This winter my colleagues, the guides of Yekaterinburg and I decided to explore the Southern Urals to see its touristic potential. Within 6 days we covered over 3000km by car, visited 3 regions of Russia populated by over 100 nationalities: Chelyabinsk Region, Orenburg Region and the Republic of Bashkortostan. Almost every day we were crossing the border of Europe and Asia, got into a severe blizzard in Step and drove through the thickest fog I’ve ever seen along the river of Ural. The temperatures in January varied from – 25 in the mountains to -7 Celsius in the step areas.
Here’s the first story of our staying in the land of Sinegorye (Blue Mountains).
On the first day we drove through the mountain region of National parks Taganai and Zyratkul along the spine of the Urals. The territory once belonged to the Bashkirs, muslim Turkic people but the Russians bought this piece of land for what the Bashkirs thought was a good price. However, the land appeared to be full of mineral resources, so apart from the National Park this western corner of Chelyabinsk region has many metallurgical and nuclear plants. The area became industrial in the 18th century but preserved the Turkic names, for example, Taganai means a moon holder in the Bashkir language.
We stopped at the village of Syrostan (Yellow place) with a lovely Russian Orthodox Church.
Between Syrostan and the town of Miass there is a Park of the Stone Age. Alexander, a local craftsman is making wooden sculptures of ancient citizens of the Ural mountains.
Walking among the wooden people our guide dressed like a shaman told us interesting facts for example, on how to catch and kill a mammoth!
Meanwhile, Alexander, the park owner was busy making a snow mammoth. As we came the mammoth was almost finished. So much work for one man knowing that his animal will melt down in two months!
The western corner of Chelyabinsk region is called Sinegorye (Blue Mountains): numerous lakes and the pines have a shade of blue. It’s especially obvious on sunny winter days.
Crossing the border of Europe and Asia there you get to Europe but only geographically because in fact you get to the autonomous Republic of Bashkortostan… and that will be the second story!
The house of Vitaliy Cherepanov, a local craftsman, is a famous place in the village of Visim and its vicinities. Vitaliy was a factory worker in Nizhni Tagil. When he retired he bought a house in Visim (195km North of Yekaterinburg) and turned it into a masterpiece.
Vitaly is an amateur painter and sculptor. In one of the interviews he said that he started painting in his childhood and one of his first works was a portrait of Stalin. His mother wasn’t happy with the result as apparently the portrait didn’t look canonical. Vitaliy stopped painting but fortunately not for long.
Working at the factory Cherepanov got interested in sculptures. During lunch breaks he was busy with wood. His wooden sculptures, mainly the characters of the Russian fairytales, are now exhibited in front of the house in Visim.
Sometimes, if the owner of the house and his wife are at home they open the gates and let tourists in to see more works which are planted all over the garden.
Cherepanov doesn’t sell his sculptures and he refuses to take money from visitors. To stop money talks he put a stone in front of the house with a saying: ‘God’s gift isn’t measured by money’
Vitaliy is a very hospitable artist. He likes showing his art and one day as I came with two Swiss tourists he invited us inside to show modest wooden house. As you can guess, he did a lot of interior design himself. The roof of the house was painted by Vitaliy with motives of the Ural nature near Visim.
If you come to Visim you will find the house easily, just follow the sign ??? ?????????? (Cherepanov’s House). It’s on Kalinina st, 64
Visim is also the place of the deer and ostrich farm, opened every Sat-Sun all year long
Beer is not my favourite drink at all but this post is about Ural beer. It turned out that we have a very famous Jaws Brewery in the Urals. Surprisingly, it’s well known in Moscow, Belarus and Kazakhstan but locals don’t know much about it.
As I was going to join an excursion to the brewery, Greg, an American tourists asked if it was Jaws. I was surprised that a visitor knew that name. Well, it turned out that he had already had a pint at the Jaws Spot in the center of Yekaterinburg. But the brewery is located in the town of Zarechniy, 54 km east of Yekaterinburg.
