a swizz as only two of the Spanish group turned up on time to start, so a couple of our group of seven were moved over to their team, and every time more of their group appeared we had to stop playing and let them shuffle past. In short, we lost, but it didn't matter because the winners' champagne was shared among us all! At one o'clock we got off the train, to start our tour.
Today's guide was Olga, a Russian version of Anita Manning, with really good English and a genuine interest in people. She took us first to a restaurant, where as usual the three group tables were marked out, and our starter of salad awaited. Ekaterinburg is the city where the Czar's family were assassinated, and a large church, built over the last eight years commemorates the event, and houses a museum of their lives, right next to the spot where the killing happened. But we didn't visit that straight off, but last item of the day. First we travelled along the road west out of the city to see the boundary marker between Asian Russia, and European Russia. This came with all kinds of local rituals like being photographed with a foot either side of the line, making a wish hand over heart and tapping the stone either side of the line to make it come true etc etc. Our guide then presented each of with a named certificate of the event, and some small semi precious stones produced locally. Mine is an amethyst, Ju got a piece of agate. A nice gesture.
Faced with the prospect of going to snother site where there are seven wooden churches erected in memory of each of the seven members of the Czar Nicholas 2 family who were killed, we persuaded our guide to alter the tour to include a visit to a military museum instead, where there were relics of the Gary Powers U2 incident on display, and the history of the Kalashnikov AK rifle, and Marshall Zhukov, Stalin's right hand military chief, to be seen.
We arrived at the museum at 4.35, the doors were locked. It said outside it was open until 5. Eventually an elderly jobsworth opened the door, shooed us away and pointed to the time on his watch. Olga was not having that. A short altercation followed in fast Russian, and eventually a woman appeared in place of the jobsworth, and joined in. Someone else was sent for from within, and we were very reluctantly allowed to go inside. There followed an even worse show of how unwelcome we were by one of the two women demanding ticket money, in cash, from Olga, who was a bit on the spot, having assumed the tour director would have sorted all that at the restaurant, by phone. Meantime we nung about feeling awkward, until magically the tone shifted and the younger of the two women took us upstairs and showed us two tiny bits of Gary Powers' spy plane, which was the real life incident behind the recent movie 'Bridge of Spies'. Then a look at the progression of the one shot rifle to the AK, and finally some stuff about Zhukov which I didn't quite follow. Then an illustrated diorama of war, noisy and bright flashing lights, then we were reminded it was 5.15 and they all stopped work at 5. The jobsworth had stopped watching us and disappeared, and the two women both started smiling as the older one unlocked the door and let us out into the sunshine. A bit of a disappointment, but hey ho.
Dinner in a restaurant then return to the train, a couple of drinks in the bar to unwind from the day, and off to bed, our watches set back yet another two hours. That is five hours' difference in two days. Now we are on Moscow time, ready for our trip to Kazan tomorrow. More then.