This summer I was lucky to meet a very interesting tourist from Canada - Paul Gilbert, the founder of Royalrussia.org. Paul is Russophile and Romanovphile, his publishing house in Canada specializes in books on Imperial Russia and the Romanovs.
It was Paul’s second visit of Yekaterinburg. Obviously, he knew much more about Nicholas II than me. Apart from visiting the Monastery Ganina Yama and the actual place of the Romanovs’ burial place found in 1978, Paul wanted to go to the town of Alapayevsk.
Alapayevsk is a small town 180km North-East of Yekaterinburg. Romanovs-wise, the town was the place of the detention of the Grand Duke and Princes Romanov, the elder sister of the Empress Alexandra. The relatives of Nicholas II were imprisoned in a school building of Alapaevsk. On July 18th 1918, the following night after the execution of the family of Nicholas II his relatives in Alapayevsk were taken to a nearby forest and thrown into an old mine when they were still alive. Unlike in Yekaterinburg, the bodies of the Grand Dukes and Elizabeth were found a month later by the White Army.
Today Alapayevsk has a monastery of the New Martyrs of Russia on the site of the mine and a convent of St. Elizaveta . Elizabeth was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church like the family of Nicholas II. Today the relics of St. Elizaveta are in the Russian Orthodox Church of Maria Magdalena in Jerusalem.
The school in Alapayevsk where the Romanovs were kept is still a secondary school. One of the classrooms has a memorial wall with the photos of the Royal prisoners.
It took us a whole day to explore the sites of Alapayevsk with Paul. The priest of the local church was very kind to take his time and to tell more about the days of the Romanovs in Alapayevsk.
I’m sure Paul will write about his experience in one of the next magazines he publishes twice a year. I was honored to receive two of the latest magazines with very interesting articles on the Romanovs.
In 2013 Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna had elevated "Paul Gilbert" to the Imperial and Royal Order of St. Stanislav, III Class.
"The Order is being given in recognition of a lifetime of service to the Russian Imperial House. Gilbert is best known for his Royal Russia web site and blog, the publisher of more than 30 books and magazines on the Romanov dynasty, his support of the Russian monarchy, and his personal dedication to distributing accurate information about the House of Romanov and to highlighting the importance of the Russian Imperial House in today's Russia."
Living in Canada Paul is a true Ambassador of Russia in the West and in his blog he keeps on reminding people that the way western media portrays Russia is far from reality and to understand the truth one should go and see Russia.
You can read more on Paul Gilbert and Imperial Russia here: www.royalrussia.org
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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
See the post: http://askural.com/2012/03/dyatlov-pass/
Since that I’ve got many questions about the book and when it’s realized. I’m happy to say that the book Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar was released on October 22 and is now available on Amazon!
And here’s the first review by Booklist: "The Dyatlov Pass incident is virtually unknown outside Russia, but in that country, it’s been a much-discussed mystery for decades. In 1959, nine Russian university students disappeared on a hiking expedition in the Ural Mountains. A rescue team found their bodies weeks later, nearly a mile from their campsite, partially clothed, shoeless, three of them having died from injuries that indicated a physical confrontation. What happened here? There have been a lot of theories, ranging from misadventure to government conspiracy to freak weather to extraterrestrials, but no one has managed to get to the truth. Drawing on interviews with people who knew the hikers (and with the lone survivor of the expedition, who’d had to turn back due to illness), Russian case documents, and the hikers’ own diaries, Eichar, an American documentarian, re-creates the ill-fated expedition and the investigation that followed. The author’s explanation of what happened on Dead Mountain is necessarily speculative, but it has the advantage of answering most of the long-standing questions while being intuitively plausible. A gripping book, at least as dramatic as Krakauer’s Into Thin Air (1997).”
— David Pitt
You can also check the official website http://deadmountainbook.com/ to read more facts, see the photos and to watch the book trailer.
P.S. Some time ago 9 students - the friends of mine went hiking to Northern Urals. They went on the same dates as the Dyatlov team in the same number and pitched their tent in the same place of the Dead Mointain. That evening they were trying to keep cool but were trembling with fear. Finally, they went to sleep and woke up in the morning safe and sound.
As you can guess the place is not dangerous anymore and it attracts more and more tourists both in summer and in winter. Come to visit it but first read the book!
By the way, the Hollywood movie on the Dyatlov Pass was a bit of a flop because zombie is the last thing the students might encounter there. What will be your explanation then?
all the photos from http://deadmountainbook.com/
Tourists often ask if there are guide books to Yekaterinburg in English to read. Since Yekaterinburg had been closed to foreigners till 1991 publishing English books here is still considered a waste of money – why do we need to make them if the backpackers from abroad come only in summer for a day or two with their own books and maps. But as one of the English travelers said: - We are visiting so many Russian cities on the Trans-Siberian it’s impossible to remember anything even after all the excursions, so a small book with photos would help to revise everything at home once again.
