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16Jul/140

August 3d – treasure hunt for the Ural gems

On Sunday, August 3d we are off for a one day treasure hunt in the fields of gems near the town of Rezh!

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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.

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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

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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!
17.00 Departure
19.30 Arrival to the city back to Dynamo Metro (arrival time is approximate)

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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

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6May/140

Mafia tour in Yekaterinburg

When in Yekaterinburg, try our special Mafia Tour!

Many Russian cities were associated with mafia in the 1990s but Yekaterinburg played a special role.

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There were two gangs in the city: the Uralmash group and the Centrals. The real war between the gangs began in 1991. In the 90s mafiosos were fighting on the streets of Yekaterinburg using machine guns and grenades.

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Today, tourists can see impressive tombstones at the cemeteries elaborately designed with full-sized portraits of the people dressed according to the 1990s gangster fashion with Mercedes cars in the background. During the tour you will visit two mafia cemeteries and hear the stories about those who dominated the society in the new country in Yeltsin’s times.

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More details of the tour here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/mafia-tour

photos by Elio Castoria

 

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!

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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.

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

Hope to see you in the Urals soon!

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4Mar/140

Maslenitsa in an old style in the village of Kostino

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!     

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

16Dec/130

Trip to Altai. 10 Day Horse-Back Tour in June 2015

Dear friends,

it's time to plan summer holidays 2015. If you'd like to experience something unusual for a very reasonable price, then join the horse-back tour in the beautiful Altai Mountains.

Experience 10 days of living in the wild, riding horses, eating at the camp fire without the Internet and mobile phones!

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If you are an inexperienced hiker and have never ridden a horse, live a city life and tired of urban environment -  the tour is ideal for you!

This trip has an average fitness level. Children can join from the age of 9.

We are going to one of the most beautiful places of the Altai Mountains – the Iolgo Ridge. You will see all the beauties of the ridge: caves, waterfalls and mountain lakes. We’ll get to the top of Mt. Akkai and Mt. Kylay to have a stunning panoramic view of Altai.

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Dates: The best time to go to Altai is end of June – beginning of July. Therefore the trip is scheduled for June 23th – July 3th. 
However we can still change the dates if the majority of the group decides so.
Other options: June 28d – July 8th or July 3d – July 13th

Price for a 10 day trip without transfers to the tourist shelter in the mountains : 410 euro

For detailed itinerary and information on getting there click here yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/special-tour

I did this trip in Altai last summer and it was one of the best holidays I've ever had. So I've decided that foreigners should discover this place as well!

Our base-camp will be at Arkadia tourist-shelter which is a big wooden house with rooms for 3-6 people and a Russian banya. The owner of the house and the horse farm is a tiny woman Irina from Yekaterinburg. She got to Altai in the 80s, fell in love with it bought the land and horses there it and started to organize horse-back tours in 1991. First they were tours for her friends from Yekaterinburg but now people arrive to the tourist-shelter from all over Russia. However there have been no foreigners yet.

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Arkadia tourist-shelter is located in the remote area. It's a very peaceful place 25km from the nearest village. You can get there only in a big truck or on a horse.

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Horses from Irina's farm

We stayed two days at the tourist-shelter and this is how much time you have to learn riding a horse. Surprisingly, two days were enough for adults and kids to learn it. Altai horses are a special breed: they are very quiet and smart and do all the job themselves, so all you have to do is just to sit in a saddle. Irina has managed to create a very cosy atmosphere at her farm. I felt like staying at my grandma's in the country and was ready to stay there for all 10 days. But it was time to start the trip..

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We only had two rainy days during the trip. The locals said we were very lucky. We were 15 people in our group including a cook and two instructors - the local horse-men and hunters who did almost everything for us: made fire, did all the cooking, helped us to equip the horses etc. All we had to do was to pitch the tents.

