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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

3Mar/130

Dog sledging in the Urals

Dog sledging is something that you expect to have in Alaska or in Yakutia but Ural winters are snowy enough to offer this type of entertainment for travelers.

This winter I discovered two places where you can meet Huskies and feel yourself like Nenets (indigenous people of Northern Arctic Russia)

Ethnic center Akvilon is located in Chelyabinsk Region (Southern Urals). The center is aimed to show the life of northern people: a guide who is dressed like a snow maid will show you a chum (igloo), you will have a cup of tea with a local shaman and talk to a Yakutian Father Frost. However, those people are far from being indigenous – most of them work and teach history at the University of Chelyabinsk.

Having met all those characters we finally got to the field for dog sledging. But because there were about 40 people in our group we could only sledge one time which lasted about 2 minutes.

Advantages:

One big advantage of Akvilon – they have a lot of dogs and apart from huskies that are for sledging, you will spend some time playing with the cutiest creatures –Samoyed Laikas.

Samoyeds are very friendly and playful dogs. They are named so after the Nenets people who were also called Samoyeds by the Russians. The word means ‘selfeaters’ in Russian but there is the second meaning: ‘self riders’. When the Russians saw the sledging Nenets at a distance, they couldn’t see their white dogs in the snow so they thought that the Nenets were moving on their own.

Disadvantages:

Akvilon is 30 km of Chelyabinsk which makes about 230 km of Yekaterinburg. So it’s certainly not worth going just for two minutes of dog sledging unless you have some other things to do in the region. Chelyabinsk is not the most interesting Russian city to explore either. Although, thanks to the meteorite that dropped near the city in February 2012 it may attract some curious individuals. The citizens of Chelyabinsk are planning to erect a monument to the meteorite in the near future.

Price: 540rub per person for dog sledging; 890rub for the whole program at the center.

http://www.akvilon74.ru

Dog sledging in the village of Chernoistochinsk (near Nizhni Tagil)

Irina, the owner of five huskies had been waiting for two years until her dogs grew up and got trained well enough to sled. In the winter of 2012-13 she started organizing dog sledging in her native village. Next winter (2013-14) one more puppy should be big enough to pull sleds.

Book the tour to the huskies and the deer farm in Visim http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/dog-sledding

Advantages:

You can sled this husky family for one hour and pay more to prolong it if there are no tourists coming after you. As we came in a group of 30 people, we booked two hours and paid the same price as those who book one hour: 200 rub per person. If you book and individual tour, you can sled in the forest which makes it more fun compared to the small circle in the center of the village that we were offered.

Chernoistocbinsk is 160 km north of Yekaterinburg. Apart from dog sledging you can also visit a nearby deer farm: to feed Kaspian deer, Yakutian horses and African ostriches that live in one place. It is also on the way to Belaya Mount (711m) – a mountain ski resort with a beautiful view of Northern Urals.

Disadvantages:

Most of the winter weekends are already booked by local travel agencies. It's a good idea to book it way in advance or join a special group tour

Book the tour to the huskies and the deer farm in Visim http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/dog-sledding

 

10Jan/130

Welcome to vodka tasting on the Europe-Asia border

The Your Yekaterinburg newspaper and AskUral.com invite you to join a vodka tasting tour!

We'll fill you in with history of the Urals, Russian drinking traditions and of course different types of vodka. You will learn Russian toasts and sing Russian drinking songs with us!

January 20 at 14.00
Meeting point: 51, Lenina, in front of the University

price: 950 rub
please, confirm that you are coming and pay in advance
tel: +79122800870
email: yekaterinburg4u@gmail.com

3Sep/120

Arkaim, an archeological site or a place of power?

In August 2012 I had a chance to visit a famously mysterious place called Arkaim. The archeological site of an ancient city of Arkaim (17th century b.c.) is in Southern Urals 432 km of Chelyabinsk near the northern border of Kazakhstan.

The place was discovered in 1987 by the scientists from Chelyabinsk. Presumably the people who lived in Arkaim in 17 century b.c. belonged to Iranian or an unknown branch of Indo-Iranian culture. Their settlement for approximately 1500-2500 people was protected by two circular walls. The ancient town covered 20 000 sq meters. The people lived there for 300 years then the settlement was burned and abandoned by its dwellers for unknown reasons.

