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28Feb/120

How to meet a shaman in the Ural forest

Nature park Bazhovskie Mesta is one of the largest in Middle Urals. It is also the nearest to Yekaterinburg (60km) that makes it attractive for tourists. At the end of February the managers of the park invited Yekaterinburg guides including me to check out their new route: a hiking tour with a local shaman down to the woods and to the believes of the ancient Ural tribes.

As we got to the park in an authentic Russian UAZ jeep, we were greeted by a shaman by the fireplace. We expected to share a peace pipe but he offered us herbal tea which was a good idea, considering it’s still winter here. Having put on something like Mansi overcoats we followed the shaman to learn what our ancestors believed in.

We weren't alone in the forest, the prints belong to a marten

The tour lasts about three hours. It can be longer if you wish to go swimming in the lake in summer time. We learnt about bad and good spirits that inhabit forests, thanked the god of the winds for guiding us and found out that Mansi newly-weds had a honeymoon too..in a very transparent shelter.

a 'honeymoon' hut

The tradition of tying colorful ribbons on a tree can also be found in Siberia and Nepal

The tour with a shaman is 6000rubles (200$) for a group of 6-10 people. You can also have it at night! In this case you walk with flaming torches which makes a whole experience very exciting.

At the end I could try on the shaman's outfit

Going back to civilization in UAZ

I’ll definitely go there in summer to try out a night tour. If you are interested too, just let me know 🙂

For more summer activities in the park click here:  http://askural.com/2011/06/sysert-eco-tour-on-horseback/

16Jan/120

Five ski resorts in the Urals to visit this winter

Yekaterinburg is located in the mountains and there are a lot of places where we can go alpine skiing and snowboarding. The season starts from mid November and finishes in early April.

Uktus: The sports center is on a territory of 424 hectares among century pines.
Guests of the Uktus can use 4 ski slopes of various difficulty levels. The length of the tracks is 400-750 meters. The elevation is from 54 to 100 m. There are also a snow park, a wellness service, a café and parking. If you are bored with skiing, you can play paintball or tennis, ride horse or relax in the gazebo.
The cost of renting ski kit is 420 rubles per hour. Rent of snowboard with a full kit is 420 rubles too. Climbing on the elevator is 50 rubles. http://www.uktus.ur.ru/

Pil’naya: It is 38 km away from Yekaterinburg, in Pervouralsk. There are 5 ski slopes with a total length of 2800 meters. The maximal elevation is 98.5 m.

A set of ski or snowboard equipment costs 400 rubles per hour. Snow tubing with the elevator costs you 350 rubles. If you want to rent a trainer, you must pay 600 rubles per hour. The cost of parking is 50 rubles for the full day. You can reach Pervouralsk by bus or by train. In addition you can visit the Snow Park or sauna there. http://www.pilnaya.ru/

Volchikha: It is the highest peak in the vicinity of Yekaterinburg.  The Volchikha’s height is 526 meters. There are four slopes. The longest one is 700 m with a height difference of 143 meters.

The cost of tickets for the elevator varies from 300 to 1100 rubles for 3 hours. It depends on the day of the week and time of the day. The cheapest tickets are during the week and in the daytime.
The rent of a package for skiing and snowboarding costs 400 rubles per hour. You must pay 700 rubles per 2 h, 900 rubles per 3 h and 1000 rubles for 4 h or more.
The other entertainments are a snow park, Zorbas, outdoor skating rink and the rent of snowmobiles. Volchikha is situated 5 km from Revda and 7 from Pervouralsk. http://www.volchixa.ru/

Ski Resort 'Belaya'

Belaya: It is located near Nizhny Tagil, more precisely, 37 km away. There is ski rental (from 310 rubles to 710 rubles per hour kit) and snowboard (350 rub.). You can take skates there (100 rub. per hour), and do snow tubing. There is also a swimming pool, high ropes course, a café and a hotel. In addition, you can play strike ball near the Belaya. http://www.gorabelaya.ru/

Abzakovo: It is located in the spur of the ancient Ural Mountains in the   southeast of Bashkortostan, 60 km from Magnitogorsk and 35 km from Beloretsk. Complex Abzakovo is unique in offering a variety of forms of leisure, recreation and entertainment throughout the four seasons.

The rent of snowboard or skiing equipment is 100-600 rub. per hour and 300-800 rub. per day.

http://www.abzakovo.com/

In conclusion, we wish that you spend the winter enjoying fun and health benefits! The information was compiled by Marat Ramazanov for the Your Yekaterinburg English newspaper.

