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10May/120

Celebrating Easter in the country. Bym, Permsky Region

Permsky Region in Western Urals is doing its best to promote not only Ural cities but small villages. This spring a small village of Bym (30km to Kungur, 260 km to Yekaterinburg) welcomed tourists to celebrate Easter in a traditional Russian style. The village is planning to host similar fests every year. Their first try was certainly a success.

Very few people among those who arrived from Perm and Yekaterinburg knew folk songs and dances but everyone participated in a cheerful fest.

On that day everyone could go to the bell tower of the church to ring the bells and to enjoy a breathtaking view of the Urals.

The highlight of Bym is Belogorsky Monastery – a beautiful church up on the highest hill.

click here to see more photos:

8Feb/123

Mammoth, lizard and the Queen of the Urals. Russian legends.

The Queen of the Copper Mountain is a famous character of the Ural folk stories. Every child in Russia knows a fairy tale written by Pavel Bazhov.

It says that the Queen of the Copper Mountain is a beautiful young lady who owns all the treasures hidden in the Ural Mountains. Very few people met her because she turns into a lizard every time a man comes up. There was one lucky man though: Danila, a local miner. The Queen of the Copper Mountain fell in love with him. She showed him where her gold was, in return Danila had to stay with her deep underground. The man refused for he had a fiancée at home. The Queen was kind enough to let Danila go. She even gave him a present for his fiancée. As Danila got back home he gave the present, a malachite box full of treasures, to his future bride.

However, he never married the girl, for he went insane and for the rest of his days he was dreaming of the Queen of the Copper Mountain…

This winter I was guiding a group of the 2020 Expo Committee. Yes, I should add here that Yekaterinburg is bidding to host Expo 2020 along with Dubai, San Paulo and Izmir (Turkey). We went to the border of Europe and Asia and there she was…the Queen of the Copper Mountain greeting us with karavai (a loaf of bread with salt in the middle, that you bake specially for greeting important guests)

The Queen of the Copper Mountain on the Euro-Asia border

It was a bright sunny day with -20 Celcius so the members of the Committee from Moscow, the USA and Australia felt very uncomfortable, to say the least. The Queen didn’t show us any gold loads but she had something more valuable in store: 40% proof Russian vodka! My guests couldn’t be happier. This is how you begin treasuring simple pleasures…

If you are coming to Yekaterinburg you can book a meeting with the Queen of the Copper Mountain on the Euro-Asia border but it’s better to do for large groups. It’s quite pricey for a group of two or three tourists.

But back to the Queen or is she a lizard? A legend of a giant lizard with horns was known in the Urals since the time of the cavemen. Ancient Mansi tribes called the lizard Mammoth. So the name ‘mammoth’ came from the Urals only the Mansis were mistaken about its appearance.

The coat of arms of Sverdlovsk with a sable (left) and a lizard (right)

When the first Russian gold was found in the Urals in 1745, a lizard came to focus again. In fact, its importance can be scientifically approved: lizards choose the warmest stone in the woods to rest on and the warmest stones are the ones with gold veins underneath. In other words, follow a lizard and you may find gold as there is still plenty of it in the Urals!

Lizard with a golden crown is a common souvenir to buy in Yekaterinburg

You can find many souvenirs with the image of a lizard with a crown in Yekaterinburg. The same lizard was in the coat of arms of Sverdlovsk (the previous name of Yekaterinburg in the Soviet times)

25Jan/121

Tobolsk. A step down from the Ural Mountains to real Siberia

Every Russian knows about the Siberian town of Tobolsk from the history books but very few visited the town. These days tourists choose other routes to the South and it’s rather far for foreigners: Tobolsk is not on Trans-Siberian route. However, this Siberian pearl does its best to attract different travelers and it’s worth coming in summer and in winter.

Tobolsk is 536km to the north-east of Yekaterinburg in Western Siberia. It is in Tyumenskaya Oblast, the neighboring region to Sverdlovskaya Oblast. So, in terms of Russian distances people in the Urals may say that it’s just around the corner. Tobolsk is very old compared to most of the Ural and Siberian cities. It was founded in 1587 on the place where the Tobol River flows into the Irtysh. Very soon Tobolsk became the center of political, economical and cultural life of Siberia.
The main place of attraction is a breathtaking white Kremlin in the upper town. I couldn’t stop taking photos of it:

The downtown is located down the hill on the river bank.

They say that Siberia gave Russia many prominent people and most of them were born in Tobolsk. The most known name in the world is chemist Dmitry Mendeleev, the inventor of the periodic table . Tobolsk also became the land of prisons and exile. Russian Tsars were deporting political prisoners to Tobolsk for centuries. A short excursion to the old cemetery will tell you more about it.

