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16Jul/140

August 3d – treasure hunt for the Ural gems

On Sunday, August 3d we are off for a one day treasure hunt in the fields of gems near the town of Rezh!

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Learn the secrets of the Ural Mountains, see beautiful landscapes and collect all types of the Ural gems at the Lipovsky mineral deposit also known as the Field of Wonders.

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Itinerary: August 3d (Sunday)

9.00 Meeting at Dynamo Metro Station, Yekaterinburg
We are taking a comfortable bus to get to Rezh (80 km of Yekaterinburg)
10.30 Pershinskie Rocks – an excursion to the geomorphological area where you will see how the Ural Mountains were formed. Enjoy a beautiful view of Rezh district from the top of the rocks.
12.00 Lunch in the country - natural products from the locan farm, home-made dumpings, bread from the local bakery.
13.00 Barskaya Yama – our first stop for collecting quartz and other gems

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14.00 A stop at the mineral spring Tochilny – here you can have a cup of fresh water from the spring which it is believed can heal.
14.30 A stop at the monument of newly-weds in the village of Sokolovo. See how local craftsmen decorated an area near the village to attract newly-weds.
15.00 Lipovsky mineral deposit – here you can find treasures literally under your feet. But one should know how to recognize them. Add it to an incredible landscape with red rocks similar to the surface of Mars and a lake with emerald water. Don’t forget to take a bag or a basket to collect the minerals as we promise you an abundance of them!
17.00 Departure
19.30 Arrival to the city back to Dynamo Metro (arrival time is approximate)

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Price per person:

Adult – 1700rub \ child – 1600rub
The price includes: transfer in a bus, lunch, excursions with a mineralogist

Take with you:
- A raincoat or an umbrella in case of rain
- A bottle to fill in with water from the spring
- A bag\basket for collecting gems
- Insect repellents

for booking go to http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/weekend-tour

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7Jul/140

Saturday trips in an off road Ural truck

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This summer my colleagues Katya and Denis bought a large truck URAL for off road tours in the Urals. It’s a very useful vehicle in this area. There’s a Russian saying that Russia has two main problems: fools and roads. And while one problem is trying to fix the other it doesn’t bring any result. So the best way out is to own an off-road truck!

photo by Denis Tashkinov

photo by Denis Tashkinov

My friends found the Ural truck in the Northern Urals. Previously it had been used by the special police forces called OMON. The interior of the truck has been altered and hey presto, we have a comfortable bus for twenty persons which can bring you to the top of the Ural Mountains!

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Last week we went on a testing tour. At the sight of the Ural truck moving in the woods many hikers and bicycle riders were staring with astonishment to say the least. Some might think that the OMON police force went on a mission. Our mission was as follows: to visit the rocks also known as the Devil’s Settlement and to stop at the lake for a swim and BBQ.

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The Devil’s Settlement (Chyortovo Gorodische) is a range of 300 million years old peculiar granite abruptions of volcanic origin which looks like a thick black wall. When the Russians first came to the place they thought it was a wall of the devil’s dwelling. Today the wall is popular with rock climbers and tourists from Yekaterinburg. You can get to the place on foot from the nearest Iset train station or with a bicycle but to arrive in the formidable Ural truck is much more fun.

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Although the height of the rocks is only 20 meters it’s quite a risky adventure to get to the top. A crooked unstable wooden ladder at the top makes the whole climbing enterprise is even more hazardous. However the view from up there compensates your risks.

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And yet, it would be far from a brilliant idea to climb the Devil’s Settlement on a rainy day or in winter, especially alone. Don’t do this!

Our next stop was at Peschanoye lake. The lake is only 20km of Yekaterinburg therefore the shore is a popular destination for many citizens. The rivers and lakes in the city are not good for swimming so Peschanoye offers a wide range of entertainments on water. You can rent a boat here and a veranda for BBQ. And that’s what we did.

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The testing tour went well so you can try it out from now on every Saturday through the summer 2014.

The trip takes about 8 hours. The price is 1800rub per person. Please check availability beforehand

To book this tour go: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/off-road-tour

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9Jun/140

Chinese Market. Where to shop in Yekaterinburg

Many times tourists asked me about the Chinese Market in Yekaterinburg because it is mentioned in Wikitravel as one of the best places for shopping in the city. And it’s one of the largest markets in Russia.