That English traveler came in time in April when I was able to show her our first guidebook to Yekaterinburg in English!
Last summer Marina Tchebotayeva, a private publisher who like me is doing her best to promote the Urals abroad, asked me to write English texts to a new guidebook to the Red Line tour of Yekaterinburg. I thought it would be a great idea because the red line tour was a public project created by ordinary people of Yekaterinburg who love their city (I’ve already written a post on this walking tour)
Besides, the book was to contain additional streets and sites which are not on the red line but worth seeing too such as the KGB town and Boris Yeltsin Street. In fact, Yeltsin Presidential Center became the general sponsor of the book.
The guidebook has a map and descriptions of 68 major sites including most of the city museums each accompanied by a photo or two so you can easily recognize them or match with your own pictures made in Yekaterinburg. I asked my expat friends Philippa Hawkes and Kimber Ross from New Zeland and USA to edit the texts as I’m never sure about the use of the English articles (we don’t have those little things if the Russian language, you see). However, I had to write the name of the city with E (Ekaterinburg that is) in compliance with the policy of the local authorities.
A Travel Guide to Downtown of Ekaterinburg is available in some of the local bookshops and museum souvenir shops. You can also buy the book from me for a lesser price of 200 rubles. I can also send a book to you by post in case you’ve already been to the city and find it difficult to return back just for the sake of buying it!
I’ve already sent one book to Makoto, an FB friend of "Yekaterinburg For You" Facebook page from Japan. It cost him 10$ together with the shipping which you can always send via Paypal.
Welcome to Yekaterinburg this summer to explore the city with the book or with a guided tour or both!
An outdoor library opens in Yekaterinburg every July-August in the city center (at the intersection of 8 Marta and Prospect Lenina) Everyone can come, choose a book and a sack, and enjoy reading in the sunshine. Despite the central location, the reading square is very quiet and it’s a good place to sit down and relax for a while or even to take a nap
I spotted several books in English and in German and of course a large variety of Russian books from fairytales to classics and contemporary novels. People can also donate their old books to the library. So when you walk through the center of Yekaterinburg, make sure to stop at the outdoor library and read a few pages by Dostoyevsky or Leo Tolstoy.
Here are addresses of the central book shops which have literature in English:
Dom Knigi, ul Antona Valeka , 12 domknigi-online.ru
Chitai Gorod, prospect Lenina, 49 http://www.chitai-gorod.ru/
Every Yekaterinburg citizen knows about a mysterious Dyatlov Pass incident and everyone has his or her own version of what could happen to 9 students in Northern Urals in February 1959. Now it looks like Hollywood got its version as well. Local Mass Media wrote that Renny Harlin, director of films like “Die Hard 2”,“Cliffhanger” and “5 Days of War” about the Russian-Georgian war in 2008 is going to shoot a thrilling movie on Dyatlov Pass. So far he has only revealed that the plot is going to be set in the contemporary world: a young group of American students travel to the Ural Mountains in order to solve the mystery of the Dyatlov Pass incident and get into trouble there.
Meanwhile, Donnie Eichar, a writer and director from L.A. arrived in Yekaterinburg in February 2012 to gather the facts and documents in order to write a book based on facts and possibly to find the truth. Ironically, the Dyatlov Foundation led by Yuri Kuntsevich hopes that an American can do more than the Russians. The foundation has been trying to convince Russian officials to reopen the investigation of the case for years but to no avail. Donnie became the first American who trekked in extreme conditions (minus 30c degree) to top of mountain where hikers tent and bodies were discovered. I was lucky to assist him in interviewing the relatives and witnesses which was an incredible experience. Bit I must say that having heard all the terrifying details, I could barely sleep the following nights. I’ll keep you posted on when the book is published in English and in Russian.
In the mean time the facts that we know are as follows: It is February 1959 and nine experienced hikers, mostly students, break off on an expedition to the Ural Mountains on skis. Their goal: The Mountain “Otorten”, which in the local Mansi language means “Do not go there!” In fact, they will never arrive there. The “Dyatlov Pass incident“, named after the leader of the expedition Igor Dyatlov, is one of the biggest unsolved mysteries of the Soviet Union.
Two weeks after their disappearance, local search teams find five of the corpses close to the mountain Kholat Syakhl, the “Mountain of the Dead”, barefoot and dressed only in their underwear.
Investigations reveal that the hikers must have fled their tent for an unknown reason, tearing it open, leaving in a heavy snowstorm and temperatures of -25 decreasing to -30. The officials explain that they died of hypothermia. The real mystery only begins after the thaw when the remaining four corpses are found. All of them are discovered in utterly strange conditions. Two of the corpses have fractures on the skull, a woman is lacking her tongue and the clothes of two corpses contain a high level of radiation. Further, the corpses show signs of aging like grey hair and a deep orange-colored tan.
