Two days here, now out of Siberia and very shortly after we board the train for our next stop out of Asia even; the Urals are considered the dividing line between Europe and Asia, and we’ll be crossing that continental divide soon. Yesterday, in fact, we did a short day trip to a spot marking the line, but it turns out the trip wasn’t as easy as we’d assumed.
Lonely Planet makes it sound simple enough; it’s 40 kilometers west of Yekaterinburg “near Pervouralsk,”reached from either the 150 or 180 bus which leave from the bus station. They erected a monument to Alexander II on the dividing line, who visited here early in the 19th century and unintentinally started a tradition by drinking wine on both sides of the divide? How hard can that be? I can go there to drink wine, too. So we get on the 150 bus – hot, no AC, no windows that open – and an hour later we’re at the bus depot in Pervouralsk.
So where’s this monument to Alexander II? Silly us for thinking there would be anything obvious. We start looking around. Nothing. We ask someone. Nothing. We walk toward what looks like the center of town, and find … nothing. Finally Mark finds a woman who knows what we’re talking about. Except it doesn’t have anything to do with Alexander II. And it’s miles and miles from where we are.
In fact, there’s another marker dividing the continents much closer to the city, and that’s where she directs a taxi to take us to, all of which we only figured out when the taxi kept going and going and going. Finally he drops us off and leaves. We take our pictures on the dividing line. And then wonder, “How are we going to get back into the city?” We’re closer than we were, but it’s still 17 kilometers away. And there are no taxis, no buses, just a highway.
Fine, we’ll walk to the nearest bus stop. Two kilometers up the highway, there it is – with the next bus scheduled for about 90 minutes. Sigh… But all is not lost. Within minutes we see a bus – not scheduled to stop there – we flag him down, and ride in air conditioned comfort into the city. I can’t imagine an American bus driver making an unscheduled stop like that, but God bless the less-bureaucratic Russian bus driver!
We get back into the city, grab the first restaurant we can find for lunch, an Uzbeki restaurant. Mark was thinking of trying to translate the menu but I was too tired and hungry – I literally pointed at a random set lunch for about $6, added a beer, and waited to see what I’d get. That’s some people’s worst fear of traveling – I’m thinking of you, Drew Brighton – but I ended up with a great small Greek-like salad, a great bowl of some beef soup (we’ll just agree that it was beef and leave it at that), and a couple dumplings. It was heaven. And our server loved having us and wanted his picture taken with Mark, so here he is!
Finally, I went in search of the Boris Yeltsin statue. Yeltsin was the governor here in the 1970s, and was the guy who ordered the demolition of the house where Tsar Nicholas II and his family were executed in 1918, apparently in fear that monarchists would use the site to try to restore the Tsars. Now, granted that Yeltsin knows more about Russian politics than I do, but really? This great, important part of history had to be torn down 60 years after the event because the Tsar’s family might try to come back? Oh well – Yeltsin moved on to better things. His statue, though, seems to be almost hidden; it took some searching on my part. It’s kind of cool, though, showing him almost emerging from the stone…