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18May/150

Cherdyn and Nyrob – the most off the beaten track places in Western Urals

Ok, this post is going to be long just like our journey to Cherdyn and Nyrob. But those two places were certainly worth it and hope so is the story...

In April 2015 my friends and I decided to explore the North of Perm Region. Together with international students from Thailand, Honk Kong and Germany, who study in Yekaterinburg we went to see to oldest Ural towns Cherdyn and Nyrob.

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Cherdyn was the eastern border of the Grand Duchy of Moscow. The date of the foundation is unknown but archeologists found the traces of a settlement of XII century. In XV the Princes of the Principality of Great Perm had Russian names but were of Perm origin. Cherdyn was the capital of Great Perm. The river route from the Novgorod Republic to Siberia led via Cherdyn. The princes of Cherdyn had to pay silver and furs as tribute of Moscow. The wooden Kremlin (fortress) protected Cherdyn in XV-XVI from the Tatars and Mansi.

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Russians baptized the Perm people of Cherdyn in 1462 although for a long time locals, especially Mansi people were fighting against Russian priests and burnt down Orthodox churches. Perm people who were not as boisterous as Mansi melded their pagan believes with Christians. As a result we now have interesting wooden idols of local and Christian saints. All of them including Jesus have very Asian features similar to those of the Uralic people. The largest collection of Perm wooden idols is in the Gallery of Fine Arts in Perm.

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 Cherdyn hasn’t changed much over the centuries. Numerous wooden and brick houses are listed as the national heritage here. In Cherdyn we stayed in a nice hotel Staraya Pristan (Old Pier) which is actually more like a hostel with a kitchen and a dining room, separate bathrooms and a superb banya (steam bath). The hotel is located on the picturesque bank of the Kolva river where the wooden Kremlin used to be built by the first Russian settlers.

The roof of the hotel below on the Kolva river

The roof of the hotel below on the Kolva river

We had a short walking tour in Cherdyn with a local guide, visited two museums of history and nature and climbed the tower of the Resurrection Church of 1754.

In the Museum: the chains of Mikhail Romanov who was  thrown into the pit in Northern Urals by Boris Godunov

In the Museum: the chains of Mikhail Romanov who was thrown into the pit in Northern Urals by Boris Godunov

In the afternoon we went to the next historical town called Nyrob 40 km north of Cherdyn. The town has always been the town of prisoners. In 1601 Boris Godunov, the ruler of Moscovia sent his main rival Mikhail Romanov into exile. Mikhail was the uncle of another Mikhail, the first Tsar in the Romanovs' dynasty. After that Nyrob became famous all over Russia.

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Nyrob is also one of the coldest towns in Perm Region. In winter temperatures drop down to -40 -45. As we got there on 25th of April the area was still covered with snow and the sun set off only for 5 hours at night, rising at 4am again. It’s hard to imagine how the uncle of the first Tsar Mikhail Romanov stayed for 1 year in a hole dug by the soldiers of Boris Godunov with little food to eat and no wood to make fire. No wonder that today Nyrob is still the town of prisoners with several prison-settlements and maximum security prisons all around.

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The domes of the old church in Nyrob

Nyrob, however, has a lovely museum of the Romanovs where for 50rub you can get dressed as boyars and have a selfi sitting on the Tsar’s wooden throne. Of course, we used the opportunity to strike a pose!

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Cherdyn and Nyrob are not the top tourists’ destinations. They are probably for those who have seen everything in the Urals and now want to see something off the beaten track. Although in Cherdyn we met a couple of travellers from Sakhalin. They were advised in Perm to visit the northern town and so they changed their initial pans and came here. The couple said they just loved Nyrob. Our international students also admitted that they had a wonderful weekend.

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It’s easier to get to Cherdyn by car from Perm (304km). We had to cover 650km from Yekaterinburg via Kachkanar and Solikamsk. And it wouldn’t be that bad if there were good roads in Perm region. The roads in the north aren’t bad, there are simply none in some places. We passed several ghost towns (former mining towns) which are similar to those you only find in computer games about zombies. However, there was one bonus on our way back – the so called Stown Town. It is also called the Devil's town for only the devil could create something like that. The rocks form passages, alleys and streets that lead nowhere and make you feel like in another ghost city made by nature.

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30Mar/150

100 wonders in the Urals – a new English guide book

I’m glad to write here about a new guide book on the Great Urals which is now available in English in Yekaterinburg!

