Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Chelyabinsk, Southern Urals, Russia

I have not written anything for a long time, but it doesn’t mean I have nothing to say. I was and I still am very busy interpreting and translating, but as winter is slowly coming to its end and I still have not written anything about it, it is the right time to do it. This winter has been a rich one. Rich in snow, rich in events, rich in short but interesting travels.

This winter we spent the Christmas holidays at my parents-in-law, who live in Kostanay, Northern Kazakhstan. It is approximately 1200 km from Novosibirsk, and it is not so easy to get there. One can drive by one’s own car, of course, but is a long way and can be dangerous in winter, when roads are empty, settlements are scarce, temperatures can be below -30 and sometimes winds can resemble hurricanes, as Kostanay lies in the steppe, which covers the most part of Kazakhstan. So we decided to go by train, and we had to change the train in the city of Chelyabinsk. In that city we spent about 3 hours and, though it was the 31st of December and it was about -16 C, we made a short city tour. On the 31st of December all people in Russia and very busy. New Year is celebrated by everyone, young and old, and everyone expects a table rich in delicious food, and presents. So shops can be full of people, and streets are usually empty. Banks, institutions usually close at 12.00 and shops may work until 17.00 or so, all this meaning we had a good chance to see Chelyabinsk nicely decorated and nearly empty.
Chelyabinsk is a city of about slightly more than 1 million people. It is situated in the Southern Urals, 210 km from Yekaterinburg, on the Transsiberian Railway. It was founded in 1736 as a fortress. There are no buildings dating back to the foundation time, but there are some built about 100-150 years ago or so. If you have interest, you may read about Chelyabinsk here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chelyabinsk. Now the city is mainly industrial, and there are no sights which one could call world-famous. Still it is a nice city, and if there is a chance to look at it, why not do it?

Before the Transsiberian Railway was built, Chelyabinsk was a small town, but the construction of the railway turned it into a big one, and further growth happened during the Soviet period and the 2nd World War when the city produced a lot for the army including tanks T34. After the war the city produced a lot for the machine building, and other industries. During the perestroika and after it the city had problems, like the whole Russia, but now it is a modern and quite wealthy city, happy to welcome visitors from Russia and abroad.

The city lies on the Miass river. It is surrounded by forests and not far from the city, according to its citizens, there are beautiful lakes. I’d be happy to visit them one day.

We knew there is a street closed for cars in the downtown, with shops, cafes and the main sights. Close to it there is an amusement park and a theatre. Close to it there was an ‘ice town’. “Ice towns’ are made everywhere in Russia where there is snow, so I cannot call it a sight, though we spend about 30 minutes there.  Then we had lunch in one of the cafes in the downtown. The prices are exactly the same as in Novosibirsk, meaning that the city is not cheap. After lunch we had about 40 minutes to look at the rest of the downtown and we had to run very fast to look at everything. The architecture resembles that of Novosibirsk, i.e. a lot of Stalin-time buildings, but there are very many new metal statues.

I liked the city. Though I cannot say it’s fantastic, it is definitely nice and deserves a tour if you happen to come there.

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