A Pedacito of A Urals Forest, Russia
Updated: May 13, 2021
The Ural Mountains, or simply the Urals, are a mountain range that runs approximately from north to south through western Russia, from the coast of the Arctic Ocean to the river Ural and northwestern Kazakhstan.
Yekaterinburg is the fourth largest city in Russia and sits in the heart of the Ural Mountains. Historically famous as the city where the Royal Imperial Romanov family was executed in 1918, the city is now considered the administrative center of the Ural Federal District of Russia. Just outside of the city are numerous parks and forests that make for perfect day trips.
I was in Yekaterinburg to visit the birthplace of my fiancé. Though there is plenty to see and do in the city itself, her favorite activity is to walk through the neighboring Ural forests. We would wake up early in the morning and borrow a friend’s car. Next, we would drive to another of her friend’s houses to pick up his dog. The friend, who was busy with work, rarely had time to take his dog on a proper walk, and so my fiancé had offered to take the dog with us whenever we visited the forest.
Depending on which park or forest you visit, the drive time can be anything from thirty minutes to one hour. Outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg, driving on Russian roads is an adventure in and of itself. Potholes, mud bogs, and ice patches all make driving in Russia a risky business for those who haven’t grown up in such conditions. That’s not even including the occasional blizzard, which has the potential to leave visibility almost non-existent.
As a native Floridian, I was not prepared for just how cold a Russian forest in the Urals can get. Most days, the temperature averaged below ten degrees Fahrenheit, and I found myself wearing two pairs of long johns, socks, and pants to go along with my ridiculously thick jacket. I felt like a marshmallow, but it was absolutely necessary.
As we would walk through the Urals forest, I couldn’t help but feel like a character in some Dostoevsky novel. The perpetual grey skies, the tall leafless birch trees, the crunching sound of thick fresh snow underfoot, all led to an eerie feeling of loneliness and isolation. If I hadn’t been with my girl, I have to admit that I would have probably gotten lost within the first five minutes.
Everything in the Urals forest looked the same. If it hadn’t been for our canine companion, I would have been afraid of wolves or bears. My fiancé assured me that she had never encountered such animals in the forest. Still, it felt like the kind of place where such sightings might occur.
However, despite my timidity and the slow loss of feeling in my fingers and toes due to the freezing temperatures, I still found the place both peaceful and mysterious.
Along the edges of the forest were seemingly endless fields of tall grass. Although walking through these fields was often tedious, I found these areas to be incredibly beautiful. Occasionally the skies would open up, and the sun would break through.
The light would reflect off of the tops of the grass and turn them into a lovely golden brown color. After walking for a few hours and seeing very little color other than white, the juxtaposition made these fields look even more beautiful.
I was told by my fiancé and her friend that in Russia it is considered bad luck to pick these blades of grass and bring them home as decoration. Of course, they told me this as they began pulling the blades from the ground. They both had plans to bring them home and put them in large vases. When we got home and presented the decorative grass to our pet bird, he was thrilled with the new playground.
It has been explained to me that visiting Russia during the winter is a terrible idea. Everything is covered with snow, and it is too cold to really enjoy anything. Although I’m sure that the parks and forests in the Ural Mountains are even more spectacular during the summer months, I still found the Urals forest to be beautiful and the experience worthwhile.
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