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Ural: Surprises and Certainties

Ural: Surprises and Certainties


At every trip, we find something that surprises or amazes us.
There are also things that we expect and are our certainty.

Below you will find a list of surprises and certainties, identified during our winter expedition to the Urals. A large part is enriched with photos 🙂

Surprise #1: Russian drivers

Contrary to YouTube videos, Russian drivers have a different purpose than to hunt down and run over other cars. All in all, if we draw similar conclusions regarding films about Polish road pirates, it would also be fear to travel around Poland, and we know that this is not the case.

Surprise #2: Accommodation

The offer is not necessarily where we will sleep.
It happened several times that after arriving at the address indicated, we were informed that we should go somewhere else. We have never regretted it. But we also did not have the approach that since the walls in the photo were pink, they must be exactly that. In the case of a hostel in Kazan, instead of a raw building away from the center, our destination was a charming tenement house in the very center, with its own parking lot. So there was really nothing to complain about.
In general, such situations happen to us from time to time in different places in Europe, but statistically most often in Russia.

Surprise #3: Do not be fooled by appearances

We ate the most delicious pelmieni in such a simple, tiled bar, where Mrs Evgenya with a bonnet on her head put broth from a large pot on her head and heated it with a microwave. To eat tastily, you do not have to go to an expensive, sophisticated restaurant.

Certainty #1: They promised us good food. And it was a true

Khinkali (not Manty as we wrote previously)

Surprise #4: Ice slides

Each city on the main square builds winter infrastructure: ice slides, illuminated ice sculptures, stage, fair, etc. Some attractions (carousels, the highest slides) are paid, the large majority is available for free. Adults and children play on them. Interestingly, on some squares stands (snowy) a monument to their patron – Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov. Last year we thought that such slides are Murmansk specialty, and here it turned out that it is something typical for all of Russia.

The Leader of Revolution is watching if the children are playing politely

Surprise #5: Ice

Speaking of urban ice decorations, we saw how they are made. Large blocks of pure and transparent ice are brought on pallets. Then they are processed on site. At the end, they are merged into sculptures and winter attractions.

Surprise #6: Spikes

Russians living more east of Moscow just ride on spikes. They don’t care about the fact that the roads are free of ice. They prefer to ride like this rather than be surprised by the sudden change in road conditions. It is also a fact that completely small rural streets can be completely covered with ice.

Surprise #7: People are everywhere

To take decent pictures in a wild place, we had to travel around a lot and search.

Siberian wilderness

Surprise #8: Municipal engineering

The Russian approach to urban infrastructure is impressive. Gas pipes are an unofficial gate to the estate.

Golden Gate :)
Golden gate 🙂

Surprise #9: Russian police

Contrary to suspicions, in the event of a collision, the Russian police do not defend the Russian offender but consider the subject extremely fairly and honestly.
We will prepare the next article about this situation.

1:0 for us!

Surprise #10: Quality of the roads

We expected it to be so-so and the roads (at least the main ones) are in very good condition.
Okay, sometimes in a small town we found one or two holes in the roads, but there are no ruts, crumbling shoulders, etc.

Surprise #11: Market stands beside the road.

Especially east of Moscow, in the border areas between Oblasts / Republics there are clusters of stalls / shops / booths with various things. It looks interesting. You can buy a sheepskin coat and a samovar and car parts and other necessary things.

Surprise #12: Prohibition

In Russia, it is prohibited to sell alcohol after 21.
That was last year, as well, but it’s still a surprise.

Surprise #13: Cashless

You can pay by card almost everywhere. Almost 🙂

Certainty #2: Fuelling

Speaking of card payments. It’s still the case at gas stations that you pay first, and then you refuel. And then you get your unused money back.

Certainty #3: Fuel

Speaking of fuel, 92 dominates the petrol category, sometimes 95 is also available, and 98 is a real rarity.

Surprise #14: Advertisements

Advertisements like the ’90s. Look at that. Here’s an ad for a meat product loyalty card. The owner in a military uniform ensures quality. Take it, buy it.

Surprise #15: Volga River

Volga is a really huge river.

Volga river

Huge surprise #16: Lada Museum

There’ll be a separate article on that. So far, we are showing the futuristic concept of a car – it has made a huge impression on us. The whole museum was a very interesting experience for us.

Surprise #17: Submarine

In Togliatti, we met a ground-based submarine.

Surprise #18: GAZ Museum

There will be a separate article about this. We show some exhibits as an invitation:

  • Concept car – a car for the veterans of the Patriotic War, small, neat, with an automatic transmission, which was supposed to make it easier for people who lost their physical ability for the motherland. Unfortunately, it did not enter mass production
  • Jet – car
  • Hovercraft.
The car for the veteran.
Jet car

Surprise #19: Amazing monuments

Chelyabinsk surprised us with a monument to a camel, and Yekaterinburg with a whole series of unusual monuments, including the monument of the invisible man, the keyboard, Michael Jackson and the automobile driver. And also a monument of the kitchen utensils.
Would you think of putting a memorial like that in your town?

The monument of the invisible man
The camel
The automobile
The keyboard
Does your spoon have a monument?

