TWO MILLION BRICKS
Walking down the central street of Bauman, in the Russian city of Kazan, we will come across a monument so impressive that it will leave us speechless. Among the classic white buildings that populate this pedestrian street, stands out a majestic brick tower that, thanks to its great height and its spectacular beauty, manages to attract all eyes. It is the bell tower of the Epiphany Cathedral; a watchtower separated from its temple. The bell tower and the cathedral are so different that not only are they just a few meters between them, but it seems that an entire abyss divides them... And that´s precisely what makes this architectural ensemble so irresistible!
The Epiphany Cathedral´s bell tower is one of the tallest buildings in Kazan, thanks to its mighty 74 meters high. This tower also has a rich decoration based on beautiful geometric designs that perfectly match the two million bare red bricks that make it up. Built at the end of the 19th century, this tower has a spectacular viewpoint at the top, from where we can dominate the centre of Kazan. To climb to this viewpoint, we must climb an imposing iron staircase that, escorted by thousands of bricks, runs vertically through the bowels of the tower.
After enjoying the vertiginous panoramic view that this bell tower offers us, we can take the opportunity to visit the Epiphany Cathedral, the oldest building in Kazan. The historic Russian Baroque-style monument with blue roofs and shiny golden domes that we can admire today is the result of several reconstruction works carried out over time on an original 17th-century church. Its last restoration took place recently, after the end of the Soviet era, and it was at this stage that the Epiphany Cathedral was transformed into a gymnasium!
Epiphany Cathedral’s Bell Tower
Bauman St, 78, ?.2,
Kazan, Republic of Tatarstan, Russia, 420111
A MUSEUM DESSERT!
The city of Kazan is one of the oldest in Russia. It was founded by the Volga Bulgarians in the year 1005 to strengthen their northern border. Legend has it that when the Volga Bulgarians arrived in this area, a sorcerer advised them to found a city where they could boil water in a cauldron, but without using fire. Thus, was born the city of Kazan, which in the Tatar language means “cauldron”. In fact, the word "kazan" has survived to this day and is still used today to refer to a round cast iron pot, known as a "kazan pot".
This beautiful city, whose name is so linked to the kitchen, has a delicious and very varied gastronomy. Among the most typical dishes of Kazan, there are many dishes made with beef, such as the traditional tartar, based on minced raw meat. We will also find Gubadiya, which is a beef pie, and Cheburei, made of dumplings stuffed with ground beef. But if there is something that makes Kazan´s gastronomy special, it is its sweets made with honey, among which stands out with force the Chak-Chak, the king of desserts of the Tatar region.
The Chak-Chak is a sweet made from small rolls that are made from unfermented wheat flour dough. These buns are fried in olive oil and then soaked in honey to shape the dessert into a sweet conglomeration of buns.
This sweet is so important in regional cuisine that it even has its own cultural centre in Kazan. This is the Chak-Chak Museum, dedicated to spreading many Tatar traditions, especially the culinary ones. In this museum, in addition, interesting masterclasses are organized in which you learn to prepare these Tatar delicacies.
Ulitsa Parizhskoy Kommuny, 18?,
Kazan, Republic of Tatarstan, Russia, 420021
A FEW FELINE PURCHASES…
If there is one thing that becomes clear after visiting Kazan, it is that the cat is a very important animal in the history of this capital. The protagonist of some of the most relevant legends in the chronicles of the region, the Kazan Cat is currently a ubiquitous figure in this city. Walking through Kazan, we will find images of this cat in many places, such as street sculptures, paintings or old prints and, of course, also in the form of small figures that are sold in all the stores of regional products and that are a magnificent souvenir of our passage for this elegant capital. Let´s see where this town´s love for kittens comes from!
In the 15th century, after being invaded by the Mongol state called the Golden Horde, the city of Kazan became the capital of the Tatar Khanate of Kazan, whose highest ruler was the Kan, who lived in a palace inside the Kazan Kremlin. During the 16th century, Tsar Ivan the Terrible subjected the Kremlin to a brutal siege to seize power over the city. Inside the Kremlin Palace was the Kan of Kazan with his family and his beloved cat.
Legend has it that this cat was tremendously intelligent, so much so that, on one of his feline escapades, the kitten managed to hear how the tsar´s allies planned to dig a tunnel under the walls of the Kremlin to gain access to the interior of the fortress. The cat ran to warn its owner of the enemy´s intentions, and so Kan managed to escape from the palace by sailing along the Kazanka River along with his family and taking with him, of course, his cunning cat.
The Kazan Cat continued to be present in the city´s history and art, something that is evident in the famous 18th century engravings in which the cat is depicted with the caption: “Kazan Cat, Astrakhan Mind, Siberian Intelligence”, referring to the cunning of the Tartar people.
ONE OF THE DRAGONS...