Of course, Russian exiled aristocracy changed the habits and lifestyle of Tobolsk. I was very much surprised to meet many teenagers in the local museum dressed as ladies and gentlemen of 19th century. They came to an annual ball arranged here on the eve of Christmas.

Ironically, the Bolsheviks decided to exile the last Russian tsar to Tobolsk as well. Nicolas II and his family had lived in Tobolsk from August 1917 till April 1918 before they were sent and murdered in Yekaterinburg

The house requisitioned as the Romanovs' detention place in Tobolsk

Study room of Nicolas II in Tobolsk

Tobolsk has always been a spiritual center of Russia. There are 16 churches in the town including a Catholic Church in downtown. You can also arrange a tour to Abalak monastery (30km from Tobolsk)

Outside the monastery there’s a lovely Abalak tourist center with a wooden hotel, bars, skating rinks and the home of Father Frost.

Find more about Abalak here: http://askural.com/2011/12/father-frost-in-abalak-siberia/

Tips for travelers: Most of the museums, cafes and souvenir shops are located in the Kremlin area. Tobolsk is famous for muksun – a type of fish that you can try in local eateries. Smoked fish is available at vendors’ right on the train platform.

The train station of Tobolsk is outside the town. There are several buses to take from the station, but if you are arriving early in the morning or late at night, it’s wise to order a transfer beforehand. The local travel agencies arrange transfers and tours but they don’t have English-speaking guides, so bring your own interpreter.

A woman is selling local fish at the train station

One day is pretty much enough for Tobolsk. There are several decent hotels in the city but I chose to arrive by train at 7.30 am and took a train back at 9pm. Thus you can sleep two nights in a train and spend a whole day in Tobolsk.

Getting to Abalak: by car: from Yekaterinburg take the road via Tymen to Tobolsk
by train: There are many trains bound for Tobolsk. I suggest taking train #310 from Yekaterinburg. This night train is convenient as it leaves Yekaterinburg at 22.16 and arrives at 8.28. A 10 hour sleep in a train will cost you 800-1500 roubles.

16Jan/120

Five ski resorts in the Urals to visit this winter

Yekaterinburg is located in the mountains and there are a lot of places where we can go alpine skiing and snowboarding. The season starts from mid November and finishes in early April.

Uktus: The sports center is on a territory of 424 hectares among century pines.
Guests of the Uktus can use 4 ski slopes of various difficulty levels. The length of the tracks is 400-750 meters. The elevation is from 54 to 100 m. There are also a snow park, a wellness service, a café and parking. If you are bored with skiing, you can play paintball or tennis, ride horse or relax in the gazebo.
The cost of renting ski kit is 420 rubles per hour. Rent of snowboard with a full kit is 420 rubles too. Climbing on the elevator is 50 rubles. http://www.uktus.ur.ru/

Pil’naya: It is 38 km away from Yekaterinburg, in Pervouralsk. There are 5 ski slopes with a total length of 2800 meters. The maximal elevation is 98.5 m.

A set of ski or snowboard equipment costs 400 rubles per hour. Snow tubing with the elevator costs you 350 rubles. If you want to rent a trainer, you must pay 600 rubles per hour. The cost of parking is 50 rubles for the full day. You can reach Pervouralsk by bus or by train. In addition you can visit the Snow Park or sauna there. http://www.pilnaya.ru/

Volchikha: It is the highest peak in the vicinity of Yekaterinburg.  The Volchikha’s height is 526 meters. There are four slopes. The longest one is 700 m with a height difference of 143 meters.

The cost of tickets for the elevator varies from 300 to 1100 rubles for 3 hours. It depends on the day of the week and time of the day. The cheapest tickets are during the week and in the daytime.
The rent of a package for skiing and snowboarding costs 400 rubles per hour. You must pay 700 rubles per 2 h, 900 rubles per 3 h and 1000 rubles for 4 h or more.
The other entertainments are a snow park, Zorbas, outdoor skating rink and the rent of snowmobiles. Volchikha is situated 5 km from Revda and 7 from Pervouralsk. http://www.volchixa.ru/

Ski Resort 'Belaya'

Belaya: It is located near Nizhny Tagil, more precisely, 37 km away. There is ski rental (from 310 rubles to 710 rubles per hour kit) and snowboard (350 rub.). You can take skates there (100 rub. per hour), and do snow tubing. There is also a swimming pool, high ropes course, a café and a hotel. In addition, you can play strike ball near the Belaya. http://www.gorabelaya.ru/

Abzakovo: It is located in the spur of the ancient Ural Mountains in the   southeast of Bashkortostan, 60 km from Magnitogorsk and 35 km from Beloretsk. Complex Abzakovo is unique in offering a variety of forms of leisure, recreation and entertainment throughout the four seasons.

