Many times tourists asked me about the Chinese Market in Yekaterinburg because it is mentioned in Wikitravel as one of the best places for shopping in the city. And it’s one of the largest markets in Russia.
I realized that hadn’t been there since the 1996s when I needed a dress for the prom. Those days everyone shopped there as there were no shopping malls in Yekaterinburg and the boutiques were too expensive for ordinary people. Those days, however, it wasn’t called the Chinese Market. The official name of the bazaar is Tagansky Ryad.
Tagansky Ryad is a large territory in the western district called Sortirovska. That is why Sortirovka is called China Town although most of the sellers there are not Chinese but Uzbeks, Tajiks, the Vietnamese and Russians. The market has three large malls: Tagansky Ryad, Pekin and Hanoi. Pekin is the newest building with a food court on the 3d floor where you can try cheap Asian, Central Asian and Russian food.
But the best prices are at the stalls outside. Make sure to haggle fiercely to get a bargain.
The market has a sculpture of Chelnoki (shuttles) That was a nickname for the people who brought bad quality goods from China in the 1990s. After the collapse of the USSR Russian engineers, teachers and doctors had to find new ways of making money. The easiest way was to fly to China, bring bags with cheap stuff and to sell it at the market with a good profit. Nevermind, that the jeans you bought would fall to pieces in a day.
Things have changed. Russians are shopping at Mega and other malls with European brands. Chelnoki of the 90s are replaced with Asian emigrants but the quality of Chinese replicas has become much better too.
And I got my first Lacoste replica shoes at the market for 28$. Would have been cheaper in Beijing but good enough for Yekaterinburg. The quality seems all right. Let’s see how long they are going to last!
Tips for shoppers: prices are lower at the stalls outside. Asian sellers drop prices better than the Russians do and generally they are more hospitable and friendly to haggle with.
Working hours: The Chinese Market Tagansky Ryad on Tekhnicheskaya, 19 is open Mon-Fri 9am-4pm; Sat-Sun 8am-6pm
Getting there: at any tram stop on the main street Prospect Lenina catch tram 13 going westwards. From the train station get on tram 7 heading west. Get off at the tram stop Tagansky Ryad.
Ural cuisine is not something special, firstly because Middle Urals is a multinational place, secondly because of the harsh climate (it's the so-called territory of risky farming) the number of products is limited. Overall, local cuisine is nourishing and substantial just like everywhere in Russia.
Uralskie pelmeni - Ural dumplings or ravioli usually with meat are supposed to be a local speciality although they don't differ from Siberian pelmeni and you can eat them in any Russian place. Besides, the Chinese state that they invented dumplings (like everything else in the world) and of course, it's difficult to disagree with them.
Autumn is a lovely season for all types of mushroom dishes. Russians love mushrooms, more than that they like to pick them up in the woods. Early in the morning on a bright autumn day you can see how gribnyaki (mushroom pickers) queue on the bus or train station with large plastic buckets. Rummaging about in the Ural forests can be fun especially if you find eventually a few mushrooms. Every babushka can instruct you what mushrooms are safe for eating. Usually they are easy to differentiate. Poisonous mushrooms smell nasty and grow big. If you don't like the idea of walking in the woods possibly meeting up with a bear, there are long lines of gribnyakis with buckets full of mushrooms along the roads. Now I should explain a very important thing: the mushrooms I'm talking about are not the ones sold in Amsterdam. So the Russians who sell their mushrooms on the roadsides are not some kind of drug dealers, they sell tasty things. Then you can fry them with potatoes or cook a mushroom soup or preserve in marinade, the letter is good with vodka.
As for other little specialities, Russians like to put mayo in every dish, so Yekaterinburg mayonnaise manufacture Provansal' is considered the best. Don't be afraid of mayo that much because in general Russian mayo is much lighter that the western versions and is a good cold dressing for salads. If you have a sweet tooth you should definitely buy some chocolate candies made in Yekaterinburg confectionery SladKo. They are delicious and it's not an advert, that's what my friends from Siberia and western part of Russia say when they get here. These candies are slightly more expensive than other brands because contain more chocolate.
Sometimes it's hard to predict what foreign visitors may take a liking to. My ex boyfriend from the UK bought here packs of smoked salty cheese to take home on the ground that it was good with beer and there was nothing like that in the UK. May be you should try it too. The cheese is called Kosynka means a plait for it looks like thing stripes done in a form of a plait and it's really good with beer.
When I was little, when Yekaterinburg was still called Sverdlovsk, there was such thing as pyshki - a Soviet version of donuts. The Soviet donuts were only glazed with powdery sugar, no jam, no chocolate. They were something to die for. When my family moved to the north to Nizhni Tagil, we sometimes drove 140 km to Yekaterinburg to buy hot pyshki. Unfortunately, the last cafeteria that sold pyshki on Sverdlova Street was closed down a few years ago. It gave place to another shiny mobile shop.
Anyway, there are many nice cafes and restaurants in Yekaterinburg some of them are very unique. I'll tell you about them in my next posts. Meanwhile, Priyatnava apetita! (bon appetit!)
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.
Vodka, caviar and a muffle hat. Surely these are the things you friends asked you to bring from Russia. But from the Urals you can bring something more precious - jewelry made of Ural precious stones and gems.
The Ural Mountains are literally rich in all types of minerals. Remember the Kremlin 5 meter ruby stars in Moscow with emerald hammers and sickles. They were made by the Ural jewelers. Remember the green columns of St. Isaak's Cathedral and a malachite room in the Hermitage. That was a unique mosaic technique invented by the local masters when malachite was found here. Finally, did you know that the infamous Gold Rush started first in Yekaterinburg and 20 years later continued in California? It's true! Gold was found almost in the center of Yekaterinburg in the beginning of 19th century and every second citizen knew how to mine it. This Gold Rush wasn't as notorious as in California but many people did go off the rails and wasted money in a manner of today Russian oligarchs washing horses in champagne and building grotesque mansions. Later local gold miner Nickolay Doroshin set an expedition to Alaska. He didn't find gold there but shared his experience with the first gold diggers in Sacramento.
Nonetheless, it isn't gold but green malachite is the most popular stone here, the symbol of the Urals. Now I'm going to share a secret with you. These days malachite is scarce and all the malachite souvenirs that you find in Yekaterinburg are made of African stone. It's cheaper because of the poor quality. The difference is easy to detect: Ural malachite is deeper in color and has elaborate patterns. Still some street vendors and collectors have Uralski malachite extracted in the Soviet times and you can buy it at very fair prices. Terry a tourist from Canada bought a 3cm stone not long ago for 200 roubles (8$)!
Also take a look at the traditional gems studded framed pictures usually depicting Ural landscapes. They are very unique, rather cheap although can be heavy to carry. When buying gold jewelry you get a purchase certificate so don't worry about the customs.
To real savers I would advise to launch your own expedition to the mountains or to mine some gold near the town of Nevyansk. This area still abounds with gold!