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6Dec/150

Yeltsin Center and the Museum of the First Russian President

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On November 25th 2015 the street of Boris Yeltsin in Yekaterinburg was closed for traffic. Even pedestrians were not allowed to walk there in the evening and the owners of the appartments were asked not to look out of the windows as snipers were sitting on the rooves. All the precautions were made for the openning of the Yeltsin Center. The fact that President Putin and Prime Minister Medvedev as well as other polititians of the past and the present were invited to the opening had made so much fuss in the city.

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The next day the center was opened for public. Despite the apparent lack of interest in Yelrsin in Russia, the museum has become the most visited place in the city with over 5000 visitors over the first week after the opening. The Yeltsin foundation hired Ralph Appelbaum Associates, the company that designed the William J. Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Ark., and the new Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow.

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A replica hall of the Parlament in Moscow

The center includes a research center, conference halls, an art gallery and a museum that depicts the sweep of history during Mr. Yeltsin’s life — from the Gulag (Yeltsin's parents were repressed and exhiled to the village of Budka 150km east of Yekaterinburg) to World War II, from perestroika to Mr. Yeltsin’s resigning on 31.12.1999, a few minutes before the millenium.

Nuclear weapon breifcase (with electronics removed)

Nuclear weapon breifcase (with electronics removed)

Yeltsin’s daughter, Tatyana Yumasheva, one of the organizers of the center said that it is aimed “to tell the truth about the 1990s”, from the constitutional and economic crises of the day to the first Chechen war.

Empty shelves of Russian supermarkets during the perestroika

Empty shelves of Russian supermarkets during the perestroika

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Empty shelves of Russian supermarkets during the perestroika

Yeltsin Museum is very interactive. One can give a speech from the Parlament stage, sit on the sofa in the Yeltsins' living room and watch TV or get on a real trolley bus that Yeltsin used when he was a Moscow official.

A trolley bus and Moscow of the 1980s

A trolley bus and Moscow of the 1980s

In the trolley bus (Mr Putin, Mr Medvedev, Naina Yeltsina in the back) Photo by 66.ru

In the trolley bus (Mr Putin, Mr Medvedev, Naina Yeltsina in the back) Photo by 66.ru

The museum is divided into seven zones – "seven important days in the history of the country": the August coup  of 1991; unpopular economic measures; the birth of the Constitution; Yeltsin's second election campaign; Yeltsin’s farewell to the Kremlin.

Yeltsin's office in the Kremlin with authentic furniture. 5 minutes before resignation

Yeltsin's office in the Kremlin with authentic furniture. 5 minutes before resignation

Yeltsin's phrase 'I'm tired, I'm leaving

Yeltsin's phrase 'I'm tired, I'm leaving" before New Year of 2000

The museum already has audio guides in English and is preparing to translate them into Spanish, French and German.

Opened: Tue - Sun 10.00 - 21.00

Admission: 200rub

 

24Sep/150

Urals through the eyes of an Italian photographer

This month I met several tourists who deal with photography. In early September 3 Italian tourists asked me to organize two tours in the Urals. One of them was a professional photgrapher Diego Fiorovanti. His blog on photgraphy:  http://diegofioravantifotografia.wordpress.com/

On the first day we went to the village of Nizhnyaya Sinyachikha, an open air museum of wooden architecture

In Nizhnyaya Sinyachikha. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

In Nizhnyaya Sinyachikha. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

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In Nizhnyaya Sinyachikha. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

It was the 1st of September - 1st day of the new school year. We met many kids and Diego came up with an idea to make a photo report about the generation without communism. See all photos here https://diegofioravantifotografia.wordpress.com/portfolio-2/a-generation-without-comunism/

Children in Nizhnyaya Sinyachikha. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Children in Nizhnyaya Sinyachikha. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Children in the restaurant of Alapayevsk. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Children in the restaurant of Alapayevsk. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

On the second day we went to the Military Museum in Verkhnyaya Pyshma and met schoolchildren there too.

Military Museum of Verkhnyaya Pyshma. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Military Museum of Verkhnyaya Pyshma. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Military Museum of Verkhnyaya Pyshma. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Military Museum of Verkhnyaya Pyshma. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

In the museum we had an interesting encounter. One of the Italians Giuseppe from Rome  found out that his grandfather and the grandfather of Roman, the museum worker, had been stationed on the opposite banks of the same river in the Crimea during the Second World War. Of course, they had been fighting against each other those days. Today Roman teaches schoolchildren about how to prevent wars. Giuseppe received a present from Roman and promised to send the photos of his grand father for the school archive.

