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Ural: The expedition. Part Two

Ural: The expedition. Part Two

In the previous part of the report from our expedition beyond the Ural Mountains we drove from Warsaw to Syzran. We are going on! From Tolyatti to Ekaterinburg through Chelyabinsk, Samara and Ufa. Automotive, cosmos, army and lots of snow.

The farther to the east, especially on the road called Ural Avtodroga, we saw more and more often shopping malls assembled of barracks and tin malls. We looked at what you can buy there: everything! Honey, salo, samovars, shoes, clothes, plush teddy bears and frostproof windscreen washer fluid..

We’ve come to…

Tolyatti

We started with a Christmas Eve dinner

To stay in the mood, we take a little Christmas tree and Christmas brings presents to the freezer. I mean it. It’s so absurd that the girls absolutely accept it, rolling around with laughter

And so we spend Christmas Eve..

Next day we did what we actually came here for – we visited the Lada Museum. There will be a separate note about it, now a few photos as an invitation. There will also be a film showing the history of the brand’s development (room one) and exceptional cars (room two).

At the roundabout near the factory there is a huge monument – the Lada logo. This reminds us of the SAABa trademarks in Trollhättan and Porsche in Stuttgart. Unlike the Western brands, no one here has foreseen a place to take a souvenir photo. Although parking at a roundabout is nothing special here, so maybe that’s why. If you know similar objects, let me know in the commentary.

In Tolyatti, near the Avtovaz factory, there is another interesting place – a museum of military technology. The museum presents literally everything that the mechanized army had the best and can show. Submarines, tanks, armoured transporters, planes, helicopters, radars. Additionally, in the museum building you can see a diorama about the war in Afghanistan.

And a military playground for children.

Besides, Tolyatti is just a city where people live. There are blocks of flats, shops, churches. And the Avtovaz factory.

What is important here

The Lada Museum and the Museum of Military Technology are two separate objects, in two different locations:

The Museum of Military Technologi is here
The AVTOVAZ (Lada) Museum is here

For a reason unknown to us, the guidebooks and other online travel guides mislead tourists and either present both museums as one – under the name of the AVTOVAZ Museum but with military photos, or completely ignore the existence of the automotive museum.

Samara

When we realized that Samara was so close, we decided to modify the route – to visit the space museum.

Practical tips

◾ Although you can pay for entrance tickets and souvenirs in the space museum by card, it is essential to have cash, because the space food machine does not accept payment cards.
◾ You can spend as much time as you like in a museum, even though the museum itself is not too big.
◾ An exhibition about the directors and their desks (the upper floor) does not offer anything interesting; it’s better to stay downstairs.

Ufa

We drove through this city, looking for tourist attractions. We saw a fountain of 7 girls (it probably looks more attractive in summer), a giant statue of a gentleman on horseback – Salavat Yulayev, the hero of the Pugachev uprising and a pretty mosque with minarets looking like tulips.

Ufa in 1989 was the site of a terrible railway crash. Of course, the reason was negligence. 4 years earlier, the gas pipeline had been damaged, the repairs were done as little as possible. The gas escaped and fled and … when the pressure dropped again in 1989, the staff simply increased the power of the pumps. Two trains carrying a total of about 1,300 people stopped passing by, sparks fell from under the wheels and a tragic explosion occurred. The catastrophe killed 575 people and injured between 657 and over 800. Imagine how big the explosion it was.

Chelyabinsk

The most interesting place in Chelyabinsk is the Museum of the Southern Urals and the famous Chelyabinsk meteorite.

A meteorite is just a small piece of a very interesting exhibition. We had the opportunity to look at the February and October Revolution from the perspective of the Urals. We got to know the history of local tribes and the settlement of the area by Russians (yes, there were other people there before the Russians). We were very impressed by the part of the exhibition showing the history of the Soviet Union from the perspective of the Urals (e.g. industrialization of agriculture, urban development, schools, health care).

Finally, behind the stuffed animal section is: METEORITE.

It is in a showcase, described, measured, with descriptions also in English.

Next to it is a screen presenting the whole story of the meteorite. The important thing is that the fact that the meteorite is approaching was known. It did not fall on Chelyabinsk out of the blue. It was known that it was flying and somewhere around here it would fall, 4 potential cities were selected, which were properly prepared for this event. The injured suffered from the broken glass panes. And the meteorite itself fell into a nearby lake.