The suspicion that the local Mansi, Finno-Ugric people, had killed the hikers for entering their holy lands and mountain, which play a big role in many of their traditional legends, was refuted. No hand-to-hand struggle could be proved. The fractures of the skulls indeed seemed to be caused by a force much stronger than a human being, as if the bodies had exploded from the inside without any harm to the outer organs. Another group of hikers, camping 50 km away from the Mountain of the Dead, later testified that they noticed strange orange spheres at the sky that night. Northern lights, UFOs or the Soviet military? The conspiracy theories vary. Soviet investigators, unable to solve the mysterious circumstances of the deaths, claimed the hikers were killed by an “unknown compelling force”.
For this post I used the photos provided by Nashural.com and the text from the English newspaper Your Yekaterinburg.
It says that the Queen of the Copper Mountain is a beautiful young lady who owns all the treasures hidden in the Ural Mountains. Very few people met her because she turns into a lizard every time a man comes up. There was one lucky man though: Danila, a local miner. The Queen of the Copper Mountain fell in love with him. She showed him where her gold was, in return Danila had to stay with her deep underground. The man refused for he had a fiancée at home. The Queen was kind enough to let Danila go. She even gave him a present for his fiancée. As Danila got back home he gave the present, a malachite box full of treasures, to his future bride.
However, he never married the girl, for he went insane and for the rest of his days he was dreaming of the Queen of the Copper Mountain…
This winter I was guiding a group of the 2020 Expo Committee. Yes, I should add here that Yekaterinburg is bidding to host Expo 2020 along with Dubai, San Paulo and Izmir (Turkey). We went to the border of Europe and Asia and there she was…the Queen of the Copper Mountain greeting us with karavai (a loaf of bread with salt in the middle, that you bake specially for greeting important guests)
It was a bright sunny day with -20 Celcius so the members of the Committee from Moscow, the USA and Australia felt very uncomfortable, to say the least. The Queen didn’t show us any gold loads but she had something more valuable in store: 40% proof Russian vodka! My guests couldn’t be happier. This is how you begin treasuring simple pleasures…
If you are coming to Yekaterinburg you can book a meeting with the Queen of the Copper Mountain on the Euro-Asia border but it’s better to do for large groups. It’s quite pricey for a group of two or three tourists.
But back to the Queen or is she a lizard? A legend of a giant lizard with horns was known in the Urals since the time of the cavemen. Ancient Mansi tribes called the lizard Mammoth. So the name ‘mammoth’ came from the Urals only the Mansis were mistaken about its appearance.
When the first Russian gold was found in the Urals in 1745, a lizard came to focus again. In fact, its importance can be scientifically approved: lizards choose the warmest stone in the woods to rest on and the warmest stones are the ones with gold veins underneath. In other words, follow a lizard and you may find gold as there is still plenty of it in the Urals!
You can find many souvenirs with the image of a lizard with a crown in Yekaterinburg. The same lizard was in the coat of arms of Sverdlovsk (the previous name of Yekaterinburg in the Soviet times)
This autumn I was lucky to meet Marina Chebotaeva, the General Director of Enviro-Chemie Gmbh in Yekaterinburg. She is also an author of the travel guide on the Urals. Her books The Urals: a first stride into real Russia volume 1 and 2 won the National Tourist Prize of Senkevich as the best published work on traveling in Russia.
Each travel guide has 52 routes throughout the Urals, each starting from Yekaterinburg. The trips are divided into three categories: short trips (4-5 hours by car), one day trips (10-12 hours), weekend trips (including trips to Bashkiria and Khanty-Mansiysk)
Apart from detailed descriptions and maps, the books have amazing photos. I was surprised to learn that all the photos were taken by amateurs, not by professionals. Most of them were Marina’s friends and colleagues. She just gave them maps and they went to 52 different directions, even to Salekhard at the Polar circle. Though it’s better to fly there for ‘only very brave people go to Salekhard by car’ – the book says.
It started as a hobby or even a necessity four years ago: Marina was looking for souvenirs for her business partners from Germany. It turned out that Yekaterinburg doesn’t produce anything that could be called ‘a nice souvenir from the Urals’. Of course, there are semi-precious stones but they are stones, you know. So Marina decided to create her own Ural gifts.
“A book which is given as a present is read by eight to ten people. Can you imagine how many people all over the world will learn about the Urals and will want to come here!” she says.
The Urals: a first stride into real Russia volume 1 and 2 by M. Chebotaeva are available in Russian, English, German and Chinese in Yekaterinburg bookstores (price is around 1.700 Roubles).
You can also order the book for 1000Roubles at www.nashural.ru or by phone +7(343) 278-27-96, +7-912-218-35-69 (or contact me if you are lost in translation)
click here to see photos from The Urals