Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Back to my Volga trip way back when in October, the next three days we traveled through a string of three cities, Ulyanovsk, Samara, and Saratov. The first city was Ulyanovsk, formerly know as Simbirsk, is most famous for the being the birthplace Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Vladimir Lenin. As such, the city remains as a sort of bizarre homage to its famous first son. The city itself is extremely quiet (I saw almost no one on the streets), and exhibits the same quiet melancholy that hangs over many Russian cities. The city is a decaying shrine to the leader of the Bolshevik Revolution, Lenin's childhood homes are either enshrined in a museum, or covered over by a huge looming structure on the city's central square. The broken and pockmarked pavement of the square, hung with faded banners and displaying a decorative pool now filled with grime and sludge, leads to the hulking Lenin memorial complex. A Soviet Ere monstrosity that engulfs two of the 19th Century homes the Ulyanov family inhabited. My feelings about the city were rather mixed. While I enjoyed seeing the childhood home of Lenin, complete with his bed and a family croquet set (glad to see someone else shares my love of croquet), I found the Lenin memorial complex to be not only cult-ish, but a bit creepy and a lot depressing. Other sites in Ulyanovsk were few and far between, the highlights being a very large bridge that spanned the Volga, and a monument to the Russian letter "Ё". Why Ulyanovsk was saddled with the great honor of having this monument no one I talked to seemed to know, but it was there and we saw it.