AskUral.com Hello! My name is Luba. I can show you my Yekaterinburg and Middle Urals in Russia!

23May/180

Life in Tundra. Numto Nature Park. Part I

DSCF9609

At the end of April 2018 my dream came true – I managed to get to the Tundra and to meet native Uralic people of the North of the Urals Khantys and Nenets living in their natural environment.

I visited the territory of Numto Nature Park on the border of Kanty-Mansi and Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous areas. Numto means a sky lake. Large Numto lake is a sacred place for the natives. It has an island in a shape of a heart that attracts shamans. In the past people didn’t fish there. These days they do fishing but it’s still forbidden for women to swim in the lake.

Numto Nature park is located 450 km north of Surgut city. Surgut is easy to reach by train or plane. Then a 4-hour drive through a vast sandy terrain of tundra. After that the road ends and the last 40km to the village of Numto and the lake are only accessible on zimnik.

DSCF9432

Narty - wooden sledge that native people use

Zimnik - winter road for trucks and off-road geeps

Zimnik - winter road for trucks and off-road geeps

Zimnik  - means a winter road. It’s a snowy road made by tractors when the soil is frozen. Without that road Numto is only reachable by a helicopter that comes to the village 1-2 times a week bringing pensions and salaries to the villagers, food and other products that the natives have ordered from the main land. Fortunately, winters are long in tundra. At the end of April it was still -20 and the snow was solid. However, the natives also use snowmobiles a lot - even in summer time a light snowmobile can easily go through sands and swamps.

DSCF9413

The journey starts from the territory of the oil and gas company. In fact, the nature park is surrounded by drilling rigs that made Green Peace take some actions at Lake Numto. At the same time the workers of the oil and gas company are the source of income for the natives as they can trade with the Russian workers selling them reindeer meat, wild berries and mushrooms in autumn. Otherwise nobody buys those things as generally speaking there are no humans for many kilometers away. The only thing that is strictly forbidden to bring through the check points of the oil company is alcohol. Then again, they are not allowed to check the natives so tundra is not quite a sober land.

My friends arranged my accommodation at the family of Grigoriy, a Nenets reindeer herder who lives with his Khanty wife Lyudmila at the winter pasture. To get there I had to sit on narty – wooden sledges covered with warm reindeer skins, and off we go through the forest and tundra.

DSCF9452

DSCF9447

My guest family lives in a small wooden cabin and they have many other wooden shelters around to store goods and snowmobiles. These days native people in that area are not nomads and they don’t live in a chum(yurt made of deer skins). The families migrate several times a year changing their winter home for the summer wooden residence. Some families move around 4 times a year changing pastures every season. As Numto located in the forest-tundra, the natives prefer living in the woods while their reindeer graze in an open space in tundra. There the snow is not so deep and the animals can easily find yagel (moss).

 

Lyudmila in her winter house

Lyudmila in her winter house

Lobaz - Khanty storage of food on tall legs - to prevent from animals, especially bears

Lobaz - Khanty storage of food on tall legs - to prevent from animals, especially bears

DSCF9508

DSCF9502

DSCF9492

DSCF9516

Reindeer are everything for the natives – food, clothes, necessary equipment (they make threads and ropes of skin and veins) and transportation. When our snowmobile got broken in the middle of tundra and in the middle of a blizzard, Valya, a Nenets woman said that reindeer are slower of course but they don’t break and don’t need expensive fuel. Yet, these days even natives prefer to go faster. To be continued…

DSCF9613

6Apr/180

Were to buy gems in Yekaterinburg. Ural bijou designer

27750626_2055623131392832_8066469613501871926_n

You often send me questions about the Ural gems and where to buy them. Fortunately, the traditions of stone cutting and jewelry art has remained in the Urals. In Yekaterinburg you can meet people who have dedicated their lives and careers to the Ural gems.

29792455_2083021145319697_7299295881702345286_n

One of them is Irina Zakhozhay, a designer of bijouterie. She has just been awarded as the Jewelry Designer of 2017 in Sverdlovsk Region. Irina is a frequent partner of the Ural Fashion Week and Miss Yekaterinburg Beauty Pageant. She is not a professional designer though. Irina graduated the Ural Polytechnical University and she is an engineer and a lawyer by profession. Her love to stones had begun in the childhood with her grandmother’s collection and it finally won.

