How to make Bolgar more accessible: to historical places by aerial lift

A former employee of the transport ministry — about yet existing and already missed opportunities of transport links with sacred objects and not very

How to make Bolgar more accessible: to historical places by aerial lift Photo: Roman Khasaev

Rinat Gubayev, the former head of innovation department at Tatarstan ministry of transport, prepared another author's column for Realnoe Vremya. This time it is dedicated to one of the solutions to the problem of transport accessibility of Bolgar.

Limited transport logistics

The city of Bolgar is a historical city, the world's northernmost monument of medieval Muslim architecture, illustrating the development of Islam in Russia, sacred to every faithful believer and provoking genuine interest among representatives of other religions.

Tourists and pilgrims can reach Bolgar in several ways — by car, by bus, by river transport and a completely new one – by air (helicopter). By land and by air it is possible to get to Bolgar all year round, but by river, of course, — only during navigation.

Major flow of visitors falls on spring-summer tourist season. With the onset of autumn and until spring, the flow of tourists decreases significantly. The main religious Muslim holidays are celebrated annually according to the lunar calendar, and their dates sometimes coincide with inconvenient seasons. During this period, only a regular bus from Kazan makes a daily trip to Bolgar. There are options for trips of pilgrims and tourists from the European part of Russia through Kazan and Ulyanovsk by private vehicles. Perhaps, the influx of visitors will increase with the opening of the Bolgarian Islamic Academy.

Particularly the limited year-round transport logistics hinders a flow of tourists to these historical places, and not only to Bolgar, but also to the unique place on the right bank of the Volga River — the monument of history under the unusual name Dolgaya Polyana.

Particularly the limited year-round transport logistics hinders a flow of tourists to these historical places, and not only to Bolgar, but also to Dolgaya Polyana

An aerial lift from one bank of the Volga River to another

When the work on revival of the Bolgarian state historical and architectural museum-reserve began, it became necessary to build a river pier and to conduct dredging works. The first motor ships berthed at Bolgar in 2017, and by the end of navigation their number reached 128 ships. Over this same period, about 350 ships passed by not calling at Bolgar. But this is a great potential for tourist attraction of the historic city.

Stable and safe vessels' port calls require dredging at least every 5 years, which leads to a cessation of cruise ship calls for three to four months. Besides, as shown by the year 2010, the Volga River periodically experiences significant falls of water, leading to shoaling.

Taking into account all possible problems with transport logistics in Bolgar, the group of companies Gorimpeks in 2011 appealed to then head of the Tetyushsky municipal district Mukharryam Ibyatov with a proposal to use a unique, comfortable, safe and year-round mean of transport – an 8,5 km passenger aerial ropeway from the right bank of the Volga River (Dolgaya Polyana) to the left bank (Bolgar).

Cruise tourist vessels passing up and down the main ship channel of the Volga River can be moored to the pier on the right bank, where tourists have the opportunity to get acquainted with the natural, historical and architectural monument Dolgaya Polyana and the estate of the Molostvovs' landlords, and then they can go to Bolgar and back by aerial lift.

The two unique historical sites connected by an aerial passenger lift will provide a pleasant journey in both directions with a wonderful view of the Kuibyshev reservoir.

There is an option of building a lift from the district centre of Tetyushi, where there are also many places of interest and a moorage wall, but the 14 km highway length will require the placement of an intermediate station on one of the islands, which is much more expensive.

The year-round operation of the aerial lift will require the organization of bus routes to Dolgaya Polyana from Ulyanovsk through Tetyushi or Buinsk, with the creation of necessary infrastructure.

The group of companies Gorimpeks in 2011 offered to use an 8,5 km passenger aerial ropeway from the right bank of the Volga River (Dolgaya Polyana) to the left bank (Bolgar)

Dolgaya Polyana — another place of attraction

A lot has been done for the revival of Bolgar, and exactly Bolgar has become the world tourist attraction of Tatarstan.

