Plunge into the world of fairy tales & miracles in Abalak

Natalya Lisovskaya | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Siberian land is rich not only in minerals and stunning nature. This land is saturated with legends, tales and real stories. On the steep bank of the mighty Irtysh River, 20 km from Tobolsk, the village of Abalak is spread. There are two wonderful places to visit in this western part of Siberia when exploring the countryside of Tobolsk in good weather. Going to Abalak, you can see the most revered miracle-working icon in Siberia, plunge into the world of Russian folk tales and enjoy a magnificent view of the surroundings.

How to get there

© Ismagilov

The most convenient way to get to Abalak is to book a three-day tour in one of the travel agencies in the city of Tyumen. In this case, in addition to Abalak, you will see the ancient capital of Siberia, the city of Tobolsk, the village of Pokrovskoye - the birthplace of Rasputin and visit the Tyumen thermal springs. If you prefer to do it on your own, from Tyumen to you can reach Tobolsk by train or bus, and then switch to the bus to Abalak. Travel time to Tobolsk by train is 4,5 hours, by bus 2 hours, plus another 20 minutes to reach Abalak.

Abalak Znamensky Monastery

© istokphoto/SergeyVButorin

According to legend, miraculous signs have repeatedly occurred in these places. In 1585, after the defeat of the Tatar army by the Cossacks near Abalak, Nikolay the Miracle Worker allegedly appeared to the ataman Yermak and announced that the settlement of Abalak was destined to become the "dwelling place of God." After several decades, in 1636, the Abalak icon of the Mother of God (with the figures of Nicholas the Wonderworker and Mary of Egypt on the sides) appeared to the lonely local woman, whose name was also Mary. 

The Mother of God ordered the construction of a church in Abalak in the name of this icon with the aisles of two saints seen. Maria did not tell anyone about the vision, but some new formidable visions were demanding to fulfill this instruction. When the archbishop became aware of this, the construction of the temple began. A wooden temple was built in the same year. But it burned down, and three years later, a stone temple was laid in its place. Unfortunately, not all ancient buildings have survived to this day. The most ancient building of these survived places is the Znamensky Cathedral, founded in 1683.

© istokphoto/SergeyVButorin

The cathedral was consecrated in 1691. This is a unique monument of Russian art,  also called one of the most original works of Siberian architecture.

Abalak icon of the Mother of God - "the Sign"

© istokphoto/SergeyVButorin

The Abalak icon of the Mother of God, named "the Sign", was painted in 1637. The paralyzed peasant Euthymius painted the icon. And when the icon was painted, Euthymius fully recovered. This was the first miracle the icon created. Rumors about this quickly spread throughout Russia; sick people sought the icon for healing. In the 17th century alone, 130 cases of gracious help from the icon were recorded. A copy of the icon was made specifically for Emperor Nicholas II and his family, who was in exile in Tobolsk. Unfortunately, the icon of 1637 was lost. But in the temple, there is a copy of it, which believers consider miraculous, and also pilgrims flock to it.

Tourist complex "Abalak" - a portal to a fairy tale

If you leave the monastery and turn left, only 100 meters away, you will see a wooden town, stylized as an old Siberian fortress. This is the tourist complex "Abalak". Wooden figures of characters from Russian folk tales, fabulous houses felled from pine, a forge, a bathhouse, a wooden pavement - all this is a fairy tale and history at the same time. In a real hut on the chicken legs lives a real Baba Yaga, who enjoys talking to visitors, and no one is afraid of this terrible older woman from Russian fairy tales. And the hut actually turns on its chicken legs, which delights children and adults.

 Make sure you don’t miss the tavern, where you can indulge in Siberian cuisine. The freshest sterlet, chicken skewers, dumplings with lingonberries are just some of their very tasty meals. The cook will be happy to roast a piglet on a spit for you as well. If you liked the dinner and feel like having breakfast here, you could rent a room with a view of the Irtysh in the "Voivodship House". The room is designed in the old Russian style - wooden furniture, shred rugs, bead paintings, a real stove. Only fabulous dreams can occur in such a room.

© Ismagilov

People come to this place to plunge into the world of fairy tales and miracles, searching for tranquillity or a break from the bustle to understand the beauty of the world. So, when you visit this part of Siberia, don’t miss Abalak and take your chance. 

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