Some mountains form the borders of large regions and large countries, but this mountain range is the border of an entire continent. The Ural Mountains mark the end of Europe, which begins thousands of miles to the west on the Portuguese coast. Dividing Russia into two parts, these magnificent mountains stretch from the Kara Sea to the Kazakh Steppe. A trip through the Urals usually begins by exploring Yekaterinburg, a major city in the region. Next, you will go deep into the valleys, where you will find forests and cross rivers. In short, a trip to the Urals is an adventure in an incredible area at the junction of two continents.
Surface area : 1800000.0 km2
Population : 12000000 inhabitants
Time difference : The UK is 6 hours behind in winter and 5 hours behind in summer.
Most shops are open from 9:00am to 8:00pm Monday to Saturday, although some close for lunch. Some grocery shops are open on Sundays.
There is a wide choice of souvenirs to take back home, starting with the essential bottles of vodka, tins of caviar (ensure you take note of how to store them), matryoshkas (Russian dolls), ushankas (fur hats) and, for collectors, badges and medals bearing the effigy of Lenin, stamped with the red star or the hammer and sickle. As for luxury products, clothing, alcohol, cigarettes and perfume, the local markets are full of cheap counterfeits. Traditional handicrafts (varnished wooden boxes, china figurines, amber necklaces, embroidered scarves, icons, etc) and furs (fox, mink,etc) are safe buys, but exporting antiques is strictly forbidden.
Russian cuisine is very diverse and, in general, tables are lavishly decorated. Russians begin their day with a fairly substantial breakfast, which is followed by a light lunch around 2:00pm. The evening meal is bigger and is eaten after 7:00pm.
Although the Urals are a mountain region, some parts of the local cuisine are influenced by seafood. Salmon and sturgeon are commonly found in dishes, and although crayfish do not come from the sea, they are also included on the menu. As for the rest, Russians eat lots of different kinds of meat, particularly pork and mutton. All meat is boiled or well-cooked, and you will find it difficult to find a rare steak like the ones in Europe.
It is difficult not to mention caviar, a well-known luxury product bought in tins or by weight. 1g costs approximately 85p, and smaller portions usually consist of 100 or 125g of caviar.
Vodka is available everywhere and is part of everyday life in Russia. It lines the shelves in the supermarkets. Make sure you drink factory-made brands that are bottled and labelled rather than the local kinds that could have come from anywhere. Otherwise, you could easily end up drinking poor quality vodka that has been made with strange ingredients.
It is best to visit the Urals between May and September. The temperatures are milder, and it can even be quite hot. Throughout the rest of the year, you will be faced with temperatures as low as -30°C.
As an added precaution for all trips: take photocopies of your passport and ID photos with you. These will be very useful in the event that you lose these documents.