Yekaterinburg, Russia

Yekaterinburg is the financial and political center of the Ural region and the fourth biggest city in Russia. It served as a center of trade for the Ural region’s mining and heavy industries for centuries, and a home for several wealthy and influential merchant families since the tsarist times.
Now it is most well known for being the city where the Bolsheviks murdered the last reigning tsar, Nicholas II, and his family. At the place of the execution the city has recently erected a church called The Church on Blood.
Yekaterinburg is a city of contrast, with old traditional Siberian wooden houses and modern skyscrapers.
At the time of writing, the highest skyscraper is the 56 level tall Visoczky tower. The building’s rooftop level is open to public and has an impressing view of the city from above.
Another interesting architectural sight is the unfinished television tower built in the Soviet era, which lurks above the town as a ghost building, and is believed to be the world’s tallest abandoned building. The lake Iszety in the city center is an artificial lake surrounded by pedestrian streets and parks, which in the summer serves as a popular place among locals to take a walk and relax. On the shore of the lake lies the developing financial district, where several skyscrapers have been built, making this part of the city look like a tiny Manhattan in Russia. Among the skyscrapers is a newly built modern glass building, the Yeltsin Center, which got its name after Russia’s first democratically elected prime minister, Boris Yeltsin, who prior to becoming the prime minister of Russia, was in charge of the city and the Ural region.

Yekaterinburg in the nineties has been notorious for becoming a battlefield of an openly fought war between organised crime groups trying to take over the previously state owned companies and factories of heavy industry in the region. Prior to my visit, I have been reading about some engraved tombstones of Russian gangsters in one of Yekaterinburg‘s cemetery, which raised my attention, and I decided to find them. You can read more about my findings in the following article: The Russian Gangster Cemetery of Yekaterinburg.
The locals were all friendly and welcoming, and the city was absolutely safe. I’ve made friends with two local guys who I connected with on Couchsurfing before my arrival, they were both great company and they gladly showed me around their city, which was a great experience!

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Pedestrian streets surround the Iszety lake with a view on the developing financial district

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