22549893_2000026293619183_1542392824038496500_n

Despite all her titles and popularity in Yekaterinburg, Irina is a very humble easy-going person. We met not long ago in her salon. She makes everything herself with the help of only one assistant . The workshop is located in the same place. So you can come to the shop, meet the owner, see how she works and have a cup of coffee with her. Customers often bring their dresses to choose a necklace or a bracelet to match the outfit

Irina in her salon

Irina in her salon

10349215_1417763218512163_2708134565434572455_n

Irina is a stone designer with a typically Ural approach: while jewelry designers all over the world draw a sketch of an item and then search for necessary stones, Ural designers start with a stone. You take a raw mineral, study it and try to understand what story the stone is telling you. That’s why traditionally Ural jewelry is quite massive. It’s a crime for the locals to change the shape of natural minerals. Stones are beautiful as they are.

Ural jewelry is quite massive

Ural jewelry is quite massive

13939567_313079159024911_6718954577447546219_n

You can even bring your own stone to the salon and the designer will think how to make a jewelry piece out of it. If you need something simple and the stones are available in the workshop it may sometimes take 1 hour for Irina to create a bracelet or earrings for you.

This quartz is as beautiful as it is

This quartz is as beautiful as it is

Irina states that she works with bijou only, i.e. uses gems, not precious stones. That’s why the prices in her salon are very fair. You can find items on sale from the old collections for 500rub and massive necklaces from the Ural Fashion Week for 7000rub (100euro).

24862094_2023076127980866_2475999569606170067_n

The bijou salon of Irina Zakhozhay is located in the center of Yekaterinburg. Business Center Manhattan on Mamina Sibiryaka st., 101. 2nd Floor, Office 222. The online shop is not available yet but you can always contact the designer on her Facebook business page:  https://www.facebook.com/irina.zahohzay?fref=pb&hc_location=friends_tab

29695075_2083021165319695_7252063004634647835_n

p.s. This post is not commercial just like the other ones. The idea of the blog is to bring the Urals closer to you and to make it more open for the outside world. I only write about places and people who in my opinion try to make the Urals a better place for living and traveling and whom I like myself. So, obviously, this whole blog is very subjective.

Filed under: Shopping No Comments
20Mar/180

Kachkanar Mt. and Shad Tchup Ling Buddhist Center

DSCF8691

This winter I finally managed to return to the only one in the Urals Buddhist Center Shad Tchup Ling on Mt. Kachkanar.

DSCF8669

In the recent years the local Media has been writing about the inevitable shutdown of the monastery because it was built illegally and because the nearby area is going to be used by Kachkanar Iron Mining Plant. But despite all the articles in the newspapers, the dwellers of Mt. Kachkanar stay calm and happy and continue building.

DSCF8638

DSCF8641

The construction of the monastery takes a lot of time and incredible efforts – to lift the materials up the mountains is quite a challenge. Now the Buddhists have a crane device but mostly they deliver everything manually or with the help of the dogs. They say it will take another hundred years to build everything as planned but even now the territory looks impressive.

DSCF8665

IMG_20180102_120640

As usual at weekends the monastery is full of visitors. Tourists, hikers, curious people come for a day or two. It’s always a good idea to leave donations (to bring something useful or share food). Some people stay longer – for a week or for several months. That’s why it’s hard to tell how many people currently live on top of Kachkanar.

WC on the edge of the cliff

WC on the edge of the cliff

And the view from WC

And the view from WC

Technically Shad Tchup Ling can’t be called a monastery. The first educated monks will arrive in a year (right now two people study at Buddhist school abroad). The others are those who chose a rather solitary way of life of tough labour and mantra reading.

DSCF8644

Open pit of Kachkanar Iron Ore Mining Plant 7km away from the monastery

Open pit of Kachkanar Iron Ore Mining Plant 7km away from the monastery

For hikers Shad Tchup Ling is a good place to stay for lunch and to store personal belongings before going out to explore the nearby rocks. And the rocks are amazing there.

DSCF8670

DSCF8677

It’s possible to see Mt Kachkanar in one day from Yekaterinburg if you start very early: distance Yekaterinburg – Kachkanar 250km. There’s a parking place outside the plant. Then walk 8km up the mountain to the Buddhist Monastery.

DSCF8685

 

8Jan/180

How to make an ice sculpture

IMG_20180105_103413

Every winter we post photos of the beautiful ice sculptures from the Square of 1905 in Yekaterinburg and from the Ice contest in front of the Church on the Blood.

26220447_1689733577714600_8992278690350537598_o

26173492_1689733391047952_3296745111038805084_o

While it's hard to see how the ice town in the main scare is built because they put a wall around the square during the construction, you can watch ice sculptors working in front of the Church on the Blood.

26240914_1689733407714617_3121155385831898225_o

26198670_1689733571047934_8015917724327723040_o

The annual contest for the best sculpture is held in front of the church. In 2018 the theme of the ice exhibition was the Romanovs. In July 2018 we have the memorial days dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Tsar's execution.

