This summer I was lucky to meet a very interesting tourist from Canada - Paul Gilbert, the founder of Royalrussia.org. Paul is Russophile and Romanovphile, his publishing house in Canada specializes in books on Imperial Russia and the Romanovs.
It was Paul’s second visit of Yekaterinburg. Obviously, he knew much more about Nicholas II than me. Apart from visiting the Monastery Ganina Yama and the actual place of the Romanovs’ burial place found in 1978, Paul wanted to go to the town of Alapayevsk.
Alapayevsk is a small town 180km North-East of Yekaterinburg. Romanovs-wise, the town was the place of the detention of the Grand Duke and Princes Romanov, the elder sister of the Empress Alexandra. The relatives of Nicholas II were imprisoned in a school building of Alapaevsk. On July 18th 1918, the following night after the execution of the family of Nicholas II his relatives in Alapayevsk were taken to a nearby forest and thrown into an old mine when they were still alive. Unlike in Yekaterinburg, the bodies of the Grand Dukes and Elizabeth were found a month later by the White Army.
Today Alapayevsk has a monastery of the New Martyrs of Russia on the site of the mine and a convent of St. Elizaveta . Elizabeth was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church like the family of Nicholas II. Today the relics of St. Elizaveta are in the Russian Orthodox Church of Maria Magdalena in Jerusalem.
The school in Alapayevsk where the Romanovs were kept is still a secondary school. One of the classrooms has a memorial wall with the photos of the Royal prisoners.
It took us a whole day to explore the sites of Alapayevsk with Paul. The priest of the local church was very kind to take his time and to tell more about the days of the Romanovs in Alapayevsk.
I’m sure Paul will write about his experience in one of the next magazines he publishes twice a year. I was honored to receive two of the latest magazines with very interesting articles on the Romanovs.
In 2013 Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna had elevated "Paul Gilbert" to the Imperial and Royal Order of St. Stanislav, III Class.
"The Order is being given in recognition of a lifetime of service to the Russian Imperial House. Gilbert is best known for his Royal Russia web site and blog, the publisher of more than 30 books and magazines on the Romanov dynasty, his support of the Russian monarchy, and his personal dedication to distributing accurate information about the House of Romanov and to highlighting the importance of the Russian Imperial House in today's Russia."
Living in Canada Paul is a true Ambassador of Russia in the West and in his blog he keeps on reminding people that the way western media portrays Russia is far from reality and to understand the truth one should go and see Russia.
You can read more on Paul Gilbert and Imperial Russia here: www.royalrussia.org
In 2015 I made a post about hiking in Taganai National Park in winter http://askural.com/2015/02/national-park-taganai/
A year later a young couple from the United States Pravit and Rebecca sent a request do arrange a two-day tour to Taganai in summer time. Luckily, our local guide Ilia who knows Taganai as good as his home town, was available for the dates of the tour and I was able to join to take more photos of the Southern Urals.
You can book this tour here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/taganai
Ilia provided our guests with all the equipment, tents, sleeping bags and rucksacks. He even brought woolen socks for everyone which was very smart because the night was chilly to say the least (-1 C). Propely equipped we started our walk 8km till the first peak Mt. Perya (1034)
In summer time Taganai looks as beautiful as in winter. We were lucky because both days were sunny. We could see the town of Zlatoust in Chelyabinsk Region and even a southern ridge of the Urals.
Compare the same place in summer and in winter...
Another great thing was that because of negative temperature at night there were no mosquitoes, none of them for two days! Those who live in the Urals or in the similar climate zone will understand what a luxury it is.
In the evening we got to the tourist shelter.
Tourists can rent a room in the ranger’s house but our American guests chose camping in tents. Recently, a Russian banya has been built at the tourist shelter, so we asked the ranger to prepare it for us. I didn’t take pictures in the steam bath though because it was dark, steamy and just you know, we forgot to take towels with!
The next morning we climbed Mt. Otkliknoy Greben (1155m).
There’s something like a terrace at the top of it. So we stayed there for an hour to relax and to enjoy complete silence – no other people, no noise, no even birds singing or wind blowing. It was a perfect retreat.
