Russia – Kazan

A slight detour off the “normal” Trans-Siberian Railway line brought us to Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia. With a quite tumultuous history going back to the mid 15th century, Kazan is now a centre of Tatar culture and proud to be recognised as such a multi-ethnic city, notably of Muslim and Christian faith.

Kazan Railway Station

Kazan Railway Station

Kazan has a different “feel” to it. Not so Russian, but more cosmopolitan. Everywhere we looked, the Kazan flag (with its coat of arms) flew alongside the flags of Tatarstan and Russia.

Kazan, capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia.

Apanaev Mosque

The Old Tatar Settlement beside Lake Nizhny Kaban contains several mosques, all with distinctive crescent moons atop green spires.

We later stumbled upon the Museum of Soviet Life; a quirky museum above some store shops. It was essentially the owner’s lifetime collection of fun (and slightly weird) Soviet related stuff. A wacky but original experience to be had!

Shall we join the Soviets?

Shall we join the Soviets?

Uhhh...sure. Where do I sign?

Uhhh…sure. Where do I sign up?

The main commercial tourist area is Bauman Street. Nearby the brick Epiphany Church with its tall bell tower, street artists perform while tourists and locals watch on from the many cafes and souvenir shops. We met up with our travelling friends, Sophie and Steve (who we initially met back in Krasnoyarsk), for lunch.

Bauman Street, from the north end

Bauman Street, from the north end

Epiphany Church on Bauman Street

Epiphany Church on Bauman Street

Kazan Federal University has an impressively ominous facade. A statue across the street of a young Lenin don’t actually mention that he was expelled from here!

Kazan Federal University

Kazan Federal University

The surrounding streets contain several important buildings with exquisite facades.

(L) Some yellow building, (C) Peter and Paul Cathedral, (R) National Library

(L) Some yellow building (probably important), (C) Peter and Paul Cathedral, (R) National Library

Peter and Paul Cathedral is heavily detailed with pastel colours over fine craftsmanship. It also bears the visible scars of flooding years ago.

Nice detailing on Peter and Paul Cathedral

Nice detailing on Peter and Paul Cathedral

A brief visit to the Kazan Hermitage museum allowed us to come face-to-face with some prehistoric friends. Notably the smiling face of a sabre-toothed tiger and Protoceratops (last seen in Mongolia, twice).

Kazan Hermitage

Kazan Hermitage

Overlooking the Kazanka River, stands the overly grand Agricultural Palace. It’s big, has some creepy gargoyles watching over it and has a giant bronze tree as its centrepiece.
Only in Russia.

Agricultural Palace

Agricultural Palace's pretty big.

Yeah…it’s pretty big.

The focal point of the city’s historic centre is the white Kazan Kremlin. Home to government offices, parks and religious buildings, this large expanse is enclosed by thick walls with multiple turret towers. Climbing these walls provides some stunning views inside and out over the city.

White Kazan Kremlin

Kazan Kremlin

Of interest is the slightly leaning 59m high Syuyumbike Tower, named after a long-suffering wife of three successive khans. The legend says that Ivan the Terrible launched his siege of Kazan as a result of Syuyumbike’s refusal to marry him. To save her city, the princess agreed to marry the tsar, but only if he could build a tower higher than any other mosque in Kazan in a week. Unfortunately he did, so she jumped off the upper terrace to her death shortly afterwards. Maybe the desperately quick construction has caused it to lean…

(TL) Another mosque, (BL) Annunciation Cathedral, (R) Syuyumbike Tower

(TL) Some blue church outside the walls, (BL) Annunciation Cathedral, (R) Syuyumbike Tower

The clear highlight of Kazan Kremlin, however, is Kul Sharif Mosque. Standing tall like an exotic Disney castle, this awesome mosque is amazing both inside and out.

Kul Sharif Mosque

Kul Sharif Mosque

Although a modern construction, it is a true masterpiece of religious architecture. There’s no two ways about it. It is photogenic from every angle!Frame 8

Inside there is a display of the history of Islam and calligraphy, as well as a visitor’s balcony to peer inside.

Inside Kul Sharif Mosque

Inside Kul Sharif Mosque

Kul Sharif Mosque is equally impressive by night.Frame 12

With its varying architecture and relaxed feel, Kazan was an enjoyable and worthwhile detour on the way to Moscow. It really provided a true reflection that Russia is actually a unique blend of many cultures the make up the largest country in the world.DSC01467

Visited 31st August to 2nd September 2014.


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