Kazan

I think the hottest guys in Russia are from Kazan. 

Hear me out. 

Kazan is the capital of Tatarstan, a semi-autonomous region on the western, European side of Russia. Tatars are a Turkic ethnic group indigenous to that region. There are also about five million ethnically Tatar living in Russia. There also also Crimean Tatar and Siberian Tatar ethnic groups, they’re not all homogeneous. Tatars are often muslim, often speak both Russian and Tatar, and can trace lineage to the Empire of Genghis Kahn and to the Turco-Mongol semi-nomadic empires and kingdoms. 

This is what it means in modern day:

Complete. Daddies. Everywhere. They don beautiful clothes and hats for prayer and religious festivals. They aren’t completely removed from the Russian gopnik stereotype but they’re the best of that world. They dress more formal (or maybe they make higher salaries?) Their language is distinct. It’s noticeably different from shrill, raspy Russian (though I love both languages)!

All jokes aside, beautiful people really make Kazan an interesting place to travel to. Wikipedia says “In 2015, 2.1 million tourists visited Kazan, and 1.5 million tourists visited the Kazan Kremlin, a World Heritage Site. In April 2009, the Russian Patent Office granted Kazan the right to brand itself as the ‘Third Capital’ of Russia. In 2009 it was chosen as the ‘sports capital of Russia’ and it still is referred to as such.” – so it is not a remote, unknown place by any means, maybe only to outsiders. There is a lot to do there. I liked it so much, I went back twice. 

The first time I went to Kazan, I stayed with a couchsurfing friend and we went to a water park in the middle of winter. Yes, those exist in Russia! My friend lived next to the kitschy Puppet Theatre. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see any puppet shows. The theatre is a monstrosity, but weirdly cute, and so very Russian. We also went to an awesome experimental art exhibit and even to the Museum of Soviet Life. I also went out of my way to the Temple of All Religions. It is a part found-art exhibit, part temple only in a symbolic sense. It’s a little far away from the city center so I thank god for my Asian privilege and was able to catch a ride with a Tatar guy driving by (or else it would have been a four hour wait for the next bus that may or may not come – in the snow). It’s an interesting phenomenon I’d love to explore with other Asian-presenting travelers in Russia – just the community care I inadvertently receive from minority Central Asian groups, typically employed as bus drivers, custodians, mechanics.

The second time I returned to Kazan, I went by bus with two international friends from Argentina. We stayed at an awkward hostel. Russian hostels are really hit and miss. Sometimes they’re amazing and sometimes you see more human bodily interactions than you plan to see. The three of us were right in time for a gastronomy festival. We ate a lot but didn’t really participate in the festival. Isn’t every day a gastronomy festival if you really think about it? But my favorite thing about Kazan is the Kazan Kremlin and Kul Sharik Mosque. It is so perfectly teal! Middle school Katie is realized when I see geometric teal buildings. Being in such a carefully taken care of area, with such ornate architecture, is so awe-inspiring. It remains one of my favorite buildings in the world.