IMG_20180105_103217

26232415_1689733804381244_6437572181662504937_o

IMG_20180105_103201

The sculptors start working two days before Orthodox Christmas and work very fast. I happened to pass the church twice on January 5th. It was amazing to watch how quickly ice cubes are shaping up into pieces of art.

IMG_20180105_103021

26198216_1689734144381210_8792843693415883108_o

 IMG_20180105_103512

26173694_1689733757714582_123373793657594915_o

The sculptures will stay here until they melt naturally. Usually it happens in mid February. Untill then you can enjoy the magic of ice!

26198400_1689734244381200_8391483303404385478_o

IMG_20180105_103132

26220799_1689733977714560_2759464749219349670_o

26233122_1689733271047964_1272771183028770996_o

21Nov/170

German documentary about the Ural village Irgisli

Our askural-blog-reader Pio Luis sent me the link on the German documentary asking where the village of Irgisli is located.
Irgisli is located in the Southern Urals, Republic of Bashkortostan, 400km South-East of Ufa, the capital of Bashkir Republic.


The documentary is worth watching if you want to know about Real Russia and about rural life in the Ural villages.
Even though it was made in 2004, I believe not much has changed in Irgisli since then. And it's in English!

Filed under: Ural Region, Video No Comments
26Oct/170

Fairy Tale Park and Bazhov’s Malachite Box

DSCF8163

Park Skazov (Fairy Tale Park) is a themed park mainly for children based on the fairy tales by the Ural author Pavel Bazhov and other Russian folk stories.

DSCF8162

DSCF8154

Pavel Bazhov (1879 - 1950) was born in the town of Sysert 30km South of Yekaterinburg. Then he moved to Yekaterinburg. When working as a journalist he traveled a lot in the Urals collecting the local folklore. His most famous book The Malachite Box is a collection of the fairy tale from the Urals. All the places in the tales are non-fiction but the real proper names of lakes, mountains and villages of the Ural Mountains.

DSCF8160 DSCF8161

One of the main characters Danila, the craftsman is a prototype of Danila Zverev, a well known jeweler in Sverdlovsk Region whom Bazhov knew personally. The central character of the Malachite Box is the Mistress of the Copper Mountains. She is believed to be the owner of the Ural gems who lives in the cave and looks like a lizard but occasionally turns into an attractive woman wearing a green (malachite colored) dress.

DSCF8149

The Mistress of the Copper Mount meets tourists in the park's cave and asks them tricky questions. If you answer correctly she agrees to open her treasure box and shows the Ural gems.

DSCF8147

In Granny Nina's house children can play with puppets of Danila the craftsman, the deer called the Silver Shoe and other characters of well knonn Bazhov's fairy tales.

DSCF8175 DSCF8183

You can also rest on the oven (a traditional place for sleeping in the wooden izba) and feed the animals outside.

DSCF8165

DSCF8169

Baba Yaga is a witch from Russian fairy tales also appears as a character and an animator in the park. According to the fairy tales she lives in a house with chicken legs. Even though she looks like a scary witch in the end she is a friendly Russian babushka who lets you in her weird house.

DSCF8191

DSCF8193

Finally the Park has the residence of the Moroz Ural (Frost Ural). Although he points out that he is not the Father Frost who comes to Russian kids with gifts on New Year eve, the concept is very similar.

DSCF8199

DSCF8207

Generally the Park of the Fairy Tales is of course designed for Russian children, ut the adults and foreign guests may find it amusing too especially if you speak Russian and if you do the homework - read the Malachite Box by Pavel Bazhov. By the way, it was translated into English so you can find it on Amazon.

DSCF8212

Fairy Tale Park is located in Aramil (20km South of Yekaterinburg) Park Skazov st, 1. http://parkskazov.ru/

Opened for individual visitors: Fri-Sun 10.00 - 18.00. For organized groups the park works during a working week as well.

17Aug/170

Watch how foreign tourists experience wild life in Ural Mountains

Watch a short film about two tourists from Hong Kong Kong Wai Po and Ball who came to the Urals for trekking and hiking in Taganai National Park.

Sometimes they weren't sure if they could climb the highest peaks but finally they did it thanks to their professional guide Ilia Gerasimov.

You can book the Taganai Tour here http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/taganai

And you can watch more videos about the Urals (only in Russian though) made by our friends, amateur hikers from the town of Verkhnyaya Pyshma here https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCB798X6rDO9mry3uO1f8Ohg

5Jul/170

Hiking in Konzhak Mt in Northern Urals

PXNnYcyDYpM

In June of 2017km I climbed the highest peak of Sverdlovsk Region Konzhak Stone (1569m) for the third time.