But the natural park Dolgaya Polyana is also one of the few, if not the only, places in Tatarstan, where there is a powerful anomalous energy zone. If to look from the village of Dolgaya Polyana in the direction of the Volga River, on two spurs of the so-called Tetyushskie mountains, descending to the river, there are two large glades — one in the form of a rectangle, the other – pentagonal.

Amazing things happen on these glades. Despite the forest around, they are not overgrown for already several centuries. On these glades, magnetic devices read off-scale, clocks go wrong, filmed footage from digital cameras inexplicably disappear.

There are no less sunny days here than in Sochi or Kislovodsk. Even if there are dark clouds around, over the glades the sky even for a short time clears and lets the rays of the sun. But most importantly – people getting here start feel themselves physically warm and calm. Blood pressure normalizes here, mental confusion disappears, the heart calms, wounds heal faster, cold-related diseases go away.

The peculiarities of the anomalous zone were also noticed by the Bulgars. No wonder one of the capitals of their state — ancient Bolghar — is located on the other side of the Volga River directly opposite Dolgaya Polyana.

On two spurs of the so-called Tetyushskie mountains — one in the form of a rectangle, the other – pentagonal. Photo: komanda-k.ru

In the 18th century, there appears the village of Dolgaya Polyana, which became the estate of the noble family Molostvovs. This surname is well known in the Russian history. For service to the monarch and the Fartherland, members of the family by paternal lineage were awarded large land plots, including in the Volga region.

Rural noble manor in Russia is not only the place of residence of families. It is a unique social, historical, cultural, psychological and aesthetic phenomenon of Russian life. So it was with Dolgaya Polyana.

The Molostvovs planted birch and lime groves, which are still preserved. The alley of the Siberian larch from the highway to the Volga River became the adornment of the manor. More than 400 trees of centenary age survived in the larch alley, it is one of the main attractions of the estate.

Why the aerial lift Kazan-Verkhny Uslon hasn't been built

What about the advertised aerial lift Kazan-Verkhny Uslon? In 2006, the ministry of transport and roads of the Republic of Tatarstan invited Gorimpeks group, which has extensive practical experience in construction of aerial lifts in Russia and CIS countries, to implement this project. The company developed a road route, carried out technical and economic calculations. The project was investment one and, at that time, could not be financed from the budget.

Besides, the idea was just an idea as Verkhny Uslon was not the point of interests of investors. Nevertheless, in 2007, during the development of the project, there appeared the company Gulliver, which previously planned to place on the territory of Verkhny Uslon a children entertainment complex, but bumped up against the issue of transport accessibility of the object. The aerial lift could have become an opportunity that would have aroused interest in the complex. Since that time, the company Gulliver started to promote the aerial lift at all levels, introducing itself as the author and developer of the project. Later, Gulliver squeezed out of the transport project the group of companies Gorimpeks, organizing a tender for the construction of an aerial lift. As a result, Gorimpeks built in Nizhny Novgorod a three-kilometre passenger ropeway Nizhny Novgorod-Bor, but the construction of the aerial lift Kazan-Verkhny Uslon was frozen indefinitely.

Rural noble manor in Russia is not only the place of residence of families. It is a unique social, historical, cultural, psychological and aesthetic phenomenon of Russian life. Photo: komanda-k.ru

One can only regret that the idea of building this ropeway was not taken into account when deciding on location of the scientific city of Innopolis. As a result of the choice made, the biggest problem of the residents of Innopolis today is transport logistics. The transport problem will be further aggravated by an increase in traffic flow along the federal highway M-7, which will become part of the Western Europe-China transport corridor. This will lead to that the capacity of the bridge over the Volga River will not cope with the increasing traffic intensity. In addition, there are also constant traffic jams on the Gorky highway. The recent snow cyclone in Tatarstan already completely paralyzed the bus traffic between the science city and the capital of the republic.

It is the ropeway that could become a reliable and year-round mode of transport if Innopolis was located much closer to Kazan, near Verkhny Uslon. The latter would be interesting both for housing construction and as a place for summer and winter recreation for residents and guests of Kazan.

By Rinat Gubaev