Roman, a teacher at the Military Museum. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Roman, a teacher at the Military Museum. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

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Military Museum of Verkhnyaya Pyshma. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Our next stop was in Nizhni Tagil, the town known as TagilLag during the Second World War. From 1941 to 1945 over 63 thousands of political prisoners and German prisoners of war were brought to the Labout Camps of Tagil to build factories and work at quarries. About 40% of them died. All the cemeteries of TagilLag were destroyed after Stalin's death. We visited the site of  a former cemetery in Nizhni Tagil. Today is just a field in the city.

Nizhni Tagil, a place of a former cemetery for the political prisoners of Gulag. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Nizhni Tagil, a place of a former cemetery for the political prisoners of Gulag. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Half of the city of Nizhni Tagil was build by prisoners. Today it's the second largest city in the middle Urals with many metallurgical plants. Tagil is also the largest tank producer in Russia. Maximum security prisons are still there.

In Nizhni Tagil. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

In Nizhni Tagil. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Check out other great photos of the Urals by Diego at his blog https://diegofioravantifotografia.wordpress.com/portfolio-2/a-generation-without-comunism/

17Feb/140

Museum about This… Sex culture of Yekaterinburg

Not long ago I received an invitation to the Museum “About this”. I guess young Russians wouldn’t understand the meaning of “this” as they talk about sex freely these days but being born in the USSR I immediately understood the encryption. To be honest, I hadn’t heard of the Erotic Museum in Yekaterinburg before. The Museum “About This” (let’s stick to the official name here) opened in 2010 in the sexshop on 8, Kraulya St. According to their website it’s the second museum of the kind in Russia. The first one is in Moscow, of course.

photo from www.kazanova.su/our_projects/sexmuzey

photo from www.kazanova.su/our_projects/sexmuzey

The area of the museum is not large, however there are enough exhibits of different ages from different countries to satisfy your curiosity and to learn something new. I like to learn new things and I liked the idea that you can touch most of the objects and look through the old books and albums, for example, an album of the pre-revolution era. It doesn’t look erotic at all, more like porn.

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The exhibition is divided into different sections starting from ancient Egyptian and Greek civilizations then it proceeds to the Romans and Medieval times and so on. The Soviet display does have some interesting artefacts as well, for instance an envelope stamped by the KGB as top secret with porn photos. Nobody knows what happened to the owner of the photos. Perhaps, he disappeared in the basements of the Chekist Town (KGB headquarters in Yekaterinburg). Another display shows contemporary BDSM and gay culture (in case you wondered if it’s allowed in Russia).

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I’d expected the excursion in the museum would be more like a promotional introduction to the nearby sexshop but the guide was more focused on the history of sex telling stories in a very tactful manner so despite the small size of the museum you get a huge amount of information. Many of the exhibits are gifts of the museum’s friends. Some people bring unique things from their travelling expeditions, others find something on the attics of their grannies’ houses. Apart from excursions the museum organizes various events: exhibitions of Russian artists, cinema nights, workshops on drawing and pottery. Surely, every event expresses ideas of “this” as you get the terminology by now.

photo from www.kazanova.su/our_projects/sexmuzey

photo from www.kazanova.su/our_projects/sexmuzey

The mission of the museum is education for strengthening family ties. The education starts from the age of 18. The Museum “Abouth This” is opened daily 10.00 -21.00. Free admission. To book a guided tour in the museum call beforehand +7 343 231-57-17 Website: http://www.kazanova.su/our_projects/sexmuzey

11Nov/130

Military Museum in Verkhnyaya Pyshma

I’ve already written about Russian Expo Arms – a military exhibition held in the Urals. http://askural.com/2011/09/russian-expo-arms-2011/  If you like those toys now you don’t have to wait for next exhibition as there’s a huge military museum opened all year long near Yekaterinburg.

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The Military Museum in the town of Verkhnyaya Pyshma is a collection of over 70 military machines exhibited in the open air. In 2013 the museum opened a three storey pavilion with retro cars and motorbikes.

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The history of the museum started in 2005 when the veterans of the Great Patriotic War asked Andrey Kozitsin, the president of UGMK Holding (Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company) to restore a few machines for the Victory Parade. Today a large part of the museum tanks and cars take part in the Victory Parades on a regular basis.

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The collection of the museum is still growing. You can find there retro automobiles from France, USA, UK and of course all types of ladas and bikes from the USSR. The philosophy of the museum is that there are no machines made in fascist Germany or its allies in the Second World War.

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Verkhnyaya Pyshma is located 14km North of Yekaterinburg and considered as a suburban area of the city. You can get there by taxi or by minibuses that go from Metro Station “Prospekt Kosmonavtov”

Address: ulitsa Lenina, 1. Verkhnyaya Pyshma

The museum is open daily (except Mondays) 10.00 – 22.00 May to Sept \ 10.00 – 18.00 Oct to April

Book the tour to the Military Museum: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/military-museum

 

16Aug/130

Best of Russia 2012

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The photo exhibit Best of Russia is held in Yekaterinburg for the 3d time. It represents the photos taken by Russian professional and amateur photographers in 580 Russian locations in 2012.

