On January 9th 2016 our international team of tourists went to the village of Kostino (130km East of Yekaterinburg) where we celebrated Svyatki. Svyatki or saint days is a mixture of pagan believes and Christian traditions celebrated between Ortodox Christmas (Jan.7th) and Epiphany (Jan. 19th).
The first week of Svyatki is called a saint week and includes celebrating of Christmas. The second week is called "scary". Slavic people believed that evil forces are particular dangerous during that week. It includes fortune telling at night, carroling and playing outdoor games.
Fortune telling is one of the traditions in January. Young girls got together in a banya at night to find out who they would marry and how soon. But first a girl had to take off her cross. Christian and pagan rites had to be separated.
In Kostino we used candle wax and a bowl with water to predict the future. You can guess the meaning of the shapes made by the drops of wax.
When carrolling people wear masks of animals (bears, goats, bulls or geese etc) so that they can't be recognized and one man should be dressed as a goat. If a host refuses to share drinks and treats with carrol singers, the goat can do some mischief. That's why we were treated well and our ‘goat’ – a French guest Gerard got a lot of drinks.
We all agreed that Kostino is worth coming back in summer. So on July 9th we'll have another weekend tour to the village to celebrate a pagan slavic day of Ivan Kupala!
Happy New Year 2016, dear readers! And traditionally I'm happy to share the pictures of our ice town in the Square of 1905 of Yekaterinburg.
This winter the recession in Russia affected everything including the Ice Town. There were no foreign sculptors invited this year only local. However the ice town is as specatcular as usual!
In 2016 the theme is Russian Fairy Tales.
The Square of 1905 is not the only place to see ice sculptures in Yekaterinburg. The contest 'Star of Bethlehem' for best ice sculptures started in front of the Church on the Blood on Christmas day (January 7th).
Click at the gallery to see more photos:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Dear readers, this winter you can join our amazing huski dog sledding tours and visit a deer farm in the Northern Urals for only 2000rub!
December 13th, 2015
January 4th, 24th, 2016
February 21st, 2016
March 5th, 2016
8.30 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!
12.00 Lunch in a cafe in Visim
13.30 Belaya Mount ski resort. You will be able to get to the top of Mt. Belaya (705m) for a beautiful view of Northern Urals.
15.00 Dog sledding in the village of Chernoistochinsk.
19.00 Arrival to the city back to Dynamo Metro (arrival time is approximate)
Price per person:
Adults 2000rub; Children 1800rub
The price includes a transfer in a bus, entrance to the deerfarm, lunch, chairlift at Belaya Mt resort, dogsledding.
Book the tour here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/weekend-tours/dog-sledding-tours
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/
I met Dave Moles on Facebook when he asked to send him a guide book to Yekaterinbook. The book was sent to the UK and then Dave informed me that he was doing a website www.dkworld-photography.co.uk about his travels including Russia and the Urals in particular.
"During my travels I have been lucky enough to visit countries such as Russia, Ukraine and many more in Europe, but I do have a passion for Russia and the former soviet countries. These countries are full of history and beauty, you see and witness a culture you will only see in these countries... and with trips being planned to other former soviet countries, there has never been a better time to visit these countries, and hope through my website you will get inspired to visit yourselves."
The page about the Urals and why visit http://dkworld-photography.co.uk/russia/urals/index.html contains the information and Dave's photos of Yekaterinburg and around as well as ski resorts in the Middle and Sothern Urals. Dave even visited a very off the beaten track town of Karabash, an ecological disaster zone that not many tourists venture to go to.
The website has a very detailed description of the Red Line and other sites of Yekaterinburg that will be useful for other travelers.
Arakul is a popular place for tourists who like hiking and spending weekends camping by the lake. Arakul is located in Chelyabinsk Region, about 140km South-West of Yekaterinburg.
Arakul also called as Arakulsky Shikhan is a 2km long mountain range that looks like the Chinese Great Wall only made by Nature. Its height is 60 meters from the surface. You can meet groups of professional mointain climbers but one can climb Arakul easily from the western side of it (opposit to the lake)
Archeologists found traces of ancient people here. Some still believe that round holes at the top of the range were places of secrifice.
