Chuckles sent these of Kazan, my old home town for 12 years. The pics are excellent but sadly don’t include places I knew and loved – the university, the Pyramid, my home. We can get close though.
The photo [click to enlarge] is looking north from the Kremlin or rather above it, possibly from a helicopter. The river looks rough on this day but I never remember it with massive waves, only with short chop. On the far bank, top of photo, about 15% in from the right, is an orange brick series of tower blocks.
That was the site of the old pontoon bridge which I loved. It was a cheapo solution to connect the north and south and the roadway sat maybe a metre above the water at high tide – I loved it, especially if it was a stormy day. However, some bigwig had a house built at one end of it and objected to traffic going past this mansion so the plans for a new bridge, sometimes called Mosst Shaimeeva, after the then President, were brought forward.
The pontoni mosst suited me fine because my own prospeckt came right down to the water onto this bridge, which then connected with Tolstova on the other side and thus into town. Perfect. My mate’s mother lived there too. In winter before they built that, people used to drive across the frozen river on a graded section of ice – I tried it once.
Anyway, this newfangled bridge which didn’t go anywhere I wanted to go was opened and then the bstds ripped up my pontoni mosst. I was more than peeved. That was towards the end of my stay there. Also, at the same time, they bought about 20 red buses from China and cut out the old tramvai I used to love too. Double bstds!
Anyway, if you go left past those orange buildings and up the road, across a major prospect and a bit further on, that’s where I lived on the left. You can’t see it in the shot but it would be just a bit below the heading of this post, facing east.
In this pic, facing north-east,you can see [if you enlarge it] MosstShaimeeva quite clearly, obliquely going away into nothing at all, nothing remotely worth visiting, the bstds [do you notice an edge to the typing]. Now, dead centre in the pic L-R and about 30% down from the top, you’ll see another orange building complex. This is the Lenin Memorial.
Sometimes in winter, my gf and I would walk along the river to that memorial and on New Year, they have giant ice sculptures. If you walk up to the right, through all those buildings, you’ll come to the opera house and we’d go to see shows occasionally. From there, it’s quite walkable to town.
Just the other side of the LM, you’ll see a sandy delta area – that’s this end of the old pontoni mosst, the bstds!!
In this one, the camera has swung around to the left again [north] and at the far end you can see that silo looking building at the edge which was in the last photo – much of the scenery you’ll recognize from before. Coming back to this bridge before us now, Leninski Mosst, what a bureaucratic mess that is. enlarge the pic.
OK, lower left, you’ll see a very messy road area [foot of the embankment and further left]. I used to love it at peak hour [rush hour]. How to explain. The main artery which you can’t really see but it’s where your viewing from above, is the main drag through town, a divided four lane road. You can see it dividing at the foot of the photo, 10% in from the lower left corner [rounded fence]. That’s the start of the canal which runs between the two-way road.
Now, this is the good bit. Not only do you have heavy traffic from the CBD and remember that Russians don’t stick to lanes and often try to create third and fourth lanes, even on footpaths, into this comes a feeder road at the bottom, maybe 35% in from the right. Also you’ll notice the brownish road on the right – that is the cobblestoned path down from the Kremlin. On top of that, they’ve now opened a road running past the Kremlin which is an extension of Profsoyuznaya I think, which is a secondary feeder road parallel to and just down from Kremlovskaya, which runs from the white tower this end of the Kremlin [maybe 25% up from the bottom and 30% in from the right].
So all of these are feeding traffic into the junction. Then there is a whole maze of roads over to the left which you can’t see and the upshot is that you are getting about 7 streams of homegoing traffic all converging, with buses [and it used to be tramvais as well] and trying to cross Leninski Mosst.
Ha ha ha – I loved it. I truly love the Russian frenetic mania.
But that’s not all. Over where they’re doing the digging into the embankment, that was the bus area – one of the major collecting and setting down points. At peak hour, a crowd of maybe a thousand or two would surge onto the road junction if they saw a bus coming, as one had to fight one’s way onto a bus. So these people would mill around between, in front of and around all the cars desperately trying to force their way forward. I didn’t like that bit but never heard of anyone being killed.
The other side of Leninski Mosst, the road curves around to the left and goes to a main market about a mile further on, straight on was Ibragimova, where I used to train at the gym and many other places. It was a feeder for the north. I’d drive a certain distance then turn right to get over to my home prospekt.
OK, you’ll recognize this by now but the helicopter is now over Kremlovskaya. That white tower is called Spasski Tower, from Spass, meaning to be saved, meaning a Christian monument, named after the Spassky Monastery, which used to be located nearby but you’ll see in a subsequent pic that it does not have a cross above because it was USSRed.
Kremlovskaya was and is many people’s favourite street – treelined, old, the traditional graceful town. If you stand with your back to Spasski Tower and walk down Kremlovskaya [towards and below you at your computer], you will have left government offices both sides of the road and I’m not sure but I think the Mayor might be in Spasski Tower too. This is the “Whitehall” area.