“100 wonders in the Urals: natural and man-made” is the ultimate tour guide to the Urals. It comprises 10 areas areas: Sverdlovsk Oblast, Chelyabinsk Oblast, Kurgan Oblast, Tyumen Oblast, Orenburg Oblast, Perm Krai, KhMAO (Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug), YaNAO (Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug), Republic of Bashkortostan and Republic of Komi.

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All of the 100 outstanding sights of interest in the Great Urals are accessible for tourist trips by car, train or air. I believe, this guide book will be ideal for the expats who live in the Urals and for the tourists who want to bring a good and memorable souvenir from the Urals back home.

According to Max Weston, one of the translation editors, “This book opens up one of the most overlooked and magical travel destinations in the world. The Urals are the home of mighty rivers, thick forests and soaring mountains. Man has long battled to harness the endless resources of this boundless, beautiful landscape. Cities, factories and railroads transect this landscape which is dotted with historical sites and natural phenomena. “100 wonders in the Urals” is the ultimate tour guide for this region. It contains an unrivalled level of detail and information – it will both inform and inspire you as you unlock this wonderful world.”

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 The structure of the book is based on the level of uniqueness of the collected wonders:

Wonders at the world level – 20 objects which are possibly unique in the world: there are no analogues on the planet or they are very scarce; leading objects in terms of a certain parameter (size or quality); archeological or historical discoveries or findings that have become sensations in the world of science.

Wonders at the level of Russia – 40 objects which are unique for Russia: wonders that are the only ones of their kind on a country scale; the ones listed in any of the prestigious all-Russian top lists; winners of various contests; unofficial capitals; the very best in Russia by length, age, height, production volume and other criteria.

Wonders at the level of the Urals – 30 objects, extraordinary within the area of the Great Urals: you cannot find anything similar here; the largest or the oldest – these definitions are quite applicable for such monuments if you talk about the ten areas of the Urals.

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Here you can find various types of interesting destinations from nature parks to the private Museum of Rasputin and the anomalous zone in Molebka. The latter has a long list of abnormalities such as unusual laminations at night, flying balls, black silhouettes, sound mirages etc. Besides, there’s a list of the TOP-10 events that make a difference on a Russian level: the longest by duration and by number of participants for tournaments and festivals, the events are unique in the country, contests of significance on the Russian level.

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The guide book 100 wonders in the Urals can be purchased in Yekaterinburg for 1500rub.

You can order it via this website and the managers of the Publishing House ‘First Hand’ will deliver it to you upon your arrival in Yekaterinburg.

 Photos by repeynik.com

16Mar/150

How to spend 2 days in Yekaterinburg? A short guide in pictures.

There is plenty of information in guide books on what to do and see in Yekaterinburg. But it's always easier to understand what it's all about by seeing photos of previous travellers. So how to spend two days in Yekaterinburg? Here's the answer in the pictures kindly shared by Dave Cox from Bristol, UK

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In front of the Bolshoy Ural Hotel

Dave and his friends came in August 2014. We did all the top tours in Yekaterinburg and around and the follwing day the friends explored the city on their own before they got on a train to Siberia.

1) Do the sightseeing in the historical city center

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Memorial Black Tulip to the soldiers of the war in Afganistan

Memorial Black Tulip to the soldiers of the war in Afganistan

2) Go to the border of Europe and Asia 

Border of Europe and Asia on the 17th km of the New Moscow road

Border of Europe and Asia on the 17th km of the New Moscow road

3) Then go to the Tsar's obelisk on the border to drink champagne on both sides of the continent

Tsar's obelisk on the border of Europe and Asia on the 30th km of the Great Siberian Road

Tsar's obelisk on the border of Europe and Asia on the 30th km of the Great Siberian Road

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4) Learn about the last Russian Tsar's family in the monastery Ganina Yama

Monument to the children of Nikolas II in Ganina Yama

Monument to the children of Nikolas II in Ganina Yama

5 Stop at the mafia cemetery 

Shirokaya Rechka, the central cemetery

Shirokaya Rechka, the central cemetery

6) Join the Beatles

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7) At the train station take a look at the Soviet frescos on the walls that tell the history of Yekaterinburg in pictures!

The picture shows the crash of the U-2 plane piloted by the US spy Garry Powers in 1960

The picture shows the crash of the U-2 plane piloted by the US spy Garry Powers in 1960

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2Feb/150

National Park Taganai

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National Park Taganai in the Southern Urals, Chelyabinsk region is a popular place with hikers from all over the Urals. It’s easy to access, the tracks are not difficult and the highest point is 1178 m. above sea level, so you don’t have to be a professional climber to ascend the mountains of the Southern Ural ridge.

