AskUral.com Hello! My name is Luba. I can show you my Yekaterinburg and Middle Urals in Russia!

5Apr/170

Travelling in Southern Urals. Part V. Paris and Steps

IMG_20170120_092113

In the South of Chelyabinsk Oblast (Region) travelers may get confused when looking at the map: going to the border with Kazakhstan the road goes along Paris, Berlin, Fère-Champenoise, then it turns to Leipzig, passing Kassel etc. The villages in that area got their names in honor of the Russian victories in major battles of Napoleonic wars.

The village of Paris is probably the most popular one with drivers who stop to take pictures with a road sign saying Parizh to post it on Facebook. Apparently, some drivers were not satisfied with taking just photos so they took\stole the road sign at the entrance of the village. The police put a new one but it was stolen again. After that the authorities stopped bothering and we could only take a photo at the exit with a crossed Parizh sign. Hopefully it remains there for good.

P1160420

Paris, Varna, Berlin and other villages with exotic names are also interesting from the anthropological point of view. The citizens of that area are called Nagaybäks. This minority with the population of about 1000 people was officially recognized in Russia as a separate ethnic group.

The origin of the Nagaybäks remains unclear. They are Tatars allegedly from Kazan Khanate who for some reason adopted Christianity. Nagaybäks speak a dialect of the Tatar language but keep Orthodox traditions. They lived in the territory of Bashkortostan in the 17th century where they assimilated groups of Christians from Iran and Central Asia. During the revolts of Tatars and Bashkirs the Nagaybäks remained loyal to the Russian Tsars and were recruited to the Cossack Army. So Nagaybäk men took part in the wars against Napoleon in Europe as well.

The museum in Fère-Champenoise

The museum in Fère-Champenoise

In the 18th century the Orthodox Tatars were rewarded with new lands on the border with Kazakhstan although according to the Nagaybäks it was a forced exile to the uninhabited steps to protect the Russian borders.

In Paris we visited the local museum where you can learn about the history of the Nagaybäks and about their traditions.

In the museum of Paris a Na?aybäk woman is showing a traditional dress

In the museum of Paris a Nagaybäk woman is showing a traditional dress

Paris wouldn’t be called Paris without an Eifel Tower. A 1.5 replica was constructed in the village in 2005 and it serves as a cell network station.

P1160419

On that day travelling in the Southern steps we received text messages with a warning about bad weather conditions and blizzards in the evening. When leaving Paris the wind got so strong that our driver he couldn’t feel the road. Besides the visibility was getting worse and worse.

IMG_20170120_092108

The situation was becoming dangerous, we had to cover about 200km that evening but on the empty secondary roads with zero visibility there was a little chance to be rescued. I realized, why Southern Urals was another place of exile – once the driver turned off the engine in a few minutes it became freezing cold in the car. The wind was so strong that even though it was -10 outside it felt like -40. We decided to stop and look for a hotel near Paris. Besides, everybody remembered the tragic accident of last year that took place in the step of the Southern Urals.

photo from Komsomolskaya Pravda, 03.01.2016

photo from Komsomolskaya Pravda, 03.01.2016

On3d of January 2016 80 people were trapped in 30 cars on the road between Orenburg and Orsk. It took 16 hours to clean 27 km of the road to get to the trapped people. By that time their cars were fully covered in snow and they couldn’t even open the doors to get out. Though getting out wasn’t an option either. The cars got run out of gas very quickly. To keep their families warm and to survive the drivers were making fires inside the cars. Those who didn’t have paper burnt their documents, money and passports. To keep his pregnant wife warm one man burnt the upholstery of the car seats. The people were rescued after 16 hours. One man died. He was trying to walk to the other cars when the blizzard only started but got lost and couldn’t find the way back. His body was found only 20km away from his car.

wx1080

photo from Komsomolskaya Pravda, 03.01.2016

In our case the blizzard was short once the wind stopped we hurried to the North. Very soon steps changed for forests: pines along the road are a good protection in case of a snowstorm. Orenburg steps are beautiful but can be lethally dangerous in winter. When returning home I reread the Captain’s Daughter by Pushkin. Russian kids study it at school but only after visiting Ural steps you realize in what conditions people had to live there.

P1160413

3Mar/171

Travelling in Southern Urals. Part III. Orenburg

P1160370

Orenburg Train Station

I was surprised not to find Orenburg in the guidebooks such as Lonely Planet on Russia. Of course, it’s far from the main touristic routes and 900 away from the Trans-Siberian railway. But if you happen to get to the Southern Urals, Orenburg is certainly worth a visit. The city with about half a million population is unofficially called the Asian Capital of Russia. It was once the capital of Kirgiz Autonomous Soviet Socialistic Republic but in 1925 remained in Russia. In 1938-1957 the city was called Chkalov, named after a famous Russian pilot who had never lived in Orenburg.

