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