Today, I went to Europe.

Let me explain. I’m in Ekaterinburg, in the Ural mountains, which, inexplicably, are flat as a pancake. Our tour guide says it’s because this is the oldest section of the mountains, so they’ve been eroded away into little hills. That seems plausible, but if it’s true, then where are the hills?

In between telling us apparent lies, the guide took us to the obelisk that marks the continental border. I was all excited walking up to it, saying “This is it, this is it, this is it–a new continent! Today I will have stood on half of the populated continents (or 3/5 of the populated continents according to Russians, who don’t divide North and South America).” But here’s what I saw as we approached the obelisk:


If you can’t see, the point of this photo is not that a Slav is squatting (although that, like always, is also true)–the point is that we approached from the Asian side. I breached this new boundary at some time during the night on the train and didn’t even know it. Didn’t raise my stakanchik in honor of exploration and adventure. Nothing.


This could have sent me into a morose spiral of self-chastisement, but I was spared by the discovery of sled dogs in the forest. I tried to get a picture, which turned out to be difficult through the trees.




After I’d moved into “creepy stalker” territory with the number of failed photos of other people with their pets I’d taken, I started disguising my true intentions by making like I was taking selfies. Unfortunately, due to a dim screen and low battery, it was impossible to see what I was photographing. Still, at least in this one you can see a sled in the background…if you reeeeeally look.


The problem with going to any sort of monument with a group is that EVERYONE wants their picture taken on it, in exactly the same pose, as if that proves anything, or as if the monument wasn’t designed to be just fine without the adornment of live humans. As a result, I was unable to take a picture of the thing unmounted; the best I could do is wait for someone to turn their back to me and then shoot fast.

The obelisk is just stuck by the side of a highway, with mostly woods around it. There’s a snack kiosk and a bathroom, some trash cans, and a couple of sculptures by misguided artists who thought they could create something so beautiful that people would pay attention to it even if there was a continental divide to be admiring. They couldn’t.


People tie ribbons on these trees after their weddings. Allegedly the more beautifully you tie your ribbon, the longer your marriage will last. Our tour guide pointed out a few couples who must already be divorced.


Let’s play “Spot the Ukrainian!”