And again, compare the same place in winter time
On the way back we stopped at the unique stone river. The river is 6km long, 300-500m wide. 9-tonn rocks are piled in 4 layers at the depth of 6m. The Taganai Stone River is the world largest deposit of aventurine.
The Taganai Stone River is the world largest deposit of aventurine.
Considering the distance from Yekaterinburg (takes about 5hrs by car to get to Taganai), a one day tour to Taganai is too hectic but possible too.
Book a two or three day hiking tour to Taganai here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/taganai
On the 1st of May we celebrated Labour Day on the Iset river observing the riffle called Revun. The place 90 km South of Yekaterinburg attracts many tourists, hikers, professional rafters and rock climbers on May holidays.
The name of the riffle Revun means Howler. The Ural rivers become especially fast and turbulent in early May. The Iset river that flows through Yekaterinburg is considered one of the quietest however a 300 meters long riffle is located in a rocky canyon. The track is difficult due to many stones and rocks lying in the water.
Rafting competitions are held here during May holidays and in mid. June when Russians celebrate the Day of Constitution (June 12th). The eastern bank of the river is also ideal for rock climbing.
The Iset river carved its way through solid porphyritic rocks of volcanic origin here. Behind the rocks the river bed gets wider again.
The area has another place of interest – Smolinskaya limestone cave only 1 km away from the riffle. The cave is 500m long. It’s one of the longest caves in Sverdlovsk region. Old believers who refused to accept the reforms of the Russian Orthodox Church and ran away to the Urals from Moscovia used to come and pray in the cave in the 18th – 19th centuries.
One grotto is a vertical lime hole called ‘Road to hell’. Tourists need a rope to get there.
We didn’t go to hell but visited other grottos instead and got out totally dirty. So make sure you take extra clothes for visiting the Smolinskaya cave.
Getting there from Yekaterinburg:
By car: The riffle Revun is located 20km away from Kamensk Uralskiy. Go in the direction of Kamensk Uralskiy till the village Pokrovskoye. Turn right there and go to the village Beklenischevo. The riffle is at the end of the village.
By bus: take a bus that goes to Kamensk Uralskiy, Kurgan or Shadrinsk. Get off at Pokrovskoye village and walk 5km to the village Beklenischevo.
By local train. Take a train to Kamensk Uralskiy. Get off at the station Perebor or ‘78km’ walk to Pokrovskoye village then to Beklenischevo.
Beer is not my favourite drink at all but this post is about Ural beer. It turned out that we have a very famous Jaws Brewery in the Urals. Surprisingly, it’s well known in Moscow, Belarus and Kazakhstan but locals don’t know much about it.
As I was going to join an excursion to the brewery, Greg, an American tourists asked if it was Jaws. I was surprised that a visitor knew that name. Well, it turned out that he had already had a pint at the Jaws Spot in the center of Yekaterinburg. But the brewery is located in the town of Zarechniy, 54 km east of Yekaterinburg.
A tour to Zarechniy would have been impossible in the Soviet era because it’s the site of the Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Station. The town was built in 1957 to service the second power station in the USSR. Don’t expect to see the power station as it’s located outside the city. But the tour includes a visit of the Atomic Laundry!
Atomic laundry is the name of the bar. Together with the brewery they are located in the buildings of the former Soviet Laundry, hence the name.
In the bar we did beer tasting. The philosophy of the brewery is to "to bring the beer culture to people". The basic line consists of still rare in Russia types: English Pale Ale, Oatmeal Stout, American Pale Ale.
During the tasting in a cosy bar the bartenders explained the name of the brand: Jaws are huge waves seen on the coast of the Hawaiian island of Maui in the cold winter months. No words can describe their beauty and power and just one look is enough to be fascinated for life. Jaws are often called the mother of all waves. It happened so that the brewery in Zarechniy was the first to bring the culture of the new beer movement to the Urals.
After tasting we had a tour at the experimental brewery next to the bar. Our guide, one of the managers of Jaws explained the process of making new experimental ales.
