Monday, February 29, 2016

Kazan Pt. 1

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Last week was the Russian holiday Defender of the Fatherland Day, or better known as Men's Day so I had Tuesday off. For a few days the school couldn't decide if they were going to give us that Monday off too, and so A and I started making plans to visit Kazan. Unfortunately, they decided to make Monday a work day, but, luckily, another teacher said she would cover my Monday night class for me (Thanks, Elizabeth!). So that gave me four days off. We left Ufa at 6 am on Saturday and took a bus to Kazan. It didn't feel long going there because it was so early and we gained two hours.

I wasn't able to fall asleep on the bus because I have trouble sleeping in any position other than my stomach. We stayed at Crystal Hotel, and while I'm all about traveling cheap and staying at hostels we thought it best that we stay in a hotel because A still had to work. I was really nervous about staying here because the reviews weren't that great. Plus, it was really cheap for a hotel, and usually cheap hotels = crappy motels. Surprisingly, our room looked almost brand new. I was most surprised by how modern the bathroom looked. We also had a nice view of the train station, and despite our location on the busy rode with the train station right across we didn't hear any outside noise.

We were both really hungry when we arrived so after we dropped our stuff off and sat for a second we walked across the street to Добрая Столовая. Honestly, if it were up to me I wouldn't have even looked twice at this place, but we tried it. Boy, were we blown away. It looks like a hole in the wall but it was SO cheap and the food was good. It was so good that we visited it SIX times our four days in Kazan. Before I went to Mexico I remember reading about the street food and one blogger mentioned that you know the food won't make you sick if you see businessmen going because they can't afford to get sick. At this cafe all types of people came, and no matter what time we went it was always packed. We both got meat and potatoes (a very generous helping), soup, and a drink for about $4 for the entire meal! It was more food for one meal than you'd get for $4 in the USA. There were so many different food options too. I doubt anyone would speak English, but you can always do what I do and point to what you want, say спасибо (spasiba), and hope they don't ask you anymore questions. Okay, I'll stop talking about this cafe now.
After we ate we walked to the Kazan Kremlin which was closer to our hotel than we were expecting. We took in some of the sites from far away. It's amazing how the wall of the old city is still standing. I always try to imagine what it would be like living in such a time where you lived inside a city wall. Might be real sooner or later though if Trump is elected President, but I digress...
We first walked to кул шариф (Qolşärif Mosque). It is an amazing mosque and just the site alone is worth the walk into the Kazan Kremlin. After we admired the outside we went inside. Obviously in these mosques you need to have a head covering, and I was surprised that they let us use our hats as long as we covered all our hair. The inside was just as magnificent as the outside. I'm always amazed my the architecture of the mosques. Even the ceilings are amazing. We walked up to the balcony to admire the area where the worshipping is held then we went and bought tickets to see the Museum of Islamic Culture. Most of the information was in Russian, so I got kind of bored, but there is a giant electronic Quran in the center that you can view in English. Also, there was a video that showed how the area changed in the last couple centuries. We sat there for about 10 minutes watching the video over and over because we were so fascinated by it.
Afterwards, we walked a little ways and ended up at the Annunciation Cathedral. I was in a few Orthodox Cathedrals in St. Petersburg, but it was the first time I went with someone who is Russian Orthodox. In St. Petersburg I thought the churches were just free of seats and benches because they were more for tourists to look at then for worship, but then I realized how wrong I was. Growing up Roman Catholic I knew the Russian Orthodox Church was different, but I thought it was just a difference in the way the churches were built and maybe a few things about the mass. The Orthodox Church is so different from the church down to the fact that you have to have your head covered when you go in. Now, I haven't been to any of the older churches in Europe, so maybe they are more similar than in the United States, but I was just so amazed at how their worship.
We then walked a little bit more. It started getting cold as the sun went down, but the moon was really amazing. The Kazan Kremlin is worth the stop because the architecture and views of the city alone are breath-taking. Unless you go to the museums everything is free to go into and look at.
Finally, we finished the night by walking down Bauman Street. This is the most famous tourist street in the city. As we were walking A spotted a Museum of Illusions that we decided to go in. I will talk about it more in my next post. We then walked to the end of the street. I was really tired and exhausted from waking up early and the long bus ride that we decided to take a bus back to our hotel around 7. We stopped at the store to get some dessert and juice. I stayed up a little longer, but I was so tired that as soon as my head hit the pillow I was out like a light. I don't think I ever fell asleep so quickly in my life!

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