The city of Kazan is home to a tremendously rich ancient culture and superb beauty, both of which are responsible for this capital being known by the nickname "Istanbul of the Volga". The meaning of its name, "cauldron", is evident at dusk, when the silhouette of its monuments is reflected in the rivers that bathe it, creating a large pot-shaped moon over the waters. An image that seems to be out of a story of the Arabian Thousand and one Nights…
But this night vision is not the only story that exists in Kazan, but also the numerous legends that accompany the history of this city. And it is with the protagonist of one of these legends that we encourage you to pose in a “fairy tale” photograph...
An important local legend tells that, many centuries ago, a Tatar klan decided to install their city in the lands where the Kazan Kremlin is today, because it was a very fertile land bathed by the river, but it was inhabited by a kingdom of snakes, and by their king, Zilant... To kill the reptiles, the Tartars decided to spread straw on the ground and set it on fire. In the fire all the snakes died except King Zilant, who managed to escape the fire by flying. But before long, Zilant returned to this area to drink water from the river and continued to return several times. The frightened villagers began to worship this flying serpent in the form of a dragon.
This dragon is one of the most important symbols of Kazan, even appearing on the seal of Ivan the Terrible. Today, we can see his figure on the city´s coat of arms, in the decoration of the urban subway and in various sculptures.
Very close to the walls of the Kremlin there is a spectacular statue of the dragon serpent Zilant that will allow us to pose with it so that we can remember it forever in the form of a photograph.
Statue of Zilant
Bauman St, 7 (at the exit of Kremlevskaya metro station)
Kazan, Republic of Tatarstan, Russia, 420111
A SENSATIONAL TREE
Overlooking the back of the Kremlin and very close to an embankment, the promenade that runs along the banks of the Kazanka River, is Dvortsa Zemledel´tsev Park, or Farmers´ Palace Park. It is a great piece of land perfect for walking among carpets of green grass or taking a break on one of its many benches. But whatever we do on this large green esplanade, we won’t be able to take our eyes off the great building that presides over the park and gives it its name. It is the impressive Ministry of Agriculture of Tatarstan, also known as the Farmers´ Palace, a colossal building that will leave us with our mouths open.
Owner of a magical architecture, the Palace of the Ministry of Agriculture is one of the most spectacular and beautiful buildings in Russia. Newly built, it opened in 2010 with a tremendously classic style, as if behind its design and ornamentation there was a challenge to the brutal and rude buildings built during the Soviet era. This elegant architectural gem was built in the eclectic style, meaning it has a combination of many different styles. In this palace we can find Baroque and Renaissance elements that blend in total harmony, resulting in an elegant and majestic architectural work of art.
But, in addition to its distinctive style, this palace has a specific element that makes the building easily recognizable. It is a spectacular wrought iron tree that seems to support the central part of the palace. This gigantic 20 meters high tree was designed with the intention of shading the palace hall. Unique in the world, this beautiful metal tree manages to inspire bucolic images of the countryside in the midst of a very urban environment. And when the sun comes, don´t miss out its spectacular emerald lighting!
Dvortsa Zemledel´tsev Park (Farmers´ Palace Park)
Ministry of Agriculture of Tatarstan
Ulitsa Fedoseyevskaya 36
Kazan, Republic of Tatarstan, Russia, 420
CYCLING BETWEEN LEGENDS
The huge amount of fresh water that bathes the city of Kazan invites you to explore each of its shores, both the shores of the lakes and the shores of its two great rivers, the Kazanka and the Volga. That´s why, at this moment, we challenge you to discover the secrets of these shores on foot, or better yet... cycling!
In Kazan there are several bike rentals stations, where you are usually asked to present an ID, so don´t forget to bring your passport. The city is quite flat, so cycling is very pleasant.
Let´s split the route into two parts, which are perfectly combinable. On one side, we have the shores of the Kaban lakes. As we saw at a previous point, there are three interconnected lakes that bathe the city from north to south. The most central of the three is Ozero Nizhniy Kaban, or Low Lake Kaban, which is the perfect size for cycling. As we go around it, we can think of those gems that, according to legend, were thrown to the bottom of the lake by the rulers of the Kanato of Kazan before the imminent invasion of Ivan the Terrible. And also remember Zilant, our dragon friend, who lives in this lake guarding the Tartar treasure of Queen Siuyumbiké, according to the elders of the place...
Once we border the lake, we can reach the riverbanks by following the Bolaq canal, which runs through the city centre parallel to Bauman Street. Once we reach Kazan Central Stadium, a very important football field during the 2018 World Cup in Russia, a road will appear before us that cross above the confluence of the Kazanka and Volga rivers. Both rivers are so wide that crossing this bridge is like cycling between two seas!
The banks of these two rivers have several paths perfect for cycling, such as the Kremlevskaya Naberezhnaya, or the Kremlin Embankment, a bustling promenade full of restaurants and a good atmosphere that runs along the left bank of the Kazanka River. Dare!
