Yekaterinburg & the Ural mountains – 11 days – 237 metres above sea level

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After 350 kilometres, on the main road between Perm and Yekaterinbourg, we crossed the symbolic line separating Europe and Asia, this separation is also marking the beginning of Siberia.

With surprise, we discovered we were not matching the local time. After verification, we had to add 2 hours. In spit of their proximity, there is a jet lag between the two “oblasts” (equivalent to a county) of Perm and Yekaterinburg. A few kilometres after entering in Asia, we arrived in the capital of the Ural area which is also the 4th city of the country. In spite of its massive size, we had no issue to reach the town-centre.

The night of our arrival, we have been invited by Marina at the Double Grill and Bar. With delicious burgers, we discussed about our dailylifes and the Russian culture. Once we described our trip in details, Marina offered to share our trip in the news. An article was written and published this same night and triggered by surprise a massive amount of “likes” on our Instagram account. After a last glass of wine, we went on our way back to our flat by the busy and lively quay alongside the Isset river. On the few steps going towards the Lenine avenue, we watched a spectacular show with a guitarist and a drummer. They were entertaining a large group of people dancing on their song.

After a great lie-in, ready, we went to the bottom of our building to meet Lubov, she will guide us to discover the secrets of the city.

Yekaterinburg, from its strategical geographic situation, became across the centuries an important trading hub. Connecting the railways from the East to West, it had a massive economical growth with the major mines of Ural.

Today, the city is still influenced by this history, but it is also looking towards the future: for example the important scientific centre, its innovating architectural project. A sure thing, our walk along the streets were really enjoyable. Many pedestrian area have been identified. The scooter was, here too, a means of transport used by the youngers. On numerous squares, the urban furniture was used as a playground area for skaters. We went on the Opera square, then to the former KGB quarter. Lubov explained to us the life of the isolated family living in this quarter, expecting every day to see their husband/wife to come back at the end of the day. We also visited the Church of All Saints, Built in 2000 in memory of the Tsar Nicolas 2nd, killed with his family at this place in 1918. All along this tour lasting 4 hours, our guide teached us the Russian history and the secrets of this capital of Ural. All of that, under a 20°C with sunshine and blue sky. Hard to imagine the city as a paradise of ice, where it’s snowing 170 days per year and where the kids made snowmen 15 days ago. But one hint was the salt which was still covering the pavement.

At the beginning of the afternoon, we left Lubov and continued our tour on our own. We took the opportunity to walk between the shelves of the market on the Lenin Square, where the statue never had pigeons on its head. In the modern quarter, we climbed the stairs leading to the Yetsin Museum and then we enjoyed the summery weather in the Newton Park. The kids were running in the fountain, with a great and nice innocence. We walked again along the Isset river. On the lake, there were kayaks on a line going back and forth, in the meanwhile two dinghies were tacking simultaneously.

The following day, we headed to Irbit, 200kms further away. We crossed fields, streams and bushes. The asphalt was in prefect conditions. We road at an usual 80km/h and enjoyed a nice spot with trunks of birches for a shooting photo. Arriving in Irbit, we stoped the sidecars in front of the column symbolising the entry of the city. Here we are! Irbit, the place of birth of our loyal sidecars. 

We found a “gostinitsa”, without too much troubles, matching with our budget, in spite of the hotels we saw on Internet which were too expensive. After 5 days spent in the city, we knew it quite well. We were not too sure about it when we arrived as it looked very quiet after a rich past. It was its golden age when the Ural manufacture was the heart of the city. At sunset, walking between the buildings which shut down was a key step of our trip. Crossing the old gate of the manufacture when it was working at its best, was a great symbol of our trip.  

The identity of Irbit seduced us step by step. The city kept some of its little treasures: a little bridge spanning a river which gave its name to the city and offering a specific atmosphere. In the streets, we regularly saw old and noisy Ural sidecars with often a crate in spite of a seat for the passenger on the side. After all, as our Russian friends said: « there are more often used for harvesting potatoes than for travelling ». 

