November 26, 2012 by dsalkowski
After Moscow, we took another all-night train, this one to Kazan. That was a while ago already, but I was feeling a little blogged, and the Russia travel blog market had become saturated, so I’m just now getting to the third of the trilogy.
The main idea of Kazan is that, while it is geographically located in Europe, it is culturally the door to Central Asia. It is the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, a federal subject of the Russian Federation. The city is divided into two parts – Tatar and Russian, each speaking mostly just its own respective language. While two days were not enough to notice any significant cultural tensions, the contrast in development level between the two sectors was pretty stark.
The main attraction of the city is the Kremlin. Like the whole city, the juxtaposition is striking; there you can see a beautiful, traditional Russian Orthodox church right next to an imposing and elegant mosque, since it is the Muslim capital of Russia.
Other than the Kremlin, the main attractions are a few pretty nice pedestrian streets and a nice, but inaccessible coastline along the Kazanka and Volga rivers, as well as the university where Tolstoy began to study and from which Lenin graduated. And, although I wouldn’t call it a major attraction, we also visited a museum to Tukay, the greatest Tatar poet you’ve never heard of. We went there under the misconception that it was a museum to old Tatarstan.
We ended the trip with the longest train ride yet (still only 23 hours) back to Peter. We were lucky to have a company of a charming old couple, a rowdy Uzbek and a really nice young graphic designer. Quite an ideal coupe. Heading back west – towards home, technically – it occurred to me that Kazan was the farthest I’ve ever been from home. It certainly felt it.