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and help a little bit

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Men decided to make us a table out of an old cedar log

So we could have quite a civilized lunch in taiga

So we could have quite a civilized lunch sitting at the table in taiga

The instructors were true Altai characters - they were telling us stories about their encounters with bears. Apparently such encounters happen here frequently. During our trip we only met chipmunks and some lonely hikers though. By the way, in Altai the hikers who walk on foot are called the lower class. Therefore we were the upper class because we were sitting on horses :))

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Thanks to our instructors we had one extra stop for banya in the middle of taiga.

This banya was built by hunters who spend weeks in the Altai Mountains

This banya was built by hunters who spend weeks in the Altai Mountains

Otherwise, there are numerous springs and mountain rivers at your disposal

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In the evening our instructors told us local legends ( they weren't very talkative men, as a matter of fact, until one guy mentioned that he had a bottle of vodka with him). The creepiest one was about the Castle of the Mountain Spririts about the hikers who disappeared from the tents there. Something similar to the Dyatlov Pass story in the Urals, only the bodies of the hikers in Altai were never found.

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The Castle of the Mountain Spirits.

We were really lucky to climb the rocks of the castle when it was sunny. Once we returned back to the camp, thick fog covered the rocks. It would have been really hard to find the way back. Probably that's what had happened to the hikers.

Overall we spent 8 night in taiga. For 8 days we didn't see other people (except for two hikers), didn't hear any urban noise. We got used to this indigenous life style so everyone was a bit sad that it was over. It was time to return back down to the tourist-shelter...

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But  your ordinary life only begins once the truck brings you to Elekmonar village - that's where your mobile phone works again after 10 days of silence and you realize that you are back in civilization. To be honest, I didn't see anyone who was really happy to realize that. Needless to say, we all promised to come back because it's contagious, you know. I hope Altai remains a wild territory and I'll be able to bring my kids there one day to show them what it's like to live naturally.

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For detailed itinerary and information on getting there click here yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/special-tour

11Nov/131

Military Museum in Verkhnyaya Pyshma

I’ve already written about Russian Expo Arms – a military exhibition held in the Urals. http://askural.com/2011/09/russian-expo-arms-2011/  If you like those toys now you don’t have to wait for next exhibition as there’s a huge military museum opened all year long near Yekaterinburg.

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The Military Museum in the town of Verkhnyaya Pyshma is a collection of over 70 military machines exhibited in the open air. In 2013 the museum opened a three storey pavilion with retro cars and motorbikes.

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The history of the museum started in 2005 when the veterans of the Great Patriotic War asked Andrey Kozitsin, the president of UGMK Holding (Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company) to restore a few machines for the Victory Parade. Today a large part of the museum tanks and cars take part in the Victory Parades on a regular basis.

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The collection of the museum is still growing. You can find there retro automobiles from France, USA, UK and of course all types of ladas and bikes from the USSR. The philosophy of the museum is that there are no machines made in fascist Germany or its allies in the Second World War.

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Verkhnyaya Pyshma is located 14km North of Yekaterinburg and considered as a suburban area of the city. You can get there by taxi or by minibuses that go from Metro Station “Prospekt Kosmonavtov”

Address: ulitsa Lenina, 1. Verkhnyaya Pyshma

The museum is open daily (except Mondays) 10.00 – 22.00 May to Sept \ 10.00 – 18.00 Oct to April

Book the tour to the Military Museum: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/military-museum

 

8Oct/130

German Guesthouse in Bingi village

I know many Russians who moved abroad for better lives and I know just a few foreigners who came to Russia to change things here for better. I truly admire such people. One of them is Stefan Semken from the Ural village of Bingi.

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Stefan is a German entrepreneur, together with his Russian wife Olga he decided to buy a house not far from Yekaterinburg. He liked Nevyansk area 80km to the north of Yekaterinburg. In 2007 Stefan found a 140 years old wooden house in Bingi, a village of the gold diggers. Stefan and Olga converted their house into a guesthouse with a banya. Guests can also stay in three yurts erected in the yard. Budget-conscious travelers can even pitch their own tent in the back yard. Even though the house looks small Stefan assured that he can accommodate up to 25 people. At least that was a record broke by his Russian friends who came for a visit in a group of 25 persons which made the Semkens spend that memorable night in their minivan. I imagine the house looked like a refugee camp but the hosts didn’t seem to be bothered at all.