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I realized that hadn’t been there since the 1996s when I needed a dress for the prom. Those days everyone shopped there as there were no shopping malls in Yekaterinburg and the boutiques were too expensive for ordinary people. Those days, however, it wasn’t called the Chinese Market. The official name of the bazaar is Tagansky Ryad.

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Pekin Mall has two floors of Chinese goods. European clothes and a food court are on 3d floor

Tagansky Ryad is a large territory in the western district called Sortirovska. That is why Sortirovka is called China Town although most of the sellers there are not Chinese but Uzbeks, Tajiks, the Vietnamese and Russians. The market has three large malls: Tagansky Ryad, Pekin and Hanoi. Pekin is the newest building with a food court on the 3d floor where you can try cheap Asian, Central Asian and Russian food.

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My Vietnamese lunch for 2$

My Vietnamese lunch for 2$

But the best prices are at the stalls outside. Make sure to haggle fiercely to get a bargain.

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The market has a sculpture of Chelnoki (shuttles) That was a nickname for the people who brought bad quality goods from China in the 1990s. After the collapse of the USSR Russian engineers, teachers and doctors had to find new ways of making money. The easiest way was to fly to China, bring bags with cheap stuff and to sell it at the market with a good profit. Nevermind, that the jeans you bought would fall to pieces in a day.

Chelnoki

Chelnoki

Things have changed. Russians are shopping at Mega and other malls with European brands. Chelnoki of the 90s are replaced with Asian emigrants but the quality of Chinese replicas has become much better too.

In summer sunglasses are in high demand

In summer sunglasses are in high demand

And I got my first Lacoste replica shoes at the market for 28$. Would have been cheaper in Beijing but good enough for Yekaterinburg. The quality seems all right. Let’s see how long they are going to last!

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Tips for shoppers: prices are lower at the stalls outside. Asian sellers drop prices better than the Russians do and generally they are more hospitable and friendly to haggle with.

Working hours: The Chinese Market Tagansky Ryad on Tekhnicheskaya, 19 is open Mon-Fri 9am-4pm; Sat-Sun 8am-6pm

Getting there: at any tram stop on the main street Prospect Lenina catch tram 13 going westwards. From the train station get on tram 7 heading west. Get off at the tram stop Tagansky Ryad.

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6May/140

Mafia tour in Yekaterinburg

When in Yekaterinburg, try our special Mafia Tour!

Many Russian cities were associated with mafia in the 1990s but Yekaterinburg played a special role.

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There were two gangs in the city: the Uralmash group and the Centrals. The real war between the gangs began in 1991. In the 90s mafiosos were fighting on the streets of Yekaterinburg using machine guns and grenades.

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Today, tourists can see impressive tombstones at the cemeteries elaborately designed with full-sized portraits of the people dressed according to the 1990s gangster fashion with Mercedes cars in the background. During the tour you will visit two mafia cemeteries and hear the stories about those who dominated the society in the new country in Yeltsin’s times.

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More details of the tour here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/mafia-tour

photos by Elio Castoria

 

25Apr/140

Rafting on the Chusovaya river

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With many mountain rivers the Ural region is ideal for rafting. The best rafting time is May and beginning of June when the rivers are full thanks to the melting snow. Staying in Yekaterinburg it’s possible to go for a short rafting trip on the Serga river, the Rezh and the Chusovaya. The latter is the most popular with tourists. The river is 592 km long and it flows in Chelyabinsk, Sverdlovsk and Perm Regions crossing the Urals from East to West.

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Back in the days the Chusovaya was explored by the factory owners who transported wood, iron ore and copper to Perm. In spring with the first floods heavy loaded ships went down the fast winding river. Many of them crashed to the coastal cliffs. The navigation was dangerous, so in the 19th century some cliffs were blown up with dynamite.

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The cliffs called botsy (fighters) were once dangerous for navigation

Today, rafting on the Chusovaya is quite easy especially in mid summer. My friends and I decided to go rafting for a weekend in July 2012 which was good fun but could hardly be called rafting. That summer was very hot and the Chusovaya was extremely shallow – every 20 min our raft got stuck and we had to push it. But at least it was safe, one couldn’t drown even if you really wanted to.

