Hello, dear Friends! I am Michael the Monkey and I am very serious about being the best travel guide for Toy travelers, so I always try to learn something new I can share. This time I headed East to the land of the Tatars.
Hospitable Tatars and me, Michael the Monkey.
I live in Moscow, the capital of Russia. To get to Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan I take an overnight train. The trains in Russia should be a special topic in my blog - lets just say I enjoyed the hot tea with lemon and the nice window view, discovering some brief information about the region.
Mmmm, Russian-train tea...
A - A for Kazan. Don't ask me why :)
Kazan (Russian: Каза́нь; Tatar: Казан, Qazan) is granted the right to brand itself as the "Third Capital" of Russia and the "sports capital of Russia". Qazan is originally a name for a special cooking pan, similar to the wok, but heavier. The belief that the city of Kazan is named after this object comes from the terrain's similarity to a qazan: the city is situated in a U-shaped lowland. The city's population consists almost entirely of either Tatars (about 52 percent) and Russians (about 43 percent).
The city has a beautiful citadel (Russian: Kreml, or, sometimes, Tatar: Kirman), which was declared a World Heritage Site. Major monuments in the Kremlin are the 5-domed 6-columned Annunciation Cathedral (1561–62) and the mysterious leaning Soyembika Tower, named after the last queen of Kazan and regarded as the city's most conspicuous landmark.
Zeelant - the symbol of Kazan.
The leaning Michael... ooops sorry.. Soyembika Tower!
The Qol-Şarif mosque impressed me a lot! It was destroyed in the times of Ivan the Terrible and recently rebuilt inside the citadel for the celebration of the 1000 years anniversary of the city. Now it is considered to be the biggest mosque in Europe!
Central Kazan is divided into two districts by the Bolaq canal and Lake Qaban. The first district (Qazan Bistäse or Kazanskiy Posad), historically Russian, is situated on the hill, the second (İske Tatar Bistäse or Staro-Tatarskaya Sloboda), historically Tatar, is situated between the Bolaq and the Volga. An old legend says that in 1552, before the Russian invasion, wealthy Tatars (baylar) hid gold and silver in Lake Qaban. I'm seriously considering my next trip to the Red sea to learn scuba-diving which will help me to find the Qaban treasures.
I loved the public transport in Kazan! They announce the stops in three languages: Tatar, Russian and English! A single-line Kazan Metro has six stations, but there are plans to extend the line soon. The stations have some really pretty decorations and mosaics!
Mosaics in Kazan Metro - "Mother's prayer".
If you are fond of sports - that's the right place to be! The city hosts lots of competitions and it is the home of the famous champion teams: Ak Bars Kazan (ice-hokkey); FC Rubin Kazan (football); UNICS Kazan (basketball) and the others!
I'm a gourmet and i'm always interested in discovering local traditions and tastes. Tatar cuisine was influenced by the surrounding peoples – Russians, Mari, Udmurts, and also peoples of Central Asia, especially Uzbeks and Tajiks. Dishes, such as plov (pılaw), halvah (xälwä), and sherbet (şirbät) entered long ago into the Tatar culture.
Main dishes are usually based on meat, grains, and potatoes. Pilaw (plov) is served at dinner parties, especially in the city. A popular local version is the so-called Kazan pilaw prepared with boiled meat.
Tatar pilaw (plov) - don't miss a chance to taste it!
A wide variety of dough dishes are a feature of the traditional Tatar cuisine. Various baked items with a savory filling are specific to Tatar cuisine. The oldest and simplest is qıstıbí, also called küzikmäk. This is an unleavened pancake folded into two and filled with cooked millet.
Tatar cuisine offers a variety of baked sweets, usually served with tea: çelpek (deep-fried pancakes), qatlama (a baked roll with a variety of fillings – poppy seeds, sesame seeds, qort, nuts), qoş tele ("bird's tongue", deep-fried squares or diamonds of unleavened dough), lawaş (fried dumplings filled with raisins), paştet (sweet pies filled with jam or dried fruits) etc. Çäkçäk (chakchak, chak-chak, or chek-chek) is a mound of honey-drenched sweet pastry balls. It used to be a ceremonial food brought by the bride to the reception at the bridegroom's home. Today it is a common sweet.
The Russian President Medvedev is welcomed in Kazan with chak-chak (sourse: yandex.ru)
Äyrän (ayran) is a dairy drink made by diluting qatıq (katyk, sour milk) with cold water. Quas (kvass) is a beverage made from rye flour and malt that the Tatars have borrowed from the Russians. A kompot of dried apricots is a popular dessert at dinner parties.
Uhhh yes, i'm a banana addict but who could have enough will power to say "no" to any of these?? Next weekend there's a Tatar cuisine party at my place! You are welcome ;-)
Thank you for traveling with me!
Michael the Monkey.