I am a bit behind with blogging my trip - not enough time, and if there's enough time, theres often not enough electricity or internet.
We stayed for two days in Yekaterinburg (Екатеринбу́рг), which is the first big asian city if you travel from Europe to Russia. Yekaterinburg is probably a place where international visitors rarely drop by.
We stayed at two couchsurfers who operate a vegetarian shop in an area where vegetarism is barely known at all. So if you are ever in Yekaterinburg and need some tofu or soy milk, be sure to visit their shop.
The most relevant and unpleasant event during our stay was our attempt to get a ticket for our further route. I first thought that this wouldn't be a big issue, as we can order online tickets. But, as I already mentioned before, this is not an option here. For reasons unknown to me, this only works if you board the train at its starting point. So we went to the train station to try to get a ticket. Without much knowledge of Russian language, this was a really tough task and took us several hours. We wrote down the train we wanted to take and some Russian sentences we took from a travel guide. We were sent from one counter to the other, several times the ticket counter closed or made a "15 minute" pause (which in fact were more like 45 minutes) just in front of us. All in all I don't really know when we started this, so I don't know how long it took, but after all, we had the tickets we wanted in our hands - and they were significantly cheaper than any online offer we saw.
Beside the ticket buying, which took us half a day and limited the time we had to see the city, some interesting places worth mentioning:
- Yekaterinburg has a very geekish sight: A keyboard monument (some websites like Wikitravel call it the QWERTY monument, but I don't know if that's its official name) - a big keyboard made of stones (map link).
- We were shown an old hospital that was closed about 10 years ago and is now a place where adventurous people do urban exploration and locals tell horror stories about hidden subfloors. Most of the building is in very bad shape and some fountains around it give it a very special atmosphere. A small part of the building however is still operational (I don't know the exact place, but it must be around here).
A common thing to see in Yekaterinburg are trolley busses - busses that uses overhead wires.
What I experienced the first time here was a kind of real-world spam that seems to be common in Russia: In the pedestrian area, many shops used sound systems for advertisement. So you hear a lot of music and loudspeakers telling you the latest cheap offers all the time. Very disturbing.
We've continued our trip to Irkutsk, but I'll write about that later.