Just as Siberia is diverse and culturally mixed, so it is rich in various temperatures. Not for nothing this geographical part of Russia is almost a synonymous to the permafrost island. For centuries, people in Siberia have worn thermal lined clothes and shoes to protect themselves against severe natural conditions. Created with years of functionality and culture, today the traditional shoes, like the unty are still beloved by local people from Novosibirsk to Yakutsk. Not only it can keep you warm, but it can also become your most unusual Siberian winter souvenir.
Although considered the casual shoes of Evenks, the indigenous people that mainly inhabit the Russian North, the unty gained their popularity throughout the entire Siberia. Due to its high functionality and warmth, they became almost irreplaceable among typical attributes of the Siberian winter. Meaning a ‘boot’ in the Evenk language, the unty traditionally present the short fur shoes that are sewn from the reindeer hides and decorated with the skins of Arctic foxes or hare, color-blocked cloth or seed beads. Sometimes, the horsehides are used as a main material, too. There is a fur lining from the inner side, whereas the soles are made of the shear deerskin. Sometimes, you can come across the long boots as well. In such cases, the long unty are tightened around the knees with a special string.
As it was mentioned above, for a long time, the unty were exclusively worn by the people of the Far North. Interestingly, in the modern times, the unty are still manufactured following the technologies that were known to the northern inhabitants centuries ago. However, today, they present a real combination of style and comfort. A true subject of the designers’ minds, the unty are ornamented with the unusual embroidery, speckled thread and pieces of leather. Thanks to the natural materials and unique production technique, the unty are resistant to negative temperatures up to 50°C. To make one pair of boots ready, a master, as a rule, needs the hides from 2-3 legs of one animal. One can differentiate between the unty with a thick sole solely and the unty with a sole coupled together with the rubber weave that is much safer as such a sole usually does not freeze outside or let you slide. So, if you travel from Canada or Scandinavia, two places outside of Siberia with the similar climate, consider purchasing a pair of nicely decorated unty, that ultimately can become the most unusual winter souvenir you can get from this area.
Fur boots are unisex and usually suit well both men and women. Nowadays, there is a big selection available upon your taste and request. Although you can purchase the unty online, I would recommend trying them out before buying. In entire Irkutsk, there won’t be a better place to do this then in Ayhal, the Factory of the Unty. A known manufacturer’s outlet store, this brand is presented in several Siberian cities from Novosibirsk to Irkutsk. In Irkutsk, it has several filial branches, too. But to purchase your most unusual Siberian winter souvenir, you should better check the 130th Quarter. Known as Irkutsk Sloboda and located in the city center, it is a specially created zone presenting the Irkutsk historical development of wooden architecture. Along with some outstanding monuments of the city’s past, you can also find here a number of boutiques, artist’s shops, and restaurants.
Hence, by visiting the Ayhal filial branch in the 130th Quarter, you combine the best of two worlds. Not only you get the unty, your most unusual Siberian winter souvenir, but also can take a walk through the part of Irkutsk that is filled with history chronicles and local charm.
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