Savior Tower - the main entrance to Kazan Kremlin
I have a good tradition of taking a trip as my birthday gift for myself. This year I decided not to go abroad but explore some part of my country. Bearing in mind its size, I can travel to a new place every year till I am a very very old woman. Kazan has been on my travel list for a long time so I made up my mind very easily and quickly. This mixture of Islam and Orthodox cultures made me leave crazy Moscow and go to the capital of Tatarstan which is also a city in the Russian Federation.
There are several options how to get to Kazan. I decided for train since the railway stations both in Moscow and Kazan are in the center so I don’t need to spend hours in traffic jams trying to get to the airport especially in my city. There is a train called “Tatarstan” leaving at 10.08 pm and arriving to Kazan at 9.08 am. The tickets I purchased at Service Bureau of World Trade Center Moscow where my office is located. Two-way ticket costs 5,000 RUB (around $ 200).
My random travbuddies on the train were 3 Tatar men going back to Kazan from business trips in Moscow (I was leaving on Friday night). We had a nice chat about what to visit in the capital of Tatarstan and I heard my favorite question (asked for the 1000th time I thinkJ) “Are you traveling by
yourself??? How come?” Yes, guys, a girl can travel by her own and REALLY enjoy it, have fun and be safe.
Flowers infront of Savior Tower
I arrived to Kazan on a sunny morning July 19. My constant desire to get to know a new place as soon as I get out of the train/plane made me not to pick up a cab but to walk to my hotel. On the map it seemed very close to the railway station. My luggage consisted of the smallest suitcase I have, a backpack with my video camera, a bag and a tripod • not too much stuff really • and I found it OK to take a walk. Well, if you are traveling with light luggage and love walking you may repeat my experience, otherwise you better take a taxi • it must be about 120 RUB (less than $6).
Of course my first destination in the city was Kazan Kremlin.
Entrance fee is 20 RUB (less than $1). I passed by Savior Tower and walked in the Kremlin • white walls, brick pavement. I followed the left side, passed by a kind of gate and was amazed by Kul-Sharif Mosque. It is for sure the dominant of the Kremlin. The mosque brings us reminiscence of the formerly existed splendid mosque of Kazan Khanate demolished in the XVI century. Kul Sharif was a preacher of that mosque. He was at the head of the battle of 1552 defending the town together with his 200 disciples - shakirds. Now the rebuilt mosque fulfills not only religious but also cultural and educational functions, it will include a museum of Islam culture of Volga region, a museum of old manuscripts and a library.
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I have never been to a mosque before so I didn’t wan to miss such an opportunity. The first thing I was surprised by was that I didn’t have to take off my shoes • all the visitors instead were asked to wear a kind of shoe covers.
Tourists and especially Orthodox people like me are not allowed into the main hall so I had to follow to the balcony. Just below it there is a women’s hall and on the first floor there is the main • men’s • hall all covered with Persian carpets. It wasn’t the service time that’s why the mosque was empty. I am not sure whether tourists are allowed in during it but it would be interesting to watch people doing a Mohammedan prayer.
The mosque is the center of the Kremlin and surrounded by the typical Russian walls and towers easily found in any Orthodox monastery. All together it does produce a weird picture. The next attraction was Annunciation Cathedral. It was founded by Ivan the Terrible on October 2, 1552. At first a wooden church was erected here just for 3 days. Construction of the white stone five-domed cathedral started in 1556. Well-known Pskov craftsmen directed by Postnik Yakovlev and Ivan Shiryai (they also built St.
Basil’s Cathedral on the Red Square in Moscow, erected after the victory over Kazan in 1552) it together with the construction of the fortress’ walls and towers. Main theme of the cathedral’s interior frescos is dedicated to the history of miraculous icon of St. Virgin of Kazan. Close to the cathedral there is a nice small park with banches hidden under the trees and a monument to Postnik Yakovlev and Ivan Shiryai.
Standing infront of Kul-Sharif
It would look like an Orthodox monastery if not for Suyumbike Tower next to it. It is a Kazan landmark representing both Tatar and Russian architectural traditions. They say that the Tower was built in the late XVII century as the highest watch tower of the Kremlin, 58 m high.
The name of the Tower comes from the name of the wife of the last Kazan Khan. The legend says that Ivan the Terrible heard about her beauty and sent his ambassadors to propose Suyumbike. It is believed that her refuse to marry him made the Tsar to send his troops to conquer Kazan. The wise woman agreed to accept his proposal then but with one condition: in a week Ivan’s craftsmen were to build a tower higher than all minarets in the town. They fulfilled it. During the wedding, Suyumbike asked permission to look at the town from the top of the tower before she leaves her home forever. After she reached the top she threw herself down.
Kul-Sharif in its beauty
Suyumbike tower is a falling one but don’t expect it to be like one in Pisa. It seems to fall depending on the point of view.
Behind the Tower there is the Residence of the President of Tatarstan, popular for pictures among Tatar people.
What I liked is the view from this point • Volga and Kazanka rivers and the city beach.
Kul-Sharif's minarets heading to the sky
In the Kremlin there are some museums but the weather was too fine to spend time indoors so I left the Kremlin and took Bolshaya Krasnaya Ul. The reason for it was one of the most important Orthodox holy icons • St. Virgin’s of Kazan. Now the icon is kept at the Our Lady’s Monastery. I was a bit surprised by this tiny place - very few pilgrims, the cathedral is partly under reconstruction and no pathos that you can sometimes explore in some popular holy places in Russia. Here I saw just icons and people with their candles and grieves. I liked the place! As I left the monastery, I met an old pilgrim named Nikolay. We talked and I had an impression I was talking not to a real person but to someone immaterial. He said that everything would be OK with me. I believed.
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