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

3Mar/170

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

17Jan/160

Ice Town 2016

Happy New Year 2016, dear readers! And traditionally I'm happy to share the pictures of our ice town in the Square of 1905 of Yekaterinburg.

P1140362

P1140379

This winter the recession in Russia affected everything including the Ice Town. There were no foreign sculptors invited this year only local. However the ice town is as specatcular as usual!

P1140355P1140385

In 2016 the theme is Russian Fairy Tales.

P1140360

P1140416

P1140407

The Square of 1905 is not the only place to see ice sculptures in Yekaterinburg. The contest 'Star of Bethlehem' for best ice sculptures started in front of the Church on the Blood on Christmas day (January 7th).

P1140432

 Click at the gallery to see more photos:

24Sep/150

Urals through the eyes of an Italian photographer

This month I met several tourists who deal with photography. In early September 3 Italian tourists asked me to organize two tours in the Urals. One of them was a professional photgrapher Diego Fiorovanti. His blog on photgraphy:  http://diegofioravantifotografia.wordpress.com/

On the first day we went to the village of Nizhnyaya Sinyachikha, an open air museum of wooden architecture

In Nizhnyaya Sinyachikha. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

In Nizhnyaya Sinyachikha. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

008_dsf6650

In Nizhnyaya Sinyachikha. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

It was the 1st of September - 1st day of the new school year. We met many kids and Diego came up with an idea to make a photo report about the generation without communism. See all photos here https://diegofioravantifotografia.wordpress.com/portfolio-2/a-generation-without-comunism/

Children in Nizhnyaya Sinyachikha. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Children in Nizhnyaya Sinyachikha. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Children in the restaurant of Alapayevsk. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Children in the restaurant of Alapayevsk. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

On the second day we went to the Military Museum in Verkhnyaya Pyshma and met schoolchildren there too.

Military Museum of Verkhnyaya Pyshma. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Military Museum of Verkhnyaya Pyshma. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Military Museum of Verkhnyaya Pyshma. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Military Museum of Verkhnyaya Pyshma. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

In the museum we had an interesting encounter. One of the Italians Giuseppe from Rome  found out that his grandfather and the grandfather of Roman, the museum worker, had been stationed on the opposite banks of the same river in the Crimea during the Second World War. Of course, they had been fighting against each other those days. Today Roman teaches schoolchildren about how to prevent wars. Giuseppe received a present from Roman and promised to send the photos of his grand father for the school archive.

Roman, a teacher at the Military Museum. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Roman, a teacher at the Military Museum. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

005_dsf6710

Military Museum of Verkhnyaya Pyshma. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Our next stop was in Nizhni Tagil, the town known as TagilLag during the Second World War. From 1941 to 1945 over 63 thousands of political prisoners and German prisoners of war were brought to the Labout Camps of Tagil to build factories and work at quarries. About 40% of them died. All the cemeteries of TagilLag were destroyed after Stalin's death. We visited the site of  a former cemetery in Nizhni Tagil. Today is just a field in the city.

Nizhni Tagil, a place of a former cemetery for the political prisoners of Gulag. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Nizhni Tagil, a place of a former cemetery for the political prisoners of Gulag. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Half of the city of Nizhni Tagil was build by prisoners. Today it's the second largest city in the middle Urals with many metallurgical plants. Tagil is also the largest tank producer in Russia. Maximum security prisons are still there.

In Nizhni Tagil. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

In Nizhni Tagil. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Check out other great photos of the Urals by Diego at his blog https://diegofioravantifotografia.wordpress.com/portfolio-2/a-generation-without-comunism/

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

13Jul/150

Ural Guide by Park Inn

Park Inn by Radisson has posted a guide to the Urals and Yekaterinburg.

What to see, where to eat and other tips for visitors : http://blog.parkinn.com/a-guide-to-the-ural-region-ekaterinburg-and-beyond/

5rDp3CWqoBE

6Jul/150

Emerald deposit of the Urals

On May 31, 2015 we made a trip to the Emerald deposit in the village of Malysheva near the town of Asbest (100km of Yekaterinburg). Some of the tourists were lucky to find beryls and even emeralds!

emerald1

The first Ural emeralds were found in 1831. The oldest emerald mine is flooded now but it's possible to find emeralds here once the mine gets dry again

11350516_942990405722258_2642299872464339095_n

Emerald quarry - a restricted area

Emerald quarry - a restricted area

In the village we also stopped at the stone cutting workshop and made serpentine fridge magnets - a popular souvenir from the Urals.

a chunk of marble at the stone cutting work shop

a chunk of marble at the stone cutting work shop

Most of the citizens of the Malysheva village know how to cut and polish Ural gems

1607117_942990552388910_4635871971493371166_n11295823_942990579055574_8059294077511796721_n

Ural serpentine - a popular decorative stone

11012618_942990769055555_9218499963679083793_n

Making fridge magnets

1932445_942990942388871_4656907824325200510_n1525227_942990922388873_8247749958964411149_n

And this is where everyone can find beryls and emeralds - at refuse heaps of the quarry

11062263_942991039055528_7589177942306428604_n

In such minerals (mica) you can find a beryl or an emerald. Emeralds are a greener and more transparent type of a beryl:

11295728_942990409055591_398846240483982867_n

Here's what I found: the emerald of the 5th category - a light green stone. Jewelers use emeralds of the 1st category - deep green transparent stones.

