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

6Apr/180

Were to buy gems in Yekaterinburg. Ural bijou designer

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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).

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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

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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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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8Jan/180

How to make an ice sculpture

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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…

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

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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.

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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.

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19Jun/170

Museum of Soviet Household in Yekaterinburg

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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

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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

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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.

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Address: ul. Sakko I Vanzetti, 40

Opened daily 11.00 – 20.00

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

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5Apr/171

Travelling in Southern Urals. Part V. Paris and Steps

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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14Mar/170

Travelling in Sothern Urals. Part IV. Orenburg region and Pushkin

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This winter my colleagues, the guides of Yekaterinburg and I decided to explore the Southern Urals to see its touristic potential. Within 6 days we covered over 3000km by car, visited 3 regions of Russia populated by over 100 nationalities: Chelyabinsk Region, Orenburg Region and the Republic of Bashkortostan. Almost every day we were crossing the border of Europe and Asia, got into a severe blizzard in Step and drove through the thickest fog I’ve ever seen along the river of Ural. The temperatures in January varied from – 25 in the mountains to -7 Celsius in the step areas.

100km away from Orenburg we stopped at the village of Saraktash. Apart from the local museum and ubiquitous street markets with traditional Orenburg shawls the village is proud of St. Trinity church complex.

The complex of the churches is very impressive and the construction is still going on

The complex of the churches is very impressive and the construction is still going on

The Orthodox churches as well as the priest’s huge house (Father Nickolas and his wife adopted 70 children) have been built in the recent years with the help of Orenburg sponsors. The priest, father Nickolay proved to be a very business oriented person and attracted large sums of money to the village. The sponsors were often invited to Saraktash and to the priest’s house for parties. Finally the Church dismissed Father Nickolas after a drink and drive accident with his Mercedes car involved. The video made by the road police got to youtube. Nowadays the priest is in the church again but lives a more modest and quite reserved life in Saraktash.

The house of Father Nickolay

The house of Father Nickolay

The citizens of Saraktash will also tell you about a movie shot in Saraktash in 1998. 'Russian Riot' is a film based on the historical novel Captain’s Daughter by Alexander Pushkin. Pushkin visited Orenburg region to collect the information about the Russia’s largest peasant revolt also known as Pugachev’s Rebellion or Cossacks’ Rebellion of 1173-75.

A fortress built for the film Russian Riot

A fortress built for the film Russian Riot

The Moscow filmmakers chose Saraktash village for shooting the adaptation. The remained props of the wooden fortress are now the museum of the Captain’s Daughter. The museum has a hotel in the wooden house, a restaurant and a banya.

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In his novel Pushkin describes severe blizzards in Orenburg steps. As we travelled in the Southern Urals we realized how dangerous they can be. For many kilometers you find nothing but white kurgans (hills) and when the visibility is almost zero at night and the car gets off the road chances to be rescued on time are very low.  This will be the next story on the Southern Urals.

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