This time we were with the Uraloved club - club of amateur hikers from Yekaterinburg. Uraloved was organizing a 4 day tour to the Northern Urals. It was a perfect schedule because a standard 3-day Konzhak trip implies that you climb it in one day. It means 42km or 12 hours of trekking and the following day you can’t feel your legs. The other two days you spend on driving to Konzhak and back (450km one way, takes about 6 hours from Yekaterinburg). The area of Konzhak stone has many other interesting mounts to climb so we had plenty of time to see everything around.

Road to Konzhak

Road to Konzhak

The trail to Konzhak Mt is very picturesque and it’s famous for the annual Konzhak Mountain Marathon held on the first Saturday of July. In 2017 the winner of the marathon, Yevgeniy Markov (31 years old) finished the trail (42km) with the time 3.00.16. Well, we weren’t in a hurry and had heavy rucksacks, so we did first 14km in 5 hours on the first day.

P1160562

At first the trail goes through a magnificent almost magic-like Taiga forest with huge cedar trees, crooked spruces and a carpet of thick green moss. Because we arrived on Friday, there wasn’t a single soul in the forest. Taiga was silent only making squeaking sounds of the old trees in the wind every now and then.

P1160563

BxxJUhFbLJQ

The 14th km of the trail is called the valley of painters, probably because it has a nice view of the Ural Mountains. That’s where tourists pitch their tents. On weekends the valley is overcrowded and those who come late have to put tents in the middle of swamps. Since we came on the working day, we could afford choosing the most convenient and driest spot for our camp. The great thing about Konzhak is that it never gets dark in summer time here. At midnight we could still chatting at the campfire enjoying the views around us.

P1160568

The second day was dedicated to the peak of Konzhak and Yov’s Plateau. In June the top of the mount is still partly covered with snow which was actually great. Instead of jumping up and down the huge stones making sure that your feet doesn’t slide in the holes between them and the stones are moving to make it even much worse, in June we could easily walk on snow. We didn’t stay long at the top because the wind there is always beastly strong and the raindrops hit your face like thousands of sharp icy daggers.

P1160584

P1160587

lgYaQy6c7Ho

Descending was very easy we could just slide down the snow.

rr5i1v-ncU0

Yov’s plateau was still swampy in earlier June. Later in summer time the plateau is covered with colorful flowers.

P1160613

PGm6JmA7iGQ

l4a_tD3fpeQ

On our third day we went to climb Serebryanka Mt (1305m). It’s the second place of attraction in the area. This peak is easier to climb that’s why you meet more tourists there and families with children.

P1160626

P1160633

Unfortunately, in the recent past there was a mine made in that area and the road for heavy trucks was build that goes past Serebryanka Mt. and Yov’s Plateau. A lot of lazy tourists from Yekaterinburg and Perm come the plateau by offroad jeeps. We even met a tourist bus that brought 30 people from Perm for a weekend. From the road it takes about 20 minutes to get to the top of Serebryanka. But for us it felt that we are walking alone a busy road in the middle of town. It wasn’t quite what we wanted to see after driving 450km north getting away from the civilization…

wHULsEnSbcg

The wind on Serebryanka Mt is not so harsh and we could stay there longer taking a lot of great photos.

Afm6Z_oXWvc

P1160632

P1160638

As you can see in the pictures we were really lucky with the weather. It’s not always like this and very often people hike in fog there. Of course, we were ready for the worst, took a lot of winter clothes, raincoats, so the last thing I could think of was a sun protective lotion. Eventually, trekking for four days in the Northern Urals I returned to Yekaterinburg with a burnt face so everyone thought I spent a weekend in Sochi or somewhere else in the South.

wUSH9vJaGy4

Needless to say, on the fourth day nobody in our group wanted to go back to the city. We promised to each other to come back to Konzhak. May be in August - September next time when the forest is full of berries and mushrooms.

P1160591

 

19Jun/170

Museum of Soviet Household in Yekaterinburg

P1160514

In 2017 Yekaterinburg has got a new museum – the Museum of the Soviet Household.

Irina Svetonosova, a former journalist was inspired by the idea of the similar museum in Kazan and decided to open a similar nostalgic exhibition of the Soviet memorabilia in her home town.

Irina, the owner of the museum photo by E1.ru

Irina, the owner of the museum
photo by E1.ru

P1160506

She rented a 100 years  old house in the city center and started collecting old stuff from the attics of her friends and relatives. The citizens of Yekaterinburg who have already been to the museum now bring their own items for the museum, so the collection continues growing.

