Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Kazan, adventure to the Republic of Tatarstan!

Our trip to Kazan began at the main bus/train station in Yaroslavl in order to take a 4 hour express train to Moscow and then from there take our 12 hour train to Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan. The trains I feared would be really old, creaky and very uncomfortable and just plain weird; but they weren’t bad at all and it was a cool experience being on a train where you can sleep on (your tables if you’re located on the side turns into a bunk).

Musa Dzhalil monument

After getting to Kazan, we right away had a city tour of the Kremlin where Ivan the Terrible once reigned to other sites that provide culturally insight to this interesting city. Tatarstan is located inside the Russian Federation, but has its own governor and that kind of stuff. I guess I could compare it to Puerto Rico, being a commonwealth of the United States; except Puerto Rico isn’t located inside America. As you can see the republic is named after the Tatars, the town’s name literally meaning ‘cooking pot’ in Tatar. It’s interesting to note that street signs and train stops are displayed and announced both in Tatar and Russian, both living in harmony and there being no tension. The main religion seems to be Islam even though you can find Orthodox Christian and even Catholic churches in Kazan. The town is also located on the Volga River and is known to be the ‘Istanbul of Russia’.

Some of the sites we saw were: a mosque (Kul Sharif) inside the Kremlin, the university where Lenin and Tolstoy themselves studied, Annunciation Church inside the Kremlin, Syuyumbike Tower (where a legend goes that a princess who was supposed to marry Ivan the Terrible asked him to build this tower and then killed herself by throwing herself off), the Musa Dzhalil monument outside the Kremlin and other places around Kazan.

Our second day we headed to Elabuga, a town about 3 ½ hours outside of Kazan (for some reason I thought it was only an hour outside Kazan!) Here there was a really nice view of the nature around Elabuga. We also saw the “Elabuga Ancient Settlement Site” which is “Дәүләт Тарафыннан Саклана” which from Tatar to English means “Protected by the state”. The town is known as an ancient merchant town on the banks of the Kama River. While in Elabuga we went to two museums, the Shiskin Museum (a Russian artist) and the Tsvetaeva Museum (a Russian poetess). Both of these museums were set up as the creepy museums I dislike, where it’s actually the home of the person.

One of our last excursions was to the Raifskii monastery back in Kazan. Here there is natural reserve where there is a lake, a forest and a sainted spring in which people take water to bring back home for the digestive systems. Also, if you wash your face in the water you’re said to become younger/take some years off your life (not in the sense of dieing earlier but get younger). We also visited a Tatar kind of model village which functions as a place for kids to play in with a park and indoor restaurant with a bar for kids (instead of alcoholic drinks there is juice and candy as well).

Then we headed back to Moscow and then to Yaroslavl where we were actually greeted with warm and sunny weather- unlike now where it’s already hitting the 30s and we’ve had some flurries. But, none the less, Kazan was a good get away from Yaroslavl for the week and we had no class so what could be better than that!?

Tomorrow Fall Break starts which is even MORE exciting! Especially since I’ll be doing some traveling around Europe! I’ll take advantage in those countries to use the internet and finish uploading the pics to these posts. And of course, write about those trips as well!

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