Volga Boatman Episode 3: Kazan and Ulyanovsk

Next up on the Volga trip was Kazan, the almost equal-parts Muslim and Christian capital of Tatarstan, an autonomous republic within Russia.  This even sleepier provincial city (notice a trend here?) features the biggest Mosque in Europe and a local cuisine that’s “spicier” than normal Russian fare, meaning you just might feel a slight tingle on your tongue as whatever greasy portion of meat slides down it.

I tried the “konina,” or barbecued horse, and it was excellent.  It didn’te even seem strange after a local’s simple explanation: “You have a lot of cows, so you eat beef.  We have a lot of horses.”  Then again, you can’t ride a cow, or do much more than poke it with a stick or, in our modern era, cut a hole in its side and get a eyewitness view into the digestion of cud.

The Tower of

The Soyembika Tower in Kazan. Legend has it that after Ivan the Terrible conquered the city, he sought to marry its queen, Soyembika. She agreed -- on the condition he build such a tower in seven days. When Ivan successfully completed this task, Soyembika jumped to her death from the tower.

The next day we headed to Ulyanovsk, birthplace and childhood home of Lenin, who grew up in a provincial-gentry family.

We had a great time checking out the house where Lenin was raised, the school where Lenin studied, the park where Lenin did calisthenics, the secluded grotto where Lenin played his v-card (we can at least speculate) …

A street cleaner shovels up leaves.

Street cleaning, old-school style.

Young cadets (military service is required for anyone who can't muster up a bribe) out for a mid-morning march.

Young cadets (military service is required for anyone who can't muster up a bribe) out for a mid-morning march.

Make a wish to the ghost of Lenin ...

Make a wish to the ghost of Lenin ...

Here's how the young Lenin learned about solar eclipses ...

Here's how the young Lenin learned about solar eclipses ...

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3 Responses to “Volga Boatman Episode 3: Kazan and Ulyanovsk”

  1. Great architecture…!

  2. I’m surprised Ulyanovsk is still called Ulyanovsk after “Ulyanov” (the real family name of Lenin). I should be renamed back to its original name – Simbirsk.

  3. you won’t be surprised once you go there and run smack into some statue of lenin, museum of lenin stuff, memorial to some mundane thing lenin did, now-sacred building where lenin was at one time present, etc., at every turn. unlike stalin, lenin was never officially discredited, so he’s still a hero (although stalin still always makes it into the top 3 of any greatest russians ever list (yeah, yeah, he was georgian, so what, we know georgia is just russia’s private playground)).

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