Did you know that the Ural region has a Buddhist Center, the only one in Russia outside the Republics of Buryatia and Kalmykia? Shad Tchup Ling Buddhist monastery is located on Kachkanar Mount. The latter is a worthy place of attraction itself. Being the highest mountain in the Middle Urals (887.6m) with stunning views and peculiar rocks at the top, Kachkanar Mt has even got its own website: www.kachkanar.org
To get to that in many senses incredible place you need to drive 260km north of Yekaterinburg to the town of Kachkanar and from there about 50km more to the village Kosya. Here on the Is river people mined gold and platinum in the 19th century. A stone on the side of the road reminds you about it and also about the fact that you are crossing two borders here: the border of Europa and Asia and the border of the Middle and Northern Urals.
You don’t have to be a skillful mountain climber to get to the Buddhist Monastery at the top. It took our group of amateur hikers 2 hours to climb Kachkanar by the shortest and the steepest trail. By the way, our local guide Ivan Mikhailovich was 80 years old! Another longer and wider road (about 9km) can be very muddy after rains as it’s often used by off-road jeep drivers. So we were sweating but at least our feet were dry and clean.
It was very windy and cold at the top. That is why I was shocked to see ducks and a cow grazing amid the rocks. But you will be shocked even more when thinking how on Earth the monks managed to lift all the stuff up here to build their monastery with a white stupa!
The monastery is still in the process of construction but the monks always find time to leave their duties in order to show tourists around and to answer their questions. On Saturday as we got there the monastery was crowded with hikers, as usual on weekends. The monks offered us a spare room and tea and also the kitchen as we had a plan to cook pasta in there. It’s always a good idea to bring food or necessary building materials for the monks.
Shad Tchup Ling Buddhist monastery was founded by a veteran of Afganistan War Lama Sanye Tenzin Dokchit aka Mikhail Sannikov. After the war he studied Buddhism in Buryatia and Mongolia. In 1995 he started building a monastery on Kachaknar Mt., the place that had been chosen by his teacher. Technically, it can’t be called a monastery as there are no monks, except for the Lama, who have received a proper education. But the place can surely be called a rehab as most of the young men who come to Lama are trying to get rid of drug and alcohol addiction. Many run away after a month or two but they usually return back. Probably because there’s something unbearably beautiful in the severe landscape of the Northern Urals. Have a look yourself…
However, there’s a possibility that Kachkanar Mt and the monastery will no longer be here. The mountain is a rich bed of iron ore and the Ore Mining Enterprise of Kachkanar is planning to turn it into a deep quarry. The company belongs to EVRAZ holding headquartered in London and led by Russian tycoon Abramovitch. The activists keep on writing letters to President Putin but chances are the owner of FC Chelsea will win the battle against one solitary Lama.
On August 22nd we went to the annual fair in Irbit. Irbit is a town on the Eastern slope of the Ural mountains 200km east of Yekaterinburg. Back in the days Irbit was a gateway to Siberia. Thanks to its favourable location, the town became an attraction for Russian merchants who came to buy and sell goods from Siberia at the fair.
In 19th century Irbit Fair was the second largest in Russia after Nizhni Novgorod. The fair was famous for fabrics, Siberian furs and tea from China. In the Soviet period the fairs were not held in the Ural town but the tradition came back in 2002.
In the past the fair took place in winter and lasted for a month. These days the fair is held every 4th weekend of August from Friday till Sunday. Irbit Fair is an exhibition of various crafts in the Urals from making feltboots valenki to baking gingerbread. Local craftsmen invite you to the workshops. The guests are treated with tea and blinis.
Irbit is also famous for its Motorcycle Museum as the town is the home of the IMZ Ural motorcycle factory. In the USSR Ural bike was a very popular transport but in the 1990s the factory went bankrupt.
Fortunately deallers abroad were found and today Ural bikes are craftwork. The factory produces 1200 motorcycles a year, 95% of them are exported. One of the Ural bikes with a sidecar belongs to the Hollywood actor Brad Pitt.
Irbit has the Motorcycle Museum but thanks to the Center of Tourism Development of Sverdlovsk Region my colleagues and I were lucky to get to the factory.
By the way, the Ural factory has a nice website in English, in case you decide to buy one http://uralmoto.ru/en/
Click the gallery to see more photos from the motorcycle factory and of the fair
Dear readers, I’m happy to announce that the oldest English speaking club in Yekaterinburg is celebrating its 5th anniversary on August 13th at the Keeer Reastaurant. And you are very welcome to join the party!
The English club at Keeer is held every Wednesday at 8.30 in the banquet room of the restaurant.
Originally the idea was to make a discussion club for English learners but over time the club has become a meeting place for expats and random tourists from all over the world. According to Wikitravel, this is one of the two main things to do in Yekaterinburg: ‘Great place to meet other foreigners and local Russians who speak English.’
Every week there is a particular theme for discussion: sports, relationships, careers etc. The participants share their thoughts while eating and drinking Keeer’s specials. For the English learners it’s a great chance to practice speaking and listening skills. For a new, lonely expat it’s a chance to have fun and to make new friends.
‘I have been traveling continuously for the last 27 months around the world to 96 countries, 250 cities and 500 sacred sites on 6 continents so far. One of my most memorable experiences on my amazing Trans-Siberian and Trans-Mongolian journey in the summer of 2011 was my time spent in Yekaterinburg. It is a beautiful city with very warm and welcoming people. Such a refreshing break from Saint Petersburg and Moscow where I had recently come from. One of my fondest memories there was my evening with the English Club and getting a chance to talk with many local Russians that were born and grew up in the area. My favorite topics that we discussed were about life in Russia and the culture and traditions of that part of Russia. Learning about the Russian people through their food, art, dance, religion and architecture. I look forward to visiting the city again in the next 2 years and I hope to get invited back to the English Club while I am there.’
Jefre C. Outlaw, USA
By the way, Jefre did come to Yekaterinburg and the English Club once again in January 2014!
While the Birthday Party will be held on August 13th, you can visit the English club any other Wednesday of the year. To join the club you just have to be there on Wednesday night (the meetings last from 8.30 till 11.30 or longer). 300 Rub ($10 US) minimum purchase required .The restaurant is in the same building as Havana Club on Mamina Sibiryaka, 36. If you can’t find it, ask the waiters for assistance.
You can find the theme of the next English club on the Facebook page: Yekaterinburg For You
On Sunday, August 3d we are off for a one day treasure hunt in the fields of gems near the town of Rezh!
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.
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
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!
19.30 Arrival to the city back to Dynamo Metro (arrival time is approximate)
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
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
But the best prices are at the stalls outside. Make sure to haggle fiercely to get a bargain.
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.
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.
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!
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.
When in Yekaterinburg, try our special Mafia Tour!
Many Russian cities were associated with mafia in the 1990s but Yekaterinburg played a special role.
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.
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.
More details of the tour here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/mafia-tour
photos by Elio Castoria
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.
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.
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.
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.
Our 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!
If you decide to visit the Urals this summer, try a bit of rafting to see more of the wild nature!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
More details at Yekaterinburg For You website: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours
Hope to see you in the Urals soon!