Friday, 19 April 2013


Last Monday, I had a look at the world's largest asbestos (chrysotile) mine. The open-pit mine is situated in the city of Asbest, about 85 km to the north-east of Yekaterinburg.

Coming by bus from Yekaterinburg, the traveller is greeted by a number of big signs along the road:

 "Asbest - my town and fate!"

"The factory works - the town is thriving"

"Hello Asbest - our native home!"

As it was one of the first sunny spring days of the year, schoolchildren were out for an excursion, and people enjoyed shopping at the market.

As in any decent town in Russia, the main street in Asbest is called Prospekt Lenina:

Along the way to the mine, tubes on high piles boarded the street. I shared a snack with the small dog you can see standing next to the car, about 100 meters further up the road.

After crossing some empty fields and railway-tracks that looked like a lunar landscape out of some post-apocalyptic movie, finally there is was: the mine!


The pit's size was quite impressive. I climbed down through some pine forests along the fringe, to get a better view at the excavators and trains in use to get the stuff out of the pit.


On both sides of the pit, heavily loaded trains were going back and forth, while huge excavators were noisily digging into the rock.

From the slow speed at which the trains were moving, one could get an idea about how heavily they must be charged.

On my way back to the bus station, I was wondering about how different certain things are seen in different countries. In my home country Germany, a mere allusion to the word "asbestos" would cause public panic and despair, as chrysotile is seen as a dangerous carcinogenic.

Here in the Ural mountains, people still seem to have a more relaxed attitude.

Back on Prospekt Lenina, I found another wall poster (Uralasbest is the company exploiting the mine):

"Uralasbest works - the town lives!"

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Industrial Landscapes

The other day, I went for a walk to the industrial sites in the north of Yekaterinburg. The snow had just started melting, so the roads were quite muddy.

In such cases, it's good to have a solid car, such as the Lada Niva (below and above). Walking along, I thought by myself that if I ever buy a car in Russia, it will either be a Niva, or an UAZ Hunter (beautiful design, simple, solid, reliable and Soviet).

Just afterwards, I passed by a car dealer that was actually selling UAZ hunters. So of course I went in and had a look. I was told that a basic version of the Hunter can be had for 400 000 roubles (about 10 000 Euros):

UAZ 469B (Hunter)

Another classic Russian vehicle is of course the Kamaz truck. A beautiful one was standing just outside the car dealer's shop:

Later on, I came to a part of town I hadn't been to before. It was about 6.30 pm, and traffic was dense. People were probably just coming home from work (note the Kamaz truck on the right).

A bit further on, some people enjoyed sitting outside, as it was one of the first days since early November with temperatures above 0. The babushki also looked less frozen than usual.

On the way back, I went along the railway lines, as they were less muddy than the streets.

Near our street, I came across an interesting coal loading site, but it was already too dark to take pictures. So I went home and came back there this morning. From a bridge over the railway, one could see a crane loading coal onto a train. A number of huge tubes were also stored nearby.

I went down to have a closer look, and spent some time watching the crane driver doing his work.

Then I continued walking along the railway tracks.

On a street corner, a small booth sold fruit that looked nice and fresh, bringing some colour into the industrial greyness.

I also found some interesting grafitti:

Soundtrack: Большие города (Би 2)

Sunday, 7 April 2013

The Chinese Market

In the West of Yekaterinburg, you can find the "Chinese Market" (Китайский рынок). From the centre, tramway No. 13 brings you right there.

Just before the market, the tramway passes over a bridge, to cross the Transsiberian Railway.

On the market, the traders (mainly from Central Asia and China) sell many things. Especially shoes and warm clothes are on offer. I like these kind of markets, and their atmosphere of busy trading. In a way, this is economics at its purest - supply and demand, with people from different continents meeting to buy and sell.

While most of the market was composed of makeshift tents and booths, in the centre the Chinese had built a complex of big buildings, each called after a different Asian city.

Inside, the goods on offer looked very similar to what was offered on the rest of the market, but the traders were definitely Chinese. I talked a bit with a young couple, and promised to bring them their picture the next time I would pass by.

From the upper floor, one had a nice view over the railway, the city, and the industrial landscapes outside.

Again on the street, I met some happy shoe-sellers.


As it was still very cold, the meat-sellers didn't have to care about refrigeration, and could just present their products on hooks outside their shops.

Finally, once the shopping is done, tram No. 13 carries you safely back to the city.