Sunday June 17 – Monday June 18, 2012 – Round Yekaterinburg

(Sorry for the constant changes in tense. I write these entries in blocks and reminisce differently depending on how immediate I feel the recollection is. I would never allow my students to get away with taking these sorts of liberties in perspective.)

Outside our flat:

I was beginning to slow down and took it easy both days.

So many old trams are kept in working order:

One broke down the last night we were in Y., and next morning a crew was still at work fixing it. They make Toronto’s look new – but they run every 30 seconds.

All in English:

We went to a museum of photography and saw pictures of the 19th and 20th century Urals which looked remarkably liked the same period in Canada. One of the staff explained, with great effort in broken English, that the whole place was the house of a period portrait and documentary photographer who brought photography to the region – an art which, after “the Great October Revolution” (his words) was put to social uses. The pictures of the photographer’s store – where he and I were standing – showed beautiful built-in glass cabinets with decorative wooden features. When I asked where they were now, the staff person told me, “They were not practical” – which is fair enough, though the boxes of old 35 mm portable cameras on the floor for $10 each could hardly be called practical either.

Did you know Oprah was a Hero of the Soviet Union?

“WTF?” – Lenin:

If one of the two Cyrillic readers of this blog want to translate, I’d be grateful. I like that someone left him a rose:

We had pizza twice at Momma’s Big House, which not only served brown beer (finally! I was getting a little tired of pale lagers. How come everywhere outside of the UK drinks sparkly, light-tasting lagers? I mean, you can’t even get Guinness here. The main imports are Tuborg and American Bud, available in every drink stall here.) Yes, we had not only brown beer but amazing thin-crust pizzas and desserts like tiramisu and cheesecake, helped by an English menu.

On Monday we took a riverwalk. Here’s a surreptitious photo of some young – soldiers? Sailors? Air cadets? I can’t tell:

Moscow News reported that Russia’s army is 20% understaffed, but I see people in uniform everywhere. Maybe that’s the problem: I see them at the market, at the fair ground, in the bars…

We saw a Qwerty sculpture and a monument to the Beatles, together with The Wall that was actually a wall.

I was surprised at how globalized 70s and 80s hard rock is. Who knew that Nirvana, Pink Floyd and Megadeth had made it to Russia? OK, Megadeth is still in Russia. But there were ads all over Yekaterinburg for “The Doors”, which turned out to be two surviving members of The Doors, and maybe a wax model of Jim Morrison.

A lock-fence – couples engrave something on a lock and put it on this bridge. There were dozens:

Monday night we had sushi at this amazing restaurant just off the main street; when we walked in a host banged a big brass gong, and when we asked the hostess if she spoke English she replied “Of course” wishing us “Have a nice day” a few times. As we took our seats we could see the poor guy – who was either Japanese or paid to pretend – dressed like a samurai warrior in McDonald’s-hued yellow and red, standing outside and holding the door for customers. The English menu had a vegetarian menu which I took full advantage of, not anticipating any more vegetarian options from here to Seoul. I really miss tofu.

One thought on “Sunday June 17 – Monday June 18, 2012 – Round Yekaterinburg

  1. The mural with the writing beneath Lenin’s statue reads: “Everything we have accomplished demonstrates that we (i.e. soviet society) rest on the most wonderful power in the world — the power of workers and peasants”. I’m not sure it’s one of the better things Lenin said. Sounds didactic, certainly without a context in which the phrase was said it does.

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