The rent of snowboard or skiing equipment is 100-600 rub. per hour and 300-800 rub. per day.

http://www.abzakovo.com/

In conclusion, we wish that you spend the winter enjoying fun and health benefits! The information was compiled by Marat Ramazanov for the Your Yekaterinburg English newspaper.

8Jan/120

New Year 2012 in Yekaterinburg. Ice Town

A magnificent ice town appears in the Square of 1905 in Yekaterinburg every winter. This year the theme of the ice town is 200th Anniversary since the victory over Napoleon in Moscow.

Visitors will find themselves in the middle of Red Square with an icy Kremlin surrounded by the ice sculptures of Russian heroes and popular characters of Russian folk stories.

Click to the gallery to see the photos and welcome to the ice town! It’s in the centre of Yekaterinburg until mid. February to a great dismay of drivers who lost a parking place…C’mon guys, it’s time for a fairy tale!

12Dec/110

Christmas in German style in Yekaterinburg

Christmas Market is something unusual in Russia. The first Weihnachtsmarkt was opened in Yekaterinburg on December 10, 2011. Renate Schimkoreit, German Consul-General in Yekaterinburg hopes the market will become an annual event that will attract people from all over Russia.

This city has always had close relations with Germany. Starting from Yekaterinburg’s foundation when Peter the Great sent a German General Willhelm de Gennin to manage factories in the Urlas. De Gennin gave the city a German name Yekaterin-burg and called the building of the Main Mining Office Oberbergamt. No doubt he celebrated Christmas in German style as well.

The Christmas Market in the Literary Quarter (6, Proletarskaya st.) had an atmosphere of a real German celebration but with a certain Russian ambience: one can buy valenki (felt boots), drink tea at the soldiers’ kitchen and ride a camel! Well, a camel is hardly a Russian symbol of winter holidays, that’s why its presence puzzled not only foreigners.

I’m sure, Wheihnachtsmarkt will become a good tradition in Yekaterinburg, so make sure to come next year!

29Nov/110

Germans in the Urals

Russian Germans (Russkie Nemtzy) is a generalized term used in the Russian language to name the people whose forefathers moved to Russia before the Revolution or were sent to labour camps during the Great Patriotic War in the USSR. Many of them migrated to Germany in 1990s but some decided to stay. For instance, my elderly neighbor babushka Anna said she was too old to integrate into the western society. Assuming that she lived in the industrial town of Nizhni Tagil, she had probably been a victim of Stalin repressions but she never spoke about it.

There are about 600 000 Russian Germans living in Russia today, over 20 000 of them live in Middle Urals. The Festival of German Culture in Russia was held for the first time in November in Yekaterinburg. About 200 of Russian Germans came from different parts of the Urals to share what they have preserved: folk songs and dances, national costumes and German quisine. By the way, the first Governer of Sverdlovskaya Oblast , Eduard Rossel is Russian German too. Other famous Russian Germans in the Urals are fellow artists Lew Weiber and Michail Distergeft.

Both were sent to Gulag and spent their youth working in coal mines in Karpinsk (Northern Urals). They were released After the Second World War. Weiber studied at the college of Arts in Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg). Distergeft did the same in Nizhni Tagil. Of course, they were ‘ne vyezdnie’ (not permitted to travel abroad). There was a term Inner Emigration in Soviet artists’ lexicon in 1960s. It meant that looking for harmony the artists preferred to retreat to nature in order to create something for themselves and for a close circle of friends.

Yekaterinburg Gallery of Modern Art  (www.uralgallery.ru) exhibited the paintings of Weiber and Distergeft  as a part of the Festival of German Culture. The exhibition was called “The nature of memory. The memory of nature” It had Weiber’s landscapes of the Urals and graphic works by Gistergeft who portrayed the life of the Germans in labour camps. The graphic works were made in 1990s when Distergeft lived in Oranienburg, Germany.

8Nov/110

What to read about the Urals?

This autumn I was lucky to meet Marina Chebotaeva, the General Director of Enviro-Chemie Gmbh in Yekaterinburg. She is also an author of the travel guide on the Urals. Her books The Urals: a first stride into real Russia volume 1 and 2 won the National Tourist Prize of Senkevich as the best published work on traveling in Russia.

