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9Jan/150

Ice Town in Yekaterinburg 2015

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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.

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The Brest Forest is the pavilion in the center of the ice town. 3D films about the Second World War are played inside.

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'Mystical animals - world protectors' by Japanese sculptors

'Mystical animals - world protectors' by Japanese sculptors

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.

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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.

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This year the ice town works till January 25th only. So hurry up to see the ice beauty!

28Nov/140

Weekend trip to the deer farm and huskydog sledding on Jan 24

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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

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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!

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12.00 Lunch in a cafe in Visim

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)
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Price per person:

Adults 1800rub

Children 1700rub

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

4Mar/140

Maslenitsa in an old style in the village of Kostino

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On March 2 we organized a one day tour to the country to celebrate the pre-lent pancake festival called Maslenitsa. Maslenitsa is probably the only pagan celebration in Russia that has survived until nowadays with all the rites and traditions. After Christianity of Russia the Orthodox Church had to change the dates of the Lent so that people could eat pancakes and go crazy on Maslenitsa. As for the Russian Tsars, they liked to have fun too. Even the Soviet regime couldn’t change Russian habits.

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To have a proper Maslenitsa fest it’s a good idea to go to the country. Our group of Russians and expats from Italy, France, USA, Serbia and India went to the village of Kostino 130km East of Yekaterinburg. Kostino is one of the most prosperous villages in the area thanks to the Kolkhoz (a collective farm) which is still active. Our Maslenitsa began in the local museum where we were greeted with bread and salt (a Russian tradition of greeting special guests) – everyone has to try a bit of bread with salt before entering the house.

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After the excursion in the museum we had a workshop – learnt how to make an obereg – a special maslenitsa talisman that symbolizes the sun and protects from the evil spirits. Considering the fact that we met no spirits on that day, the talisman worked!

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The folk performance in the museum consisted of songs and blinis. Some of the maslenitsa traditions were quite brutal. A son-in-law would beat his mother-in-law with a wooden stick thus wishing her good health and longevity. Another tradition was a mass fist fight of men. It was called a-wall-to wall fight. The most dangerous one was a fight with a bear. Surely, such fights involved drinking including drinking vodka with a bear!

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Fortunately, there were no bears in Kostino and instead of vodka we were treated with a local liqueur. The main part of the festival was held outside. Having dressed up a little bit all the guests took part in fun skiing and horse riding competitions, a race with a frying pan full of pancakes etc. Finally we burnt down the maslenitsa doll saying farewell to the winter.

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Even though we are still having minus temperatures in March in the Urals, the spring has come to the people who follow the traditions of their forefathers. Well, except for beating your mother-in-law!     

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special thanks to Irina Loktionova and Venu Panicker for the photos!

17Jan/140

Epiphany in the Ural village: crazy Russians and Scotts bathe in freezing water

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January 19th is known in Russia as the Epiphany. The blessing of the waters takes place in the middle of winter when temperature drop dramatically however, it doesn’t prevent many Russians from cutting holes in the lakes to bathe in the freezing water.

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This period around January 19th is called Epiphany Frosts (Kreschenskie morozy). Somehow the weather worsens exactly for the Epiphany as if to test Russians’ bravery. This week has been very warm in Yekaterinburg -2 -4 but exactly on Jan 19th we expect -20 in the city and around – 30 in the north of the region.

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Last winter I was invited to the village of Chusovoye for the Epiphany by the organizers of the Ural-Scottish Festival. Tommy Beavitt, a Scottish musician and translator, came to Yekaterinburg to perform at the concert "Burns & Vysotsky. One soul - two poets" and to try the ritual of the Epiphany.

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First the Orthodox priest has to bless the water. After that it becomes holly and people take the water home to drink. Those who have guts dip themselves three times under the water to wash away the sins of the past year and to experience the spiritual rebirth.

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 Alex Izmalkov, the author of these photos only took pictures of men but there were women and yong boys who tried it too.

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Tommy Beavitt proved to be a tough Scot

Tommy Beavitt proved to be a tough Scot

After jumping in the water everybody gathered in the local church for hot tea and for a conversation with the priest.

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Special thanks to Alex Izmalkov for the photos

5Jan/140

Ice town of Yekaterinburg 2014 is about Olympics

Happy New Year, dear readers! And welcome to the ice town of Yekaterinburg!

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This winter the ice town has palm trees and dolphins made of ice which means it’s about the Winter Olympics in Sochi!

