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


Ural rivers and remote villages

My good friend Vitaliy decided to buy a datcha in some remote Ural village. The idea was to find a decent house on the river far from civilization. Fortunately, there are plenty of old partly neglected villages in the Urals and most of them are on the rivers.  Rivers were the main transport arteries in 19th century, that's why Ural villages would spring up along the rivers with the windows of the houses facing the water roads.

The good news for Vitaly was that a shabby house could cost about 1 000 US dollars (of course with some refurbishing needed) What Vitaly didn't expect was the fact that roads in the the 21st century are not any better than centuries ago, i.e. there were simply no roads only forest paths. Upshot, Vitaliy didn't find a nice and cheap datcha but the photos he and his partner Sergey took in summer 2010 are priceless and I'm happy to share them with you!

p.s. Vitaliy finally bought a country house close to his native town of Nizhni Tagil. It's not a remote place but at least it has a cobblestone road built by the German prisoners after the War...


What souvenirs to buy in Ural?

Vodka, caviar and a muffle hat. Surely these are the things you friends asked you to bring from Russia. But from the Urals you can bring something more precious - jewelry made of Ural precious stones and gems.

The Ural Mountains are literally rich in all types of minerals. Remember the Kremlin 5 meter ruby stars in Moscow with emerald hammers and sickles. They were made by the Ural jewelers. Remember the green columns of St. Isaak's Cathedral and a malachite room in the Hermitage. That was a unique mosaic technique invented by the local masters when malachite was found here. Finally, did you know that the infamous Gold Rush started first in Yekaterinburg and 20 years later continued in California? It's true! Gold was found almost in the center of Yekaterinburg in the beginning of 19th century and every second citizen knew how to mine it. This Gold Rush wasn't as notorious as in California but many people did go off the rails and wasted money in a manner of today Russian oligarchs washing horses in champagne and building grotesque mansions. Later local gold miner Nickolay Doroshin set an expedition to Alaska. He didn't find gold there but shared his experience with the first gold diggers in Sacramento.

Nonetheless, it isn't gold but green malachite is the most popular stone here, the symbol of the Urals. Now I'm going to share a secret with you. These days malachite is scarce and all the malachite souvenirs that you find in Yekaterinburg are made of African stone. It's cheaper because of the poor quality. The difference is easy to detect: Ural malachite is deeper in color and has elaborate patterns. Still some street vendors and collectors have Uralski malachite extracted in the Soviet times and you can buy it at very fair prices. Terry a tourist from Canada bought a 3cm stone not long ago for 200 roubles (8$)!

Also take a look at the traditional gems studded framed pictures usually depicting Ural landscapes. They are very unique, rather cheap although can be heavy to carry. When buying gold jewelry you get a purchase certificate so don't worry about the customs.

To real savers I would advise to launch your own expedition to the mountains or to mine some gold near the town of Nevyansk. This area still abounds with gold!


Visited Yekaterinburg and didn’t see any mountains!

That's what an American tourist complained about when arrived in Yekaterinburg. Not that he really complained about his visit, he enjoyed it a lot but where are the mountains? The question is not unusual. If you come to Yekaterinburg and stay in the city center you will not see any mountains. Even if you climb the tallest skyscraper called Antey Business Center the view will be somewhat disappointing. So where are the mountains in the Urals?

The thing is Yekaterinburg lies on the flat platform of the eastern slope of the Ural Mountains. You get the most picturesque view when travelling by train from Perm (on the western slope) to Yekaterinburg. Then again don't expect to see snowy peaks broken by clouds. The Ural Mountains are one of the oldest in the world - three hundred million years old. Those days the mountains were as high as the Alps 4-5 km. Now they are only 300-400 m. However it's enough to give you many opportunities for snowboarding and mountain skiing. You may start right in Yekaterinburg as there is Uktusskaya Gora (mountain) within the city boundaries. Take a trolley bus from the center in the southern direction and get off at Uktuss. The slope is good for beginners and you can rent all the necessary equipment there.

To see the real mountains take a trip to the north to Gora Yezhovaya (90km from Yekaterinburg) or Gora Belaya near the town of Nizhni Tagil (170 km from Yekaterinburg). Gora Volchikha (Wolf Mountain) is popular with the citizens and it's only 50 km west to the city. Serious winter sport amateurs should visit Abzakovo skiing resort in Southern Urals - one of the best known in Russia it is Vladimir Putin's favourite. Although now Mr. Putin claims that his favourite slopes are in Sochi (for promotional reasons of course).

It's not only in winter when the mountains are worth visiting. In summer you can go horse riding, cycling and hiking. As for hiking, I would recommend Nature Park Olenyi Ruchyi (Deer Creek). It's amazing any time of the year especially in autumn. See the pictures on my Facebook page Yekaterinburg for You.


Is Ural in Siberia?

This question is often asked: Where's actually Ural? Is it somewhere in Siberia? To tell you the truth, even the Russians from the western part of the country don't know exactly and call it Siberia.

Bear it in mind that the citizens of the Ural Mountains are very much upset when somebody calls them Siberyaki (people of Siberia) because they are Uraltzy. However they will forgive you for not knowing the proper terms (though they will not forgive the ignorant Russians!)

Just remember this simple fact: the Ural Mountains is a natural boderline between European Russia and Siberia, in other words between Europe and Asia. While the Ural region is neither Europe nor Asia. It's just Ural. The ancient Finno-Ugric tribes gave it this name which means a rock. So in  the old times the Russians called the western part Moskovia and everything 'over the rocks' was and still is Siberia. 

Are there any differences between the citizens of Ural and other Russian? Not at all. They all look very Russian and speak Russian. It's just the feeling of identity that all Uraltzy have even though most of them came to Ural from all possible parts of the USSR: Kazakhstan, Tatarstan, Volga Region, Russian Far East or from Belarus like my family! 

I've been living in the Middle Urals for 30 years and travelling around Russia I see it clearly - this relatively small region (small compared to Russian sizes as it's actually the size of Germany) is neither Moskovia nor Siberia. It's just Ural and I'm happy to be Uralochka (a girl from the Urals)