Episode 35 – Kazan and Togliatti

Almost eight hundred fifty kilometers separates Kazan from Moscow. It was surely a long trip as it took me about fifteen hours to complete. There was no special event to highlight this time rather than the fact that Kirill had sent my information to different biker forums and I was contacted by several bikers during the day. Some of the bikers who contacted me are members of Vulcans MCC. The first one to contact me was Idar.

As I arrived quite late, I was not possible to meet Idar that night and we scheduled a rendezvous for lunch the next day. Until then, I went out for a walk up to Ploschad’ Tukaya where Bauman street starts. It is a pedestrian street which connects Kol’tso shopping mall with Kazan’s Kremlin. That was going to be my entertainment for the next couple of hours. There is an enormous bell tower not too far from the mall under the name of Dzwonnica Cathedral, set on the red line of the central city street. I tried to access the viewpoint on the top floor but found a closed gate to the stairs even if I was between opening hours.

I walked back and forth on Bauman street and its surroundings until I decided to move to Leninskiy Sad Park. As soon as I set foot on the park, Idar called me and met me. He took me to the Kremlin and explained to me a little bit about the story of the city. Idar told me about how Ivan the Terrible came under Kazan’s walls and besieged Kazan and shared with me the legend behind Söyembikä Tower, the second-ranked so-called leaning towers in the world. Before leaving the Kremlin area, Idar presented me to another member who would be taking me for a ride in the afternoon: Rustam. We had this presentation near a very peculiar sculpture which was also new to me. The Zilant is a legendary creature, something between a dragon and a wyvern, and it has become the symbol of Kazan.

Idar took me to some sort of homemade-cooking restaurant. This kind of places is a really good deal if you want to travel. You just need to be aware of what is surrounding you. For less than four Euros you could have a two-course meal with a dessert and something to drink. Our meal consisted of chicken and potatoes Piroshki, Russian pie, and a bowl of soup which is a traditional Tartar meal. Near the restaurant, I found a statue of a cat. Idar told me that this cat is a tribute to the cats who were rounded up to catch rodents in the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg and therefore it is said that all Russian cats are from Kazan. Similar to the dog sculptures in Moscow, rubbing the cat’s belly gives you luck and money. Do you mind rubbing a little more?

Idar had to go back to work and I went back to the hostel to wait for Rustam. I wanted to buy a cover for the bike before going any farther and He took me to a local bike store. Unexpectedly, there was a biker wedding going on at the restaurant next door when we arrived. With the cover bought, I followed Rustam to Kazan Family Center, a park-like area on the other side of Volga River. There is a big bowl-shaped building representing the city, as that is the meaning of “Kazan”, protected by two Zilants and two Aq Bars, the symbol of Tatarstan. After that, we went to one of the city’s Ferries wheel. This one, in particular, was recently built for the Olympic games. Every cabin was painted under the corresponding country colors and had local music being played inside. Our last night’s ride stop was at the Kukol Ekiyat theater, where I was not expecting to find the Little Prince again. This Puppet State Theater is one of the oldest theaters in Tatarstan. Built-in 2012, it has already become one of the attractions of the city. It looks like a great fairy tale castle with stained glass windows, white stone towers, and columns.

I left Kazan behind and continued to Togliatti where I met Dimitri. He found out about me through the “Wave of Memory” and invited me to town. We spend the evening with a bunch of his bikers friends around the city.  A couple of them were stunt riders and were showing off in the streets meanwhile. At some point, Max’s bike stopped working and he was pulled by another bike for at least five kilometers to the garage. Once he changed to another bike, we drove to the different biker spots in town in a sort of speedrun race which I still think was quite unnecessary. Anyways, I followed them as fast as I could keeping myself, an others, out of risks.

During my second, and last, day in Togliatti I visited the Military Museum. Both Idar and Rustam suggested me to do so and that day the entrance was for free. This open-ait museum is huge and has artillery and vehicles from the cold War and both World Wars. There is even a submarine which was unfortunately closed for visiting that day and a spare reserved to military trains and space vehicles.

Although all the artillery was sealed and the vehicles emptied, we had a ride on a tank which was quite interesting.

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