In 2012 the company decided to put more of the American hops into the "Nuclear Laundry" - one of the first IPA in Russia (and definitely the first IPA in the Urals). To this day bitterness of 80 IBU for the majority of local people is comparable to a nuclear explosion but the owners don’t give up and try to explain that bitterness has its taste and quality.
I was really proud to learn that we have a quality brewery in the Urals. It’s not that popular with the locals yet, but the owners seem to have high ambitions and they have all chances to succeed. They also have a good website well translated into English http://www.jawsbeer.ru/en/
So, welcome to Yekateriburg, Russia for quality beer!
On January 9th 2016 our international team of tourists went to the village of Kostino (130km East of Yekaterinburg) where we celebrated Svyatki. Svyatki or saint days is a mixture of pagan believes and Christian traditions celebrated between Ortodox Christmas (Jan.7th) and Epiphany (Jan. 19th).
The first week of Svyatki is called a saint week and includes celebrating of Christmas. The second week is called "scary". Slavic people believed that evil forces are particular dangerous during that week. It includes fortune telling at night, carroling and playing outdoor games.
Fortune telling is one of the traditions in January. Young girls got together in a banya at night to find out who they would marry and how soon. But first a girl had to take off her cross. Christian and pagan rites had to be separated.
In Kostino we used candle wax and a bowl with water to predict the future. You can guess the meaning of the shapes made by the drops of wax.
When carrolling people wear masks of animals (bears, goats, bulls or geese etc) so that they can't be recognized and one man should be dressed as a goat. If a host refuses to share drinks and treats with carrol singers, the goat can do some mischief. That's why we were treated well and our ‘goat’ – a French guest Gerard got a lot of drinks.
We all agreed that Kostino is worth coming back in summer. So on July 9th we'll have another weekend tour to the village to celebrate a pagan slavic day of Ivan Kupala!
Happy New Year 2016, dear readers! And traditionally I'm happy to share the pictures of our ice town in the Square of 1905 of Yekaterinburg.
This winter the recession in Russia affected everything including the Ice Town. There were no foreign sculptors invited this year only local. However the ice town is as specatcular as usual!
In 2016 the theme is Russian Fairy Tales.
The Square of 1905 is not the only place to see ice sculptures in Yekaterinburg. The contest 'Star of Bethlehem' for best ice sculptures started in front of the Church on the Blood on Christmas day (January 7th).
Click at the gallery to see more photos:
On November 25th 2015 the street of Boris Yeltsin in Yekaterinburg was closed for traffic. Even pedestrians were not allowed to walk there in the evening and the owners of the appartments were asked not to look out of the windows as snipers were sitting on the rooves. All the precautions were made for the openning of the Yeltsin Center. The fact that President Putin and Prime Minister Medvedev as well as other polititians of the past and the present were invited to the opening had made so much fuss in the city.
The next day the center was opened for public. Despite the apparent lack of interest in Yelrsin in Russia, the museum has become the most visited place in the city with over 5000 visitors over the first week after the opening. The Yeltsin foundation hired Ralph Appelbaum Associates, the company that designed the William J. Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Ark., and the new Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow.
The center includes a research center, conference halls, an art gallery and a museum that depicts the sweep of history during Mr. Yeltsin’s life — from the Gulag (Yeltsin's parents were repressed and exhiled to the village of Budka 150km east of Yekaterinburg) to World War II, from perestroika to Mr. Yeltsin’s resigning on 31.12.1999, a few minutes before the millenium.
Yeltsin’s daughter, Tatyana Yumasheva, one of the organizers of the center said that it is aimed “to tell the truth about the 1990s”, from the constitutional and economic crises of the day to the first Chechen war.
Yeltsin Museum is very interactive. One can give a speech from the Parlament stage, sit on the sofa in the Yeltsins' living room and watch TV or get on a real trolley bus that Yeltsin used when he was a Moscow official.
The museum is divided into seven zones – "seven important days in the history of the country": the August coup of 1991; unpopular economic measures; the birth of the Constitution; Yeltsin's second election campaign; Yeltsin’s farewell to the Kremlin.