From above you can spot 11 lakes. The nearest one is also called Arakul. Like many other lakes of Chelyabinsk Region Arakul is clean and full of fish.
by car - from Chelyabinsk highway turn to Kasli, then go in the direction of Vishenevogorsk and finally follow a sign to Arakul village. The village is located on the bank of the lake. The mountain range is seen from the lake.
by a local train - in the direction of Chelyabinsk you will need a train station Silach. Then 6km of walking to the rocks and 8km to the lake. The train goes only twice a day.
by bus - it's possible to get to Vishenvogorsk by local buses. Then walk 8 km to the lake.
Photos by Eugeniy Kochetkov
Park Inn by Radisson has posted a guide to the Urals and Yekaterinburg.
What to see, where to eat and other tips for visitors : http://blog.parkinn.com/a-guide-to-the-ural-region-ekaterinburg-and-beyond/
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.
Ok, this post is going to be long just like our journey to Cherdyn and Nyrob. But those two places were certainly worth it and hope so is the story...
In April 2015 my friends and I decided to explore the North of Perm Region. Together with international students from Thailand, Honk Kong and Germany, who study in Yekaterinburg we went to see to oldest Ural towns Cherdyn and Nyrob.
Cherdyn was the eastern border of the Grand Duchy of Moscow. The date of the foundation is unknown but archeologists found the traces of a settlement of XII century. In XV the Princes of the Principality of Great Perm had Russian names but were of Perm origin. Cherdyn was the capital of Great Perm. The river route from the Novgorod Republic to Siberia led via Cherdyn. The princes of Cherdyn had to pay silver and furs as tribute of Moscow. The wooden Kremlin (fortress) protected Cherdyn in XV-XVI from the Tatars and Mansi.
Russians baptized the Perm people of Cherdyn in 1462 although for a long time locals, especially Mansi people were fighting against Russian priests and burnt down Orthodox churches. Perm people who were not as boisterous as Mansi melded their pagan believes with Christians. As a result we now have interesting wooden idols of local and Christian saints. All of them including Jesus have very Asian features similar to those of the Uralic people. The largest collection of Perm wooden idols is in the Gallery of Fine Arts in Perm.
Cherdyn hasn’t changed much over the centuries. Numerous wooden and brick houses are listed as the national heritage here. In Cherdyn we stayed in a nice hotel Staraya Pristan (Old Pier) which is actually more like a hostel with a kitchen and a dining room, separate bathrooms and a superb banya (steam bath). The hotel is located on the picturesque bank of the Kolva river where the wooden Kremlin used to be built by the first Russian settlers.
We had a short walking tour in Cherdyn with a local guide, visited two museums of history and nature and climbed the tower of the Resurrection Church of 1754.
In the afternoon we went to the next historical town called Nyrob 40 km north of Cherdyn. The town has always been the town of prisoners. In 1601 Boris Godunov, the ruler of Moscovia sent his main rival Mikhail Romanov into exile. Mikhail was the uncle of another Mikhail, the first Tsar in the Romanovs' dynasty. After that Nyrob became famous all over Russia.
Nyrob is also one of the coldest towns in Perm Region. In winter temperatures drop down to -40 -45. As we got there on 25th of April the area was still covered with snow and the sun set off only for 5 hours at night, rising at 4am again. It’s hard to imagine how the uncle of the first Tsar Mikhail Romanov stayed for 1 year in a hole dug by the soldiers of Boris Godunov with little food to eat and no wood to make fire. No wonder that today Nyrob is still the town of prisoners with several prison-settlements and maximum security prisons all around.
Nyrob, however, has a lovely museum of the Romanovs where for 50rub you can get dressed as boyars and have a selfi sitting on the Tsar’s wooden throne. Of course, we used the opportunity to strike a pose!
Cherdyn and Nyrob are not the top tourists’ destinations. They are probably for those who have seen everything in the Urals and now want to see something off the beaten track. Although in Cherdyn we met a couple of travellers from Sakhalin. They were advised in Perm to visit the northern town and so they changed their initial pans and came here. The couple said they just loved Nyrob. Our international students also admitted that they had a wonderful weekend.
It’s easier to get to Cherdyn by car from Perm (304km). We had to cover 650km from Yekaterinburg via Kachkanar and Solikamsk. And it wouldn’t be that bad if there were good roads in Perm region. The roads in the north aren’t bad, there are simply none in some places. We passed several ghost towns (former mining towns) which are similar to those you only find in computer games about zombies. However, there was one bonus on our way back – the so called Stown Town. It is also called the Devil's town for only the devil could create something like that. The rocks form passages, alleys and streets that lead nowhere and make you feel like in another ghost city made by nature.