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I heard about Stefan from many tourists (they especially praise Olga’s cooking and Stefan’s hospitality) but only got to his place this September before the end of the season. As there is no gas in the house and Olga has to cook in the summer kitchen, their house is closed when the temperature drops to +12 C and lower,  that is from October till beginning of May. The house looks like a very cozy place with lots of antiques. Stefan will show you some old coins of the pre-revolution days that he had found in his garden and a tusk of a mammoth – a gift from a local gold digger.

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Apart from the stay in the farm house, guests are offered a transfer to Yekaterinburg, tours in the area and most importantly an excursion in the village including a ride in a neighbor’s Ural motorbike. Bingi is a pretty village of Old Believers who were persecuted by the Tsar and had to move to the Urals in 17th-18th centuries. The Old Believers were known as hard working people who didn’t drink alcohol. Things have changed though and one of Stefan’s concerns is that it’s difficult to hire local people to help.

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Stefan (in the middle), Johan, a traveler from Sweden (right) and me (left)

The Semkens have to do everything themselves. Next year Stefan is planning to build an extension of the house and says it would be great to find a German carpenter. Germans have always played an important role in the history of Russia, starting from Peter the Great who was found of German culture and traditions. By the way, one of the city founders of Yekaterinburg was a German General Wilhelm de Genin, sent to the Urals by Peter the Great to manage the production of iron ore. Stefan could become a good manager of his area too. He already knows what to do to improve life and ecology in the place where he lives and he never hesitates to say it to the mayor of Nevyansk. He is a good friend of the new mayor of Yekaterinburg Eugeni Roizman and helps Roizman’s fund The City without Drugs. Needless to say if you stay at the Semkens’ place you will learn a lot about current political, economical and cultural affairs in Russia and in the Urals.

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I’ll definitely go there again next season for a countryside weekend and for a banya!

Check the website www.semken.eu to learn more about accommodation in GuLAG Bingi as Stefan puts it.

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29Sep/130

One day trip to the village of singing babushkas, Oct 12th

Dear friends,

On Saturday, October, 12th we are getting together for a one day tour to visit the singing babushkas  in one of the oldest and most authentic villages of the Urals – Koptelovo!

Singing babushkas of Koptelovo village, the Urals

The village of Koptelovo was built on the Rezh river in 1663. Visit Baba Katya's izba. She was the last owner of the house built 300 years ago and was the 18th member of the family in 30 square metres. See the collection of samovars and accordions in the museum of Koptelovo. Sing Russian folk songs together with the local band of babushkas called ‘The Restless’

Koptelovo village, The Urals, Russia

Itinerary:

October 12th

9.30 Meeting at Dynamo Metro Station, Yekaterinburg

We are taking a comfortable bus to get to the village of Koptelovo (135km north-west of Yekaterinburg)

12.00 – 13.00 an excursion in the village. We’ll visit the wooden house of Baba Katya to see how 18 people fitted in at once and stop at the local spring – the locals believe the water of the spring is healing.

13.00 – 14.00 in the museum of Koptelovo you will hear about the traditions of the Ural farmers. The director of the museum will tell you how young girls used to dress in order to get married ASAP. The singing babushkas will surely make you sing and dance along

14.00 – 15.00 Lunch in the village

15.00 Departure to Yekaterinburg

18.00 Arrival to the city back to Dynamo Metro

 Koptelovo village, the Urals, Russia

Price per person

10-20 pax: 1700rub for an adult \ 1600 for a child

21-34 pax: 1400rub for an adult \ 1300 for a child

The price includes transfer to the village and back, a guided tour in the village, museum tickets, lunch

If you wish to come by your own car, the price is 1200rub for an adult, 1100rub for a child

 

For more information and for booking:

Tel +79122800870

Email:yekaterinburg4u@gmail.com

 

Read more about a trip to Koptelovo here:

http://askural.com/2010/09/koptelovo-village-in-ural/

13Jun/130

Watching birds of prey near Yekaterinburg

At the end of May our Russian-American-French team (the members of the English club and the expats in Yekaterinburg) went to the Falconry Center “Kholzan”. Kholzan is a rehabilitation center for birds of prey.