The museum already has audio guides in English and is preparing to translate them into Spanish, French and German.
Opened: Tue - Sun 10.00 - 21.00
Dear readers, this winter you can join our amazing huski dog sledding tours and visit a deer farm in the Northern Urals for only 2000rub!
December 13th, 2015
January 4th, 24th, 2016
February 21st, 2016
March 5th, 2016
8.30 Meeting at Dynamo Metro Station, Yekaterinburg
We are taking a comfortable bus or a mini-van to get to the village of Visim
11.00 Visiting a deer farm near the village of Visim (195km of Yekaterinburg). You will be able to feed Siberian deer and Yakut horses. There are also three African ostriches in the farm. Learn from the farm workers how the ostriches live through Russian winters.
Take some white bread, cabbage or other vegetables to feed the animals!
12.00 Lunch in a cafe in Visim
13.30 Belaya Mount ski resort. You will be able to get to the top of Mt. Belaya (705m) for a beautiful view of Northern Urals.
15.00 Dog sledding in the village of Chernoistochinsk.
19.00 Arrival to the city back to Dynamo Metro (arrival time is approximate)
Price per person:
Adults 2000rub; Children 1800rub
The price includes a transfer in a bus, entrance to the deerfarm, lunch, chairlift at Belaya Mt resort, dogsledding.
Book the tour here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/weekend-tours/dog-sledding-tours
This month I met several tourists who deal with photography. In early September 3 Italian tourists asked me to organize two tours in the Urals. One of them was a professional photgrapher Diego Fiorovanti. His blog on photgraphy: http://
On the first day we went to the village of Nizhnyaya Sinyachikha, an open air museum of wooden architecture
It was the 1st of September - 1st day of the new school year. We met many kids and Diego came up with an idea to make a photo report about the generation without communism. See all photos here https://diegofioravantifotografia.wordpress.com/portfolio-2/a-generation-without-comunism/
On the second day we went to the Military Museum in Verkhnyaya Pyshma and met schoolchildren there too.
In the museum we had an interesting encounter. One of the Italians Giuseppe from Rome found out that his grandfather and the grandfather of Roman, the museum worker, had been stationed on the opposite banks of the same river in the Crimea during the Second World War. Of course, they had been fighting against each other those days. Today Roman teaches schoolchildren about how to prevent wars. Giuseppe received a present from Roman and promised to send the photos of his grand father for the school archive.
Our next stop was in Nizhni Tagil, the town known as TagilLag during the Second World War. From 1941 to 1945 over 63 thousands of political prisoners and German prisoners of war were brought to the Labout Camps of Tagil to build factories and work at quarries. About 40% of them died. All the cemeteries of TagilLag were destroyed after Stalin's death. We visited the site of a former cemetery in Nizhni Tagil. Today is just a field in the city.
Half of the city of Nizhni Tagil was build by prisoners. Today it's the second largest city in the middle Urals with many metallurgical plants. Tagil is also the largest tank producer in Russia. Maximum security prisons are still there.
Check out other great photos of the Urals by Diego at his blog https://diegofioravantifotografia.wordpress.com/portfolio-2/a-generation-without-comunism/
I met Dave Moles on Facebook when he asked to send him a guide book to Yekaterinbook. The book was sent to the UK and then Dave informed me that he was doing a website www.dkworld-photography.co.uk about his travels including Russia and the Urals in particular.
"During my travels I have been lucky enough to visit countries such as Russia, Ukraine and many more in Europe, but I do have a passion for Russia and the former soviet countries. These countries are full of history and beauty, you see and witness a culture you will only see in these countries... and with trips being planned to other former soviet countries, there has never been a better time to visit these countries, and hope through my website you will get inspired to visit yourselves."
The page about the Urals and why visit http://dkworld-photography.co.uk/russia/urals/index.html contains the information and Dave's photos of Yekaterinburg and around as well as ski resorts in the Middle and Sothern Urals. Dave even visited a very off the beaten track town of Karabash, an ecological disaster zone that not many tourists venture to go to.
The website has a very detailed description of the Red Line and other sites of Yekaterinburg that will be useful for other travelers.