Certainty #4: field kitchen

To cook at -27C, you needed gas that supports lower temperatures.

Niva’s hood as a kitchen table

Surprise #20: Many religions in one place

On the same hill of the Kremlin in Kazan, we have a mosque and an Orthodox church (and state administration buildings). And it does not bother anybody.

On the left the mosque, on the right the orthodox church

Surprise #21: Kazan Metro

The subway in Kazan is very impressive. Here: A mosaic of a lady with a cat.


Surprise #22: Dragons

You can meet pretty dragons in Kazan.

The dragon

Certainty #5: Crowded Moscow

As expected, Moscow was crowded. The fact that we were there during New Year’s Eve, just before Christmas. Entering the Red Square required a moment to stand in line for security control.

Surprise #23: Palace of the Culture

There are several buildings in Moscow that look like siblings of the Warsaw Palace of Culture.

Palace of Culture?

Certainty #6: Parking difficulties

As we expected, parking in the centre of Moscow was not a simple operation. While on the way “to the east” we managed to park in the parking lot of the shopping mall right at the Red Square, on January 5th the whole city centre was out of traffic, and we had to park a little further to get to the Kremlin area by subway.

Huge surprise #24: Samara Space Museum

When planning the route, we somehow missed that museum. But we bent the route – it was worth it!
The picture below is just an encouragement to see the next material, which we will soon publish.


Surprise #25: cosmic tubes

A vending machine is selling Russian food produced for ISS. The only one of its kind, it stands in a museum in Samara. And what’s worse, it only works on cash.

Cosmic food from the tube

Surprise combined with the respect #26: Very special monument

Monument to the heroes of Chernobyl in Syzran.

Moment of thought

Surprise #27: Musicians

In Yekaterinburg, near the Keyboard Monument, we met the monument – a relief of the Beatles and the mural dedicated to Chester Bennington from Linkin Park.

I tried so hard
And got so far
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter…
Hey Jude, don’t make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better

Surprise #28: Saab Club Ural

In Yekaterinburg, we met the Saab Club Ural! Surprise in itself, because we did not expect a) Saabs, b) such friendly people.

Saab Club Ural

Certainty #7: People

As we discovered last year and nothing has changed: the Russians are nice, cordial and helpful people.

Surprise #29: Temple of All Religions

In Kazan, we found the only Temple of All Religions in the world. It is not a temple in the typical sense because nobody consecrated it. It is a space for artistic development, independent of religion. Developed with donations and visitor tickets, it has rooms dedicated to different religions.

Patriotic surprise: #30: Nysa!

In Cheboksary, near the closed tractor museum, we met our Polish Nysa 🙂

Why did it get there?

Surprise #31: Reindeer in Novgorod

In Nizhny Novgorod, on the main gate leading to the Kremlin, a pretty Christmas New Year’s mapping with a happy reindeer was displayed.

с новым годом!

Aesthetic surprise #32: The art is everywhere

Even in a not very interesting place, surrounded by warehouses, workshops and hovels, you can meet a piece of interesting art.


Surprise #33: Instagram

In various places on the road you can see the Instagram logo :> We don’t know on which profile you can see your picture afterwards, but the publication probably costs a lot (we didn’t check).

Russian Instagram

Surprise mixed with disappointment #34: Breakfast at the hotel

That’s what a hotel breakfast looked like. Two eggs fried and microwave pizza 🙂 But we won’t write which hotel it was.

Surprise #35: Meteorite

We thought the meteorite in Chelyabinsk was bigger.


Surprise #36: Winter stroller

The parental technical concept – a trolley with skids and wheels, switchable by lever if necessary. Natural conditions are favourable for inventions.

Trolley – sledge

Surprise #37: Modern Muezzin

In Kazan at the mosque, Muezzin doesn’t go on a minaret anymore, he just sings in the microphone from a glass booth.

The technique, sir!

Surprise #38: Praise the heroes!

In Russia, the commemoration of the heroes of the Patriotic War is taken very seriously. Here: a mosaic from Kazan made from photographs of killed soldiers.
Practically every village has a monument, with people from here mentioned by name who gave their lives for the motherland.

Surprise #39: Commercial monument

The Chocolate Fairy – a monument in Pokrov erected because of the 10th anniversary of Kraft’s branch in Russia.

Surprise #40: Europe-Asia border

We were going to this mythical place, that’s where Asia starts! And what? And nothing. There was a monument, but there was no portal to another matrix, no kerb, not even a wall of rice. Nothing, after crossing the mythical line on the map there was the same asphalt and the same forest as before.

Left Asia, right Europe

Surprise #41: The dark object of desire

Toilet paper. In every place where we stayed, there was very little of it. It doesn’t matter whether it was an apartment, a guesthouse or a hotel. In quality as below. So we invested in our own stock of paper, of such high quality.

Certainty #8: The kingdom of Lada

In a random shop with parts to Lada (and in some places, there were more automotive shops than groceries) you could roll over in spare parts and their selection. We felt a bit like children in a toy store 🙂

And what surprised you among our surprises and certainties?

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