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All the ice sculptures in the Square of 1905 are dedicated to winter sports or Olympic winners:

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Some sculptures were very particular about who is winning the Olymics:

Russia vs USA. Ice-cold war continues!?

Russia vs USA. Ice-cold war continues!?

This year we have a few innovations about the ice town. Firstly, there is a skating rink in the middle of the ice town. The rink is free but you should have your own skates. Also, the ice town has got two snow hills which that symbolize the mountain ski resort Krasnaya Polyana in Sochi.

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These hills were immediately nick-named – gigantic breasts. There are two bars inside the hills-breasts. Prices are very high but people go inside not for drinks - if you get cold you can always get inside as it’s much warmer there.

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The main Christmas Tree of Yekaterinburg is also gigantic. With the height  46 meters it was supposed to be the tallest Christmas Tree in Russia but the record was broken somewhere in Siberia. But we don’t really care because the ice town 2014 is very beautiful.

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Check it out in the Square of 1905 on Lenin Ave. or see the photos here:


2Dec/132

Konzhak Marathon – climbing the highest mount in Sverdlovsk Region

photo by http://volnomuvolya.com/konzhakovskii_kamen_fotootchet.html

photo by http://volnomuvolya.com/konzhakovskii_kamen_fotootchet.html

Mt.Konzhak or Konzhakovsky Kamen (Konzhakovski stone) is the highest mount of the Urals in Sverdlovsk Region and Northern Urals: 1569.7 meters. The mount was named after a local mansi hunter Konzhakov who lived at the foot of it. When climbing Konzhak you walk through a mixed forest, taiga forests, tundra and alpine valleys. Since 1996 people from all over Russia and sometimes from abroad come there to take part in the Konzhak Marathon. Overall the track is 42 km: 21km up the mount and 21km to descend. The marathon is held on the first weekend of July.

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The first weekend of November is another popular date when dozens of hikers come to Konzhak for winter climbing. Some take snowboards and skis to start the season. I had never been to Konzhak in summer and this November I got there for the first time with a group of hikers and snowboarders from Yekaterinburg.

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We pitched our tents not far from the marathon trail and started next morning at 8 a.m.  First 16km were very easy. We were walking in the forest enjoying the fresh air, drinking tasty water from mountain springs and rivers every now and then. But at the height of 900m we got to the Glade of Painters – a windy open area where you realize that the fun is over. That’s where we were told to put on everything warm from the backpacks.

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At this stage the track gets very steep and you move through tundra with crooked dwarf cedar trees and birches. I thought it took us ages to get to something that looked like the summit – a stone with a plaque: 300 years of the Ural Metallurgy. It turned out that we had done just one more kilometer from the Glade of the Painters. Strong bitter wind and thick snow have reduced our relatively fast speed to 0.8km\hr. It sounded like a joke that’s why some people left us there. They decided to return back.

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We took this picture on the way back, that's why everyone look happy. On the way up it was a totally different expression.

17th km is the place where you feel like giving up and send Konzhak to hell

17th km is the place where you feel like giving up

The rest of the ascending was nothing but white snow and thick fog. At some point the red flags that marked the marathon track disappeared. With visibility of maximum 10 meters it was hard to tell where to go. Fortunately, one of the guys had a navigator that helped not just us but also another group of hikers that we met at the top. Those hikers had been walking there for 30 min trying to find the summit. Finally, we got there: 21 km and several attempts to give up the damn Konzhak and go back but we made it!

At the top of Northern Urals

At the top of Northern Urals

Although I couldn’t tell how beautiful it was at the top of Konzhak I knew the Internet would help. So here we are:

photo by marafon.krasnoturinsk.org/

photo by marafon.krasnoturinsk.org/

photo by http://volnomuvolya.com/konzhakovskii_kamen_fotootchet.html

photo by http://volnomuvolya.com/konzhakovskii_kamen_fotootchet.html

The way back was surprisingly fast as you just slide down in the snow. However, our snowboarders had to carry their boards all the way up and then 4km. down because going down from the summit with little visibility would have been too crazy even for those guys. Overall trip took us 12 hours though we cheated a bit - 12km at the foot of the mount were covered in a minivan. So was it worth it? It certainly was. It’s still hard to believe that on Saturday I left rainy and muddy Yekaterinburg and on Sunday I was in the middle of sever arctic blizzard which didn’t feel cold by the way as we were moving all the time and had hot tea with us.