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Our camp on the river bank

Our camp on the river bank

Navigating a slow river gives you a good opportunity to look around. The main sites of attraction on the Chusovaya are picturesque river banks and the cliffs called boytsy (fighters). Every cliff has a poetic name and is under protection as a natural monument. Sometimes you can stop for visiting caves and grottos on the river bank or to see some old props for the movie filmed here many years ago.

Some props for the film

Some props for the film

P1060228Our place of destination was the village of Chusovoye (120km of Yekaterinburg). The village holds an annual rafting festival. It starts in the middle of July and includes art and folk performances. The closing day was on Sunday but by the time we arrived it had been over. We shouldn’t have slept so long in the camp I guess!

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Chusovoye village

Chusovoye village

Chusovoye village

If you decide to visit the Urals this summer, try a bit of rafting to see more of the wild nature!    

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11Apr/142

Cats’ Cafe in Yekaterinburg

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This spring Yekaterinburg has got a new interesting café – Cats’ Café! The idea is not new and it came from Japan where people may have a cup of coffee in the area surrounded by cats. Today there are similar cafes in Russia: Moscow, St. Petersburg, Saratov and Krasnoyask.

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Yekaterinburg cats’ café is called Koshkin Dom (Cat’s house). There you will meet nine cats: mainly of such breeds as Maine coons and Siberian cats. The café looks like a two room apartment with cosy sofas and armchairs. You can get yourself a cup of tea or coffee (the price is included in the entrance fee), use Wi-Fi and of course, play with the cats but only if they want to. The rules are strict – you are not to make a cat do something it doesn’t want to do!

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As I got to the café in the afternoon, all the cats wanted to do was to sleep. However, some of them woke up and came up to see what I had in my bag. The owner of the café said that to meet the cats in their playful mood I should have come in the morning or in the evening before the closing time (the café closes at 10pm) I didn’t mind having lazy cats around me – that way it was easier to take pictures of them.

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The café is located on ul Hohryakova , 16. Opened daily Mon-Fri from 11.00 till 22.00; Sat-Sun 10.00-22.00

 One hour in the café costs 150rub for an adult; 200rub for a child of 6-14 and 500rub for children of 5 and younger. The price includes coffee, tea and candies.

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25Mar/140

Northern Urals and Siberian Deer

The travelling season starts soon!  In Yekaterinburg it usually lasts from May till October.

Check out our new 0ne day tour to the Northern Urals and Siberian Deer!

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Meet the inhabitants of the Visim Farm: Altai and Siberian red deer, Yakutian horses and yaks. Visit the village museum and see the Ural Mountains from the top of Mt Belaya.

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More details at Yekaterinburg For You website: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours

Hope to see you in the Urals soon!

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4Mar/140

Maslenitsa in an old style in the village of Kostino

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On March 2 we organized a one day tour to the country to celebrate the pre-lent pancake festival called Maslenitsa. Maslenitsa is probably the only pagan celebration in Russia that has survived until nowadays with all the rites and traditions. After Christianity of Russia the Orthodox Church had to change the dates of the Lent so that people could eat pancakes and go crazy on Maslenitsa. As for the Russian Tsars, they liked to have fun too. Even the Soviet regime couldn’t change Russian habits.

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To have a proper Maslenitsa fest it’s a good idea to go to the country. Our group of Russians and expats from Italy, France, USA, Serbia and India went to the village of Kostino 130km East of Yekaterinburg. Kostino is one of the most prosperous villages in the area thanks to the Kolkhoz (a collective farm) which is still active. Our Maslenitsa began in the local museum where we were greeted with bread and salt (a Russian tradition of greeting special guests) – everyone has to try a bit of bread with salt before entering the house.

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After the excursion in the museum we had a workshop – learnt how to make an obereg – a special maslenitsa talisman that symbolizes the sun and protects from the evil spirits. Considering the fact that we met no spirits on that day, the talisman worked!

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The folk performance in the museum consisted of songs and blinis. Some of the maslenitsa traditions were quite brutal. A son-in-law would beat his mother-in-law with a wooden stick thus wishing her good health and longevity. Another tradition was a mass fist fight of men. It was called a-wall-to wall fight. The most dangerous one was a fight with a bear. Surely, such fights involved drinking including drinking vodka with a bear!