A tour to Zarechniy would have been impossible in the Soviet era because it’s the site of the Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Station. The town was built in 1957 to service the second power station in the USSR. Don’t expect to see the power station as it’s located outside the city. But the tour includes a visit of the Atomic Laundry!
Atomic laundry is the name of the bar. Together with the brewery they are located in the buildings of the former Soviet Laundry, hence the name.
In the bar we did beer tasting. The philosophy of the brewery is to "to bring the beer culture to people". The basic line consists of still rare in Russia types: English Pale Ale, Oatmeal Stout, American Pale Ale.
During the tasting in a cosy bar the bartenders explained the name of the brand: Jaws are huge waves seen on the coast of the Hawaiian island of Maui in the cold winter months. No words can describe their beauty and power and just one look is enough to be fascinated for life. Jaws are often called the mother of all waves. It happened so that the brewery in Zarechniy was the first to bring the culture of the new beer movement to the Urals.
After tasting we had a tour at the experimental brewery next to the bar. Our guide, one of the managers of Jaws explained the process of making new experimental ales.
In 2012 the company decided to put more of the American hops into the "Nuclear Laundry" - one of the first IPA in Russia (and definitely the first IPA in the Urals). To this day bitterness of 80 IBU for the majority of local people is comparable to a nuclear explosion but the owners don’t give up and try to explain that bitterness has its taste and quality.
I was really proud to learn that we have a quality brewery in the Urals. It’s not that popular with the locals yet, but the owners seem to have high ambitions and they have all chances to succeed. They also have a good website well translated into English http://www.jawsbeer.ru/en/
So, welcome to Yekateriburg, Russia for quality beer!
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://
On the first day we went to the village of Nizhnyaya Sinyachikha, an open air museum of wooden architecture
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/
On the second day we went to the Military Museum in Verkhnyaya Pyshma and met schoolchildren there too.
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.
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.
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.
Check out other great photos of the Urals by Diego at his blog https://diegofioravantifotografia.wordpress.com/portfolio-2/a-generation-without-comunism/
On May 31, 2015 we made a trip to the Emerald deposit in the village of Malysheva near the town of Asbest (100km of Yekaterinburg). Some of the tourists were lucky to find beryls and even emeralds!
The first Ural emeralds were found in 1831. The oldest emerald mine is flooded now but it's possible to find emeralds here once the mine gets dry again
In the village we also stopped at the stone cutting workshop and made serpentine fridge magnets - a popular souvenir from the Urals.
Most of the citizens of the Malysheva village know how to cut and polish Ural gems
Ural serpentine - a popular decorative stone
Making fridge magnets
And this is where everyone can find beryls and emeralds - at refuse heaps of the quarry
In such minerals (mica) you can find a beryl or an emerald. Emeralds are a greener and more transparent type of a beryl:
Here's what I found: the emerald of the 5th category - a light green stone. Jewelers use emeralds of the 1st category - deep green transparent stones.
There is plenty of information in guide books on what to do and see in Yekaterinburg. But it's always easier to understand what it's all about by seeing photos of previous travellers. So how to spend two days in Yekaterinburg? Here's the answer in the pictures kindly shared by Dave Cox from Bristol, UK
Dave and his friends came in August 2014. We did all the top tours in Yekaterinburg and around and the follwing day the friends explored the city on their own before they got on a train to Siberia.
1) Do the sightseeing in the historical city center
2) Go to the border of Europe and Asia
3) Then go to the Tsar's obelisk on the border to drink champagne on both sides of the continent
4) Learn about the last Russian Tsar's family in the monastery Ganina Yama
5 Stop at the mafia cemetery
6) Join the Beatles
7) At the train station take a look at the Soviet frescos on the walls that tell the history of Yekaterinburg in pictures!