8Nov/110

What to read about the Urals?

This autumn I was lucky to meet Marina Chebotaeva, the General Director of Enviro-Chemie Gmbh in Yekaterinburg. She is also an author of the travel guide on the Urals. Her books The Urals: a first stride into real Russia volume 1 and 2 won the National Tourist Prize of Senkevich as the best published work on traveling in Russia.

Each travel guide has 52 routes throughout the Urals, each starting from Yekaterinburg. The trips are divided into three categories: short trips (4-5 hours by car), one day trips (10-12 hours), weekend trips (including trips to Bashkiria and Khanty-Mansiysk)

Apart from detailed descriptions and maps, the books have amazing photos. I was surprised to learn that all the photos were taken by amateurs, not by professionals. Most of them were Marina’s friends and colleagues. She just gave them maps and they went to 52 different directions, even to Salekhard at the Polar circle. Though it’s better to fly there for ‘only very brave people go to Salekhard by car’ – the book says.

It started as a hobby or even a necessity four years ago: Marina was looking for souvenirs for her business partners from Germany. It turned out that Yekaterinburg doesn’t produce anything that could be called ‘a nice souvenir from the Urals’. Of course, there are semi-precious stones but they are stones, you know. So Marina decided to create her own Ural gifts.

“A book which is given as a present is read by eight to ten people. Can you imagine how many people all over the world will learn about the Urals and will want to come here!” she says.

Vladimir Putin has read the book too and hopefully he'll givie it as a present to someone as well!

The Urals: a first stride into real Russia volume 1 and 2 by M. Chebotaeva are available in Russian, English, German and Chinese in Yekaterinburg bookstores (price is around 1.700 Roubles).

You can also order the book for 1000Roubles at www.nashural.ru or by phone +7(343) 278-27-96, +7-912-218-35-69   (or contact me if you are lost in translation)

click here to see photos from The Urals

26Oct/110

Novourask, a treasure of a closed town

Every sun rise is beautiful and it’s similarly beautiful in any part of the world. I spotted my October sun rise in a strange place near Novouralsk, a closed town behind the wall 90 km north of Yekaterinburg.

The town was known as Sverdlovsk-44 in the Soviet times and it was absolutely unknown to the rest of the world until 1994. Since that year it’s not a secret town but a closed town due to the Ural Electro Chemical Plant built there during World War II.  Novouralsk had the first mountain ski track in the Urals but very few people from the outside world could go skiing there (population of the town is 85.519)

Another treasure of Novouralsk is Verkhneyvenski pond with beaches and a yacht club.

Verkhneyvenski pond

The pond is outside the town thus you don’t have to go through the control post which you won’t be able to do anyway. Boat and yacht rentals are available in summer.

Getting there: by car from Novo-Moskovsky trakt drive through Pervouralsk. By any local train bound for Nizhni Tagil. Get off at Verkh-Neyvinsk Station. Novouralsk is on the left side, you will see it behind the barbed wire. The pond is on the right side. And the sun rise is for every one!

watch the sunrise by clicking here:

4Oct/110

What to do in the Urals in October?

October is beautiful here but it’s raining a lot and temperatures seldom rise above +10. Usually I watch October from my window. Last weekend I left my cozy flat for a rainy weekend in the mountains with Joao Lamos, a Brazilian expat in China who arrived for the weekend to see some nature. Thanks to him I found out that it’s walking in the rain can be fun besides this golden season in Ural forests lasts for only a few weeks.

Here’s the best weekend out in October:
Saturday: up to the north to Belaya Mountain with two stops in Nevyansk and Visim

Belaya Mountain

It can be windy on top of the mountain (705m) but it's worth it!

Book the tour to Belaya Mt and the Deer Farm here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/northern-urals

Sunday: to the west for hiking in Olenii Ruchiy (Deer Streams) Nature Park

Nature Park Olenyi Ruchyi

our driver Julia

It was quite a surprise to meet many people in the park that day. Some of them came for fishing in the rain!

Leaving the park stop at the German Biergarten for hot sausages and a glass of beer

Book the tour to the Nature Park: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/deer-streams

October has just started, so don't miss the chance to see some autumn beauties of the Urals before the long winter!