The bridge over the Ural river in the historical center of Orenburg marks the border of Europe and Asia.

The bridge over the Ural river in the historical center of Orenburg marks the border of Europe and Asia.

Orenburg was built as a fortress on the Or river on the border of Russia with Kazakhstan in 1734. The city is proud of having over 100 nationalities living together in peace. The signs of international friendship can be seen everywhere. The most interesting site in the city is the so-called National Village. It’s a walking street with 10 houses-museums on both sides representing the culture and traditions of 10 major nationalities in Orenburg.

P1160382

There you can enter a Ukrainian house with a straw roof, stay at the Tatars’ wooden home, relax in the Kazakh yurta, dance national dances with Belarusians or eat Bashkir chak-chak with honey.  By the way each house-museum has a restaurant with national cuisine!

P1160384

We really liked the Governor Museum, especially it’s room of the Sarmatians’ Gold.

P1160395

In 1986 a group of students of the Bashkir University of Ufa found several burial kurgans (burial hills) 100km away from Orenburg. All the graves contained a lot of gold. One kurgan in particular was a grave of a rich Sarmatian  female warrior. Golden coins and decoration made of pure gold were scattered all over the place. All the pieces date back to IV -II b.c. and are still in a very good condition.

photo by Bashkir TV

photo by Bashkir TV

The ornaments have mostly an Iranian influence. It’s still not clear whether the nomadic tribes of Sarmatians made them themselves or perhaps took them as trophies.

P1160394

P1160392

Although most of the findings are exhibited in the Academy of Science of Ufa, a part of the collection including the treasures of the rich woman’s grave, stayed in Orenburg. The museum guide told us that it’s not allowed to take photos in the room of Sarmatians’ Gold but on the second thought ‘it’s ok if you do it quickly’

15977705_10155019638259090_7783802123210425619_n

What kind of a souvenir can one bring from Orenburg? All over Russia people know about famous Orenburg shawls. Finely knit shawls are also known as wedding ring shawls because even large ones are so fine they can be pulled through a wedding ring.

Street market of Orenburg Shawls

Street market of Orenburg Shawls

P1160387

The shawls became famous in Russia in the 18th century when Russian aristocratic women noticed that local Tatar and Bashkir country women make beautiful and very warm shawls of the wool of native Orenburg goats. Due to the harsh climate in the Ural steppes the down hair of the goats is very thin soft and fine. Attempts to breed Orenburg goats in Europe ended in a fiasco as the animals need the climate of the Southern Urals.

P1160386

Orenburg has numerous shops of shawls and all are hand-made, by the way!. Some stores  are very fancy and look more like museums. In one of them we could even have a photo-session  in traditional Russian costumes.

16113962_10155025807914090_8955445425695893409_n

16174459_10155025807869090_2433658413892560042_n

The prices of shawls vary from 1000rub to 50 000 depending on the size and art work. If a shawl is under 1000rub it’s more likely to be machine-made with synthetic wool.

16142456_10155025808004090_6872930553721168810_n

2Aug/160

How I met a Romanovphile from Canada

This summer I was lucky to meet a very interesting tourist from Canada - Paul Gilbert, the founder of Royalrussia.org. Paul is Russophile and Romanovphile, his publishing house in Canada specializes in books on Imperial Russia and the Romanovs.

It was Paul’s second visit of Yekaterinburg. Obviously, he knew much more about Nicholas II than me. Apart from visiting the Monastery Ganina Yama and the actual place of the Romanovs’ burial place found in 1978, Paul wanted to go to the town of Alapayevsk.

with Paul Gilbert in Alapayevsk

with Paul Gilbert in Alapayevsk

Alapayevsk is a small town 180km North-East of Yekaterinburg. Romanovs-wise, the town was the place of the detention of the Grand Duke and Princes Romanov, the elder sister of the Empress Alexandra. The relatives of Nicholas II were imprisoned in a school building of Alapaevsk. On July 18th  1918, the following night after the execution of the family of Nicholas II his relatives in Alapayevsk were taken to a nearby forest and thrown into an old mine when they were still alive. Unlike in Yekaterinburg, the bodies of the Grand Dukes and Elizabeth were found a month later  by the White Army.

Construction of the church in the Convent of St. Elizaveta

Construction of the church in the Convent of St. Elizaveta

Today Alapayevsk has a monastery of the New Martyrs of Russia on the site of the mine and a convent of St. Elizaveta . Elizabeth was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church like the family of Nicholas II. Today the relics of St. Elizaveta are in the Russian Orthodox Church of Maria Magdalena in Jerusalem.

