Kazan – Unexpected Surprise….
Sort of. Originally when we decided to take the Trans-Siberian train we had 2 must see cities which were Yekaterinburg and Lake Baikal. We needed to be in Saint Petersburg a day before the football match, however, the way the trains ran, we would either be late for the match or in Saint Petersburg 2 days before our confirmed hotel, so our travel agent suggested we stop in Kazan.
We took the overnight train again and this time the train instead of 2 berths had 4 berths. That being said, we were the only occupants. Getting used to training through Russia, we purchased the necessary foods/drinks for this trip to save on costs.
We arrived into Kazan around noon and our guide was there to greet us as we departed the train to take us to the hotel. We had a few hours to rest, shower, and regroup before she started the tour of Kazan.
We started with the Opera, Lenin Statue, City Hall, and Government Building before heading to lunch which included us to cook a meat pie type of dish. The lunch itself was extremely tasty, and very filling. Each of our tours included 4 courses which was more than we typically eat. Excellent food, but one needed a nap after all of this or walk 5 miles. After lunch the chef came out to explain how to make this stuffed pastry and luckily the poor woman had patience. We each made one, and while she would then bake them, we took a tour of a typical Tartar neighborhood.
The neighborhood although touristy still retained its charm and folks were still living in the area. We saw the oldest mosque dating back to 1786, and houses which were typical of the Tartans.
After touring the village, went back to pick up our chicken pies and they smelled delicious. We figured we would eat these tonight for dinner. It was a nice foray into the Tartar culture.
The next phase of the tour included the Kremlin, which is the 2nd largest behind the one in Moscow. Kremlin actually means fort, so inside of the Kremlin you will see a mosque, a church, monastery, offices, etc. As it sits on a hill, you can see the Volga, the largest river in Russia. From the Kremlin, our guide took us to the new area of Kazan which we were to see another typical Tartar village from earlier days unlike the earlier one we saw. But first we saw a flower show in the local park and wandered through before heading to the village. I think this was a surprise for our guide as she was snapping photos of the show.
At this point it was about it was early evening and our guide dropped us off at our hotel. Mark and I wandered down to the pedestrian street which was quite lovely. Architecture reminded us of France, and the streets were full of restaurants, shops, and bars. Everyone was out enjoying themselves as the sunlight continues to shine until well into the late hours.
Iranians fans were in Kazan enjoying themselves and getting ready for the next day’s match. Enjoyed the evening and went back to hotel.
We still weren’t hungry as lunch was so filling, figured we would take the pies with us and have for breakfast. We had a fridge, and figured we were good to eat in the morning.
One thing I love about our tours in Russia, they didn’t start until 10:00 am. For those who are early birds may not be the best, but for us, it worked out perfectly.
We headed to an island which was about 1-1.5 hours away, except we got stuck in traffic and it took much longer which to us was no big deal, but for our guide who had lunch confirmed at a restaurant she panicked a bit, but got over it quickly.
Sviyazhsk island is an UNESCO site which was founded in 1551. It was a fortress which was built by Ivan the Terrible and his men. They needed to rest before attacking Kazan. It took about 28 days to build. From here Christianity was spread to Russia.
The island is adorable and people still live here, and we're sure it sucks for them with all the tourists descending upon them. It was interesting to see, and nice to get out of the city to enjoy more of the countryside.
As we headed back, we were about an hour or so late for our lunch. Meanwhile a town meeting with the Economic Minister of the Tartar region, along with other people of the government was going on, and when we walked in they looked at us like who the hell are you people?
The manager put us in a cute exclusive room for our lunch, meaning please don’t interrupt us while we have important topics to cover. After another 4-course meal.
After touring around all day we made our way back to the hotel to rest for awhile before being picked-up to be taken to the train station. Our guided arrived at 7 pm to then take us to the train for our last night on our Trans-Siberian route. The next morning at 7 am we would arrive in Moscow, and so ends a wonderful journey. It’s sad to think only 13 days previously we were boarding the train in Beijing, excited to see Russia and now we embark on the next part of the Russia excursion.