5Aug/110

Visim – the land of ostriches and old believers

Visim is a village located in National Park Visimsky, 50 km from Nizhni Tagil and 195 km to the North-West of Yekaterinburg. Why is it worth visiting? First of all, you’ll be able to see the real Ural Mountains. On your way to Visim, right on the border between Europe and Asia you pass Gora Belaya – one of the highest mountains in Middle Urals (705m). It has a well equipped skiing resort (www.gorabelaya.ru) and a chairlift operates all year long. On a sunny day you can see the village of Visim from the top of the mountain.

The landscape around Visim can be compared to Switzerland. No wonder that top local businessmen and the former Governor of Sverdlovskaya Oblast have their dachas in the area. The nearby village Uralets is the place where so-called ‘bad silver’ (first Ural platinum) was found in 1824. By 1917 Middle Urals was supplying 90% of the world’s platinum. They say you can still find platinum in local rivers.

Visim is not only a perfect retreat to breathe in fresh air and enjoy wild nature. It is also a good anthropological destination to learn more about Russian inhabitants. The village was founded in 1741 as a settlement around ironworks. The factory belonged to the Demidoffs – a famous dynasty of successful merchants in the Urals who later moved to Florence and became related to Napoleon. They brought their serfs from Ukraine and Tula (western Russia) to Visim and hired the already settled Old Believers who had fled to the Urals from Novgorod in the 1720s.

 “Three Ends”, the novel by the Visim-born writer Mamin-Sibiryak, depicts lifestyles in three areas of the village. Differences can still be seen in wooden architecture – Ukrainian and Tula houses have bright colours and elaborate décor. Old Believers’ houses look dark, solid and have shutters. Over time Ukrainian and Tula villagers assimilated as both liked wine and celebrations. Old Believers, however, managed to preserve their culture and austere customs. They are known as very hard-working, non-drinking strong people. Life expectancy in Visim is very high among Old Believers, some women reach 95. To date, there are several young men in the village who claim they are Old Believers.

The population in Visim is now 1200 although in the Soviet times it was 7000. It is interesting that the villagers do not like to promote Visim. They are afraid that new-comers may spoil their quiet rural life – unlike in many other decaying Russian villages, this one looks very neat. A local businessman helps the village to survive. He is currently building a mini-hotel and a church in Visim. The businessman is of course an Old Believer. Visim has two Museums: Museum of the writer Mamin-Sibiryak and Museum of Local Crafts. Public celebrations and festivals are held during Christmas holidays and Maslenitsa (Pan Cake carnival). There is a decent café Kedr in the centre of the village.

in the museum of Mamin Sibiryak

The highlight of Visim is a deer farm. The same local businessman bought herds of Saika Deer and Caspian Red Deer; in Russia they are called Siberian stags or Marals. The deers' velvet antlers are used to produce immune stimulant and anti-cancer medicine which the owner of the farm gives to his employees.

Book the tour to Belaya Mt and the Deer Farm here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/northern-urals

The excursion in the farm is 50 roubles. Make sure you bring some bread to feed deer. They especially like baton (sweet white bread).

A year ago the farmers received an unexpected gift – three abandoned ostriches on the farm doorstep. The birds outlived their first winter on the farm. It turned out that ostriches can endure temperatures down to -20, not that they liked it though.

Petrovich, the ostrich

and his girlfriend

Since spring 2011 the farm has adopted five Yakut horses. There is no worry about their survival. Yakut horses will probably take Ural winters for a summer holiday.

photo from www.E1.ru

Book the tour to Belaya Mt and the Deer Farm here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/northern-urals

Getting there by car: 115 km down Serovsky Trakt. Pass Lenevka Sanatorium and turn left to detour around Nizhni Tagil, then turn to Chernoistochinsk-Uralets and drive 50 km more. To enter Visim,  turn left from the highway. To go to the farm go 300m straight on. The farm is the next right turn from the highway. You will see a sign in Russian 'ostriches, deer'

Getting there by bus: there are buses from Nizhni Tagil Main Bus Station. Take a bus bound for Visimo-Utkinsk and get off at Visim bus stop.

20Jun/110

Sysert – eco tour on horseback in Bazhovski nature park

This post is for those tourists who asked me about riding a horse in the Urals.

Nature Park Bazhovskie Mesta (Bazhov’s Places) is located near the town of Sysert 60 km south of Yekaterinburg. The park is named after Pavel Bazhov, a writer from Sysert and an author of fairy-tale stories about Russian gems and jewelers based on the Urals folklore.

