One beautiful Sunday we were taken on a trip to the beautiful, historical island of свияжск (Sviyazhsk), which is easily accessible from Kazan via a 2 hour boat ride or car ride, though the boat ride is a much more picturesque option.
Sviyazhsk is full of history as it was the island which Ivan the Terrible's army used to conquer Kazan and the Tatars. Afterwards it became home to many churches, monastaries and cathedrals.
The institute we were studying at offered us this trip at a really good price. The leaflet as well as many websites online promised an island "stuck in the medieval ages", not to mention our teacher told us we could go horseriding and shoot guns, obviously us kids were shitting our pants! In addition we were told that there were no restaurants or food shops anywhere on this island so everyone bulked up on snacks and water.
However it turned out to be quite different from our expectations. First of all, many of our mentors who live in Kazan said the island has changed so much in the last 10 years, its practically unrecognizable. Yes, the monasteries and churches were still there, but it had been turned into a big tourist location with souvenir shops everywhere.
There were also maybe one or two small restaurants and you could definitely find somewhere to buy a drink or an ice-cream. For lunch we ate at a monastery which was definitely a very interesting experience. Sadly, I do not have any photos as they were not allowed.
|Welcome to Winterfell!|
After lunch we came across this place where there were these touristy medieval reenactments. This was also where the "horseriding" and "gun shooting"was. Turned out, that the horse riding was one of those kiddy ones where you sat on the horse and a woman took you around the enclosure a few times. I was massively disappointed, there I was wanting to gallop around the island like a Dothraki. *sigh*
The gun shooting was equally disappointing. Turns out it was just shooting BB guns at cans... And our teacher told us we could shoot animals and stuff. We all came with such high expectations (all our teacher's fault!) and just got rather disappointed - not that I wanted to shoot animals (i'm a freakin vegetarian) but I just wanted to shoot a real gun. Maybe at a tree or something, and I just thought Russia would be the place for this. *sigh*
I did see a samovar for the first time though! I think it was the only samovar I saw in Russia during that month.
We then went to this other place on the island (sorry for being so unspecific, but the island isn't very big and we were just kind of following the herd!), where they explained more about the history of the tatars and the Russians and the battle and the sort of armour, weapons and techniques they used. (The guy on the left is the Russian and the guy on the right is the Tatar)
Then they started fighting too which was quite exciting!
After the demonstration, there was a little archery range with normal bows and even a crossbow! I do think I have found my calling. I nearly got a bullseye on my first try!
There was also the option to try battling your friends using swords and shields. Who knew that swords were so heavy?! We had such a hard time even keeping the swords up!
|The entrance to the place|
The beach was near the carpark and on the way there there were all these street vendors selling buckets of raspberries, dried fish and popcorn.
The water was absolutely lovely, one of the nicest waters that I swam in in Kazan, it was such a pity that Sviyazhsk was such a trek away or we would've been running here every day afterschool to go to the beach instead!
Overall it was a nice trip, I know I complained a little, but it was only because we set a very high bar after what we were told was there. But it turned out just fine, everyone including myself really liked the whole archery thing and the swords and shields, I thought the meal at the monastery was truly a one of a kind experience (though I know many people didn't really like the food there, but I thought it was just fine) and the beach was absolutely wonderful. So I would definitely recommend it for a nice day trip maybe for a picnic on the beach, and touring the churches a little and looking at the medieval stuff, but don't have you hopes set on a little village with a rustic charm which is stuck in the medieval times, cus the thing I read about no new buildings being built on Sviyazhsk in the last 100 years is definitely a lie!
xx Vagabond Girl