Southern Urals. View of the Kremen (???Flint???) mountainPechora-Ilych Nature ReserveShaitan boulder on the Chusovaya RiverYou can often encounter moose in the woods of the UralsThe Kasli Pavilion is made completely of cast iron in the town of Kasli in the Urals. It received a grand-prix at the International Industrial Exposition in Paris in 1900. In 1978 UNESCO recognized this unique architectural structure as a monument of world significanceTheatre Square in Yekaterinburg, the capital of the UralsEurope??¦ Only a step away!The Temple on the Blood on the Voznesensky Hill is the most visited tourist spot in YekaterinburgIn 1918, in the Ganina Yama tract, 12 km (7 miles) outside of Yekaterinburg, the Bolsheviks burnt and buried the remains of Russia??™s last Czar, Nicholas II and his family. Several orthodox churches and a monastery were built in this place a few years ago
Russia??™s territory stretches across the entire vast Eurasian continent. The geographical border between Europe and Asia runs along the eastern face of the Ural Mountains which extend over 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles) from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the steppes of northern Kazakhstan in the south, marking off the Ciscaucasian, also called European, part of Russia.
Both the name of the region and the determination of its borders have changed with time. Medieval geographers named the area the ???Stone Belt,??? while Russian pioneers simply called it ???Stone.??? It wasn??™t until the 17th century that the name ???Urals??? was coined and included the Ural Mountains and surrounding territories. The Bashkirs, one of the indigenous peoples of this area, have a legend of the heroic giant Ural who sacrificed his life for the happiness of his people. Later, they formed a burial mound over his grave from which the mountains sprang.
The Urals are an ancient land on which the histories of various tribes and peoples were played out. The archaeological complex in the Chelyabinsk Region known as Arkaim, or ???land of cities,??? dates back to the Bronze Age and is a millennium older than Troy. Today, this site is a place of pilgrimage for many scholars and tourists from around the world. Archaeologists are convinced that this was the very place where the first horses were domesticated, where the first two-wheel chariots were built, where the first bronze forgeries were erected ??” Arkaim is the birthplace of one of the world??™s most ancient civilizations. In the Urals, one may find many beautiful and secret caves. Wall drawings from the Palaeolithic Age were found in the Kapova Cave. The Kungur ice cove enchants visitors with its naturally-formed ice-lace and amazing crystals, as well as its underground lakes, stalactites, and stalagmites.
Thousands of travelers are attracted by the beautiful sites and monuments in the Urals, such as the Pechora-Ilych Nature Reserve, where one can hand-feed the moose, or Yugyd-Va (???Clear Water???) National Nature Park in the sub-polar Urals. The area is also famous for its skiing centres, such as Abzakovo, Zavyalikha, Gora Yezhovaya (???Hedgehog Mountain???), and Ozero Bannoye (???Bathing Lake???), situated near the industrial city of Magnitogorsk, also famous for its gems and non-ferrous ores.
The Urals is a place of eternal snows and tundra, age-old taiga and steppes, quiet lakes and rapid rivers. One of the most interesting tourist routes is a trip along the 592-kilometer (368-mile) long Chusovaya River which flows from Asia to Europe. Sights to see along the way include 100-meter (328-foot) tall stone rocks, one can take in the beautiful view of the surrounding landscape from their summits.
From olden times, the Urals have been famous as a unique mineral treasure trove: there is hardly an element in Mendeleyev??™s Periodic Table that could not be found here. Copper from the Urals was used for the Statue of Liberty in New York City; malachite from here was used in the construction of the Malachite Hall of the Winter Palace (Hermitage) and the columns of St. Isaac??™s Cathedral in St. Petersburg.
The Urals is also renowned for many resorts. The town of Ust-Kachka in the Perm Region is built near mineral water springs. In the middle of the 19th century, a ???gold fever??? epidemic hit the valley of the Miass River, several years before the same sickness took hold of Alaska??™s residents. It was in the Miass river that the biggest single gold find in Russia was recorded ??” 36.2 kilograms (80 pounds). To this day, adventurers come to the area to try their luck.
The Urals, especially the Chelyabinsk Region, is the homeland of talented craftsmen, such as stonecutters, molders, armor-makers, and others. The town of Zlatoust is famous worldwide for its damask sabers decorated with unique ornaments. More than a century ago, the artistic iron-molding of the town of Kasli was awarded a grand prix by the Worldwide Exhibition of Trade and Industry in Paris. Tourists enjoy keeping exquisite iron-made figurines as well as malachite boxes and rings adorned with local gems as mementos of the Urals.
The cultural, industrial, and political center of the Ural region is Yekaterinburg, a city of 1.3 million people. The city was founded in 1723 by order of Czar Peter the Great. Russia??™s largest state-owned metallurgical plant and an administrative center of what at the time was the fastest growing mining and metallurgical region were built on the banks of the Iset River. The city retains many of its 18th century features: the well-planned design of the central streets, some of the original buildings, and the city??™s oldest construction, the old dam of the City Pond, ??” its structure still retains some of the larch piles that were put in place
by the first builders of Yekaterinburg. The former site of the main manufacturing plant is now the Historical Square. The old mechanical workshop and mint buildings that flank the square now house a number of very interesting museums and expositions.
The Local History Museum is home to the world??™s oldest wooden sculpture, the Large Shigirsky Idol. Its age, determined by carbon dating, is about 9.5 thousand years. The Idol was found by gold miners at the Shigirsky Peat Bog near Yekaterinburg in 1890. The Museum of Natural History exhibits skeletons of a mammoth, a cave bear, and a giant deer ??” all extremely rare artifacts that are hard to come by anywhere else in the world. The Yekaterinburg art museums hold collections of the famous icons form Nevyansk (a town in the Urals), intricate iron casting done by local artists, as well as the Russian avant-garde painting of the first two decades of the 20th century, including works by Vasily Kandinsky and Kazimir Malevich. The Geology and Mineralogy Museums present the riches of the Ural Mountains and the centuries-long local tradition of stone carving.
The symbolic borderline between Europe and Asia is only 17 km from downtown Yekaterinburg. In one place an obelisk marks the border; two stones that symbolize the synthesis of civilizations lie in its base. One stone was brought from the westernmost point of Europe, Cape Roca (Portugal), and the other ??” from mainland Asia??™s easternmost point, Cape Dezhnyov (Russia). Making the single step from Europe to Asia across the symbolic line is a favorite attraction for tourists from all over the world.
In the past few years Yekaterinburg has enjoyed a new construction boom. In its 21st century visage, the city is a synthesis of new shiny steel and glass edifices, reflecting in their mirror surfaces the grace of the newly restored churches and renovated or rebuilt masterpieces of the original architecture.
Yekaterinburg is also known as the site of one of the most tragic events in modern Russian history: the execution of the Romanoff royal family on July 17, 1918.
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