Each travel guide has 52 routes throughout the Urals, each starting from Yekaterinburg. The trips are divided into three categories: short trips (4-5 hours by car), one day trips (10-12 hours), weekend trips (including trips to Bashkiria and Khanty-Mansiysk)

Apart from detailed descriptions and maps, the books have amazing photos. I was surprised to learn that all the photos were taken by amateurs, not by professionals. Most of them were Marina’s friends and colleagues. She just gave them maps and they went to 52 different directions, even to Salekhard at the Polar circle. Though it’s better to fly there for ‘only very brave people go to Salekhard by car’ – the book says.

It started as a hobby or even a necessity four years ago: Marina was looking for souvenirs for her business partners from Germany. It turned out that Yekaterinburg doesn’t produce anything that could be called ‘a nice souvenir from the Urals’. Of course, there are semi-precious stones but they are stones, you know. So Marina decided to create her own Ural gifts.

“A book which is given as a present is read by eight to ten people. Can you imagine how many people all over the world will learn about the Urals and will want to come here!” she says.

Vladimir Putin has read the book too and hopefully he'll givie it as a present to someone as well!

The Urals: a first stride into real Russia volume 1 and 2 by M. Chebotaeva are available in Russian, English, German and Chinese in Yekaterinburg bookstores (price is around 1.700 Roubles).

You can also order the book for 1000Roubles at www.nashural.ru or by phone +7(343) 278-27-96, +7-912-218-35-69   (or contact me if you are lost in translation)

click here to see photos from The Urals

30Oct/111

What museums to visit in Yekaterinburg?

Sverdlovsk Regional Museum of Local Lore (Kraevedcheski Muzey) is probably the largest Yekaterinburg. It has four halls which tell the history of the Urals from the ancient tribes to the Romanovs and Second World War. A new photo exhibition ‘Les Voyages in URSS’ tells about the so-called “Zastoy” era – years of stagnation in the USSR.

Red Square, Moscow 1956

Jacques Dupaquier is a French photographer who visited the USSR during the times of Khruschev and Brezhnev. Dupaquier first came to the USSR in 1956 as a member of the Society of French-Soviet Friendship.

Park Pobedy and a kiosk in Moscow, 1956

He took part in a car rally Paris-Tashkent with a stop in Sochi in 1964.

A beach in Sochi, 1964

Those days Sochi could hardly believe it would host the Olympics in 2014..Winter Olympics!

Finally, the French photographer travelled by Trans-Siberian railway from Vladivostok to Moscow in 1975. Has Russia changed since those days? You decide...

Sverdlovsk Train Station in 1975

Taiga, a town in Siberia

Chita, 1975

The exhibition ‘Les Voyages in URSS’ is open till 21st December 2011

Sverdlovsk Regional Museum of Local Lore is located in the centre next to the Iset Hotel. The museum has a hall of ancient history of the Urals with the Big Shigir Idol, the oldest wooden cult statue known in the world history (9.5 thousand years old).

Make sure you get to the Hall of the Romanovs on the top floor. It contains an interesting collection of letters, documents and personal belongings of the last Russian Tsar. The collection gives a better understanding of the unhappy events than a visit to Church on Blood or Ganina Yama Monastery

The hall of the Romanovs

Address: Prospect Lenina 69\10

Tel: +7 (343)376-47-78

28Jun/110

Best of Russia – Moscow photo project exhibited in Yekaterinburg

This summer you don't need to go far in order to explore Russia. Just pay a visit to Yekaterinburg Museum of Fine Arts on Vainera st. 11

Ice Breath of Siberia by Vitaly Tumanuv, 25y.o., Lobnya

All Russian annual photo project ‘Best of Russia ‘10’ arrived at Yekaterinburg. The photo exhibition with 365 best photos of the year was brought from Winzavod Centre for Contemporary Art, Moscow.

Physical Jerks by Sergey Voronin, 54y.o. Podolsk

Small portrait by Alexander Alpatkin, 46y.o. Kurgan (Urals)

The idea is to show the life of the whole country during one year viewed by Russian citizens and to discover most talented photographers. The organizers received 26 000 photos from 570 Russian settlements created by professional and amateur photographers.

That ‘Locked Out’ Feeling by Ilya Nodiya, 21 y.o. Omsk

Children are the flowers of life by Dmitry Ternovsky, 29y.o. Moscow

365 project’s best photos were chosen by the authoritative jury committee. The exhibition is divided into five sections: architecture, nature, style, people, events and everyday life. There is only one rule – photos have to be created in Russia.  

The exhibition is held in Yekaterinburg Museum of Fine Art on Vainera 11 until September, 4. Entrance fee 150 R

Hypno-Cat by Pavel Kuleshin, 26y.o. Moscow