The school in Alapayevsk where the Romanovs were kept is still a secondary school. One of the classrooms has a memorial wall with the photos of the Royal prisoners.

The school still works in Alapayevsk

The school still works in Alapayevsk

It took us a whole day to explore the sites of Alapayevsk with Paul. The priest of the local church was very kind to take his time and to tell more about the days of the Romanovs in Alapayevsk.

I’m sure Paul will write about his experience in one of the next magazines he publishes twice a year. I was honored to receive two of the latest magazines with very interesting articles on the Romanovs.

IMG_20160610_155745

In 2013 Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna had elevated "Paul Gilbert" to the Imperial and Royal Order of St. Stanislav, III Class.

"The Order is being given in recognition of a lifetime of service to the Russian Imperial House. Gilbert is best known for his Royal Russia web site and blog, the publisher of more than 30 books and magazines on the Romanov dynasty, his support of the Russian monarchy, and his personal dedication to distributing accurate information about the House of Romanov and to highlighting the importance of the Russian Imperial House in today's Russia."

extract from http://www.angelfire.com/pa/ImperialRussian/royalty/russia/introduction.html

photo from http://www.angelfire.com

photo from http://www.angelfire.com

 Living in Canada Paul is a true Ambassador of Russia in the West and in his blog he keeps on reminding people that the way western media portrays Russia is far from reality and to understand the truth one should go and see Russia.

You can read more on Paul Gilbert and Imperial Russia here: www.royalrussia.org

11Jun/160

2 days of hiking in Taganai, Southern Urals

P1150207

In 2015 I made a post about hiking in Taganai National Park in winter http://askural.com/2015/02/national-park-taganai/

A year later a young couple from the United States Pravit and Rebecca sent a request do arrange a two-day tour to Taganai in summer time. Luckily, our local guide Ilia who knows Taganai as good as his home town, was available for the dates of the tour and I was able to join to take more photos of the Southern Urals.

P1150238

You can book this tour here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/taganai

Ilia provided our guests with all the equipment, tents, sleeping bags and rucksacks. He even brought woolen socks for everyone which was very smart because the night was chilly to say the least (-1 C). Propely equipped we started our walk 8km till the first peak Mt. Perya (1034)

P1150220

In summer time Taganai looks as beautiful as in winter. We were lucky because both days were sunny. We could see the town of Zlatoust in Chelyabinsk Region and even a southern ridge of the Urals.

You can see Zlatoust in the back, the nearest town to Taganai

You can see Zlatoust in the back, the nearest town to Taganai

Compare the same place in summer and in winter...

P1150196

P1140136

Another great thing was that because of negative temperature at night there were no mosquitoes, none of them for two days! Those who live in the Urals or in the similar climate zone will understand what a luxury it is.

In the evening we got to the tourist shelter.

Ilia is cooking dinner

Ilia is cooking dinner

Tourists can rent a room in the ranger’s house but our American guests chose camping in tents. Recently, a Russian banya has been built at the tourist shelter, so we asked the ranger to prepare it for us.  I didn’t take pictures in the steam bath though because it was dark, steamy and just you know, we forgot to take towels with!

The next morning we climbed Mt. Otkliknoy Greben (1155m).

P1150228

There’s something like a terrace at the top of it. So we stayed there for an hour to relax and to enjoy complete silence – no other people, no noise, no even birds singing or wind blowing. It was a perfect retreat.

P1150244

P1150235

And again, compare the same place in winter time

P1140096

In case you wondered how much snow we have in winter. Enough, as you can see

In case you wondered how much snow we have in winter. Enough, as you can see

On the way back we stopped at the unique stone river. The river is 6km long, 300-500m wide. 9-tonn rocks are piled in 4 layers at the depth of 6m. The Taganai Stone River is the world largest deposit of aventurine.

P1150255

The Taganai Stone River is the world largest deposit of aventurine.

P1150257

Considering the distance from Yekaterinburg (takes about 5hrs by car to get to Taganai), a one day tour to Taganai is too hectic but possible too.

Book a two or three day hiking tour to Taganai here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/taganai

P1150216

28Jan/160

How to celebrate Russian Christmas in the Urals

32

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).

2523

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.

286

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.

326

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.

18

 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.

51Gerar

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!

33

9Special thanks to my Moscow friend Katya Sverchkova for the beautiful photos.

6Dec/150

Yeltsin Center and the Museum of the First Russian President

207

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.

226228

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.

230

A replica hall of the Parlament 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.

Nuclear weapon breifcase (with electronics removed)

Nuclear weapon breifcase (with electronics removed)

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.