The form of the ancient town (the museum of history in Arakaim)

All this you can learn in a local museum. However, today Arkaim is known as a ‘place of power’ is believed to be enigmatic and it attracts hundreds of pilgrims and esoteric organizations. Some people call it Swastika city or Mandala city. Others compare it with Stonehenge. Those who visited it (including my friends in Yekaterinburg) claim that they felt positive vibes and even healing effects. Obviously I had to go there to see and hopefully to feel something extraordinary!

A camping for pilgrims is located near the archeological site but not quite close to it. The guides say that there’s not much to see there in terms archeology though whilst the nearby mountains are much more interesting for they are the true places of power. In fact, the camping looks very much like a hippy village. Honestly, If you miss the 1970s, you should pay a visit to Arkaim. The flower children of Russia on tops of the hills, talk to ancient stones and sell souvenirs (probably drugs too) from India and China.

An ordinary day in Arkaim is as follows:

6 a.m. climbing one of the mountains (they are hills actually) to see the sunrise.

On the way to see the sunrise

7 a.m. doing morning exercises with a local trainer who also sells herbal medicine made of Arkaim herbs, of course.

Morning exercises

9 a.m. – till the sunset: climbing the nearby mountains\hills of different significance: mountain of love, of wealth, of making wishes etc. The mountain of atonement is the most popular one as people crowds were walking there in circles (that’s what you are supposed to do to say sorry for your deeds). Surprisingly enough the mountain of love was the least popular that day. But then I understood why – it’s the highest and the steepest one.

Tourists are walking on the mountain of atonement

Me on top of the Love Mount

Alternatively one can stay in the camp to listen to lectures given by various esoteric gurus, go swimming in a small river or riding horses in the endless steppes.

The night time goes more or less traditional in Arkaim: it involves drinking and eating shashlik in a local café. Alternatively one can go meditating on top of a hill.

My personal opinion is that Akaim is an amazing place for someone who arrived from Yekaterinburg surrounded by dense woods. The steppe looks beautiful and exotic, especially when you meet local Asiatic people selling fresh milk and herbal tea from samovar. The climate is fantastic (while it was miserable +16 in Middle Urals, it was +35 in Arkaim).  As for the power I didn’t feel anything weird but it felt like a good day off. And the hippies, well they are quiet and harmless anyway, just like their American counterparts. So the place is worth visiting even though it’s 634km of Yekaterinburg.

10Aug/120

Tours in Yekaterinburg and around

To make it easy for you to decide on what tours you would like to have in the Urals, I've made these pictures with short descriptions in English and in Russian (just click on each picture to read the description)

These are 8 most popular trips in Yekaterinburg and around. Some are short and some take a whole day. So when you travel by Trans-Siberian, make sure to see one of these sights of middle Urals!

Book the tours here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/

09

Plus a special winter tour:

10

Book the tours here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/

20Jul/120

Trans-Siberian trip by Dutch travelers. Video

This video made by Dutch tourists Serge Kapitein and Bas Derkink in May is a MUST for everyone who wants to see REAL RUSSIA!
From Moscow to Vladivostok and Yekaterinburg is on the third minute. We drank champagne on the border of Europe and Asia the I took the guys to the Mafia cemetery and Mayakovskogo park.

Komrads on the Transsiberian Railway 2012 from Serge Kapitein on Vimeo.

29Jun/120

Kungur ice caves and air baloons

Kungur is a popular tourist destination all year long but it attracts even more people from 30th June to 7th July when the city hosts a festival of air balloons. Last year my friends and I attended the last day of the festival. I was very impressed by the Mediterranean-like life of this old Ural town.

Lonely Planet guide book on Russia says: ‘Between the blandness of Perm and the blandness of Yekaterinburg, Kungur is like ice cream in a biscuit’. Well, we were certainly longing for an ice cream as we entered the city on a hot July day. Kungur looked like one of those Russian resorts on the Black Sea. People were swimming in the Sylva River in the center of Kungur, sunbathing on the benches of the main street and walking lazily back and forth in shorts and flip-flops with beach towels on their shoulders.

Locals are having a picnic on the river

The Sylva River is a real pearl of Kungur. It’s very pure and slow enough for easy rafting. We rented a motor-boat and noticed that for the locals a boat or a raft is the main mean of transport and also the way of spending a weekend. Picnics onboard are as ubiquitous here as in Amsterdam.

