Friday, October 29, 2010

Kazan: Lights Out

After what might have been the busiest week of my life, I am back at cranking out blog entries, desperately not trying to fall months behind. So the next day our excursion was in the city of Kazan, capital of Tartarstan. Founded either by Volga Bulgars or the Golden Horde, Kazan had always been the center of Islam in Russia. I was super excited to see Kazan, I had read quite a bit about it, and wanted to see the churches and mosques that I had read so much about. Unfortunately it was not to be. We got caught behind a fog bank, and spent quite a few hours idling in the middle of the Volga river. It wasn't all bad though, we had our first dance class that day. Apparently the Moscow and Vladimir kids have dance classes as part of their course load, and one of their teachers came on the excursion with us. We learned to dance a quadrille and we learned how to Salsa. I enjoyed the quadrille quite a bit, it was fun and different. The salsa wasn't really my thing, my hips have never heard of this "Latin flare" business, and were none too pleased to be moved in the way I wanted them to.
We made it to Kazan late in the evening, so our excursion was kind of a whirlwind. We toured the Kazan Kremlin, whose main selling point is the Qul-Sharif Mosque. Finished in 2005, the mosque is the largest outside of Turkey and is exceptionally beautiful. The original mosque, was destroyed when Ivan the Terrible razed the city in 1552, and is fabled to by the inspiration for St. Basil's Cathedral on Red Square in Moscow. I couldn't see much of a resemblance in the new mosque, but maybe I'm just stupid...
The evening was topped off by a bit of free time to roam the city. I have to say I was thoroughly nonplussed with what I saw, a bunch of drunk Russians who were more than a little touchy, and a bunch of very ugly, very Soviet looking buildings. I guess you can't always have everything though right?

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