Ekaterinburg to a stranger
Один из участников английской группы 65daysofstatic — Пол Волински (Paul Wolinski) в апреле провел пять дней в Екатеринбурге. В этот раз он нигде не выступал, поэтому успел посмотреть практически все основные достопримечательности, сходить на несколько выставок и завести новых друзей. «It’s My City» попросил музыканта поделиться своими впечатлениями о нашем городе, что он и сделал, как только вернулся домой.
A girl from Ekaterinburg once gave me a book called «Watermark» by Josef Brodsky. In it, he tells of his time spent in Venice. A Russian in Europe. It`s full of romance and imagery, musings on the human condition. Poetry leaks out of his hands.
I came to Ekaterinburg because of this girl. A European in Russia. I`m no Brodsky, and Ekaterinbrug ain`t no Venice, but without romanticising it too much, I find myself thinking about this city a lot. It`s not the most beautiful place I`ve been to, nor the most exciting, but it is friendly and real and has given me a window on the world that I hadn`t even realised was there until I started looking closely.
The road from the airport into the city follows a path cleaved open by the heavy industry of decades gone by. Forests stand cautiously to each side, tall and resolute, the mountain wind whispering their branches in a chorus of dissent. Not so long ago they ruled the landscape. One day they surely will again. At the moment, though, concrete is king.
Seeing through eyes that have grown up with relentless capitalism round every corner, walking round Ekaterinburg feels like being trapped between eras. Yeah, one of the first things you see on that drive into the city is an Ikea, and yeah there`s an H&M and a McDonalds, and every other chain store you could possibly want. But at the same time, there`s a distinct lack of the small-scale branding that makes every high street in England blend into one another. Finding a shopping mall is one thing, but how do you find a newsagent? How do you find a laundrette? A bakers? To my logo-hungry eyes every building just looks like a fortress. Anonymous and confusing. Is that a post office or an army barracks? An apartment block or a cinema? The visual clues that my eyes subconsciously read to tell me what I`m looking at simply aren`t there. It`s the same to me as looking at a page of text written in Cyrillic. I understand why though. In a city built for -40 degrees it pays to build those walls thick.
Not until the last night of my stay did I eat at a restaurant dedicated to a single style of food. Most of them seem to serve everything. I`m not saying this is a bad thing, but it takes some getting used to. One lunchtime I had sushi and a baked potato while my companion had Italian-style pasta. There is no real reason for me to find this strange, but I still do.
Coffee, though, is simply coffee. This I am thankful for.
There`s something about these Russian cities that yells PERMANENCE at me. They make European cities seem like wooden shacks built on rickety stilts and the tide is coming in. The next hundred years are surely going to be the most important in the history of humanity. Waves of climate change, peak oil, over-fishing, petrol prices, a collapse of the food distribution network... They`re gonna start hitting us whilst we`re clambering on the roofs of our shacks, mumbling something about ‘free markets’ and ‘endless growth’.
In contrast to these shacks, somewhere like Ekaterinburg feels like some futuristic nuclear bunker. A concrete machine laughing in the face of climate change. Russia has all the energy. All the fresh water. All the forests outside of the Amazon... Maybe it`ll be OK for them. For the rest of us, not so much.
Photos — Paul Wolinski