In Kazan I visited Russia’s capital of Islam culture – and what is more: A beautiful city with a long history and a grand opera.
Kazan is not on the direct route to Ekaterienburg. But my friend Gracjan and his wife Liliya (who originates from close to Kazan) told me I should pay it a visit – and so I did.
After arriving by overnight train early and finished all my “hotel-chores” (washing, charging, etc.) I found that the Kazan weather-god would not smiling down upon me. Instead he rather did some severe cleaning and it continued puring down. Also, it was quite cold (0-5°C) – “unusually cold” Russians told me for this time of the year. Lucky me!
Dressed with many layers and my isolating jacket that was originally aimed for Sibera, as well as rain proof jacket and pants, I finally started my first trip through Kazan. My first stop was the Kazan Kremlin. Of course a lot smaller than the one in Moscow, it feautured a nice church, some museums and government buildings, as well as quite a big mosque. I visited the mosque, the church (religious freedom surely is a blessing and can greatly be seen in Kazan) and the Museum for Tatar Nationhood (or similar). When I walked out of the kremlin, it had started to snow thick snowflakes.
I continued down the very nice boulevard from the kremlin into the city center, wondering why the tourist information was closed and why there were so few people around – when I suddenly realized it being Saturday afternoon. Loosing my sense for time is surely a sign of successful travelling! I had read that there was one protestant church (Luther Church) in the city and that it also held a German Society. Sadly, when I found it, it was closed. However, on my way I came along the opera house and was quite excited about it greatly advertising Carmina Burana being on this very evening. I always wanted to see Carnina Burana, so I went in to check time and price. The saleslady took a not so friendly look at me (I guess my appearance with around six layers and a thick Army jacket underneath didn’t help settling her doubts) and showed me the prices.
After a quick thought I decided to go for it and headed out to search for an ATM. Normally, in a city like Kazan, you find dozens of ATMs in the city center. So I walked up and down the streets- spotting no ATM whatsoever. I started to look for places where there could be one inside. I went into a mini-mall and alas! there was an ATM – it was out of order. I headed up to the university quarters and found another ATM inside the student cafeteria – it was out of order. So I continued down the hill, finding another big mall and a bank. Neither inside the mall nor in the bank was any ATM to be found. Outside the mall I saw one – already showing me from some distance a windows error message on it’s screen… When I finally found a working ATM, I had to run back to the opera to even get in. On my way back, it were about 2.5km, I passed – of course – around 20 ATMs…
So I made it to Carmina Burana just in time, got a nice seat and waited eagerly for “O fortuna”. When the music started – it was not Carmina Burana. A march, one act from Carmen, one piece of the Moldova, some other pieces I didn’t know. Then came the break. Luckily, I found out that the show was called “Carmina Burana plus…”, so I held my hopes up high. And yes, after the break, O fortuna came on as first and I really enjoyed it – what a show! One of those unexpected great nights while travelling.
The next day started off not any better concerning the rain. However, it cleared up quite quick. On my way to a museum on Kremlin hill, I saw one of those hop-on-hop-off busses, which I never used. Because I liked Kazan quite a lot and already thought that my stay was a little too short, I decided to give it a try and rode on it around Kazan. It turned out to be quite a good decision because I could see in which famous places I already had been and which quarters I missed. Located on the eastern side of the city I saw several smaller mosques. The locals looked at the tourist bus with joy, because some of us sat in the “open-sky area”, having 2°C outside temperature. I had about three blankets over my already winterstyle clothing…
I got off where I started: At the National Museum of the Republic of Tatatstan. There I went through the exhibition. Most things were in Russian again, but some info was also given in English. Especially interesting was the traditional Tatar clothing, very rich in color. What I need to ask Liliya however: Why used Tatars to wear dozens of coins on their clothing…?
After the museum, I met up with another couchsurfer, Lily. We had a bite to eat and very nice talks. She also helped me solving several little problems in an eyeblink. Thats what I really love about couchsurfing, getting to know locals – for their culture but also because they can answer your questions in no time! Finally I embarked the Trans-Siberian Railway already for the third time where I had again booked 3rd class. Sadly, it was an older train and what more: Very hot (I guess the peak was at around 27-30 degrees) and humid. It sure was not the best night on a train…