Friggin freezing!

Trip Start Jan 17, 2011
Trip End Mar 21, 2011

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Where I stayed
Ibis Kazan centre

Flag of Russia  , Privolzhsky,
Friday, January 21, 2011

We had our first evening on the train last night. Apart from a slightly awkward hour waiting for the train with our driver who spoke no english and us who spoke no Russian....... Not sure why we got to the train station so early, everyone was saying about Moscow traffic being bad, which it wasn't for us, but even if it had we still would have been really early! But a little help from the translate app on the iPad and we realised he was going to stay to get us on the train and that was fine. So we boarded about 9.30, set off at 10.10pm and settled into the cabin. Luckily it was just the two of us else 1. Our luggage would never have fitted, 2. It's a cramped enough space for 2 people who know each other, putting 2 more strangers in, not the best plan! So we managed to order a couple of random drinks off the menu (all in Russian) from the train attendant who also spoke only Russian, but it all went well, she showed us how to put down our beds and where the bathrooms were, so we settled in and got some small amounts of sleep throughout the night (not very much for either of us really I think!).

We arrived into Kazan at 9.30am, still on the same time as Moscow, and were met at the station by our driver. The temperature gauge on the station clock said -27, yes -27, and the droplets in my nose started to freeze, never have I been anywhere so cold! The train itself was overly warm at around 24 degrees, luckily we'd learnt from our time in Moscow and wrapped up well before exiting the train. We checked into the hotel, thankfully they had a room we could use, grabbed a bite to eat and relaxed before our city tour this afternoon at 1pm

Boy did we need the relaxing, our tour this afternoon was a frogmarch/run around Kazan. Our guide knew a lot, but boy did she like to walk fast. I felt very much taken back to surgical ward rounds as a house officer, where the consultant and possibly one of the regs who could keep up were at the front, other reg or sho were in the middle and the house officer (ie me) trying hard and failing to keep up at the back! I can't quite remember all we saw, there was so much and so much info! We started off at the synagogue in Kazan, neither of us had ever been in a synagogue before. We then went to the St Peter and Paul cathedral, an orthodox Christian cathedral with 7 layers of icons on the wall. Pretty impressive, and a nice building in baroque style apparently. We then headed to the Kremlin and to the mosque built in the area. An impressive building, very elaborately decorated inside (not like usual mosques which are meant to be more drab to not distract people from praying), and the first time I've been inside a mosque also. A lot of the religious buildings in kana were destroyed when Ivan the Terrible forced the capital of the Tatar empire to Christianise when he took over the city. After he was forced out, the city went back to being more diverse, currently about 47% are Tatar, 43% Russian and the rest are made up of 140 different nationalities!

We then went to the central cathedral of assumption at the Kremlin. There were 2 weddings at the cathedral whilst we were there, apparently Friday and Saturday are marriage days here. Can't quite believe the brides walk around in their wedding dresses outside, it's freezing with 5 layers on, can't quite imagine how cold it must be in just a wedding dress! From outside the cathedral were great views over Kazan, the area both this side of the river and the other side of the Kazanka river which is now being developed as Kazan's riviera. Both the Kazanka and the Volga river are frozen at the moment, they meet at Kazan city. We then headed up to another cathedral where one of the holy icons from the cathedral of the assumption was found after it had been lost when Ivan the Terrible had some of the cathedral destroyed. There is a lot of rootlike overtones in Kazan, many cathedrals and other places of worship. We saw lots of people today who had come on pilgrimage from surrounding villages and towns to Kazan to come and worship at the cathedral icons.

We took a walk through the central park of Kazan, with snow about 6 foot deep, although cleared around the pathways. We then had to say to our guide that we needed a break having been on the go for 3 hours, walked what seemed like a marathon (almost as bad as the moonwalk!) and been frozen almost through, so we went to get a coffee and warm up, much needed by both of us! We finished by seeing liberation square, with some nice buildings, before heading back to our hotel. A tiring afternoon, good to see the city though, and it is a very pretty place, though possibly a little longer to appreciate it may help!

Tomorrow we are off to a local monastery to visit, then back onto the train tomorrow night and onto our next stop for a couple of days.
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