Europe meets Asia in Yekaterinburg
Days 701 – 703
Our time continued in Yekaterinburg for the next morning, where Valentina’s daughter Nastya drove us 17km west of the city to where Europe meets Asia before our three-day journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway.
Outside the city, 17km away, Nastya, Valentina's lovely daughter, stopped on the side of a busy highway, the former #GreatSiberianRoad. Many political and criminal prisoners have trundled by in shackles in the past, exiled to the harsh labour camps in Siberia. Nowadays it is tourists and newly-weds who mainly visit this #EuropeMeetsAsia border.
The nearby #UralMountains and rivers form a natural boundary separating much of these two continents – merely a historical and cultural construct, and I have learnt that other transcontinental countries include Turkey, Kazakhstan, Georgia, and Azerbaijan.
As we climbed out of the car onto the snow-covered path, we were greeted by thousands of colourful ribbons tied to wooden posts, the owners hoping that their wishes come true.
We precariously made our way to the monument, erected in 2004, which represents two intertwined letters A and E. We had fun taking photos with one foot on each side of the line where Europe meets Asia.
What else was there to see here? I mentioned that newly-weds come here. The place is usually heaving on Fridays and Saturdays, but mainly in the afternoon and evening and especially during the summer. I’m not too sure why they come here, but the place is definitely catered for them, platforms for photo taking and various romantic hearts to stand by or lock padlock on, that’s if you haven’t lost one as I did on our journey here to Yekaterinburg, the third thing I have lost recently. I did see if there were any locks I could use but changed my mind; I wouldn’t want to bring bad luck to a happily married couple!
We returned to the city with a quick stop-off at a military open museum and memorial, naming the many soldiers from #Yekaterinburg who died in the Afghanistan war. What a waste of human life, and for what?
We had a train to catch – Valentina took us to our coach, and after a very fond farewell, we reached our 2nd class carriage to meet our companion for the next three days. Kochi is a locomotive driver, returning home from a holiday in Moscow with his wife and son. They returned by plane to their home in Khabarovsk, north of Vladivostok, but he decided to take the six-day train journey as he only pays the equivalent of US$2 (a great work perk). From what he implied, it also gives him a break from family life.
Kochi was a very friendly chap, luckily he knew a bit of English, and with the help of Google Translate, we got by. Sadly he liked a drink and drank Vodka from the morning, noon and through the night! Each time he took one of his Vodka bottles out, we had to shut the carriage door so that our lovely Provodnitsa did not catch him in this illegal act.
There were quite a few disadvantages to having a friendly drunk as our companion. He repeated himself constantly; we must have heard at least 30 times that he was a locomotive driver; he kept showing us the same photos, which went on for a very long time. Tim managed to escape by climbing up to his bunk, leaving me to suffer. And he snored loudly. The sound of gurgling mucus on every breath was not very pleasant! Yes, I know some of you readers suffer from this most nights. I feel your pain; I really do. Two nights was enough for me. Crikey, I thought we were on there for three nights, Tim has just corrected me, it was three days and two nights. Oh, it certainly felt like three!
The rest of our time sitting on our comfy bench was eating, doing some exercise (shock horror!) and mostly reading. I got through two books, one about the Brain (fascinating) and one about an Australian lady’s experience in India, learning about the numerous religions; it was very entertaining and informative. And I completed countless Sudoku! Oh, who doesn’t love a challenging Sudoku, eh! Tim read a fictional story about Mongolian tribes and watched a few Walking Dead episodes. I’m glad he stayed on his bunk for those.
We did venture off the train at a couple of long stops, one at #Novosibirsk, the third-largest city in Russia. The station had many shops, a hairdresser, showers and a Winter Garden, but we didn’t go there, I was too mindful of the time and certainly didn’t want to see our train chugging off into the distance! Imagine!
We survived – and now are in #Irkutsk, one of the largest cities in Siberian. No, we haven’t been exiled to here. Well, I hope not, we have another train to catch in four days.