THE CATHEDRAL COMPASS
An unmissable monument in Kazan is the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, one of the city´s spiritual symbols. This important Orthodox temple, located in the historic centre of the capital, very close to the Kremlin, is not to be missed for its rich and beautiful decoration, both external and internal.
It was the year 1722 when Peter I the Great visited Kazan. The emperor was so fascinated by the beauty of this city that he decided to extend his visit for a few days to celebrate his 50th birthday. After the imperial visit and to commemorate this important event, the city of Kazan decided to build a beautiful cathedral on top of a small wooden church dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul. This is how, in 1726, the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, an authentic jewel of the Russian Baroque, was built.
The exterior decoration of this distinguished temple is very rich. Topped off by two splendid, blue-tiled towers, its facade features an infinity of frescoes and mouldings that, together with the bright colours that run through it, give this monument an admirable beauty.
But what is truly exceptional about this cathedral is in the interior, that its interior decoration works like a compass! The masters who designed it wanted the brightest icons inside the temple to always point to the east, that is, to where the sun rises. Following this line, the interior decoration of the west side intends to convey a feeling of darkness, at night, and generating through dark colours, such as blue or violet. On the other hand, the decorations in the eastern part have bright colours, like the tones of dawn.
Furthermore, the interior of this temple holds a miraculous icon. It is the image of the Virgin of the Seven Lakes, considered miraculous because, since it was found in Kazan, the city has been saved from several epidemics and some misfortunes...
Petropavlovskiy Sobor (Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul)
Ulitsa Musy Dzhalilya, 21
Kazan, Republic of Tatarstan, Russia, 420111
THE STREET OF GOOD LUCK
From these lines, we encourage you to walk along the backbone of the historic centre of Kazan. This is Bauman Street, a mile-long pedestrian avenue that starts at the foot of the Kremlin and ends at Tukay Square, where you can see its iconic clock, a meeting point for locals.
Bauman Street is a favourite for Tatars and visitors as well, and is full of with shops, museums, restaurants and entertainment venues. Also, dating from the 16th century, many of the buildings that make it up are very interesting. And, walking along this pedestrian avenue, we will discover some beautiful sculptures that represent the symbols most loved by the inhabitants of Kazan. The surprises of this street don´t end here, during the summer nights, on every corner we will find street artists animating the atmosphere.
We can start our tour at the Zilant statue, located at number 7 Bauman street, right outside the Kremlevskaya metro station, at the foot of the Kremlin. Leaving the straight and modern building of the Academy of Sciences on our right, we begin our pedestrian path.
Among the statues that populate Bauman Street is the famous Kazan Cat, a chubby bronze kitten that strokes its whiskers, partially lying under an awning. The locals say it´s good luck to rub your belly... so let´s go!
Later, we will come across the spectacular bronze sculpture of the carriage of Catherine the Great, on which we can climb to take a beautiful photo. And almost reaching the end of the street, the aforementioned Cathedral of the Epiphany appears with its reddish bell tower pointing to the sky.
Have a great time walking along Bauman Street, the real nerve centre of Kazan´s social life. Oh! And don´t forget to take a good look at the little stars on the ground dedicated to different Tatar celebrities.
Kazan, Republic of Tatarstan, Russia
BY THE LAKE
The city of Kazan has a rich freshwater heritage made up of huge rivers and serene lakes, and this capital, in addition to being at the confluence of the Volga and Kazanka rivers, has a system of interconnected lakes that together occupy a length of almost seven kilometres. These are the Kaban lakes, the largest freshwater sea in the entire region of Tatarstan.
The Kaban lake system consists of three urban lakes called, from south to north, Ozero Verkhniy Kaban, Ozero Sredniy Kaban and Ozero Nizhniy Kaban. The water from these three lakes ends up feeding the Kazanka River through the Bolaq River and, in its final metrers, through the Bolaq-Qazansu underground channel. On the other hand, Kazanka River is one of the tributaries of Volga River and both rivers converge in the Kazan’s city. And as if this aquatic tangle wasn´t enough, the Kaban lakes are also directly connected to the Volga River through the city´s sewer system. A smooth freshwater maze that manages to give the city of Kazan its serene appearance!
Of the three urban lakes, for our rest we will visit the northernmost of the three, which is the Ozero Nizhniy Kaban, or Lower Kaban Lake. Very close to where this lake meets the Bolaq River, there are numerous benches that invite you to sit down for a while to enjoy the serenity of the lake. And right next door is the modern Millennium Park, the second largest park in the city. It is an extensive and flat square that has a series of paths marked by benches and blankets of grass. All these paths converge on a central square decorated with a fountain in the shape of a gigantic pot that spews water through the mouth of a dragon.
Do you realize...? We found our friend Zilant again!
Ozero Nizhniy Kaban (Lower Lake of Kaban)
Kazan, Republic of Tatarstan, Russia, 420107
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