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Fortunately, there were no bears in Kostino and instead of vodka we were treated with a local liqueur. The main part of the festival was held outside. Having dressed up a little bit all the guests took part in fun skiing and horse riding competitions, a race with a frying pan full of pancakes etc. Finally we burnt down the maslenitsa doll saying farewell to the winter.

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Even though we are still having minus temperatures in March in the Urals, the spring has come to the people who follow the traditions of their forefathers. Well, except for beating your mother-in-law!     

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special thanks to Irina Loktionova and Venu Panicker for the photos!

17Feb/140

Museum about This… Sex culture of Yekaterinburg

Not long ago I received an invitation to the Museum “About this”. I guess young Russians wouldn’t understand the meaning of “this” as they talk about sex freely these days but being born in the USSR I immediately understood the encryption. To be honest, I hadn’t heard of the Erotic Museum in Yekaterinburg before. The Museum “About This” (let’s stick to the official name here) opened in 2010 in the sexshop on 8, Kraulya St. According to their website it’s the second museum of the kind in Russia. The first one is in Moscow, of course.

photo from www.kazanova.su/our_projects/sexmuzey

photo from www.kazanova.su/our_projects/sexmuzey

The area of the museum is not large, however there are enough exhibits of different ages from different countries to satisfy your curiosity and to learn something new. I like to learn new things and I liked the idea that you can touch most of the objects and look through the old books and albums, for example, an album of the pre-revolution era. It doesn’t look erotic at all, more like porn.

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The exhibition is divided into different sections starting from ancient Egyptian and Greek civilizations then it proceeds to the Romans and Medieval times and so on. The Soviet display does have some interesting artefacts as well, for instance an envelope stamped by the KGB as top secret with porn photos. Nobody knows what happened to the owner of the photos. Perhaps, he disappeared in the basements of the Chekist Town (KGB headquarters in Yekaterinburg). Another display shows contemporary BDSM and gay culture (in case you wondered if it’s allowed in Russia).

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I’d expected the excursion in the museum would be more like a promotional introduction to the nearby sexshop but the guide was more focused on the history of sex telling stories in a very tactful manner so despite the small size of the museum you get a huge amount of information. Many of the exhibits are gifts of the museum’s friends. Some people bring unique things from their travelling expeditions, others find something on the attics of their grannies’ houses. Apart from excursions the museum organizes various events: exhibitions of Russian artists, cinema nights, workshops on drawing and pottery. Surely, every event expresses ideas of “this” as you get the terminology by now.

photo from www.kazanova.su/our_projects/sexmuzey

photo from www.kazanova.su/our_projects/sexmuzey

The mission of the museum is education for strengthening family ties. The education starts from the age of 18. The Museum “Abouth This” is opened daily 10.00 -21.00. Free admission. To book a guided tour in the museum call beforehand +7 343 231-57-17 Website: http://www.kazanova.su/our_projects/sexmuzey

17Jan/140

Epiphany in the Ural village: crazy Russians and Scotts bathe in freezing water

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January 19th is known in Russia as the Epiphany. The blessing of the waters takes place in the middle of winter when temperature drop dramatically however, it doesn’t prevent many Russians from cutting holes in the lakes to bathe in the freezing water.

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This period around January 19th is called Epiphany Frosts (Kreschenskie morozy). Somehow the weather worsens exactly for the Epiphany as if to test Russians’ bravery. This week has been very warm in Yekaterinburg -2 -4 but exactly on Jan 19th we expect -20 in the city and around – 30 in the north of the region.

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Last winter I was invited to the village of Chusovoye for the Epiphany by the organizers of the Ural-Scottish Festival. Tommy Beavitt, a Scottish musician and translator, came to Yekaterinburg to perform at the concert "Burns & Vysotsky. One soul - two poets" and to try the ritual of the Epiphany.

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First the Orthodox priest has to bless the water. After that it becomes holly and people take the water home to drink. Those who have guts dip themselves three times under the water to wash away the sins of the past year and to experience the spiritual rebirth.

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 Alex Izmalkov, the author of these photos only took pictures of men but there were women and yong boys who tried it too.

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Tommy Beavitt proved to be a tough Scot

Tommy Beavitt proved to be a tough Scot

After jumping in the water everybody gathered in the local church for hot tea and for a conversation with the priest.

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Special thanks to Alex Izmalkov for the photos