But it was with our Ural that we left Irbit and headed to Yekaterinburg and Kazakhstan. We did a first stage in a big and empty hotel in the city of Aramil. There was a torrential rain in the morning. As we were disappointed by the diner in the hotel, we preferred to avoid breakfast. With empty stomachs we jumped on our sidecars. The first coffee place was at 20 kilometres ahead, under heavy rain. When we arrived, a new deception. No table to seat down and to warm up. So we decided to go back on the road and to try the next coffee place, 5 kilometres ahead. Upon our arrival, around 8:30am, the place was closed but a sign showed the opening times. 9am this morning giving us enough time to fix a rear break issue under the rain. Half an hour later, we enjoyed crepes and tea for breakfast. 

We continued our trip in a cold and rainy weather. We were supposed to use the ring road but we finally crossed the city of Chelyabinsk due to a mistake from me. The sidecars were noisy due to the heavy traffic they didn’t really enjoy. We were pleased to see a bit of sunshine at the end of the road until Kichigino. We found two rooms in a little “gostinitsa” where we put our clothes to dry. No heaters and no hot water, but it will be enough to warm up. Nothing better than a good soup named “salienka” with 7 different meats for some of us, or a Georgian soup with beef named “karcho” for the others. 

After crepes for breakfast, we went back on the road. First we headed to Orsk and then Aktobe in Kazakhstan. But with a map of the Russian roads in our hands, we were afraid to cross roads in tough conditions. We changed our mind and went back to Chelyabinsk. Then we went towards West and the Oufa city. At the beginning of the day, the road was surrounded by wide fields before to see again the mountains of the Ural. This time, we crossed it from East to West, under a little layer of snow. 

We spent the night in a small city between the mountains, Yuyuzan, where we stayed in a hotel owned by a nice grandma. For dining, we couldn’t resist to a Mediterranean menu with a Margarita pizza and a Greek salad. 

Breakfast in our rooms while watching the snow falling down. Hard to find the motivation to go outside with this freezing temperature. Back on track, the sunshine was finally back too. With no troubles, we took the ring road of Oufa and headed to South. We stopped in Sterlitamak in a “gostinitsa” with a higher quality than usual. To enter in our rooms, we even needed to put sleepers given by the hotel!

We continued towards Orenbourg. On the roads, fields as far as we were able to see. Sadly, this massive farming industry doesn’t offer always a nice smell of wheat… We arrived mid-afternoon in Orenburg with strong wind gusts. We collected the keys of a rent flat, located on the 14th floor of a Russian tower, nearby the town centre. The following g day, we visited the city with Ivan, met the previous day while we were looking for engine oil.

After a day walking in Orenburg, we went towards Ilek, the last Russian city, just 5 kilometres before the Kazakh border. As we didn’t know how long it will take to cross the border, and if we could reach Uralsk – the only big city after the border at 150kms further ahead where we could find a hotel – we decided to spend the afternoon and the night in Ilek. Picnic in a parc of the town-centre before to enjoy a running session up to the Ural river. In the evening, we walked to find a place for dining and understood how much bicycles are used in this city. But there was nothing open. We crossed the city and finally found a sushi restaurant. Dina and Nastya, the owners, were being very kind with us and offered the diner before to give us a lift to our hotel. 

We left early in the morning to arrive at the Kazakh border. We did our last beak at a Lukoil service station to spend our last Roubles and buy some biscuits. In a few kilometres we will will be in Kazakhstan! 

Where to eat?

Double Grill and Bar

This place is actually a fancy restaurant showing how the city can be trendy! Our adventurer clothing was not really matching with the other guests of the restaurant. But it’s a great place to enjoy a good burger or one of their grilled specialities. 

What to visit? 

Lubasusl – City tour of Yekaterinburg

Do not hesitate to contact Lubov, the guide of this agency, to follow her and discover the capital of the Ural area with all its secrets.