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5Aug/110

Visim – the land of ostriches and old believers

Visim is a village located in National Park Visimsky, 50 km from Nizhni Tagil and 195 km to the North-West of Yekaterinburg. Why is it worth visiting? First of all, you’ll be able to see the real Ural Mountains. On your way to Visim, right on the border between Europe and Asia you pass Gora Belaya – one of the highest mountains in Middle Urals (705m). It has a well equipped skiing resort (www.gorabelaya.ru) and a chairlift operates all year long. On a sunny day you can see the village of Visim from the top of the mountain.

The landscape around Visim can be compared to Switzerland. No wonder that top local businessmen and the former Governor of Sverdlovskaya Oblast have their dachas in the area. The nearby village Uralets is the place where so-called ‘bad silver’ (first Ural platinum) was found in 1824. By 1917 Middle Urals was supplying 90% of the world’s platinum. They say you can still find platinum in local rivers.

Visim is not only a perfect retreat to breathe in fresh air and enjoy wild nature. It is also a good anthropological destination to learn more about Russian inhabitants. The village was founded in 1741 as a settlement around ironworks. The factory belonged to the Demidoffs – a famous dynasty of successful merchants in the Urals who later moved to Florence and became related to Napoleon. They brought their serfs from Ukraine and Tula (western Russia) to Visim and hired the already settled Old Believers who had fled to the Urals from Novgorod in the 1720s.

 “Three Ends”, the novel by the Visim-born writer Mamin-Sibiryak, depicts lifestyles in three areas of the village. Differences can still be seen in wooden architecture – Ukrainian and Tula houses have bright colours and elaborate décor. Old Believers’ houses look dark, solid and have shutters. Over time Ukrainian and Tula villagers assimilated as both liked wine and celebrations. Old Believers, however, managed to preserve their culture and austere customs. They are known as very hard-working, non-drinking strong people. Life expectancy in Visim is very high among Old Believers, some women reach 95. To date, there are several young men in the village who claim they are Old Believers.

The population in Visim is now 1200 although in the Soviet times it was 7000. It is interesting that the villagers do not like to promote Visim. They are afraid that new-comers may spoil their quiet rural life – unlike in many other decaying Russian villages, this one looks very neat. A local businessman helps the village to survive. He is currently building a mini-hotel and a church in Visim. The businessman is of course an Old Believer. Visim has two Museums: Museum of the writer Mamin-Sibiryak and Museum of Local Crafts. Public celebrations and festivals are held during Christmas holidays and Maslenitsa (Pan Cake carnival). There is a decent café Kedr in the centre of the village.

in the museum of Mamin Sibiryak

The highlight of Visim is a deer farm. The same local businessman bought herds of Saika Deer and Caspian Red Deer; in Russia they are called Siberian stags or Marals. The deers' velvet antlers are used to produce immune stimulant and anti-cancer medicine which the owner of the farm gives to his employees.

Book the tour to Belaya Mt and the Deer Farm here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/northern-urals

The excursion in the farm is 50 roubles. Make sure you bring some bread to feed deer. They especially like baton (sweet white bread).

A year ago the farmers received an unexpected gift – three abandoned ostriches on the farm doorstep. The birds outlived their first winter on the farm. It turned out that ostriches can endure temperatures down to -20, not that they liked it though.

Petrovich, the ostrich

and his girlfriend

Since spring 2011 the farm has adopted five Yakut horses. There is no worry about their survival. Yakut horses will probably take Ural winters for a summer holiday.

photo from www.E1.ru

Book the tour to Belaya Mt and the Deer Farm here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/northern-urals

Getting there by car: 115 km down Serovsky Trakt. Pass Lenevka Sanatorium and turn left to detour around Nizhni Tagil, then turn to Chernoistochinsk-Uralets and drive 50 km more. To enter Visim,  turn left from the highway. To go to the farm go 300m straight on. The farm is the next right turn from the highway. You will see a sign in Russian 'ostriches, deer'

Getting there by bus: there are buses from Nizhni Tagil Main Bus Station. Take a bus bound for Visimo-Utkinsk and get off at Visim bus stop.

25May/110

Europe-Asia border. Is it worth it?