The forest became a nature park in 2007 almost accidentally. The government of Sysert decided to reorganize 38 hectares of forests into a park. The real purpose of the officials was to use the park partly as legitimate hunting grounds. Luckily for bears, the area was certified as Nature Park by the Regional Government which means it is now ‘especially protected natural territory’.

Chernaya river is inhabited by beavers

There is a lot to protect there. The pine tree forest is full of animals: squirrels, beavers, minks, roebucks, wild boars, elks and famous Russian brown bears. The river Chernaya, Sysertski pond and small lakes in the park are good for swimming and fishing. One of the park’s main attractions is Talkov Kamen (Talc Stone) – an old flooded talc mine. The mine is popular with divers and a glade near the mine is an ideal place for picnics.

Talkov Kamen (talc stone)

there is still talc on the banks of the lake

There are numerous trails for hiking and riding horses. The park offers short and long riding tours (from 1 to 4 days) and provides the necessary equipment and meals. You can also rent a snowmobile in winter. Bicycle rental is to be opened this summer. 4 hour horse riding tour is 2.500 roubles. Book a tour a few days prior to your arrival. From summer 2012 the park offers short and long kayak trips for groupes of 2 to 6 people.

For more details call the office: +7 34374 74870, +79221235850

www.bm-park.ru (in Russian)

Getting there: from Yekaterinburg down Chelyabinski Trakt, turn right to Kashino and Sysert. Drive through Sysert further to the village of Verkhnyaya Sysert. To date, entrance fee 50 roubles, car park is free.

17May/113

Eco-Tour to Nature Park Olenyi Ruchyi (Deer Streams)

As summer is coming soon to the Urals, eco-tours and mountain trekking are in great demand. If you stay in Yekaterinburg for a few days, do find some time to go to Nature Park Olenyi Ruchyi (Deer Streams).  The park is very popular with local and foreign tourists due to its location – 130 km. from Yekaterinburg which is very close in terms of Russian distances.

The park is only 30 km long and 6 km wide, but the landscape is very diverse. 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.

Book the tour to the Nature Park: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/deer-streams

 

There are no deer nowadays, but plenty of beavers, elks, roebucks, hogs, weasels and martens; the latter like to destroy the hives of wild bees.

There are 48 ancient caves in the park. Finno-Ugric hunters lived in the caves in 4.000b.c. Their traces can be found on the rocks – those are inscriptions and drawings of red deer, hence the name of the Park Olenyi Ruchyi

Take a closer look and you will see a drawing of a deer in the middle

Cave Druzhba (Friendship) is 500 meters long and it’s full of water in spring time. In summer, however, you can find  prints of sea shells there which prove that the sea used to divide European and Asian continents 400 million years ago.

Entrance to Cave Druzhba

make sure you have a torch or at least a cell to walk in complete darkness

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.

Bolshoy Proval is 33 m. deep and chilly. Requires good footwear

One of the symbols of the nature park is the Angel of Hope.  Similar angels can be found in Canada, Australia, Peru, Hawaii and many other countries.

The project was created by Swedish artist Lena Edval in 2004. Her angels are hugging the planet protecting it from catastrophes and terrorism.

Your wish will come true if you touch the angel's wings, but not a materialistic wish!

There are two trails in the park. The short trail is 6 km (it takes about 4 hours) and the great trail is 15 km (7 hours). In both cases take snacks and drinks with you. There are a few spots where you can make a fire and pitch a tent, should you decide to stay overnight. Alternatively there are cottages to rent at the park entrance.

 

Tel. +79041725565  www.olen.ur.ru

Getting there from Yekaterinburg: by car getting there can be complicated without a navigator. Drive 120 km down Moskovsky Trakt highway. Pass the police checkpoint near Druzhinino and petrol station, then take a right turn towards Nizhniye Sergi. Follow the sign to Mikhailovsk. When you pass Polovinka village drive 2.4 km  to the crossroad then turn to the left and drive 2 km to the car parking.

by bus from bus station Yuzhny Avtovokzal (8 Marta St. 145) take a bus to Mikhailovsk or Arty. Get off before Bazhukovo (tell the driver beforehand where you are going as there is no bus stop) then walk 2 km.

Book the tour to the Nature Park: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/deer-streams

 

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AskUral.com is the blog dedicated to my lovely region known as the Urals or the Ural Mountains in Russia.

My name is Luba Suslyakova. I am based in Yekaterinburg (Russia), and I would love to share useful information about my area as much as possible and be your travel adviser.

Just keep asking me via the contact form and I will come back to you with answers!

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