After a day on a fancy 'FIRM'train from Moscow, we arrived in Kazan. The capital of the autonomous region of Tatarstan, this felt like it could easily be Russia's third city. It didnt feel like a city of inheritants of the Mongol horde. Tatars, which in the end we did confirm were the same as Tartars, have little left from a tradition of nomadic horsemen, and instead Kazan is presented as an exemplary case of multiculturalism, between the Orthodox russian population and the mainly Turkic-muslim ethnic tatars. The food had none of the expected stereotypes, for good and bad. Tartar sauce did not cover everything, but at the same time there was no steak tartar on every menu.
The food, as on the rest of our journey was good, though more focused on pastries filled with all sorts of things, sweet and salty, as well as high quality sushi, which prevades trendy modern russian cuisine. Kazan, being a capital of its own, had many similarities to Moscow, without being entirely as massive. The kremlin, although bathed in white and containing a huge mosque, has a case of being just as grand and impressive as that of Moscow, and as such is a Unesco heritage site. Modernity is present in swaths of modern skyscrapers, but the center and its buildings from 1900 and before were either being restored in their entirety, or kept their original exteriors while redoing the interiors.
The main pedestrian street did not have the artificial touristy feel of its parallel in Moscow, and the large avenues, government buildings, and squares had less overbearing presence.
And one cannot forget about the importance of Kazan in soviet history, as both Trotsky and Lenin studied at the local state university, and although Vladimir was expelled for being a disruptive political presence, the university is now of course called Lenin university.
But on to the trains we go, across the Urals, and on into Asia. Our next stop should be Tomsk, where nearly two days on trains should have some moments worthy of note.