For some reason I arrive in Yekaterinburg with a little trepidation. Perhaps it's because we've been so lucky so far in meeting some truly lovely people and I'm wondering when our luck might run out. Or maybe it's because I've been reading about Yekaterinburg's bloody history. The last Tzar of Russia was murdered here.
We have trouble finding the hostel we've booked. It's definitely not at the X we've marked on the map. However, I already suspect this might be a serendipitous kerfuffle. And I'm right. The charmingly named Meeting Point hostel was recommended to us at a chance meeting with an English girl studying in Kazan and I immediately wanted to go there instead.
Katia, who runs the hostel is in her early twenties, vegetarian and speaks excellent English. She is effervescent in character, with an endearing coughing idiosyncrasy when she speaks. She shares the apparently common Russian love of nature, believes that climate change is caused by human activities and that it's everyone's duty to do something about it.
She thinks we need to return to a more natural way of living. She confuses me by saying she isn't prepared to make big sacrifices in her life for any cause but goes on to tell me she turned down a well-paid job with an oil company because she couldn't square it with her conscience. The conversation gradually drifts off onto other things but not before we've agreed that sometimes things can seem like a sacrifice and unexpectedly end up being a wonderful thing.