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Taganai means a’ holder of the moon’ in the Bashkir language and there’s a romantic Moon river (the river Ai) flowing near the park. Total area of the park is about 568 square kilometres (219 sq mi), it stretches for 52 km (32 mi) from north to south and about 10–15 km (6.2–9.3 mi) from east to west.

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I joined a weekend tour to Taganai organized by my colleague Ilia Gerasimov in December 2014. We left Yekaterinburg on Saturday at 7am and arrived in the park by noon. The distance from Yekaterinburg is about 270km, from Chelyabinsk 150km. The cars were parked at the entrance to the park, now we had to carry our rucksacks and sleeping bags to the nearest tourist shelter which was 10km away.

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On the way we stopped at the foot of Perya Mt. That mountain was difficult to ascend in winter because the path leading to the top is very slippery. It took us over one hour to get up there. However, getting down is easier, faster and more fun in winter time as you simply slide down on your bottom – 10 minutes and we were back on the track where we’d left our luggage.

Finally at the top

Finally at the top

Our tourist shelter that should be booked beforehand was a simple room for 10 people in a wooden house with 5 wide berths, an oven in the middle for heating and cooking and a big table. We cooked pasta and after a very late dinner (because it takes hours to boil water on the oven) went to sleep. The next day there was another mountain to climb.

our tourist shelter

our tourist shelter

after a Russian banya one can walk naked

after a Russian banya one can walk naked

Otkliknoy greben is 1155m high but it turned out to be hard to climb mainly because we didn’t find the trail under the sick snow  and had to make our own path. The weather was splendid on that weekend -10C, sunny and no wind at all.

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 From there we could see the highest peak of the National Park Kruglitsa Mt. But for climbing the peak one should plan a 3-day trip in Taganai.

The white cap at a distance of Kruglitsa Mt  1178m above the sea level

The white cap at a distance of Kruglitsa Mt 1178m above the sea level

My friends say that in summer time Taganai is also beautiful, so we are planning to go there again although sliding down on the bottom won’t be an option anymore.

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Getting there from Yekaterinburg by car: go to the south down Chelyabinsk road and then turn to M5 highway towards Zlatoust. Use the main road in the town of Zlatoust in the direction of Magnitka village. As you leave Zlatoust there is a road sign Lesnichstvo (Forest area) and the road turns right to the park entrance.

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9Jan/150

Ice Town in Yekaterinburg 2015

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Traditionally after Christmas I’m posting the photos of the ice town of Yekaterinburg. In 2015 the theme of the ice town is the 70s anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War. The ice figures in the Square of 1905 were made by an international group of sculptors.

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The Brest Forest is the pavilion in the center of the ice town. 3D films about the Second World War are played inside.

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'Mystical animals - world protectors' by Japanese sculptors

'Mystical animals - world protectors' by Japanese sculptors

Of course, you will find an ice tank T34 in the ice town as the Soviet tank was produced in Yekaterinburg at the Uralmash Factory.

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Other ice sculptures are located in front of the Church on the Blood. Every year sculptors create here religious-themed figures for Orthodox Christmas on the 7th of January.

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This year the ice town works till January 25th only. So hurry up to see the ice beauty!

23Dec/140

Yekaterinburg city tour: Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent

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Novo – Tikhvinsky Convent on Zelyonaya Roscha st, 1 is one of the tourists’ attractions in Yekaterinburg. Since the reopening of its main church of St. Alexander Nevsky in 2013 it has become a part of every city tour.

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The convent was opened in the 18th century. Before the revolution it was the largest convent in Russia with 1000 sisters. The sisters received education and were taught crafts. There were six churches, residences for the sisters, and buildings where various workshops were located: gold-embroidery, iconographic, silk-embroidery, photographic, spinning, enamel, and the sewing one.

In 1920s the convent was requisitioned by the Bolsheviks and most of the sisters were killed. The territory of the convent was used as a park and partly given to the military hospital. The Church of St Alexander Nevsky was turned into a storage.

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In 1994 the convent was given back to nuns. However, the area is much smaller now so the nuns (today there are over 100 of them in Yekaterinburg) have to live in the outskirts of the city. They come to Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent every day for their obedience such as icon-painting, sewing, at the publishing house, souvenir obedience etc.