The project shows the life of the country during one year viewed by Russian citizens. Here you can travel to the wilderness of Kamchatka, see the rural South of Russia or witness the riots in Moscow.

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The youngest participant of the project is 7 years old, the oldest is 80 years old. The only rule of the contest: photos have to be created in Russia!

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The exhibition is open in Yekaterinburg till August 25th in the Museum of Fine Arts on Vainera st. 11 from Tue. till Sun.

opening hours: 11.00 - 19.00, Wedn-Thur 11.00 - 20.00

admission: 150rub, photo: 50rub The cash desk closes 1 hour before the closing time of the museum.

click to the gallery to see some more photos:

 

25Mar/132

Maslenitsa in Aramashevo village

Last weekend (March 16) we gathered an international team of expats and travelers from the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland and Russia to go to the village of Aramashevo (110 km of Yekaterinburg) to celebrate Maslenitsa (Pancake festival before the Lent)

We’d chosen the village as my colleagues (other guides in Yekaterinburg) recommended it as the best place for Maslenitsa. And even though the pancake feast is celebrated in every village and in many parks of Yekaterinburg, I’m sure we were at the right place for a true folk fest!

Aramashevo was founded in 16th century by the Cossacks. The village is located on top of the cliff on the bank of the Rezh River. It’s worth coming here in summer to enjoy a wonderful view from the cliff. The river is also god for rafting. The Museum of the History of Rural Life in the Urals will be an interesting visit any time of the year.

The best thing of the museum is that you can touch everything, put on the clothes of the farmers or play the music instruments. For the guys from New Zealand and Australia it was a true fun to play a babushka and dedushka:

Meanwhile the Russians rally enjoyed the Soviet room of the museum:

We also had a workshop and made vesnyanochka – a doll, the symbol of the coming spring

After the excursion we went outside and joined the villagers in different types of competitions.

After energetic dances we got to the main part of the festival – burning down Maslenitsa which symbolizes farewell to winter.

The weirdest thing about the Maslenitsa in Aramashevo was that there were no pancakes! We expected lots of pancakes but instead got pirogi (pies) and shashlik (BBQ). The local sbiten – a honey alcoholic drink was nothing but herbal tea with vodka in it. Nonetheless, we had a lot of fun and did the main thing – said good bye to the winter. As we returned back to Yekaterinburg in the evening, it was + 10!

21Oct/120

Yekaterinburg Opera and Ballet Theatre. Live performces at the museum

Yekaterinburg Opera and Ballet Theatre is celebrating its 100th Anniversary. While it’s difficult to get a ticket to the theatre in October, you can get backstage, see the interior of the theatre and event listen to live performances at the Museum of Local Lore (Kraevedchesky Musey).

Opera and Ballet Theatre opened on 12 October 1912. It had taken 20 years for the Yekaterinburgers to collect money (300.000 rubles) for the construction. The theatre with 1500 seats was classy enough to invite the Tsar. The very first performance staged here was a tragic opera by Mikhail Glinka ‘A Life for the Tsar’. 6 years later the same stage was used to announce the assassination of the Tsar in Ipatiev’s house of Yekaterinburg.

The museum exhibition gives you a chance to see the costumes from the collection of the theatre.

The best thing about it is that you can try on any costume or a mask here.

You can also try pointe shoes on and do a few moves.

Standards for ballet dancers have changed over the last 100 years. A ballet dancer in the early 20th century was short and rather plump compared to their counterparts of the 21st century. Today, a ballet dancer is skinny, she has an average height, a small head and a long neck. Her weight is about 45 kg.

To hear the voices of the divas of Yekaterinburg, you can use the headphones. Besides, there are live performances of the local opera singers every Wednesday and Friday at 7pm in the exhibition hall.

The exhibition dedicated to Yekaterinburg Opera and Ballet Theatre is open until November 25th on Malysheva street, 46. The museum of Local Lore is open daily 11.00-20.00, on Thursday till 21.00.

Admission: 150 rub. Live performances are included in the price. Concert list is here http://uole-museum.ru

3Sep/120

Arkaim, an archeological site or a place of power?

In August 2012 I had a chance to visit a famously mysterious place called Arkaim. The archeological site of an ancient city of Arkaim (17th century b.c.) is in Southern Urals 432 km of Chelyabinsk near the northern border of Kazakhstan.

