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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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
In the village we also stopped at the stone cutting workshop and made serpentine fridge magnets - a popular souvenir from the Urals.
Most of the citizens of the Malysheva village know how to cut and polish Ural gems
Ural serpentine - a popular decorative stone
Making fridge magnets
And this is where everyone can find beryls and emeralds - at refuse heaps of the quarry
In such minerals (mica) you can find a beryl or an emerald. Emeralds are a greener and more transparent type of a beryl:
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.
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.
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
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
2) Go to the border of Europe and Asia
3) Then go to the Tsar's obelisk on the border to drink champagne on both sides of the continent
4) Learn about the last Russian Tsar's family in the monastery Ganina Yama
5 Stop at the mafia cemetery
6) Join the Beatles
7) At the train station take a look at the Soviet frescos on the walls that tell the history of Yekaterinburg in pictures!
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
Dear friends and travellers,
on Saturday January 24th 2014 we are off for a one day trip to visit huskies, Siberian deer and ostriches in Northern Urals!
Visit a family of huski dogs and Siberian deer. Try dog sledding and climb Mt. Belaya to see a beautiful landscape of Northern Urals
Itinerary: Jan 24
8.00 Meeting at Dynamo Metro Station, Yekaterinburg
We are taking a comfortable bus or a mini-van to get to the village of Visim
11.00 Visiting a deer farm near the village of Visim (195km of Yekaterinburg). You will be able to feed Siberian deer and Yakut horses. There are also three African ostriches in the farm. Learn from the farm workers how the ostriches live through Russian winters.
Take some white bread, cabbage or other vegetables to feed the animals!
13.00 Belaya Mount ski resort. You will be able to get to the top of Mt. Belaya (705m) for a beautiful view of Northern Urals.
14.00 Dog sledding in the village of Chernoistochinsk.
17.30 Arrival to the city back to Dynamo Metro (arrival time is approximate)
Price per person:
Book the tour here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/weekend-tour
For many foreign tourists and expats Ural winters seem to be very cold. But we have something hot to offer in the winter time – hot springs near the town of Turinsk.
Turinsk hot springs also known as Akvarel spa were discovered and then modernized only a year ago. The temperature of the water is 37C. and the organizers say it’s a natural spring as opposed to the ones in Tyumen (the nearest rivals in the western Siberia) where the mineral water is supposedly heated and mixed with the water from tap. http://askural.com/2011/01/hot-springs-in-tyumen-siberia/
The hot springs of Tymen have been working for many years attracting tourists from the Urals but the spa near Turinsk is 100km closer to Yekaterinburg, the price is more reasonable than in Tyumen.
Be ready that the water of the hot spring is not cristal-clear. It’s brown due to the high quantity of iron. The water also contains iodine, natrium, hydrocarbonate, magnesium, calcium and other minerals. It’s required to stay in the bath for 20 minutes then to have some 20 min rest.
Apart from the open-air mineral bath visitors can also relax in a Turkish bath (t +60C, Humidity 100%), Finnish sauna (t +80C), bio-sauna (t +60C, humidity 60%, light-therapy, aroma-therapy) and salt-banya (t +50C, humidity 60%).
The hot spring of Turinsk is open daily from 6.00 to 24.00.
Entrance fee: 500rub for 3 hours + 200rub for the saunas.
Bu bus: You can go by bus to Turinsk and then to get a taxi to the hot spring.
Going there by car: first go in the direction of Turinsk. Pass the right turn to Turinsk and continue going straight down the bridge over the Tura river. From the bridge take a left turn to the village of Chekunovo. Go down the main road of the village. You will see a sign Vodoistochnik on the left. Follow the sign. There is only one road to the hot spring. Parking fee 50rub
The distance between Yekaterinburg and Turinsk is 280km which is a 4 hour drive but it will be longer if using public transport.
On the way to Turinsk you can stop in the town of Irbit – a famous producer of the Ural motorbike. http://askural.com/2014/08/irbit-fair-and-ural-motorbikes/ It also has an interesting Museum of Fine Arts with a large collection of European engravings and works by Rubens given to Irbit by the Hermitage in St.Petersburg. Turinsk is another place of interest – from 1600 it was the first prison over the Ural mountains for the people exiled to Siberia by the Russian Tsars. The museum and the cemetery of Turinsk tell the history of Russian aristocrats imprisoned there.
On August 22nd we went to the annual fair in Irbit. Irbit is a town on the Eastern slope of the Ural mountains 200km east of Yekaterinburg. Back in the days Irbit was a gateway to Siberia. Thanks to its favourable location, the town became an attraction for Russian merchants who came to buy and sell goods from Siberia at the fair.
In 19th century Irbit Fair was the second largest in Russia after Nizhni Novgorod. The fair was famous for fabrics, Siberian furs and tea from China. In the Soviet period the fairs were not held in the Ural town but the tradition came back in 2002.
In the past the fair took place in winter and lasted for a month. These days the fair is held every 4th weekend of August from Friday till Sunday. Irbit Fair is an exhibition of various crafts in the Urals from making feltboots valenki to baking gingerbread. Local craftsmen invite you to the workshops. The guests are treated with tea and blinis.
Irbit is also famous for its Motorcycle Museum as the town is the home of the IMZ Ural motorcycle factory. In the USSR Ural bike was a very popular transport but in the 1990s the factory went bankrupt.
Fortunately deallers abroad were found and today Ural bikes are craftwork. The factory produces 1200 motorcycles a year, 95% of them are exported. One of the Ural bikes with a sidecar belongs to the Hollywood actor Brad Pitt.
Irbit has the Motorcycle Museum but thanks to the Center of Tourism Development of Sverdlovsk Region my colleagues and I were lucky to get to the factory.
By the way, the Ural factory has a nice website in English, in case you decide to buy one http://uralmoto.ru/en/
Click the gallery to see more photos from the motorcycle factory and of the fair
On Sunday, August 3d we are off for a one day treasure hunt in the fields of gems near the town of Rezh!
Learn the secrets of the Ural Mountains, see beautiful landscapes and collect all types of the Ural gems at the Lipovsky mineral deposit also known as the Field of Wonders.
Itinerary: August 3d (Sunday)
9.00 Meeting at Dynamo Metro Station, Yekaterinburg
We are taking a comfortable bus to get to Rezh (80 km of Yekaterinburg)
10.30 Pershinskie Rocks – an excursion to the geomorphological area where you will see how the Ural Mountains were formed. Enjoy a beautiful view of Rezh district from the top of the rocks.
12.00 Lunch in the country - natural products from the locan farm, home-made dumpings, bread from the local bakery.
13.00 Barskaya Yama – our first stop for collecting quartz and other gems
14.00 A stop at the mineral spring Tochilny – here you can have a cup of fresh water from the spring which it is believed can heal.
14.30 A stop at the monument of newly-weds in the village of Sokolovo. See how local craftsmen decorated an area near the village to attract newly-weds.
15.00 Lipovsky mineral deposit – here you can find treasures literally under your feet. But one should know how to recognize them. Add it to an incredible landscape with red rocks similar to the surface of Mars and a lake with emerald water. Don’t forget to take a bag or a basket to collect the minerals as we promise you an abundance of them!
19.30 Arrival to the city back to Dynamo Metro (arrival time is approximate)
Price per person:
Adult – 1700rub \ child – 1600rub
The price includes: transfer in a bus, lunch, excursions with a mineralogist
Take with you:
- A raincoat or an umbrella in case of rain
- A bottle to fill in with water from the spring
- A bag\basket for collecting gems
- Insect repellents
for booking go to http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/weekend-tour