Vladimir Vaskevich, a blind traveler, the host of the show “Where eyes won’t lead you” and a reporter for “Special view”, created a city guide for Ekaterinburg. He told about places of interest and cultural events, that are accessible for visitors with visual impairments.
Say hello to blacksmith and Gena Bukin
You shall start your Ekaterinburg city explorations from the main pedestrian avenue in the center — called Vainer Street. Here each traveler will have a chance to fully get into the atmosphere of the capital of Ural, the smallest million-person city in Russia.
Vainer Street is always loud and crowded, with advertising and street musicians all around, though I suggest you pay attention to the sculptures. If you move along Vainer Street from Lenin to Malushev Street and on, you will come across a sculptural composition called “Friends”. This sculpture features a brutal Ural blacksmith in apron, with lush beard, surrounded by his most trustworthy friends — a dog and a horse.
About 50 meters ahead you will meet a “Peddler”. Before you didn’t need to go anywhere to buy something, you just had to wait a bit, and peddlers with goods would approach you. The job of peddler first appeared and became popular in the Western parts of Russian Federation. Usually they sold books, haberdashery and fabric. The Ural “Peddler” can offer you a big tray full of bottles of perfumes.
Audio description: photo in color. A bronze monument in the center of a wide city street. A girl and a guy, barefoot, are sitting on the semi-circular ornamented fence. They are holding hands, gently smiling, dreamily looking into the distance. The guy is dressed in shirt and trousers, the girl — in short floral dress.
Let’s walk towards the first underground passage and there cross Malusheva Street. Next to the exit from the passage you will find another sculptural composition — 2 lovers, a boy and a girl, sitting together on the fence, embraced, and looking ahead to Malusheva Street. Don’t be surprised finding some elements of real clothes when you examine the sculpture by touch. Ural winters are extremely cold, that’s why concerned citizens put socks on the bare feet of the bronze figures and hats on their heads.
There is probably no city without a place where you can rub the statue’s nose and make a wish. There is such a place in Ekaterinburg as well. Walk ahead along Vainer Street and in 20 meters you will find another great composition: a car with a driver and a banker rushing to the car. We will not describe this monument in detail, but we strongly recommend rubbing the ring on the banker’s finger, as it makes the tourists’ dreams come true.
As you walk further, you will meet “Berlin bears”, then monuments to the first bicycle creator, to Michael Jackson and even to Gena Bukin — a character from TV-series “Happy together”. Gena Bukin is much loved here, so people decided to commemorate him with a sculpture.
Audio description: photo in color. Pallid sky, and a densely build-up city quarter with objects of different architectural styles: from concrete models of constructivism to skyscrapers with glass facades.
The architecture of Ekaterinburg is very diverse. As you walk around city streets, you may find merchant houses from the end of XIX century, as well as modern buildings — take “Vusotsky” for instance, a skyscraper of 188 meters high. The 52nd floor of it hosts a sightseeing platform, where everybody can take a photo overlooking the city.
The architectural constructivism is much fully represented in Ekaterinburg. To see it all “by touch”, you will need to visit quite a unique exhibition called “Ural on the palm”, which is situated in the International Art Center “Main Avenue”. Here you can find a collection of 50 models of the most famous architectural objects of Ekaterinburg and Sverdlovsk region, in miniature.
Each model copies the original building in great detail and allows to study it by touch, feel the parameters of the building, deconstruct it partly and check what is inside. Besides, each model is accompanied by printed materials in Braille, sound descriptions, an audio guide in Russian and English languages and a QR-code. The exhibition provides a guided tour which is free for all visually impaired visitors.
Audio description: photo in color. Cloudy summer day. A lovely slim girl in dark sweater holds a carved white scripture “I love Ekaterinburg”, with a red heart placed instead the world “love”. She has long red hair, delicate face features, wide smile. There is a river behind her and skyscrapers on the far side of the river.
