The Red City

by Jorge Sanchez - 4 years, 10 months ago

I arrived to Yoshkar-Ola, the capital of the Republic of Marii El, late in the night, from Kazan, on board a local and very slow train called “elektrichki”. I asked in the railway station for the dormitory and I was allowed to sleep in a room with bus drivers (inside the railway station) thanks to my insistence and for being the woman in the reception very kind, because at the beginning she said that she had no right to accept foreigners. Early in the morning I woke up very early and walked across the street where I found an excellent “stolovaya”, or cheap and popular restaurant offering home made food, to eat something. After that I asked the people where the downtown was, and I walked there. I had expected an ordinary Russian town, with the names of the avenues Pushkin, Frunze, Diktatura Proletariat, Communistkaya, Karl Marx, Dzerzhinsky (a most sinister Polish communist, founder of the Cheka, origin of the KGB), Lenin Square, and the kind, with the central market, a cathedral, theatres, the typical pedestrian street, etc. But I was completely wrong. Yoshkar-Ola, a town of 300.000 inhabitants, which name means in Mari language “Red City”, was BEAUTIFUL! Its buildings around the main square looked like Italians ones, copying the Renaissance style; it was like being in Florence. The most stunning building was the National Gallery of Art, next to the hotel Yoshkar-Ola on one side, and to the Mariinski Theatre on the other. There was also a monument dedicated to a Russian hero founder of the town at the end of the XVI century, and a statue representing an Episcope. The pretty looking building of the Town Hall was in front, and a lovely church was located in a park next door. But that was not all. I am very fond of Russian Kremlins, or fortresses, and very few cities can be proud of sheltering one (apart from Moscow, Tobolsk, Tula, Astrakhan, Smolensk, Novgorod, Kazan, and still about half a dozen, no more), but I did not know about the existence of a Kremlin in Yoshkar-Ola, near the river. In fact it was being reconstructed, but it was almost finished and already showed its magnificence. The local market was very busy. In September 2009 the fruits shops were selling mainly watermelons from Astrakhan and dried fruits from Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan. Most of the sellers in that market were nationals from Central Asia countries, or from Caucasus republics. When darkness fell, I took a bus from Yoshkar-Ola to Cheboksary, in the Republic of Chuvashia.

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