Trans-Siberian Railway – one of the most famous and longest railways of the world, the pride of Russia and the magnet of tourists looking for an adventure. From rainy Saint Petersburg, through a magnificent Moscow, surprisingly beautiful Kazan, socialistic Tyumen and touristic Irkutsk to the greatest jewel of my trip – Lake Baikal. A group of 40 young people from the organisation AEGEE decided to fulfill their travel dreams. This life adventure has brought many contrasts. Wealth of the former tsars vs. wooden shacks cut off from the world. Strong midday heat vs. unceasing rain and cold nights. Decorated Orthodox church vs. shamanistic ribbons blowing in the wind. Endless taiga vs. steppe without a single tree. Centers of the modern architecture vs. traditional socialist apartment buildings. Thousands of kilometres, five time zones, the quantities of powder pasta and a lot of fun- this is how my adventure looked like.
Kazan – such a surprising city
Kazan was the biggest surprise on our journey. Who would expect city so beautiful and modern hidden in between Europe and Asia? Historical monuments, riverside promenade, interesting museums, great bars and plenty of souvenir shops. Kazan has everything which you would expect from perfect holiday location.
Our first steps in Kazan lead to the most famous street in the city centre – Bauman Street. This lively street immediately caught our attention. Imagine the place where the tower of Epiphany Cathedral is proudly towering above the street. Birds are drinking from the nearby fountain. People arepassionately visiting one shop after another while the sellers of souvenir shops try to negotiate the best price. Imagine the street full of street artists. Street, where you unconsciously stop and listen to the sensual tones of street pianist. Have you ever thought of henna tattoo? Here you have a unique chance to try one from street tattoo at a low price. But be careful, do not expect a lot from that, nice tattoos will last only a few days.
It took us quite long time to get to the other end of the street. Not because it was long, but because on every step some sculpture attracted us and we needed to take thousands of pictures. In addition, while being on the most famous shopping street in Kazan, we couldn’t skip Kazan traditional food – echpochmak.
Kremlin – the pride of Kazan
At the end of Bauman Street perhaps the best known monument in Kazan was waiting for us – Kremlin. When we stood in front of the gates, watching the statue of Zilant, the most recognisable symbol of Kazan, we had still no idea what a surprise is hidden behind the walls of Kremlin. We entered through the white clock tower. Suddenly we saw something very rare. Various churches of different religions were standing next to each other. Kazan is the centre of the Republic of Tatarstan, where the population of Tatar is mixed with Russian. Kazan People have learned to respect each other and therefore we can admire Muslim and Christian churches peacefully standing next to each other in harmony.
Beautiful Kul-Sharif Mosque immediately caught our attention. If it is not enough for you to admire it from the outside you can enter and climb up to the balcony, or on the contrary, come down and see the Museum of Islam.
Legend of Suyumbike Tower
One interesting legend is associated with the next monument in Kremlin – leaning Suyumbike Tower. Kazan was formerly conquered by troops of Ivan the Terrible. Ivan liked the Tatar princess Suyumbike and forced her to take him as her husband. Unhappy princess said she would marry him only in case Ivan builds the highest tower in Kazan in seven days. Ivan, as a powerful ruler, however, mastered this job easily. Suyumbike, rather than accepting proposal of the Russian ruler, climbed to the top of the tower and jumped to her death.
Holiday spirit caught us in Kazan
Evening is coming. We are impressed by the view from Kremlin to the city below – Kazan is much greater than it seemed. Impressed by the atmosphere we turn on the music on street and started to dance spontaneously. Power of Kazan! With the feeling of holiday spirit we slowly moved down to the river. We were not the only ones enjoying sunset on Kazan´s promenade. And what could be better ending of the evening than open air picnic in the park under the majestic Agricultural Palace and a great party afterwards. Good night! The next stop on the Trans-Siberian Railway – Tyumen.