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A vibrant metropolis with a gritty exterior, Yekaterinburg is technically in Asia – but only just. The nearby stunning Ural Mountains showcase Russia’s vast, natural beauty, which you should definitely check out on these day trip getaways.
Feel smug by being in two places at once at the European-Asian border, just 17 km (11 miles) away from Yekaterinburg, where an unassuming obelisk marks the spot. If you’re lucky however, you might come across a bride and groom getting their photos taken as part of the obligatory post-ceremony photo jaunt, where newlyweds pose in front of various landmarks, the continental border naturally being on the list. Right off the highway, the border is a taxi- or car-only kind of affair. There’s probably not a full day’s work here, so combine it with the Ganina Yama, the old mining pit where the Romanov family were thrown into after execution. Nowadays it’s a monastery complex with seven chapels, nestled in the woods just outside the city, and is a tranquil homage to the fallen family.
Get lost, but not too lost, in the Ural’s rugged beauty as you hike through Olenyi Ruchyi, or Deer Stream nature park. About 100 km (62 miles) south west of the city, the 12,700 hectare park exemplifies the beauty of the region – here you can see limestone formations and caves as you trek along the Serga River, through forests of lush conifer trees typical to the Siberian Steppes. You’ll likely see little deer, but keep an eye out too for beavers, elks and hogs. Unless you’re an intrepid well-seasoned hiker, it’s probably best to go through a tour or take a guide.
Eccentric and magical, the fairytale creation of Sergey Kirillov, a blacksmith local to Kunara, is found in the small village about 70 km (44 miles) out of Yekaterinburg. His actual home, Kirillov transformed the rundown cottage into an ornate masterpiece while restoring it upon inheriting the cottage from his grandfather in 1951. His hobby turned into passion and a life-long project, filled with impressive imagination and craftsmanship. House decoration is somewhat of a tradition in Russia, and this exquisite beauty incorporates fairytale and Soviet imagery both on the façade and inside the home. While Kirillov has passed away, his wife, Lydia, still proudly lives in the family home. Watch here for a virtual tour.
Just on the city periphery is the Military Technology Museum in the satellite suburb of Verkjyay Pyshma. Home to one of the largest collections of vintage military and armoured vehicles in the world, the vast collection is still growing. There are several thousand historical vehicles here, including tanks, submarines, planes, fighter jets, as well as artillery from France, USA, UK as well as Russia and the USSR, many of which are regularly used in Victory Parades and celebrations. If the size of it appears slightly overwhelming, take one of the many tours they offer to wrap your head around it all, or just a section of the collection. The museum also focuses on contextualising the Soviet Army’s Ural Divisions efforts in the great Patriotic War, otherwise known as World War II.