P1130130

 

18May/150

Cherdyn and Nyrob – the most off the beaten track places in Western Urals

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.

11182347_10153323864359090_7118705851517583002_n

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.

RB5s2vtzRFU11178373_10153323864214090_1488346385900872638_n

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.

sm69VXR2WR0

 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.

The roof of the hotel below on the Kolva river

The roof of the hotel below on the Kolva river

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 Museum: the chains of Mikhail Romanov who was  thrown into the pit in Northern Urals by Boris Godunov

In the Museum: the chains of Mikhail Romanov who was thrown into the pit in Northern Urals by Boris Godunov

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.

11156297_860347250701642_5198806466174867378_n

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.

11182184_10153323859989090_1085211349280739313_n

The domes of the old church in Nyrob

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!

11170352_10153323858659090_785448248583976750_n11148587_10153323859179090_5018672749769640007_n

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.

988529_10153323861514090_2700460934509164580_nCeIPQL5zZGQ

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.

10358745_10153323867009090_7702411323016206527_n11174896_10153323867389090_8662441455258781821_nPhotos by Ilia Gerasimov. And the flag of his home-town Verkhnyaya Pyshma is in some of the pictures

10952803_861029297300104_3564992289257683537_n

16Mar/151

How to spend 2 days in Yekaterinburg? A short guide in pictures.

There is plenty of information in guide books on what to do and see in Yekaterinburg. But it's always easier to understand what it's all about by seeing photos of previous travellers. So how to spend two days in Yekaterinburg? Here's the answer in the pictures kindly shared by Dave Cox from Bristol, UK

P1010847

In front of the Bolshoy Ural Hotel

Dave and his friends came in August 2014. We did all the top tours in Yekaterinburg and around and the follwing day the friends explored the city on their own before they got on a train to Siberia.

1) Do the sightseeing in the historical city center

P1020050

Memorial Black Tulip to the soldiers of the war in Afganistan

Memorial Black Tulip to the soldiers of the war in Afganistan

2) Go to the border of Europe and Asia 

Border of Europe and Asia on the 17th km of the New Moscow road

Border of Europe and Asia on the 17th km of the New Moscow road

3) Then go to the Tsar's obelisk on the border to drink champagne on both sides of the continent

Tsar's obelisk on the border of Europe and Asia on the 30th km of the Great Siberian Road

Tsar's obelisk on the border of Europe and Asia on the 30th km of the Great Siberian Road

P1100771

4) Learn about the last Russian Tsar's family in the monastery Ganina Yama

Monument to the children of Nikolas II in Ganina Yama

Monument to the children of Nikolas II in Ganina Yama

5 Stop at the mafia cemetery 

Shirokaya Rechka, the central cemetery

Shirokaya Rechka, the central cemetery

6) Join the Beatles

P1010623

7) At the train station take a look at the Soviet frescos on the walls that tell the history of Yekaterinburg in pictures!

The picture shows the crash of the U-2 plane piloted by the US spy Garry Powers in 1960

The picture shows the crash of the U-2 plane piloted by the US spy Garry Powers in 1960

P1020102

9Jan/150

Ice Town in Yekaterinburg 2015

P1120542

Traditionally after Christmas I’m posting the photos of the ice town of Yekaterinburg. In 2015 the theme of the ice town is the 70s anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War. The ice figures in the Square of 1905 were made by an international group of sculptors.

P1120476P1120531

The Brest Forest is the pavilion in the center of the ice town. 3D films about the Second World War are played inside.

P1120506

'Mystical animals - world protectors' by Japanese sculptors

'Mystical animals - world protectors' by Japanese sculptors

Of course, you will find an ice tank T34 in the ice town as the Soviet tank was produced in Yekaterinburg at the Uralmash Factory.

P1120524P1120536

Other ice sculptures are located in front of the Church on the Blood. Every year sculptors create here religious-themed figures for Orthodox Christmas on the 7th of January.

P1120553P1120578

This year the ice town works till January 25th only. So hurry up to see the ice beauty!

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