Empty shelves of Russian supermarkets during the perestroika

Empty shelves of Russian supermarkets during the perestroika

241

Empty shelves of Russian supermarkets during the perestroika

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.

A trolley bus and Moscow of the 1980s

A trolley bus and Moscow of the 1980s

In the trolley bus (Mr Putin, Mr Medvedev, Naina Yeltsina in the back) Photo by 66.ru

In the trolley bus (Mr Putin, Mr Medvedev, Naina Yeltsina in the back) Photo by 66.ru

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.

Yeltsin's office in the Kremlin with authentic furniture. 5 minutes before resignation

Yeltsin's office in the Kremlin with authentic furniture. 5 minutes before resignation

Yeltsin's phrase 'I'm tired, I'm leaving

Yeltsin's phrase 'I'm tired, I'm leaving" before New Year of 2000

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

Admission: 200rub

 

14Sep/150

Urals through the eyes of an Englishman

Yekaterinburg from Vysotski Business Center

Yekaterinburg from Vysotski Business Center

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.

4dd9e89327-a49

Nature Park Deer Streams

"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."

209ad40e59-675

Abzakovo ski resort

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.

Karabash, Sothern Urals

Karabash, Sothern Urals

The website has a very detailed description of the Red Line and other sites of Yekaterinburg that will be useful for other travelers.

Novo-Tikhvinski Convent, Yekaterinburg

Novo-Tikhvinski Convent, Yekaterinburg

23Dec/140

Yekaterinburg city tour: Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent

31

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.

16

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.

P1120356

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.

1462

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.

30

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.

P1120341

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

P1120352P1120344

photos of the church were taken from the website of Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent http://www.sestry.ru/eng

25Mar/140

Northern Urals and Siberian Deer

The travelling season starts soon!  In Yekaterinburg it usually lasts from May till October.

Check out our new 0ne day tour to the Northern Urals and Siberian Deer!

p1040383

Meet the inhabitants of the Visim Farm: Altai and Siberian red deer, Yakutian horses and yaks. Visit the village museum and see the Ural Mountains from the top of Mt Belaya.

P1040359P1110052

More details at Yekaterinburg For You website: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours

Hope to see you in the Urals soon!

P1040372

4Mar/140

Maslenitsa in an old style in the village of Kostino

P1110101

On March 2 we organized a one day tour to the country to celebrate the pre-lent pancake festival called Maslenitsa. Maslenitsa is probably the only pagan celebration in Russia that has survived until nowadays with all the rites and traditions. After Christianity of Russia the Orthodox Church had to change the dates of the Lent so that people could eat pancakes and go crazy on Maslenitsa. As for the Russian Tsars, they liked to have fun too. Even the Soviet regime couldn’t change Russian habits.

1926755_238619682989891_63299874_n

1781950_238611109657415_175536957_n

To have a proper Maslenitsa fest it’s a good idea to go to the country. Our group of Russians and expats from Italy, France, USA, Serbia and India went to the village of Kostino 130km East of Yekaterinburg. Kostino is one of the most prosperous villages in the area thanks to the Kolkhoz (a collective farm) which is still active. Our Maslenitsa began in the local museum where we were greeted with bread and salt (a Russian tradition of greeting special guests) – everyone has to try a bit of bread with salt before entering the house.

P1110066

1782050_10202858834568375_1287024552_n

After the excursion in the museum we had a workshop – learnt how to make an obereg – a special maslenitsa talisman that symbolizes the sun and protects from the evil spirits. Considering the fact that we met no spirits on that day, the talisman worked!

1896762_238619859656540_1174496183_n

The folk performance in the museum consisted of songs and blinis. Some of the maslenitsa traditions were quite brutal. A son-in-law would beat his mother-in-law with a wooden stick thus wishing her good health and longevity. Another tradition was a mass fist fight of men. It was called a-wall-to wall fight. The most dangerous one was a fight with a bear. Surely, such fights involved drinking including drinking vodka with a bear!

10001515_10202858840208516_1684677854_n1898143_10202858841848557_1711849765_n

Fortunately, there were no bears in Kostino and instead of vodka we were treated with a local liqueur. The main part of the festival was held outside. Having dressed up a little bit all the guests took part in fun skiing and horse riding competitions, a race with a frying pan full of pancakes etc. Finally we burnt down the maslenitsa doll saying farewell to the winter.

1898206_238611112990748_312509911_n10002797_10202864125580647_1014755742_n

P1110126

Even though we are still having minus temperatures in March in the Urals, the spring has come to the people who follow the traditions of their forefathers. Well, except for beating your mother-in-law!     

1656112_238611119657414_230549058_n1782145_10202864130980782_456842190_n

special thanks to Irina Loktionova and Venu Panicker for the photos!