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.
Novo – Tikhvinsky Convent on Zelyonaya Roscha st, 1 is one of the tourists’ attractions in Yekaterinburg. Since the reopening of its main church of St. Alexander Nevsky in 2013 it has become a part of every city tour.
The convent was opened in the 18th century. Before the revolution it was the largest convent in Russia with 1000 sisters. The sisters received education and were taught crafts. There were six churches, residences for the sisters, and buildings where various workshops were located: gold-embroidery, iconographic, silk-embroidery, photographic, spinning, enamel, and the sewing one.
In 1920s the convent was requisitioned by the Bolsheviks and most of the sisters were killed. The territory of the convent was used as a park and partly given to the military hospital. The Church of St Alexander Nevsky was turned into a storage.
In 1994 the convent was given back to nuns. However, the area is much smaller now so the nuns (today there are over 100 of them in Yekaterinburg) have to live in the outskirts of the city. They come to Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent every day for their obedience such as icon-painting, sewing, at the publishing house, souvenir obedience etc.
The church of Alexander Nevsky is interesting from the mineralogical point of view. Inside it is decorated with various minerals, the so-called Ural gems.
Another must-visit place in the convent is the souvenir shop. In winter the shop looks like a museum of pre-revolutionary Christmas decoration. You can buy Christmas decoration and toys made according to the traditional design of the 19th century.
If you are looking for a unique hand-made Russian souvenir and not a corny matryoshka doll or shapka (Russian hat), Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent offers a good variety. This year I bought all New Year presents there
photos of the church were taken from the website of Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent http://www.sestry.ru/eng
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
You can also check the official website http://deadmountainbook.com/ to read more facts, see the photos and to watch the book trailer.
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!
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/
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!
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
Yekaterinburg Opera and Ballet Theatre is celebrating its 100th Anniversary. While it’s difficult to get a ticket to the theatre in October, you can get backstage, see the interior of the theatre and event listen to live performances at the Museum of Local Lore (Kraevedchesky Musey).
Opera and Ballet Theatre opened on 12 October 1912. It had taken 20 years for the Yekaterinburgers to collect money (300.000 rubles) for the construction. The theatre with 1500 seats was classy enough to invite the Tsar. The very first performance staged here was a tragic opera by Mikhail Glinka ‘A Life for the Tsar’. 6 years later the same stage was used to announce the assassination of the Tsar in Ipatiev’s house of Yekaterinburg.
The museum exhibition gives you a chance to see the costumes from the collection of the theatre.
You can also try pointe shoes on and do a few moves.
Standards for ballet dancers have changed over the last 100 years. A ballet dancer in the early 20th century was short and rather plump compared to their counterparts of the 21st century. Today, a ballet dancer is skinny, she has an average height, a small head and a long neck. Her weight is about 45 kg.
Admission: 150 rub. Live performances are included in the price. Concert list is here http://uole-museum.ru
In August 2012 I had a chance to visit a famously mysterious place called Arkaim. The archeological site of an ancient city of Arkaim (17th century b.c.) is in Southern Urals 432 km of Chelyabinsk near the northern border of Kazakhstan.
The place was discovered in 1987 by the scientists from Chelyabinsk. Presumably the people who lived in Arkaim in 17 century b.c. belonged to Iranian or an unknown branch of Indo-Iranian culture. Their settlement for approximately 1500-2500 people was protected by two circular walls. The ancient town covered 20 000 sq meters. The people lived there for 300 years then the settlement was burned and abandoned by its dwellers for unknown reasons.
All this you can learn in a local museum. However, today Arkaim is known as a ‘place of power’ is believed to be enigmatic and it attracts hundreds of pilgrims and esoteric organizations. Some people call it Swastika city or Mandala city. Others compare it with Stonehenge. Those who visited it (including my friends in Yekaterinburg) claim that they felt positive vibes and even healing effects. Obviously I had to go there to see and hopefully to feel something extraordinary!
A camping for pilgrims is located near the archeological site but not quite close to it. The guides say that there’s not much to see there in terms archeology though whilst the nearby mountains are much more interesting for they are the true places of power. In fact, the camping looks very much like a hippy village. Honestly, If you miss the 1970s, you should pay a visit to Arkaim. The flower children of Russia on tops of the hills, talk to ancient stones and sell souvenirs (probably drugs too) from India and China.
An ordinary day in Arkaim is as follows:
6 a.m. climbing one of the mountains (they are hills actually) to see the sunrise.
7 a.m. doing morning exercises with a local trainer who also sells herbal medicine made of Arkaim herbs, of course.
9 a.m. – till the sunset: climbing the nearby mountains\hills of different significance: mountain of love, of wealth, of making wishes etc. The mountain of atonement is the most popular one as people crowds were walking there in circles (that’s what you are supposed to do to say sorry for your deeds). Surprisingly enough the mountain of love was the least popular that day. But then I understood why – it’s the highest and the steepest one.
Alternatively one can stay in the camp to listen to lectures given by various esoteric gurus, go swimming in a small river or riding horses in the endless steppes.
The night time goes more or less traditional in Arkaim: it involves drinking and eating shashlik in a local café. Alternatively one can go meditating on top of a hill.
