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26Aug/140

Irbit Fair and the Ural motorcyle factory

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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.

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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.

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You can still buy a bear skin in Irbit!

You can still buy a bear skin in Irbit!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

6May/140

Mafia tour in Yekaterinburg

When in Yekaterinburg, try our special Mafia Tour!

Many Russian cities were associated with mafia in the 1990s but Yekaterinburg played a special role.

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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.

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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.

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More details of the tour here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/mafia-tour

photos by Elio Castoria

 

25Mar/140

Northern Urals and Siberian Deer

The travelling season starts soon!  In Yekaterinburg it usually lasts from May till October.

Check out our new 0ne day tour to the Northern Urals and Siberian Deer!

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Meet the inhabitants of the Visim Farm: Altai and Siberian red deer, Yakutian horses and yaks. Visit the village museum and see the Ural Mountains from the top of Mt Belaya.

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More details at Yekaterinburg For You website: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours

Hope to see you in the Urals soon!

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8Oct/130

German Guesthouse in Bingi village

I know many Russians who moved abroad for better lives and I know just a few foreigners who came to Russia to change things here for better. I truly admire such people. One of them is Stefan Semken from the Ural village of Bingi.

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Stefan is a German entrepreneur, together with his Russian wife Olga he decided to buy a house not far from Yekaterinburg. He liked Nevyansk area 80km to the north of Yekaterinburg. In 2007 Stefan found a 140 years old wooden house in Bingi, a village of the gold diggers. Stefan and Olga converted their house into a guesthouse with a banya. Guests can also stay in three yurts erected in the yard. Budget-conscious travelers can even pitch their own tent in the back yard. Even though the house looks small Stefan assured that he can accommodate up to 25 people. At least that was a record broke by his Russian friends who came for a visit in a group of 25 persons which made the Semkens spend that memorable night in their minivan. I imagine the house looked like a refugee camp but the hosts didn’t seem to be bothered at all.

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I heard about Stefan from many tourists (they especially praise Olga’s cooking and Stefan’s hospitality) but only got to his place this September before the end of the season. As there is no gas in the house and Olga has to cook in the summer kitchen, their house is closed when the temperature drops to +12 C and lower,  that is from October till beginning of May. The house looks like a very cozy place with lots of antiques. Stefan will show you some old coins of the pre-revolution days that he had found in his garden and a tusk of a mammoth – a gift from a local gold digger.

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Apart from the stay in the farm house, guests are offered a transfer to Yekaterinburg, tours in the area and most importantly an excursion in the village including a ride in a neighbor’s Ural motorbike. Bingi is a pretty village of Old Believers who were persecuted by the Tsar and had to move to the Urals in 17th-18th centuries. The Old Believers were known as hard working people who didn’t drink alcohol. Things have changed though and one of Stefan’s concerns is that it’s difficult to hire local people to help.

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Stefan (in the middle), Johan, a traveler from Sweden (right) and me (left)

The Semkens have to do everything themselves. Next year Stefan is planning to build an extension of the house and says it would be great to find a German carpenter. Germans have always played an important role in the history of Russia, starting from Peter the Great who was found of German culture and traditions. By the way, one of the city founders of Yekaterinburg was a German General Wilhelm de Genin, sent to the Urals by Peter the Great to manage the production of iron ore. Stefan could become a good manager of his area too. He already knows what to do to improve life and ecology in the place where he lives and he never hesitates to say it to the mayor of Nevyansk. He is a good friend of the new mayor of Yekaterinburg Eugeni Roizman and helps Roizman’s fund The City without Drugs. Needless to say if you stay at the Semkens’ place you will learn a lot about current political, economical and cultural affairs in Russia and in the Urals.

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I’ll definitely go there again next season for a countryside weekend and for a banya!

Check the website www.semken.eu to learn more about accommodation in GuLAG Bingi as Stefan puts it.

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29Sep/130

One day trip to the village of singing babushkas, Oct 12th

Dear friends,

On Saturday, October, 12th we are getting together for a one day tour to visit the singing babushkas  in one of the oldest and most authentic villages of the Urals – Koptelovo!

Singing babushkas of Koptelovo village, the Urals

The village of Koptelovo was built on the Rezh river in 1663. Visit Baba Katya's izba. She was the last owner of the house built 300 years ago and was the 18th member of the family in 30 square metres. See the collection of samovars and accordions in the museum of Koptelovo. Sing Russian folk songs together with the local band of babushkas called ‘The Restless’

Koptelovo village, The Urals, Russia

Itinerary:

October 12th

9.30 Meeting at Dynamo Metro Station, Yekaterinburg

We are taking a comfortable bus to get to the village of Koptelovo (135km north-west of Yekaterinburg)

12.00 – 13.00 an excursion in the village. We’ll visit the wooden house of Baba Katya to see how 18 people fitted in at once and stop at the local spring – the locals believe the water of the spring is healing.

