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25Sep/101

Where to meet English speakers in Yekaterinburg?

According to this year statistics, more than 420.000 foreigners have visited Yekaterinburg so far, twice as many than last year. Among them 43% come to work, 31% are private visitors, 19% come on business, 3% are tourists and 2% study here.

If you are tired of the Russian language and want to speak English for a change, to meet English speakers in Yekaterinburg is easy. Just look for a place that has loads of booze, Russian girls and music (not necessarily in this order)

Everjazz, Lunacharskogo 137, www.everjazz.ru A new jazz cafe has just opened in the building of Dom Kino cinema and promises to become a top place for jazz lovers from the Urals and abroad. Foreign and Russian live bands play here every night from 8p.m. Note that you will have to pay an entrance fee from 500 to 1.500 roubles depending on the act and it's a good idea to book a table beforehand if it's the like of All Foster Quartet playing.

Al Foster Quartet (USA) in Everjazz Cafe made the venue packed on Monday night

Alibi Bootlegger's Booze Bar, Malysheva 74. This bar is the newest fad in Yekaterinburg - fun atmosphere with booze (a large variety of whiskey), girls and dancing thus a foreign friendly place. I've personally hold a grudge against it though since last time the bouncer didn't let me in with my female friend. When I asked if he would let us in with male companions he genuinely said - Yes. I understand that there is a disproportionate number of men and women in Russia but it doesn't mean that being a woman I can't get to the bar in my city. Being a foreigner however you will be welcome in any bar, so don't worry about it.

Dr. Scotch pub, Malysheva 56a. A pub in Yekaterinburg means something between a disco bar and an expensive restaurant. Dr Scotch is not an exception. With two large areas for eating and for dancing it attracts a lot of party lovers both locals and foreigners. One Friday night (that was exactly the night when we were rejected in Alibi then fortunately hit Dr. Scotch) I spotted there a teacher of English from the UK, a guy from South Africa, an Italian tourist and two workers from Spain. So the statistics didn't lie about purposes of foreign visitors.

Rosy Jane pub, Lenina 32. Another English pub that isn't quite English but is popular with foreigners in Yekaterinburg. There is not enough space for dancing but there are many TV screens to watch football or hockey matches plus live music at weekends.

Rancho restaurant, Gogolya 36, www.theranch.ru The restaurant is located next to USA General Consulate, so you can often meet its employees there. Rancho holds Cinema Nights once a month when you can watch American movies with Russian subtitles.

Yellow Submarine bar, Lenin ave 46. The Beatles themed live music bar. Local bands play there every night. The bar is open from 6p.m. to 6a.m. however live music starts only after midnight which is OK for the Russians but is rather late for the foreigners who got used to the early parties.

in Yellow Submarine you can drink Hey Jude or eat a Hard Day's Night as every dish and cocktail there is named after the Beatles' song

You can also meet English speakers in the English Club in Keeer Restaurant-Brewery, Mamina Sibyarika 36, every Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. Those who study English join the club on Wednsday nights for a drink and a chat in English only!

11Sep/100

Drinking in Russia

September 11 is an official Day of Sobriety in the Urals and all over Russia. The 1st day of Sobriety was initiated in 1911 by Russian Orthodox Church. The Church still encourages people to stop drinking. Obviously one day a year is not enough to change long lasting drinking traditions in Russia.

Vodka is extremely cheap and beer is even cheaper. That's why you can see public intoxication all over starting early in the morning. Men and women drinking beer at 8 a.m. on their way home after a night shift at the factory is a common thing in Yekaterinburg, especially in Uralmash (a residential district inhabited by the workers of large Uralmash plant) More than that, two travellers from France Alicia and Julien whom I met today, told me that they had seen an astonishing picture: a young woman was sharing a bottle of beer with her two year old child. I still have a slight hope that the woman was resourceful enough as to use an empty beer bottle for milk to feed her her child. It's a lame excuse though, I know...

Interestingly, my city Yekaterinburg used to have a very good reputation alcohol-wise. Back in 1733 a professor of sciences from St. Petersburg wrote about the Ural city - It's possible here to keep people from drinking without beating them! Quite a surprise, indeed. But how did it work? The head of Yekaterinburg and one of the city founders was General de Gennin. He was German and thanks to him the city got its German name Yekaterin-burg and the European shapes (for example all streets are straight like in NY going from north to south and from east to west) And it seems that only the Germans knew how to keep the Russians sober without violence. The solution is simple and it was used much later by Mrs. Thatcher in the UK in a less strict way. General de Gening ordered that vodka could be sold in Yekaterinburg only Sundays afternoon. The present government of the Ural Region has just banned selling alcohol after 22 p.m. Not that it helps much, probably will just teach people to buy in advance.