Further along, on the left, is one of the most famous hotels, formerly the Hotel France but taken over many moons ago by an Italian and it became Giuseppe Pizza. For many years, it was the only non-Tatar or non-Russian cuisine or kuchnia as they call it here and was seen as a special treat place. The pizzas in there are delish, they truly are and I know Giuseppe himself and his “architect” who is more like his minder.
Whenever my gf and I went in there, he would come over and even let us take the champagne glasses home – that was my watering hole, eatery and all good things until the Pyramid was constructed. It was also where I took quite a few wimmin, to my shame. Walking further on, it is not a main shopping street but there are shops. On the right, about halfway along this half mile street, is the main PO so if you need to post a letter, that’s your place.
Now you get into the university area – the physics on the right and further, KGU, the state university [mine was further down the hill]. Understand that you are going along a ridge along a steep hill, which has the main drag at the foot, which you saw before. Here though you’re up in the sky and just before the university is the famous [isn't everything?] library with its grotto. That place is so steeped in history and names like Lobachevsky come from here.
Just the other side of the university, also on the same side, is the sports hall, home of everything from volleyball to gyms. There is also a theatre in that complex where I saw many concerts. Gamova, the star Russian volleyballer, trains at this complex.
So here is Spassky Tower close-up. Tell you the truth, the Kremlin proper doesn’t do a lot for me – it’s quite touristy and I generally avoided tourists, as the locals did. I preferred to be with them. It’s a walking affair through the Kremlin, except for government and maintenance vehicles.
By the way, two photos ago, you might have seen a flying saucer in there [couldn't be bothered directing you, you'll find it]. This is the circus and really is home to the circus. They do have concerts in there but it is mainly the circus – not sure now but I think kids go less and less these days, as in other parts of the world.
Now for Suyembika Tower [did I mention famous?] and it has a history, natch. If you go back for a moment to those two pics of Leninski Mosst, travel left along the river, beyond the edge of the pic and roughly where my sidebar is, there is a tiny little island with a monument on it.
That’s where Ivan Grozni [which means "great", not "terrible] propped when he got to Kazan. He gazed on the Kremlin, gazed on Suyembika Tower and it was a terrible day for the Muslims in 1552. They’d swept up north to Kazan, the most northern Muslim stronghold in the world and formed the Khanate which was to rival Russia. Ivan always had Kazan on his list of jewels, just as Clive had India.
Imagine if you were the Tatar Princess Suyembika up on one of those seven tiers and you look out and see Ivan Grozni’s army. Life as you knew it has ended and it really had. Legend has it [anachronistic unfortunately] that she knew he wanted her hand and rather than that shame, she threw herself off this tower.
That’s not what made it lean though, a la Pisa – it was the ground underneath.
I really wanted to show you the glass Pyramid which became my watering hole and eatery, just down from my university. I trained there too for some years in the gym – it’s a complex which has everything. If you go beyond the Pyramid [west], you’ll come to the stadium [FC Rubin] and TSUM, the former state shop [like GUM in Moscow].
On the top floor of that pyramid is a restaurant which costs the earth to eat at – except at lunchtime – and I took various women there. After my gf and I broke up, I took her out one last time and we went there. W-e-e-e-l-l-l, talk about atmospheric. for a start, the menu that day was good but the snow began to fall on the glass panels and the music they were playing was classic and melancholy. She says she’s been back there since but nothing matched that apocalyptic day we were there.
In the snow or the rain, that place is magic.
One of the things which used to send me batty was the pronunciation of the name of the town by those speaking it in English. In Tatar [and it's originally a Tatar town, it is Ka-zan, with the stress on the "zan". The "a" is long, as in "father".
In Russian, it is Казань, pronounced like the Tatar, only with a "myarki znak" or "soft sign" on the end, which has the effect of putting the slightest of "y"s on the last consonant. Not Kazani but Kazan with "ny" - difficult to get this one across. Let the slightest of "y"s almost fade away unpronounced. Again, the "a" is long, as in "father".
How would you say it in English? I automatically said it with the stress on the last syllable and the long "a" and thought that was how everyone did it. The Tatars and Russians certainly do.
Then I went to school and university to teach and heard this abomination called Kaz'n. Stress on the first syllable and the "a" short, as in "man", "cat". It is really ugly on the ears. So I asked about why they were changing the name of their town when speaking English to me and was told by all that that was how English speakers pronounced it.
Not me, I said. I say it as you do. They were puzzled. So I set about educating the whole republic [sigh] into saying the name properly but it had got into the English departments everywhere. Thus all schoolchildren and then at university were learning the wrong way.
At symposia and seminars I’d always tell the audience about it and maybe it altered a third of academia by the end but even the politicians were doing it and TV. It was a losing battle. It got to the point that, if anyone said it that way to me, I’d ask: “Pardon, what’s this thing you’re saying? I don’t understand. Ka-kaz -” “Kaz‘n,” they’d say, as pleased as punch. I’d act mystified. “No, never heard of that town. I know one called Kazan though. I live in it.”
Anyway, ’nuff for now – I’m exhausted.
Filed under: History & Culture