Walk along Plotinka and eat Ural dumplings
The story of the foundation of Ekaterinburg is closely connected with Ekaterinburg Plant. It was built in 1723, and the same year the city was founded. In order to build the plant, a dam was constructed on Iset River. The dam was rebuilt several times and today the citizens call it Plotinka. It has become the favorite place to have a walk. You should also walk there in the warm season to hear the sound of water.
I need to note here, that Plotinka embankment often hosts main city events and great exhibitions, which are open throughout the year. If you get hungry, I recommend you take well-known Ural dumplings. They are served in many cafés, and there are some good restaurants around Plotinka too.
Visit the most famous city museum and study the tactile map of Sverdlovsk region
There are as well modern museums in Ekaterinburg, very much loved by tourists. You might have heard about “Yeltsin Center” — if you happen to be in Ekaterinburg, plan a visit there. The Center also welcomes social projects, provides space for plays of inclusive theatres, invites great speakers in the areas of art and inclusion, organizes films screenings with audio descriptions. You can get the list of future inclusive events here on the link.
You can continue to explore the city in Sverdlovsk Special Library for the Blind, that owns a tactile map of Sverdlovsk region. It shows the main rivers and roads of the region, and each city is marked with a button — if you push it, you will get a brief description of the location. While studying the map, you can estimate the size of Sverdlovsk region, find the Ural Mountains and learn, where the capital of Ural is situated.
The library often organizes inclusive cultural events, such as exhibitions of the Center of Traditional folk Culture of Middle Ural, performances of poets and writers. Even if you miss these events, you will anyway be welcomed by friendly library’s employees. They will offer you to listen to the songs of the local birds, study the relief albums with various places of interest of Sverdlovsk region and go deep into the magical world of fairytales of Ural writer Pavel Petrovich Bazhov.
Plan well your night-out
You can end your busy day in one of the cozy Ural restaurants, that Ekaterinburg is famous for. I will not recommend anything in particular here, since, as they say, there is a lid for every pot.
I would suggest you check evening events. The city often organizes the performances of stand-up comedians from “Ural pelmeni”, or you can go to the Opera House or to the jazz-club “EverJazz” and enjoy some good music. Since 2020 the city also provides theatre plays with sound descriptions on a regular basis, supported by the “Special View” program. Currently there are 12 plays that have been adapted by the employees of the Library for the Blind, they are staged in Sverdlovsk Drama Theatre, Estrada Theatre, Young Spectator’s Theatre, Children’s Philharmonia, Ural Center of Folk Art and Puppet Theatre. The library employees will provide any up-to-date information about future performances with audio descriptions.
If you decide to stay in Ekaterinburg for a couple of days, I shall recommend you visit one of the biggest military equipment museums. There are more than 500 exhibits spread on the territory of 8 hectares: tanks, airplanes and weapons of the times of the Great Patriotic War. You could even find submarines and trains imitating railway stations. You will not be allowed to touch each and every exhibit, but you will definitely get great impression and positive emotions from the scale of the exhibition. Some of the vehicles are still working and usually participate in the May 9 parade.
The museum of military and automotive equipment of “Ural Mining and Metallurgical company” is located in the suburb of Ekaterinburg — in Verhnaya Pyshma. By the way, when you pronounce “Pyshma”, put the emphasis on the second syllable. Do not be confused, like many tourists usually do, as the locals may take offense.
Ekaterinburg is closely connected with the last days of the Russian Royal family. You will study the tactile model of the house of engineer Ipatiev in the “Ural on the palm” exhibition, and you can learn about the investigations of the circumstances of the death of the Royal family and their servants in the monastery in Ganina Yama (Ganya’s Pit).
There is a project called “Special tour” that has been developing in Ekaterinburg since 2018. It offers free accessible sightseeing tours around city’s and regional attractions for people with different types of disabilities. Before you go to the capital of Ural, take a look into their Vkontakte group, as it may happen, that the dates of your trip will coincide with one of such tours.