I'm sure you know how to drink moderately and for you I do recommend to buy a bottle of Russian vodka as a present. I happened to taste it in many different countries and my samplings proved that the best stuff is made in Russia. Just don't buy very cheap sorts for less than 300 roubles. And remember how to drink in Russian style: do not sip vodka, don't mix it with other drinks (by the way Russian vodka is never flavoured), drink with everyone after a toast is proposed. For some strange reason all the foreigners think that the Russians when drinking say Na zdorovye! (to your health) Please, tell me where it came from if you know because in reality the first toast is usually Za znakomstvo! (to our meeting! meaning it's nice to meet you) the second will be Za nas (to us!). Finally, Russian women in a romantic frame of mind tend to have the third toast Za lyubov (to love!) What comes after that will not really matter anymore...just don't forget zakusyvat - to eat something after each shot to be able to remember something.

8Sep/103

What to see on Europe-Asia border?

The border of Europe and Asia is one of the must-visit sights in the vicinity of Yekateriburg. To get there you will need a car as it's right on the highway. Buses don't stop there and there are no trains.But it's only 17 km west from Yekaterinburg so you can take a taxi even. Beware, taxi drivers may try to charge you more because you are a foreigner so don't agree on more than 500 roubles (12 euro)

The border mark is on the right side of Moskovsky trakt (highway) that used to be Great Siberian Road. Russian Tsars (including the present ones) had a habit to exile their political foes and other convicts as far away from the capital as possible i.e. to Siberia. Hundreds of exiled would pass Yekaterinburg in shackles everyday down the same road that you will go to the border. Think about it when you travel by Trans-Siberian from Moscow to Yekaterinburg. That's only half way the others had to walk!

Back to the border mark. It's relatively new. The monument was erected in 2004 and represents two interwined letters A and E. There you can happily put one foot in Europe and other in Asia while your friend or a driver takes a picture of you.

Is there anything else to see on the border? Yes, there is. Russian weddings! If you go there on Friday or Saturday you are sure to spot many of them. It's a tradition in Russia that newlyweds hire a limo and cruise around the city visiting the sights where they can take nice pictures for their wedding albums. At the same time they continue drinking so don't be surprised to find a lot of empty champagne bottles on the border and locks with newlyweds' names. That's a new wedding tradition that came from Italy, I believe. A bride usually doesn't mind being photographed by everyone so you can easily take some pictures of Russian weddings for your album. And if you are lucky they may even invite you to the evening party. Don't say No. It's quite an experience, a lot of food and drinks guaranteed! Tourists usually wonder what it is that guests chant that causes a newly married couple to kiss in public. They chant Gor'ko! (bitter) meaning life is bitter, show us something sweet.

Now, there is a bitter side of the story. Every second wedding in Russia ends up in a divorce. It's not the case of the couple on the picture though. Those guys are happily married and have a child.

Book the tour to the Europa-Asian border here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/europe-asia-border

28Aug/102

Yekaterinburg or Ekaterinburg? How is it actually spelled?

Yekaterinburg

Many tourists who arrive to . If you correspond with the locals they may write that they live in Ekaterinburg. Why do they miss Y? And how should it actually be spelled and pronounced?

Back in the 90ies I tried to book a direct train ticket from Hamburg to my city. A lady at the desk typed the name and said that her computer didn't have the city named Yekaterinburg. I asked her to type it without Y - no result. Then I asked about Katerinenburg (the Germans call it this way)  - again no information. When I finally tried to book a ticket to Sverdlovsk the lady looked at me curiously and wondered - Do you know what city you are going to at all? - Oh yes, I knew. I knew that it was the city I couldn't get to.

The Russians pronounce it: [Ye ka te rin boork] and write it with Russian letter E [ye]. The name was given to honor Peter the Great's wife Yekaterina. By the way, in the Soviet times the city was called Sverdlovsk after Bolsheviks' leader Yakov Sverdlov. Sverdlovsk was closed to foreigners and nobody really cared how to spell it in English. 

Only in 1991 the city got its old name back and the confusion began. For example, my teacher of English suggested saying Katherinsburg. Many people kept calling it Sverdlovsk (the communists still stick to it)

Finally, if the name of the first Russian President Yeltsin was written with Y then his native city should have Y as well. Thus: Yekaterinburg - now it's official! However, the City Administration seemed to ignore officialisms that's why all the official Internet sites, books and maps printed in Yekaterinburg bear the name Ekatrinburg. 

No matter how you write it with Y or E in your itinerary, just remember that the youngsters in Yekaterinburg like to use the nick name and will tell you that this is Yo-burg.  While some elderly people call the city Sverdlovsk and there is one more Sverdlovsk still exists in Ukraine. So make sure you're not in the wrong city. Well, hope you don't drink that much vodka to mix up the countries!