This post is for Don, Michael and many others who asked me if it’s worth going to the border between Europe and Asia and what you can see there, apart from the obelisk.

Honestly speaking, I’ve been there so many times that I take it for granted. But I haven’t seen yet a single tourist who regretted about going there. So, look at the pictures and decide yourself whether you want to go there or not...

Obelisk near the town of Pervouralsk (40km from Yekaterinburg)

The most interesting obelisk is near Pervouralsk (40 km from Yekaterinburg) on Beryozavaya gorka (birch hill). The obelisk was made in honour of Tsar Alaxander II who was traveling to Siberia in 1837. He stopped there and opened a bottle of wine. Since that we have a tradition to drink on the border – one glass in Europe and one in Asia.

The place attracts newly-weds as there is also a tree of wishes where couples hang their padlocks and make a wish sitting on a bench.

Book the tour to the Europa-Asian border here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/europe-asia-border

German couple under the tree made by local blacksmith Pastukhov. Similar tree grows in London

What to do: drink, make a wish under the tree, take photos of village people

Getting there from Yekaterinburg: by taxi (about 1.000R) or by bus or marshrutka (minivan) to Pervouralsk from bus stop Institut Svyazi on Repina street. Bus fare may vary from 20- to 40R Note: buses stop in different parts of Pervouralsk, so it’s wise to ask the driver how to get to the obelisk.

The simplest obelisk but closest to the city (17km from Yekaterinburg)

The most popular place on the border is 17 km from Yekaterinburg one NovoMoskovski trakt.

What to do: continue drinking, buy souvenirs, tie a ribbon on a tree to make a statement that you’ve been there, take a photo of yourself clad as Tsar or Tsaritsa.

Book the tour to the Europa-Asian border here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/europe-asia-border

Of course there are many more marks all along the Ural Mountains:

8Sep/103

What to see on Europe-Asia border?

The border of Europe and Asia is one of the must-visit sights in the vicinity of Yekateriburg. To get there you will need a car as it's right on the highway. Buses don't stop there and there are no trains.But it's only 17 km west from Yekaterinburg so you can take a taxi even. Beware, taxi drivers may try to charge you more because you are a foreigner so don't agree on more than 500 roubles (12 euro)

The border mark is on the right side of Moskovsky trakt (highway) that used to be Great Siberian Road. Russian Tsars (including the present ones) had a habit to exile their political foes and other convicts as far away from the capital as possible i.e. to Siberia. Hundreds of exiled would pass Yekaterinburg in shackles everyday down the same road that you will go to the border. Think about it when you travel by Trans-Siberian from Moscow to Yekaterinburg. That's only half way the others had to walk!

Back to the border mark. It's relatively new. The monument was erected in 2004 and represents two interwined letters A and E. There you can happily put one foot in Europe and other in Asia while your friend or a driver takes a picture of you.

Is there anything else to see on the border? Yes, there is. Russian weddings! If you go there on Friday or Saturday you are sure to spot many of them. It's a tradition in Russia that newlyweds hire a limo and cruise around the city visiting the sights where they can take nice pictures for their wedding albums. At the same time they continue drinking so don't be surprised to find a lot of empty champagne bottles on the border and locks with newlyweds' names. That's a new wedding tradition that came from Italy, I believe. A bride usually doesn't mind being photographed by everyone so you can easily take some pictures of Russian weddings for your album. And if you are lucky they may even invite you to the evening party. Don't say No. It's quite an experience, a lot of food and drinks guaranteed! Tourists usually wonder what it is that guests chant that causes a newly married couple to kiss in public. They chant Gor'ko! (bitter) meaning life is bitter, show us something sweet.

Now, there is a bitter side of the story. Every second wedding in Russia ends up in a divorce. It's not the case of the couple on the picture though. Those guys are happily married and have a child.

Book the tour to the Europa-Asian border here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/europe-asia-border

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AskUral.com is the blog dedicated to my lovely region known as the Urals or the Ural Mountains in Russia.

My name is Luba Suslyakova. I am based in Yekaterinburg (Russia), and I would love to share useful information about my area as much as possible and be your travel adviser.

Just keep asking me via the contact form and I will come back to you with answers!

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