My personal opinion is that Akaim is an amazing place for someone who arrived from Yekaterinburg surrounded by dense woods. The steppe looks beautiful and exotic, especially when you meet local Asiatic people selling fresh milk and herbal tea from samovar. The climate is fantastic (while it was miserable +16 in Middle Urals, it was +35 in Arkaim). As for the power I didn’t feel anything weird but it felt like a good day off. And the hippies, well they are quiet and harmless anyway, just like their American counterparts. So the place is worth visiting even though it’s 634km of Yekaterinburg.
To make it easy for you to decide on what tours you would like to have in the Urals, I've made these pictures with short descriptions in English and in Russian (just click on each picture to read the description)
These are 8 most popular trips in Yekaterinburg and around. Some are short and some take a whole day. So when you travel by Trans-Siberian, make sure to see one of these sights of middle Urals!
Book the tours here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/
Plus a special winter tour:
Book the tours here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/
8th of July is a new celebration in Russia –St. Peter and Fevronya’s Day, the day of family, love and faith. A brand new monument to patron saints of marriage and family was opened in Yekaterinburg near the Church on the Blood and it immediately became a popular spot for newly-weds.
Originally, it was a Russian Orthodox celebrated only in the town of Murom as Peter was the Prince of Murom. The day of love and family was proposed by Russian Orthodox Church as opposed to St Valentine’s. The church doesn’t like that young people in Russia celebrate a Catholic Day. In 2008 the Russian Government accepted the proposal of a new celebration and it was actively promoted by Svetlana Medvedeva, the wife of the former president D. Medvedev.
Interesting facts: In spite of the fact that Peter and Fevronya symbolize traditional Orthodox values, Peter, the Prince of Murom didn’t want to marry Fevronya. She was a commoner who cured him of leprosy. In return, Fevronya asked Peter to marry her but he refused. However, he later suffered a relapse and came to Fevronya again. After that he had to marry Fevronya. The couple was childless which isn’t a good example of a good Orthodox family either. At the end of their lives they both joined the clergy. He became a monk and she was a nun and both prayed to die on the same date which they did on July, 8th 1228.
When speaking about love and faith, it’s worth mentioning some statistics here. According to Demoscope Weekly, every second marriage ends in divorce in Yekaterinburg. The average age of newly-weds in Russia is 26-27 for men and 24-25 for women. Only 30% of Russian women and 56% of men marry for the second time after a divorce. As for faith, 90% of men and 85% of women in Russia think that adultery is a good reason to get a divorce.
There are no special traditions yet about buying chocolate or flowers on this date. But considering the statistics, it’s probably a good thing that we have a day in summer when people can think about the family values.
Kungur is a popular tourist destination all year long but it attracts even more people from 30th June to 7th July when the city hosts a festival of air balloons. Last year my friends and I attended the last day of the festival. I was very impressed by the Mediterranean-like life of this old Ural town.
Lonely Planet guide book on Russia says: ‘Between the blandness of Perm and the blandness of Yekaterinburg, Kungur is like ice cream in a biscuit’. Well, we were certainly longing for an ice cream as we entered the city on a hot July day. Kungur looked like one of those Russian resorts on the Black Sea. People were swimming in the Sylva River in the center of Kungur, sunbathing on the benches of the main street and walking lazily back and forth in shorts and flip-flops with beach towels on their shoulders.
The Sylva River is a real pearl of Kungur. It’s very pure and slow enough for easy rafting. We rented a motor-boat and noticed that for the locals a boat or a raft is the main mean of transport and also the way of spending a weekend. Picnics onboard are as ubiquitous here as in Amsterdam.
Others, who weren’t lucky to be born in Kungur, come with their tents and spend weekends outside Kungur a few km down the city. By the way, you too should go 5 km out of town to visit the famous Kungur Ice Cave!
The passages stretch for over 6 km and only a small part has been explored so far. 1.5 km will be enough for you to explore. The grottos are "adorned" with columns of stalagmites and icicles of stalactites up to two meters in height. The best time to visit the cave is beginning of spring. That’s the time when icicles are especially big. We didn’t go inside because on that hot day I completely forgot about taking warm clothes and comfortable trainers. So these photos are from the Internet:
The cave is open daily 9am-4pm. Group excursions start every two hours and cost 600Rub. You can have an individual excursion for 1000Rub. An excursion lasts 1hr 20min.
Kungur was founded in 1663. The town is proud of its museum of tea, and old churches. To get a bird view of the city, you should climb the bell tower of this church:
As it got dark, the public in the center changed dramatically and we realized that Kungur is a very working-class town. In other words, to see the balloon show at night one had to be drunk on not to be there at all.
Accommodation: Kungur has two decent hotels which are always totally booked during the first week of July. Iren hotel is on Lenina st 30 in the center. Stalagmit Complex is outside the town but it’s just next to the entrance to the ice cave. However, many Russians prefer to stay in their tents on the banks of the Sylva.
Getting there: from Perm it takes about 2 hours by bus or suburban train. From Yekaterinburg – about 5 hours by bus from Yuzhniy Avtovokzal ( Bus Station) on 8 Marta st. 145
Click on photos to see more sights of Kungur and the river