Traditionally after Christmas I’m posting the photos of the ice town of Yekaterinburg. In 2015 the theme of the ice town is the 70s anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War. The ice figures in the Square of 1905 were made by an international group of sculptors.
The Brest Forest is the pavilion in the center of the ice town. 3D films about the Second World War are played inside.
Of course, you will find an ice tank T34 in the ice town as the Soviet tank was produced in Yekaterinburg at the Uralmash Factory.
Other ice sculptures are located in front of the Church on the Blood. Every year sculptors create here religious-themed figures for Orthodox Christmas on the 7th of January.
This year the ice town works till January 25th only. So hurry up to see the ice beauty!
Dear friends and travellers,
on Saturday January 24th 2014 we are off for a one day trip to visit huskies, Siberian deer and ostriches in Northern Urals!
Visit a family of huski dogs and Siberian deer. Try dog sledding and climb Mt. Belaya to see a beautiful landscape of Northern Urals
Itinerary: Jan 24
8.00 Meeting at Dynamo Metro Station, Yekaterinburg
We are taking a comfortable bus or a mini-van to get to the village of Visim
11.00 Visiting a deer farm near the village of Visim (195km of Yekaterinburg). You will be able to feed Siberian deer and Yakut horses. There are also three African ostriches in the farm. Learn from the farm workers how the ostriches live through Russian winters.
Take some white bread, cabbage or other vegetables to feed the animals!
13.00 Belaya Mount ski resort. You will be able to get to the top of Mt. Belaya (705m) for a beautiful view of Northern Urals.
14.00 Dog sledding in the village of Chernoistochinsk.
17.30 Arrival to the city back to Dynamo Metro (arrival time is approximate)
Price per person:
Book the tour here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/weekend-tour
On August 22nd we went to the annual fair in Irbit. Irbit is a town on the Eastern slope of the Ural mountains 200km east of Yekaterinburg. Back in the days Irbit was a gateway to Siberia. Thanks to its favourable location, the town became an attraction for Russian merchants who came to buy and sell goods from Siberia at the fair.
In 19th century Irbit Fair was the second largest in Russia after Nizhni Novgorod. The fair was famous for fabrics, Siberian furs and tea from China. In the Soviet period the fairs were not held in the Ural town but the tradition came back in 2002.
In the past the fair took place in winter and lasted for a month. These days the fair is held every 4th weekend of August from Friday till Sunday. Irbit Fair is an exhibition of various crafts in the Urals from making feltboots valenki to baking gingerbread. Local craftsmen invite you to the workshops. The guests are treated with tea and blinis.
Irbit is also famous for its Motorcycle Museum as the town is the home of the IMZ Ural motorcycle factory. In the USSR Ural bike was a very popular transport but in the 1990s the factory went bankrupt.
Fortunately deallers abroad were found and today Ural bikes are craftwork. The factory produces 1200 motorcycles a year, 95% of them are exported. One of the Ural bikes with a sidecar belongs to the Hollywood actor Brad Pitt.
Irbit has the Motorcycle Museum but thanks to the Center of Tourism Development of Sverdlovsk Region my colleagues and I were lucky to get to the factory.
By the way, the Ural factory has a nice website in English, in case you decide to buy one http://uralmoto.ru/en/
Click the gallery to see more photos from the motorcycle factory and of the fair
When in Yekaterinburg, try our special Mafia Tour!
Many Russian cities were associated with mafia in the 1990s but Yekaterinburg played a special role.
There were two gangs in the city: the Uralmash group and the Centrals. The real war between the gangs began in 1991. In the 90s mafiosos were fighting on the streets of Yekaterinburg using machine guns and grenades.
Today, tourists can see impressive tombstones at the cemeteries elaborately designed with full-sized portraits of the people dressed according to the 1990s gangster fashion with Mercedes cars in the background. During the tour you will visit two mafia cemeteries and hear the stories about those who dominated the society in the new country in Yeltsin’s times.
More details of the tour here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/mafia-tour
photos by Elio Castoria