Every developed country in the world has at least one city that is extremely industrial with massive factories shooting out plumes of smoke from giant chimneys creating artificial and unnecessary grayness. When I think of Russia, Chelyabinsk comes to mind.

        Chelyabinsk is a city of over a million residents located at the southern end of the Ural mountains. The city is relatively spread out, taking up a large area of land, and seems to have a ring of factories completely surrounding it. No matter from where you come, it seems like the first or last thing you see of the city is a huge maze of rusty brown pipes with towering smoke stacks. The outskirts of the city is so ugly, it actually has an intriguing beauty to it like a hideous monster you want to look away from, but just can’t. The center of the city, however, feels more like an eye of the storm. A beautiful, calm place surrounded by gray ugliness.

        I arrived to Chelyabinsk by bus, its final destination being a massive transportation hub including the bus station, and both the long-distance and local train stations. I met up with a local, Alexandra, who had a car. Therefore, getting around was much easier, but I had much more trouble orienting myself.

        The sights to see, much like the city itself is a bit spread out. Luckily, there is enough to see and do in the center of the city that it is worth a long relaxing walk. The park in the center features a large church built in the style more common in western Europe rather than the traditional Russian orthodox onion-domed churches. The park also has an elaborate monument with the bust of Lenin.

        About a block away from the park, there is a large square with one of the biggest Lenin statues standing on a relatively high pedistal. Directly opposite the Lenin statue is the beginning of a nice, brick pedestrian walkway surrounded by shops and scattered with several metallic sculptures. These metal sculptures attract many photo takers, and the street is filled with people waiting for their chance to sit in a metallic carrage or hold the hand of a metallic artist, or sit next to metallic Pushkin, or sit on a metallic camel. The camel, by the way, is the symbol of the city. Chelyabinsk has historically played an important role in trade between Europe and Asia. On the far end of the pedestrian street is the theatre, and just beyond that, the River Miass runs perpendicular to it.

        Some of the other sights of the city is out of the way, so I was fortunate enough to have met Alexandra who was willing to drive around. The university building in Chelyabinsk is an amazing bit of Stalinesque archetecture comparable to Moscow University. Not far from the university is a huge monument to a famous scientist who split the atom. Continuing on our drive, I no longer knew where we were. Judging from the fact that we were surrounded by ugly rusted pipes, I could only guess that we had exited and reentered the city. Upon reentry, we stopped off at a park which could more accurately be called an open air museum specializing in military vehicles. Going back further into the city, we stopped off at a large gazebo like structure not far from the only McDonalds (newly opened) in Chelyabinsk. The pillars of the gazebo was in the shape of tree trunks, and just underneath the blue roof was a couple reaching out to kiss. This place, known as the lovers dome, was a popular spot for couples to spend their time. One of the last places Alexandra drove me to was a second, much smaller Lenin statue. We had been driving around so much that I would not be able to retrace my steps to this location. On the whole, I had a great time in Chelyabinsk.

        When I think of Chelyabinsk, I think of the proverb ‘You can’t judge a book by its cover’. Entering Chelyabinsk can make you think what in the world did you come here for. But once you go beyond its dirty exterior, you enter into an area with a rich culture and a long history. Chelyabinsk has much more to offer than it’s industrial exterior seems to portray.

 

Filed under: Urals

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