I can’t imagine how the marathon runners cover the track in 3 -4 hours though. Of course they don’t have to fight with snow conditions but there are other huge obstacles in summer, namely huge rocks on the trail that cause quite a number of injuries every year.  

by marafon.krasnoturinsk.org/

by marafon.krasnoturinsk.org/

by marafon.krasnoturinsk.org/

by marafon.krasnoturinsk.org/

Konzhak marathon is the most difficult and the most populated of all 60 Russian Marathons. The record was set in 2001 – Mikhail Sumochkin from Kazan covered 42km in 2 hours 58 min. Dmitriy Vasilyev from Chaikovsky made it in 5:35 – he is the fastest runner in the category over 70 years old.

by marafon.krasnoturinsk.org/

by marafon.krasnoturinsk.org/

More photos and info about the marathon in English: http://marafon.krasnoturinsk.org/

 Getting there: Mt. Konzhakovski Kamen is 420km north-west of Yekaterinburg. From Serovsky Trakt (highway) turn right to Karpinsk. From Karpinsk go down the road towards Kytlym village. Nearest towns with hotels and cafes: Krasnoturinsk and Karpinsk.   

24Oct/130

Dead Mountain by Donnie Eicher. New book on Dyatlov Pass Incident

deadm In March 2012 I wrote about a mysterious Dyatlov Pass incident in Northern Urals and about Donnie Eichar, a writer from L.A. who was here to investigate the incident on his own and to write a book.

See the post: http://askural.com/2012/03/dyatlov-pass/

Since that I’ve got many questions about the book and when it’s realized. I’m happy to say that the book Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar  was released on October 22 and is now available on Amazon!

 And here’s the first review by Booklist: "The Dyatlov Pass incident is virtually unknown outside Russia, but in that country, it’s been a much-discussed mystery for decades. In 1959, nine Russian university students disappeared on a hiking expedition in the Ural Mountains. A rescue team found their bodies weeks later, nearly a mile from their campsite, partially clothed, shoeless, three of them having died from injuries that indicated a physical confrontation. What happened here? There have been a lot of theories, ranging from misadventure to government conspiracy to freak weather to extraterrestrials, but no one has managed to get to the truth. Drawing on interviews with people who knew the hikers (and with the lone survivor of the expedition, who’d had to turn back due to illness), Russian case documents, and the hikers’ own diaries, Eichar, an American documentarian, re-creates the ill-fated expedition and the investigation that followed. The author’s explanation of what happened on Dead Mountain is necessarily speculative, but it has the advantage of answering most of the long-standing questions while being intuitively plausible. A gripping book, at least as dramatic as Krakauer’s Into Thin Air (1997).”

— David Pitt

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Author Donnie Eichar with Yuri Yudin, the 10th survived hiker and me

You can also check the official website http://deadmountainbook.com/ to read more facts, see the photos and to watch the book trailer.

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Hikers on the way to the Dead Mountain

P.S. Some time ago 9 students - the friends of mine went hiking to Northern Urals. They went on the same dates as the Dyatlov team in the same number and pitched their tent in the same place of the Dead Mointain. That evening they were trying to keep cool but were trembling with fear. Finally, they went to sleep and woke up in the morning safe and sound.

As you can guess the place is not dangerous anymore and it attracts more and more tourists both in summer and in winter. Come to visit it but first read the book!

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By the way, the Hollywood movie on the Dyatlov Pass was a bit of a flop because zombie is the last thing the students might encounter there. What will be your explanation then?

all the photos from http://deadmountainbook.com/

3Mar/130

Dog sledging in the Urals

Dog sledging is something that you expect to have in Alaska or in Yakutia but Ural winters are snowy enough to offer this type of entertainment for travelers.

This winter I discovered two places where you can meet Huskies and feel yourself like Nenets (indigenous people of Northern Arctic Russia)

Ethnic center Akvilon is located in Chelyabinsk Region (Southern Urals). The center is aimed to show the life of northern people: a guide who is dressed like a snow maid will show you a chum (igloo), you will have a cup of tea with a local shaman and talk to a Yakutian Father Frost. However, those people are far from being indigenous – most of them work and teach history at the University of Chelyabinsk.

Having met all those characters we finally got to the field for dog sledging. But because there were about 40 people in our group we could only sledge one time which lasted about 2 minutes.