Chelyabinsk was the title goal of our expedition. This is where we wanted to send postcards to our friends and acquaintances. It was not that simple. We thought that the local post office would take care of the topic. Well, no. At the post office, you could buy everything: apart from obvious products such as pens and pencils, books, crosswords, there were also: tinned food, bedding, flour, toys. In this whole shop with everything, entitled “Post Office”, the question about postcards sounded very unusual, even exotic. And it turned out that the only postcards that were available there were complete packages of postcards emphasizing the beauty of the Russian Crimea.

Finally, we managed to buy (and send) postcards from Chelyabinsk at the main post office. We found the post office just next to a nice promenade, near the monument representing camels.

Local Chelyabinsk children do not realize what a treasure they have in their yard – unlimited access to snow in winter.

It is important to remember

Chelyabinsk is not only an ordinary Russian town with blocks of flats. This is where the construction of the Trans-Siberian railway began
◾ During the Second World War in Chelyabinsk, heavy industry developed very much, it was here that T-34 tanks and katyushas were manufactured. Unofficially, during the war Chelyabinsk was called Tankograd.
◾ Today Chelyabinsk is a huge industrial centre (metallurgy, tractors, and even the largest pasta producer in Russia – Macfa).
◾ There are many cultural institutions in Chelyabinsk: theatres, opera and ballet, numerous museums (South Ural, Trans-Siberian railway, military equipment, etc.).
◾ In the centre you can see many interesting examples of constructivism in architecture.
On 8 May 2019, the Chelyabinsk State Academic M. Glinka Opera and Ballet Theatre staged the opera La Traviata under the direction of the famous Cracow conductor Tadeusz Płatek.
◾ There used to be a branch of the Warsaw Cyclists’ Society, founded by Julian Kossowski, Eng. in 1910, in Czelabinsk.

Yekaterinburg

When we were preparing to explore this city, we were surprised by a large number of unobvious monuments.

Apart from the memorials “in honor of” you can meet:
◾ a monument to a man selling perfume,
◾ a memorial of love,
◾ a memorial to friendship,
◾ a monument to the inventor of the Russian bicycle,
◾ a memorial to the motorist…

Musically:
◾ the relief of The Beatles,
◾ the Michael Jackson memorial,
◾ a mural commemorating Chester Bennington from Linkin Park.

When it comes to totally bizarre monuments, Yekaterinburg is proud to have a monument:
◾ QWERTY keyboards
◾ and a monument to the invisible man.

We drew a route covering all interesting points.

However, we did not foresee that there would be an ice town with slides at the Lenin monument. The female part of the team did not resist the possibility to slide on ice.

Generally speaking, we were surprised by this icy playground. We didn’t expect to see anything like that installed under the supervision of the Revolutionary Commander. It was much bigger and nicer than the one we saw last year in Murmansk. And then we were convinced that it was a local Murmansk initiative. As it turned out in Kazan, the ice town of Yekaterinburg could be dimmed… but let’s not anticipate the facts, we’ll write about the Kazan in the next part.

Speaking of ice, we finally had the opportunity to see how ice constructions are made. We saw pallets with transparent lumps of ice and master workers cutting and assembling the ice, creating complex structures.

Urbanly, Yekaterinburg is a strange city. Right next to the wooden house there is a constructivist concrete building, followed by contemporary glass and aluminium. The oldest part of the city seems to exist, but somehow it is disappearing among the socialist realist arteries.

The lack of the old town and the marketplace is due to the fact that the town was expanded on order.

Yekaterinburg – witness of history. In 2003, the Church of St. Nicholas Romanov was built in the place where the Romanov Dynasty ended up with a quick execution. In the basement there is a crypt with symbolic graves of the tsarist family.
The place is worth a visit, especially in Yekaterinburg, which somehow does not strongly remind us of this tragic event and in total only the Blood Church is its symbol. And it is quite close to the Lenin monument.

The last, extremely nice event was the meeting with Saab Club Ural.

It is a group of incredibly interesting people, curious about the world, focusing on an exotic brand like this region. No Saab in Yekaterinburg passes unnoticed. And not like some Porsche or Lexus this year, of which there are a lot here.

What we should remember from the Yekaterinburg
◾ St. Nicholas Romanov Blood Church
◾ memorials (friendship, love, the motorist, the bicycle, Michael Jackson, Alice in Wonderland, the invisible man, the keyboard and much, much more
Rastorguyev-Kharitonov Palace
◾ The wonderful people of the Saab Club Ural

…To be continued…


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