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!
It’s always nice to report that a new hostel is opened in Yekaterinburg. Hostels here open and close so quickly that I don’t have time to write about them. The reason for this – Russians haven’t developed the habit of staying at hostels yet and prefer to pay more for apartment rental while backpackers from abroad come to Yekaterinburg mainly from May till September. So if a local hostel has been working for already a year, it’s quite an achievement. And I’m sure, Domino Hostel is certainly going to last!
I learnt about Domino Hostel from Daniel, a German tourist. He contacted me asking to pick him up from Chelyuskintsev Street, 60 for an excursion. To be honest, it took me a while to find the entrance as there are many entrance doors and no sign of the hostel. So look for the entrance with a big lamp above the door! Otherwise the location is very good: it’s only a 10 min walk from the train station, a few min to get to Dynamo Metro station and about 10 min to the Church on the Blood and the city center.
Domino hostel has 6 beds for 600 rubles (at least it was the price during the low season) with free WiFi, tea and coffee. Vasily, the owner of the hostel has created a nice Facebook page, so go to Domino Hostel on Facebook or find it at booking.com. By the way, they accept Visa and Master cards.
See the hostel on the map:
Travelers who stay at Domino Hostel have special discount prices for Yekaterinburg tours by askural.com! Ask Vasily to show you our photos of Yekaterinburg tours with descriptions and a price list.
Two years ago I wrote about an orphanage in Revda (48 km of Yekaterinburg). It’s a special Dom Rebyonka (orphanage) that provides medical rehabilitation and support for babies and little children from 2 months old to 4 year olds with physical or mental disabilities orphaned immediately after birth.
The bad news is that the state orphanage still lacks medicine and necessary vitamins which are not that expensive but the State financial support is not sufficient to meet the needs of about 50 little patients.
The good news is that there are people who find ways to help even from abroad: In winter I received an email from Texas. Sherry and Joey MacKenzie were to come to Yekaterinburg in March for the concert of their music band Quebe Sisters Band. They brought a big box with toys and woolen socks that they collected from their local community in Texas. Sherry couldn’t buy necessary medicine in the USA as it should be bought in Russia for the orphanage to accept it. So when the band arrived in Yekaterinburg Sherry and I met in the hotel and went to the nearest pharmacy to buy some vitamins from the list that I got from the orphanage.
Quebe Sisters Band stayed in the Urals only one night and there was no time for them to visit the orphanage. Probably, next time if you come here, guys!
Meanwhile, the parcels were delivered to Revda by my friend Irina. She came after lunch when children were asleep. But you can see the pictures of the Revda children in my previous post: http://askural.com/2011/04/orphans-of-sverdlovskaya-oblast/
If you’d like to do charity when traveling in the Urals like the Texans did, you may contact Dom Rebyonka to get a list of medicine
tel.: +7 (34397) 5-11-32
fax: +7 (34397) 5-11-34, 5-39-66
or contact me email@example.com and I’ll forward you the list of medicine in Russian that you can use in any local pharmacy.
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 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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
In the winter I’m getting even more proud of living in Yekaterinburg because now I can show tourists Ledovyj Gorodok (the ice town) in the Square of 1905. Unfortunately, there are very few foreign tourists in winter – people are afraid of the cold weather… It’s only -15 today and the ice town is packed, so make sure to come next year! Meanwhile, I can share these amazing photos with you.
The Eifel Tower is here to remind us that Expo 1900 was held in Paris. That year Yekaterinburg’s Kasli iron cast Pavilion won Grand Prix. The elaborate pavilion is now exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts and the ice version of it was made in the square.
Click to the gallery to see the ice scuptures made by the international team of scuptors:
This week I've found two interesting videos. The first one is a timelaps project by Dmitry Krylov. If you've never seen Yekaterinburg at night in the mid November, here you are:
The second video is made by the Yekaterinburg Expo 2020 team. The Ural city is competing with Sao Paulo and Dubai
Last week in Paris, Russia submitted its bid to host the World Expo 2020 and showed their video presentation 'Global Mind Adventure'. Obviously, lots of money was spent on the video. I only hope it's going to work! The winner city will be announced in 2013. Meanwhile, the global-mind project of the Ural students:
‘Khazakhi-Razboyniki’ (The Cossacks) Adventure park with a rope course is a great outdoor activity. I discovered it in September and have already been there twice with friends and colleagues.
It’s quite a challenge to walk the course till the end. The last level is a platform at a height of 16 meters and you are supposed to jump to the ground from it. In fact you are forced to do it as it’s the only way to return back unless you wish to do the whole rope course backwards. Exciting but also safe: the course has safety system and two trainers watch your efforts from the ground and tell you what to do.
The Cossacks Park is not only a team building activity (I brought the members of our local English Club there). It is a good chance to have fun with a small group of friends (max 10 people). Apart from this the park offers such group games as paintball and laser tag. The Cossacks are open all year long. It’s possible to do the rope course in winter at mild temperatures when you can wear a thin winter jacket.
The park is located at Peski (sand) resort near Shartash Lake. Therefore, there are cottages to rent for a weekend, a restaurant and summer pavilions for outdoor picnics and of course a Russian banya! Apart from it the organizers started building wonderful authentic wooden houses. The houses are have all modern facilities and at the same time are designed as the 18th-19th century Russian peasants’ homes.
Renting a cottage for two will cost you 1500-3500 rubles.
Picnic pavilions are from 300rub per hour while a heated Mongolian ger with a BBQ place is 4000rub but it accommodates up to 20 people inside.
Russian banya (steam bath) for 6-10 people will set you back from 1000 to 2000rub per hour
Rope course and other games (2hours) run from 640rub per person
More information in Russian at www.peski13.ru