Golden eagles, sea-eagles, falcons and other birds are usually brought to the center in a very poor condition: some of them got hit by cars on highways but mostly the birds were the victims of hunters. As the guides of the center said, every August when villagers go to pick up mushrooms and berries in the woods, the center receives dozens of wounded owls picked up by the villagers. For hunters it’s just sport – to shoot a big bird. For the workers of Kholzan it’s an every-day work to cure the birds of prey.

Book a tour to Kholzan here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/kholzan

The owls picked up in the nearby forests. One is missing an eye

Some birds will never be able to fly. They stay in the center forever. In such cases the center tries to find or to buy mates for them.

This couple will have to live in the center as they can't fly. Their reproduction system is damaged but they keep on trying and make a nest for the babies every spring.

After the excursion we sat in the wooden house where we received herbal tea and watched a documentary on the life of birds of prey. Normally, the tour includes watching the falcons hunting up in the sky but that week the young falcons were injured so we just took pictures with them.

The falcon has an eye-cap otherwise it may be scared of people and can peck you

Instead of a hunt the falconers showed us a flight of an eagle-owl in the woods.

A three hour stay in Kholzan ends up with a barbeque. You can bring sausages and other food to have a picnic in the fresh air.

Book a tour to Kholzan here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/kholzan

 The falconry center Kholzan is located 30km of Yekaterinburg near the town of Sysert in the territory of the Sova recreation center.

http://www.holzan.falconer.ru/#

31May/130

One day rafting trip to Nature Park Olenyi Ruchyi on June 16th

Dear friends,

On June 16th we are off for a new one day rafting trip to Nature Park Olenyi Ruchyi (Deer Creeks)

You will see the beauty of the Ural Mountains, so very much desired by tourists because there are no mountains within the city. The landscape of Olenyi Ruchyi is mainly Ural forest and taiga along the Serga River. We’ll do rafting through the park and then visit the caves: Cave Druzhba (Friendship) where you can find prints of sea shells which prove that the sea used to divide European and Asian continents 400 million years ago. Bolshoy Proval (great gap) is a vertical cave. It’s a 33m deep well with temperature +5C., so make sure to take a warm sweater before getting down even on a hot day. The Serga is a very quiet and shallow river. No special skills for rafting are required!

 

In the Great Gap cave

Sunday, June 16th

Itinerary:

8.00 Meeting at Geologicheskaya Metro Station (Circus area), Yekaterinburg

We are taking a mini-van to get to the Nature Park

10.00 A walk through the park (5 km) to the river. Two boats for 5 persons each (plus guides-instructors) will be waiting for us near the Karstoviy Bridge

Aprox. 14.00 Arrival to the rock Lyagushka. There we have a picnic and say goodbuy to the rafting guides

15.00 A walk to the caves and back to the park exit (7 km) A stop in a café for dinner.

19.00  Departure to Yekaterinburg

21.00 Arrival to the city

The timing in the park is only approximate. We are flexible with the schedule and can have as many stops on the river and in the park as we wish.

Price per person for a group of 10 people: 2300rub

for children from 7: 2250rub

The price includes: transfer, entrance fee to the park, rafting boat rental, services of a guide and boat instructors.

Please, book the tour in advance as we need only 10 persons for the trip!

For more information and for booking:

Tel +79122800870

Email:yekaterinburg4u@gmail.com