As we get closer to Kazan, it is becoming more populated. Villages are closer together. Houses now have vegetables or other plants in their backyards . Glass houses have also appeared.There are areas of open farmland with crops and even goats. We haven’t seen much livestock but there is the odd goat, no not us, the furry ones.The soil is darker, richer.
Kazan has been invaded by many different groups in its history and as a result, it is the home for many different ethnicities. At one point, the Turks invaded and many people adopted the Muslim religion. These became the Tartar people. In 1552 Ivan the Terrible, seized the city and moved the Tartar people away from their merchant businesses and the Volga river to an Area on the Lake near the Volga region. We visited the area where the Tartar lived. The houses that have survived time and the Communist era have now been restored. They have become shops and restaurants.
Tartar people are distinguished by their colourful decorated houses, and costumes. They wear beautiful leather boots which have a hand stitched design joining the leather pieces to form a waterproof garment. ( No I didn’t buy any)! We were entertained by a trio who showed us the music and instruments distinctive to this culture. It is a little bit Arabian night bellydance fused with gypsy mouth harps. Dancing is heel toe leaps fast skipping with graceful hand movements. Their string instrument is called a Dobra.I did not manage to learn any Tartar other than Salam (hello) and ChukChuk ( snacks) and forget Russian, my tongue refuses to get it right.
Kazan has two distinct language groups, Russian and Tartar. Both are taught in schools and used in all lessons. People are proud of their unique history and this is reflected in the city having two symbols: the dragon and a winged snow leopard. These are displayed near a huge cauldron shaped building. This reflects the legend that said the city site was chosen when a leader asked a wise person where they should build the city. They were told if when they poured water from their bowl into a river and it appeared to boil then that was the place. The cauldron shaped building on the Lake is now for the registration of marriages.
Our impression of this city is one of pride in its rich history and future. The streets are wide boulevards with beautiful buildings from the Kremlin ( which means fortress) to modern buildings. Old buildings have been maintained and swathes of parklands mean the tall apartment buildings have open space. A truly magnificent fusion of old and new.
You cat lovers would enjoy another unique story of Kazan. Catherine the Great had a little mouse problem in the winter palace in St Petersburg. She said the cats of Kazan were fat and fertile so must be good mousers. She sent for 27 Kazan cats. The descendants of these cats are handed out as kittens one day every year in St Petersburg. If you have a mouse problem, forget the trap and get a Kazan cat!
Following a class in Tartar cuisine, we can now make Cornish pastries, Tartar style, noodles for soup and a fruit desert. This was made using a flattened piece of dried fruit and filling it with a cream ,nut and fruit mixture before rolling it.
In Russia ,there are 23 Republics, each with their own parliament . This year the President of each republic will be given a new name as power is relinquished to main Russian President. This does not appear to be popular with many of the outer regions of Russia but was the agreement made when the republics were formed at the end of the Soviet Union.
Moscow here we come.