Escape from the City: weekend routes in Tatarstan. Day 7. Beautiful Yelabuga

Realnoe Vremya online newspaper presents a new project called Escape from the City! We created our own tourist route to travel around Tatarstan. We invited a journalist from Ufa Oksana Mamontova and a historian of engineering Airat Bagautdinov to cover this route. Oksana is looking for emotions and impressions, while Airat is in search of a historical value! They travelled during a week and summed up what they saw every day in order to share their impressions with the readers of Realnoe Vremya.

We were looking forward to it, and it did happen — our acquaintance with Yelabuga. Here there was no question whether we would have enough attractions to see. The question was whether we would have enough time. Therefore, we decided to dedicate the whole day to Yelabuga.

We arrived in the city in the evening. It is worth noting that in Yelabuga there are not many hotels, despite the fact that it attracts about half a million tourists every year. In the first half of 2016 Yelabuga welcomed over 188 thousand visitors! We had to make a choice between four hotels and a guest house. The variation is in amenities. For example, in Alabuga City Hotel everything is very civilized, here, as a rule, the business travelers stay. The Visit hostel, in fact, is a former apartment building, where the rooms are converted apartments. There is also lovely authentic places, for example, the guest house Anna Maria, located in the private sector in the house with the oven, provincial decoration.

If you can't find rooms in Yelabuga, you can stay in Naberezhnye Chelny, it is just 17 km away, there is more choice.

Yelabuga — one of the most beautiful cities of Tatarstan. At the same time, it is absolutely diverse. Ancient, but at the same time, with undoubtedly active life. There is no 'somnolence' of Chistopol and the gloss of Bolgar. And it's because of the active life of the neighbouring SEZ Alabuga, due to which in Yelabuga there are many foreigners, guests and residents who travel to the city for business and tourism puposes, live in a new area, take children in the International School. So the city is a large patchwork blanket, made from the Bolgarian, merchant and modern fabrics.

Yelabuga is one of the most ancient settlements of Tatarstan with 1000-year history. The millennium anniversary was celebrated in 2007. The city is an example of merchant architecture of the 19 th century. It is 200 km away from Kazan.

We planned several meetings in Yelabuga. The first one was with Leonid Baryshev, a famous Tatarstan businessperson, who was born and lives in Yelabuga, like all his relatives. They remember Yelabuga as it was before the big construction of the Special Economic Zone. And even earlier, before the construction of the automobile plant ELAZ, which attracted in a closed in its 'hermetic' world Yelabuga the hundreds of Komsomol workers, gathered for the construction. And even earlier — from his grandparents, who remembered how Marina Tsvetaeva visited the city.

A huge number of places are associated with the name of Marina Tsvetaeva in Yelabuga. Even though she spent here only 10 days! And went for several days to nearby Chistopol.

A huge number of places are associated with the name of Marina Tsvetaeva in Yelabuga

We could not help but asked the museum workers who welcomed us in the city a question: 'Tsvetaeva stayed here for a week at best, but many places are dedicated to her. How come?' We were explained that poor Marina Tsvetaeva started to be called 'great poet' only because of such PR like an organisation of museums, arrangement of the poet's grave, reading her poems.

Two museums and several other memorable places in Yelabuga are dedicated to Marina Tsvetaeva: Literary Museum named after M. I. Tsvetaeva, House of Memory (20, Malaya Pokrovskaya Street), Portomoinya Museum, Silver Age Museum, Pokrov Church where Patriarch Aleksy read a funeral service in 1990, etc. One can book an excursion dedicated to Tsvetaeva in the Tourist and Information Centre (9, Gassara Street).

Airat went to talk to Albert Nigamaev who headed digs in the city in order to know how Yelabuga looked like thousand years ago. They met on a sleep riverbank in the Demonic Hillfort, which is the most famous place in the city that always look like a picture. Albert Nigamaev told the name Chyortovo Hillfort (Demonic Hillfort) is wrong. The old part of the city with a white stone tower should be called the Yelabuga Hillfort instead. It turns out a it is the name of the place where people don't live. Such hillforts are located in many places, for instance, in Ufa, told Nigamaev. Indeed, no one used to live in the Yelabuga Hillfort. It was a cult place. It was a mystery whether the Bolgarians lived here for a long time until a suburb was found in the lower part of Yelabuga. Despite long digs, scientists have about 10% of information about ancient Yelabuga, told the KFU professor. The digs in the low part of the city are not allowed because a tight historical construction is situated there, which is a landmark of the merchant architecture (in the 19 th century, Yelabuga used to sell bread).

The old part of the city with a white stone tower should be called the Yelabuga Hillfort instead

We were walking in the merchant part during the rest of the day. We were accompanied by the press secretary of the Museum-Reserve of Yelabuga Evgenia Ilyina. She showed the main points of interests of the city, told how its director Gulzada Rudenko created museums from scratch, in fact, when she headed the museum. She also spoke how she helped in the reconstruction of the river route, so the city had a new flow of tourists. We were told about the organisation of Tsvetaeva readings, Spas Fair, school educational programmes, and how a traditional souvenir Yelabuga Fly was created, etc. Once again we witnessed how people make the history of the city.

Yelabuga is a very pleasant place for going for a walk. We were there on Monday and we did not see any everyday fuss. Tourists and local people are very good neighbours here. Life is slow. It is a country but in a good sense. At the same time it is urban and secular.

People from all Tatarstan go on an excursion to Yelabuga. But the museum workers say people from other regions come even more. If you are going to visit the city from Kazan, get ready for a 3,5-hour trip. There are many options of excursions. You can book a sightseeing tour where you will visit the main points of interests and famous people: I. I. Shishkin Museum, N. A. Durova Museum – dedicated to the only female soldier of the Patriotic War of 1812, the Museum of District Medicine named after V. M. Bekhterev, which is the only museum in the Volga region, Tsvetaeva Museum, which we have mentioned, etc.

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