13.00 – 14.00 in the museum of Koptelovo you will hear about the traditions of the Ural farmers. The director of the museum will tell you how young girls used to dress in order to get married ASAP. The singing babushkas will surely make you sing and dance along

14.00 – 15.00 Lunch in the village

15.00 Departure to Yekaterinburg

18.00 Arrival to the city back to Dynamo Metro

 Koptelovo village, the Urals, Russia

Price per person

10-20 pax: 1700rub for an adult \ 1600 for a child

21-34 pax: 1400rub for an adult \ 1300 for a child

The price includes transfer to the village and back, a guided tour in the village, museum tickets, lunch

If you wish to come by your own car, the price is 1200rub for an adult, 1100rub for a child

 

For more information and for booking:

Tel +79122800870

Email:yekaterinburg4u@gmail.com

 

Read more about a trip to Koptelovo here:

http://askural.com/2010/09/koptelovo-village-in-ural/

17Jun/130

Tatars and Bashkirs in the Urals

The annual Festival of Bashkir and Tatar Culture called Sabantuy was held on June 16th in the Mayakovskogo Park of Yekaterinburg.

Sabantuy is celebrated in many Russian cities. While in Moscow it’s not widely promoted as the authorities are afraid of the ethnic clashes. In Yekaterinburg the festival has been celebrated for many years with the support of the local government, however the police was everywhere in the park just in case. Fortunately, there was no work for the police during the festival. The city mayor invited everyone to join the event irrespective of nationalities and religions.

The guests could take place in traditional sport activities

Tatars and Bashkirs have been sharing the Urals with Russians for centuries. Particularly the Bashkirs who live mainly in Southern Urals. Theys speak their languages of a Turkic group and are Sunni Muslims.

Today there are about 2 millions of Bashkirs in the world. Yekaterinburg has about 2% of Bashkir population which is less than 25 000 people. The older generation of Tatars and Bashkirs would prefer if their children married people of the same folk but it’s getting more and more difficult especially in big cities.

 

Sabantuy is an opportunity for Tatars and Bashkirs to preserve their culture. Many elderly people gather in the park to meet their friends and to speak their language.

click to the gallery to see more photos from the Sabantuy Festival

13Jun/130

Watching birds of prey near Yekaterinburg

At the end of May our Russian-American-French team (the members of the English club and the expats in Yekaterinburg) went to the Falconry Center “Kholzan”. Kholzan is a rehabilitation center for birds of prey.

Golden eagles, sea-eagles, falcons and other birds are usually brought to the center in a very poor condition: some of them got hit by cars on highways but mostly the birds were the victims of hunters. As the guides of the center said, every August when villagers go to pick up mushrooms and berries in the woods, the center receives dozens of wounded owls picked up by the villagers. For hunters it’s just sport – to shoot a big bird. For the workers of Kholzan it’s an every-day work to cure the birds of prey.

Book a tour to Kholzan here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/kholzan

The owls picked up in the nearby forests. One is missing an eye

Some birds will never be able to fly. They stay in the center forever. In such cases the center tries to find or to buy mates for them.

This couple will have to live in the center as they can't fly. Their reproduction system is damaged but they keep on trying and make a nest for the babies every spring.

After the excursion we sat in the wooden house where we received herbal tea and watched a documentary on the life of birds of prey. Normally, the tour includes watching the falcons hunting up in the sky but that week the young falcons were injured so we just took pictures with them.

The falcon has an eye-cap otherwise it may be scared of people and can peck you

Instead of a hunt the falconers showed us a flight of an eagle-owl in the woods.

A three hour stay in Kholzan ends up with a barbeque. You can bring sausages and other food to have a picnic in the fresh air.

Book a tour to Kholzan here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/kholzan

 The falconry center Kholzan is located 30km of Yekaterinburg near the town of Sysert in the territory of the Sova recreation center.

http://www.holzan.falconer.ru/#

31May/130

One day rafting trip to Nature Park Olenyi Ruchyi on June 16th

Dear friends,

On June 16th we are off for a new one day rafting trip to Nature Park Olenyi Ruchyi (Deer Creeks)

You will see the beauty of the Ural Mountains, so very much desired by tourists because there are no mountains within the city. The landscape of Olenyi Ruchyi is mainly Ural forest and taiga along the Serga River. We’ll do rafting through the park and then visit the caves: Cave Druzhba (Friendship) where you can find prints of sea shells which prove that the sea used to divide European and Asian continents 400 million years ago. Bolshoy Proval (great gap) is a vertical cave. It’s a 33m deep well with temperature +5C., so make sure to take a warm sweater before getting down even on a hot day. The Serga is a very quiet and shallow river. No special skills for rafting are required!

 

In the Great Gap cave

Sunday, June 16th

Itinerary:

8.00 Meeting at Geologicheskaya Metro Station (Circus area), Yekaterinburg

We are taking a mini-van to get to the Nature Park

10.00 A walk through the park (5 km) to the river. Two boats for 5 persons each (plus guides-instructors) will be waiting for us near the Karstoviy Bridge

Aprox. 14.00 Arrival to the rock Lyagushka. There we have a picnic and say goodbuy to the rafting guides

15.00 A walk to the caves and back to the park exit (7 km) A stop in a café for dinner.

19.00  Departure to Yekaterinburg

21.00 Arrival to the city

The timing in the park is only approximate. We are flexible with the schedule and can have as many stops on the river and in the park as we wish.

Price per person for a group of 10 people: 2300rub

for children from 7: 2250rub

The price includes: transfer, entrance fee to the park, rafting boat rental, services of a guide and boat instructors.

Please, book the tour in advance as we need only 10 persons for the trip!

For more information and for booking:

Tel +79122800870

Email:yekaterinburg4u@gmail.com

6May/130

Where to get an English guidebook to Yekaterinburg?

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!  

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!