The building of the Museum photo by E1.ru

The building of the Museum
photo by E1.ru

P1160512

Of course, for Russian visitors it’s a reason to feel nostalgic about their childhood days. I believe, it’ll also  be interesting for foreign visitors of Yekaterinburg to understand how people lived in the USSR and may be to compare the life style with their own.

P1160517

P1160509

Address: ul. Sakko I Vanzetti, 40

Opened daily 11.00 – 20.00

Admission: Adults – 200rub \ School children – 100rub

P1160503

5Apr/171

Travelling in Southern Urals. Part V. Paris and Steps

IMG_20170120_092113

In the South of Chelyabinsk Oblast (Region) travelers may get confused when looking at the map: going to the border with Kazakhstan the road goes along Paris, Berlin, Fère-Champenoise, then it turns to Leipzig, passing Kassel etc. The villages in that area got their names in honor of the Russian victories in major battles of Napoleonic wars.

The village of Paris is probably the most popular one with drivers who stop to take pictures with a road sign saying Parizh to post it on Facebook. Apparently, some drivers were not satisfied with taking just photos so they took\stole the road sign at the entrance of the village. The police put a new one but it was stolen again. After that the authorities stopped bothering and we could only take a photo at the exit with a crossed Parizh sign. Hopefully it remains there for good.

P1160420

Paris, Varna, Berlin and other villages with exotic names are also interesting from the anthropological point of view. The citizens of that area are called Nagaybäks. This minority with the population of about 1000 people was officially recognized in Russia as a separate ethnic group.

The origin of the Nagaybäks remains unclear. They are Tatars allegedly from Kazan Khanate who for some reason adopted Christianity. Nagaybäks speak a dialect of the Tatar language but keep Orthodox traditions. They lived in the territory of Bashkortostan in the 17th century where they assimilated groups of Christians from Iran and Central Asia. During the revolts of Tatars and Bashkirs the Nagaybäks remained loyal to the Russian Tsars and were recruited to the Cossack Army. So Nagaybäk men took part in the wars against Napoleon in Europe as well.

The museum in Fère-Champenoise

The museum in Fère-Champenoise

In the 18th century the Orthodox Tatars were rewarded with new lands on the border with Kazakhstan although according to the Nagaybäks it was a forced exile to the uninhabited steps to protect the Russian borders.

In Paris we visited the local museum where you can learn about the history of the Nagaybäks and about their traditions.

In the museum of Paris a Na?aybäk woman is showing a traditional dress

In the museum of Paris a Nagaybäk woman is showing a traditional dress

Paris wouldn’t be called Paris without an Eifel Tower. A 1.5 replica was constructed in the village in 2005 and it serves as a cell network station.

P1160419

On that day travelling in the Southern steps we received text messages with a warning about bad weather conditions and blizzards in the evening. When leaving Paris the wind got so strong that our driver he couldn’t feel the road. Besides the visibility was getting worse and worse.

IMG_20170120_092108

The situation was becoming dangerous, we had to cover about 200km that evening but on the empty secondary roads with zero visibility there was a little chance to be rescued. I realized, why Southern Urals was another place of exile – once the driver turned off the engine in a few minutes it became freezing cold in the car. The wind was so strong that even though it was -10 outside it felt like -40. We decided to stop and look for a hotel near Paris. Besides, everybody remembered the tragic accident of last year that took place in the step of the Southern Urals.

photo from Komsomolskaya Pravda, 03.01.2016

photo from Komsomolskaya Pravda, 03.01.2016

On3d of January 2016 80 people were trapped in 30 cars on the road between Orenburg and Orsk. It took 16 hours to clean 27 km of the road to get to the trapped people. By that time their cars were fully covered in snow and they couldn’t even open the doors to get out. Though getting out wasn’t an option either. The cars got run out of gas very quickly. To keep their families warm and to survive the drivers were making fires inside the cars. Those who didn’t have paper burnt their documents, money and passports. To keep his pregnant wife warm one man burnt the upholstery of the car seats. The people were rescued after 16 hours. One man died. He was trying to walk to the other cars when the blizzard only started but got lost and couldn’t find the way back. His body was found only 20km away from his car.

wx1080

photo from Komsomolskaya Pravda, 03.01.2016

In our case the blizzard was short once the wind stopped we hurried to the North. Very soon steps changed for forests: pines along the road are a good protection in case of a snowstorm. Orenburg steps are beautiful but can be lethally dangerous in winter. When returning home I reread the Captain’s Daughter by Pushkin. Russian kids study it at school but only after visiting Ural steps you realize in what conditions people had to live there.

P1160413