Advantages:

One big advantage of Akvilon – they have a lot of dogs and apart from huskies that are for sledging, you will spend some time playing with the cutiest creatures –Samoyed Laikas.

Samoyeds are very friendly and playful dogs. They are named so after the Nenets people who were also called Samoyeds by the Russians. The word means ‘selfeaters’ in Russian but there is the second meaning: ‘self riders’. When the Russians saw the sledging Nenets at a distance, they couldn’t see their white dogs in the snow so they thought that the Nenets were moving on their own.

Disadvantages:

Akvilon is 30 km of Chelyabinsk which makes about 230 km of Yekaterinburg. So it’s certainly not worth going just for two minutes of dog sledging unless you have some other things to do in the region. Chelyabinsk is not the most interesting Russian city to explore either. Although, thanks to the meteorite that dropped near the city in February 2012 it may attract some curious individuals. The citizens of Chelyabinsk are planning to erect a monument to the meteorite in the near future.

Price: 540rub per person for dog sledging; 890rub for the whole program at the center.

http://www.akvilon74.ru

Dog sledging in the village of Chernoistochinsk (near Nizhni Tagil)

Irina, the owner of five huskies had been waiting for two years until her dogs grew up and got trained well enough to sled. In the winter of 2012-13 she started organizing dog sledging in her native village. Next winter (2013-14) one more puppy should be big enough to pull sleds.

Book the tour to the huskies and the deer farm in Visim http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/dog-sledding

Advantages:

You can sled this husky family for one hour and pay more to prolong it if there are no tourists coming after you. As we came in a group of 30 people, we booked two hours and paid the same price as those who book one hour: 200 rub per person. If you book and individual tour, you can sled in the forest which makes it more fun compared to the small circle in the center of the village that we were offered.

Chernoistocbinsk is 160 km north of Yekaterinburg. Apart from dog sledging you can also visit a nearby deer farm: to feed Kaspian deer, Yakutian horses and African ostriches that live in one place. It is also on the way to Belaya Mount (711m) – a mountain ski resort with a beautiful view of Northern Urals.

Disadvantages:

Most of the winter weekends are already booked by local travel agencies. It's a good idea to book it way in advance or join a special group tour

Book the tour to the huskies and the deer farm in Visim http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/dog-sledding

 

23Jan/133

10 Must-dos in Yekaterinburg in winter

Karim Farah, an exchange student from Egypt arrived in Yekaterinburg in December for a few weeks. And of course, it sounded as a crazy plan in the first place, considering that last December was the coldest month in the Urals with temperatures around -25. For someone from the countries like Egypt it must be a one month long nightmare, you would think. However, Karim asked me to share his photos because he would be happy ‘to advertise the wonderful city of Yekat!'

So here’s the advertisement: Don’t be afraid to come to Russia in winter. There’s much more to do in Yekaterinburg in winter than going on conventional excursions in summer months.

Be different and try out a Russian style winter holiday in the Ural capital!

10 Must-dos in Yekaterinburg in winter:

1 Go to the Europe-Asian border and roll in the snow in the nearby forest

2 Visit the Monastery Ganina Yama, which looks like a fairytale in winter

3 Go to a Russian banya (steam bath) and jump in snow this time absolutely naked!

4 Drink Russian vodka, that always keeps you warm, with Russian friends or without

5 Get cultured and watch ‘Swan Lake’ at the Opera and Ballet Theatre

6 Try Wikitravel’s must-dos in Yekaterinburg: English club at the Keeer restaurant on Wednesday night to meet new people. And the Limpopo Aquapark to feel like on a tropical island when it’s still – 25 outside.

7 Learn skating with your new friends from the English club

8 Make a snowman. Ask local kids to help you – they’ve been practicing since they were born

9 Do the city tour: dig out the QWERTY monument and walk on the surface of the city pond – something you can only do in winter!

10 At night take photos of the amazing ‘ice town’ in the Square on 1905

photos by Karim Farah

10Jan/130

Welcome to vodka tasting on the Europe-Asia border

The Your Yekaterinburg newspaper and AskUral.com invite you to join a vodka tasting tour!

We'll fill you in with history of the Urals, Russian drinking traditions and of course different types of vodka. You will learn Russian toasts and sing Russian drinking songs with us!

January 20 at 14.00
Meeting point: 51, Lenina, in front of the University

price: 950 rub
please, confirm that you are coming and pay in advance
tel: +79122800870
email: yekaterinburg4u@gmail.com