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The church of Alexander Nevsky is interesting from the mineralogical point of view. Inside it is decorated with various minerals, the so-called Ural gems.

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Another must-visit place in the convent is the souvenir shop. In winter the shop looks like a museum of pre-revolutionary Christmas decoration. You can buy Christmas decoration and toys made according to the traditional design of the 19th century.

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If you are looking for a unique hand-made Russian souvenir and not a corny matryoshka doll or shapka (Russian hat), Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent offers a good variety. This year I bought all New Year presents there

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photos of the church were taken from the website of Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent http://www.sestry.ru/eng

28Nov/140

Weekend trip to the deer farm and huskydog sledding on Jan 24

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Dear friends and travellers,

on Saturday January 24th 2014 we are off for a one day trip to visit huskies, Siberian deer and ostriches in Northern Urals!

Visit a family of huski dogs and Siberian deer. Try dog sledding and climb Mt. Belaya to see a beautiful landscape of Northern Urals

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Itinerary: Jan 24

 

8.00 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!

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12.00 Lunch in a cafe in Visim

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Belaya Mount ski resort. You will be able to get to the top of Mt. Belaya (705m) for a beautiful view of Northern Urals.

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Dog sledding in the village of Chernoistochinsk.

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Arrival to the city back to Dynamo Metro (arrival time is approximate)
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Price per person:

Adults 1800rub

Children 1700rub

Book the tour here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/weekend-tour

5Nov/140

Hot Springs of Turinsk

For many foreign tourists and expats Ural winters seem to be very cold. But we have something hot to offer in the winter time – hot springs near the town of Turinsk.

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Turinsk hot springs also known as Akvarel spa were discovered and then modernized only a year ago. The temperature of the water is 37C. and the organizers say it’s a natural spring as opposed to the ones in Tyumen (the nearest rivals in the western Siberia) where the mineral water is supposedly heated and mixed with the water from tap. http://askural.com/2011/01/hot-springs-in-tyumen-siberia/

The hot springs of Tymen have been working for many years attracting tourists from the Urals but the spa near Turinsk is 100km closer to Yekaterinburg, the price is more reasonable than in Tyumen.

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Be ready that the water of the hot spring is not cristal-clear. It’s brown due to the high quantity of iron. The water also contains iodine, natrium, hydrocarbonate, magnesium, calcium and other minerals. It’s required to stay in the bath for 20 minutes then to have some 20 min rest.

Apart from the open-air mineral bath visitors can also relax in a Turkish bath (t +60C, Humidity 100%), Finnish sauna (t +80C), bio-sauna (t +60C, humidity 60%, light-therapy, aroma-therapy) and salt-banya (t +50C, humidity 60%).

The hot spring of Turinsk is open daily from 6.00 to 24.00.

Entrance fee: 500rub for 3 hours + 200rub for the saunas.

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Getting there:

Bu bus: You can go by bus to Turinsk and then to get a taxi to the hot spring.

Going there by car: first go in the direction of Turinsk. Pass the right turn to Turinsk and continue going straight down the bridge over the Tura river. From the bridge take a left turn to the village of Chekunovo. Go down the main road of the village. You will see a sign Vodoistochnik on the left. Follow the sign. There is only one road to the hot spring. Parking fee 50rub

The distance between Yekaterinburg and Turinsk is 280km which is a 4 hour drive but it will be longer if using public transport.

On the way to Turinsk you can stop in the town of Irbit – a famous producer of the Ural motorbike. http://askural.com/2014/08/irbit-fair-and-ural-motorbikes/ It also has an interesting Museum of Fine Arts with a large collection of European engravings and works by Rubens given to Irbit by the Hermitage in St.Petersburg. Turinsk is another place of interest – from 1600 it was the first prison over the Ural mountains for the people exiled to Siberia by the Russian Tsars. The museum and the cemetery of Turinsk tell the history of Russian aristocrats imprisoned there.

10Sep/140

Kachkanar Mt. How to become a Buddhist in the Urals?

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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

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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.

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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.

Kosya village

Kosya village

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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!

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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.

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Every Buddhist in Russia should have a banya!

Every Buddhist in Russia should have a banya!

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…

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Camel rock

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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.

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26Aug/140

Irbit Fair and the Ural motorcyle factory

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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.

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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.

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You can still buy a bear skin in Irbit!

You can still buy a bear skin in Irbit!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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