The place was discovered in 1987 by the scientists from Chelyabinsk. Presumably the people who lived in Arkaim in 17 century b.c. belonged to Iranian or an unknown branch of Indo-Iranian culture. Their settlement for approximately 1500-2500 people was protected by two circular walls. The ancient town covered 20 000 sq meters. The people lived there for 300 years then the settlement was burned and abandoned by its dwellers for unknown reasons.

The form of the ancient town (the museum of history in Arakaim)

All this you can learn in a local museum. However, today Arkaim is known as a ‘place of power’ is believed to be enigmatic and it attracts hundreds of pilgrims and esoteric organizations. Some people call it Swastika city or Mandala city. Others compare it with Stonehenge. Those who visited it (including my friends in Yekaterinburg) claim that they felt positive vibes and even healing effects. Obviously I had to go there to see and hopefully to feel something extraordinary!

A camping for pilgrims is located near the archeological site but not quite close to it. The guides say that there’s not much to see there in terms archeology though whilst the nearby mountains are much more interesting for they are the true places of power. In fact, the camping looks very much like a hippy village. Honestly, If you miss the 1970s, you should pay a visit to Arkaim. The flower children of Russia on tops of the hills, talk to ancient stones and sell souvenirs (probably drugs too) from India and China.

An ordinary day in Arkaim is as follows:

6 a.m. climbing one of the mountains (they are hills actually) to see the sunrise.

On the way to see the sunrise

7 a.m. doing morning exercises with a local trainer who also sells herbal medicine made of Arkaim herbs, of course.

Morning exercises

9 a.m. – till the sunset: climbing the nearby mountains\hills of different significance: mountain of love, of wealth, of making wishes etc. The mountain of atonement is the most popular one as people crowds were walking there in circles (that’s what you are supposed to do to say sorry for your deeds). Surprisingly enough the mountain of love was the least popular that day. But then I understood why – it’s the highest and the steepest one.

Tourists are walking on the mountain of atonement

Me on top of the Love Mount

Alternatively one can stay in the camp to listen to lectures given by various esoteric gurus, go swimming in a small river or riding horses in the endless steppes.

The night time goes more or less traditional in Arkaim: it involves drinking and eating shashlik in a local café. Alternatively one can go meditating on top of a hill.

My personal opinion is that Akaim is an amazing place for someone who arrived from Yekaterinburg surrounded by dense woods. The steppe looks beautiful and exotic, especially when you meet local Asiatic people selling fresh milk and herbal tea from samovar. The climate is fantastic (while it was miserable +16 in Middle Urals, it was +35 in Arkaim).  As for the power I didn’t feel anything weird but it felt like a good day off. And the hippies, well they are quiet and harmless anyway, just like their American counterparts. So the place is worth visiting even though it’s 634km of Yekaterinburg.

10Aug/120

Tours in Yekaterinburg and around

To make it easy for you to decide on what tours you would like to have in the Urals, I've made these pictures with short descriptions in English and in Russian (just click on each picture to read the description)

These are 8 most popular trips in Yekaterinburg and around. Some are short and some take a whole day. So when you travel by Trans-Siberian, make sure to see one of these sights of middle Urals!

Book the tours here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/

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Plus a special winter tour:

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Book the tours here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/

21May/120

Red line tour in Yekaterinburg

When walking in the center of Yekaterinburg you can see a red line drawn in the middle of the pavement. Some locals still think it’s a divider for pedestrians or a lane for bicycles. But the truth is the red line is a guideline for tourists. Just find it on Prospect Lenina and go down the line and in three hours you’ll get back to the starting point with photos of all the main sites in your camera!

The Red Line project started in 2011 as a blog by Dmitry Kalaev. The Internet users were voting for the best sites in the center of Yekaterinburg. Eventually, 35 historic objects were chosen including the Church on the Blood, Opera Theatre, the Beatles monument, QWERTY monument, Literary Quarter etc. The Red Line was drawn on June 18 2011. Its length is 6.5 kilometers.

Book the city tour here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/city-tour

walking to the Church on the Blood

This summer (2012) activists of the Red Line project are planning to draw QR codes for each site along the line, to print maps and to add full descriptions of the objects on the webpage  www.ekbredline.ru

The Beatles monument on the redl line

QWERTY or giant keyboard is a must-see according to Wikipedia and to the red-line volunteers

You can walk along the Red Line on your own or get a guided tour to learn more about the historical places. Sometimes there are free excursions arranged by volunteers for special events.

As a manager of the English newspaper Your Yekaterinburg, I invited the readers of the paper to take a guided tour down the Red Line when the annual Night in the Museum event took place in Yekaterinburg. It took us 2.5 hours to do the whole tour. The weather was great and so was the company! The photos for this post were taken during our tour and you can see me with a yellow scarf 🙂

The first map of Yekaterinburg of 1723. Those days the city was smaller than the Red line route

Book the city tour here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/city-tour