Others, who weren’t lucky to be born in Kungur, come with their tents and spend weekends outside Kungur a few km down the city. By the way, you too should go 5 km out of town to visit the famous Kungur Ice Cave!

The passages stretch for over 6 km and only a small part has been explored so far. 1.5 km will be enough for you to explore. The grottos are "adorned" with columns of stalagmites and icicles of stalactites up to two meters in height. The best time to visit the cave is beginning of spring. That’s the time when icicles are especially big. We didn’t go inside because on that hot day I completely forgot about taking warm clothes and comfortable trainers. So these photos are from the Internet:

The cave is open daily 9am-4pm. Group excursions start every two hours and cost 600Rub. You can have an individual excursion for 1000Rub. An excursion lasts 1hr 20min.

Kungur was founded in 1663. The town is proud of its museum of tea, and old churches. To get a bird view of the city, you should climb the bell tower of this church:

As it got dark, the public in the center changed dramatically and we realized that Kungur is a very working-class town. In other words, to see the balloon show at night one had to be drunk on not to be there at all.

Accommodation: Kungur has two decent hotels which are always totally booked during the first week of July. Iren hotel is on Lenina st 30 in the center. Stalagmit Complex is outside the town but it’s just next to the entrance to the ice cave. However, many Russians prefer to stay in their tents on the banks of the Sylva.

Getting there: from Perm it takes about 2 hours by bus or suburban train. From Yekaterinburg – about 5 hours by bus from Yuzhniy Avtovokzal ( Bus Station) on 8 Marta st. 145

Click on photos to see more sights of Kungur and the river

9Jun/120

Wooden wonder of Kunary village.

Some small villages in the Urals are extremely cute. The old village of Kunary is well known in the region thanks to the house of a blacksmith.

Sergey Kirillov decorated his house with wooden carvings. He started in 1954 and finished in 1967, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the great October Revolution.

The house is decorated with Soviet emblems, a rocket pointed to the sky. There are young pioneers on the roof releasing the white doves and a girl holding a poster with the words of a popular Soviet song: “Let there always be the sunshine, let there always be the blue sky”

The blacksmith lived in the house happily bringing up a son and a daughter and four grandchildren. Kirillov’s grandchildren still live there and the house is maintained by Yekaterinburg businessman Yevgeniy Roisman.

Getting there from Yekaterinburg: by car go north towards Nevyansk (80km) and from Nevyansk follow the sign to Shaidurikha. Kunary is 20km South-East to Nevyansk.

By bus: from Severny Bus Station take a bus or marshrutka to Nevyansk and change there for a bus to Kunary.

21May/120

Red line tour in Yekaterinburg

When walking in the center of Yekaterinburg you can see a red line drawn in the middle of the pavement. Some locals still think it’s a divider for pedestrians or a lane for bicycles. But the truth is the red line is a guideline for tourists. Just find it on Prospect Lenina and go down the line and in three hours you’ll get back to the starting point with photos of all the main sites in your camera!

The Red Line project started in 2011 as a blog by Dmitry Kalaev. The Internet users were voting for the best sites in the center of Yekaterinburg. Eventually, 35 historic objects were chosen including the Church on the Blood, Opera Theatre, the Beatles monument, QWERTY monument, Literary Quarter etc. The Red Line was drawn on June 18 2011. Its length is 6.5 kilometers.

Book the city tour here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/city-tour

walking to the Church on the Blood

This summer (2012) activists of the Red Line project are planning to draw QR codes for each site along the line, to print maps and to add full descriptions of the objects on the webpage  www.ekbredline.ru

The Beatles monument on the redl line

QWERTY or giant keyboard is a must-see according to Wikipedia and to the red-line volunteers

You can walk along the Red Line on your own or get a guided tour to learn more about the historical places. Sometimes there are free excursions arranged by volunteers for special events.

As a manager of the English newspaper Your Yekaterinburg, I invited the readers of the paper to take a guided tour down the Red Line when the annual Night in the Museum event took place in Yekaterinburg. It took us 2.5 hours to do the whole tour. The weather was great and so was the company! The photos for this post were taken during our tour and you can see me with a yellow scarf 🙂

The first map of Yekaterinburg of 1723. Those days the city was smaller than the Red line route

Book the city tour here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/city-tour