REJOICE. Today I have pictures. They’re not good, but they are pictures.
Today after class I was a super-shameless-touristka and went to Tugan Avylym, a model Tatar village located in a quiet part of the city center. I even had legitimate reasons—one of our homework assignments this week is to compare and contrast two items of the same sort. I heard about the “Tatar village” and knew instantaneously I should compare it to Colonial Williamsburg. It would have been hard not to think of Williamsburg when you live in a town where it’s normal to see fully-grown adults in 18th-century garb ride mopeds and tipsily stumble around the karaoke bar on ‘80s night. Besides, I’m a big fan of “living museums”—we got to see an old Russian village in Novgorod last year—so I had to check it out. (Also family, I am still lamenting the fact that we didn’t go to see the Ainu village in Yokohama. And I’m mostly over Arietty. Mostly.)
It was around 3pm when I got there and kind of cool outside, so at first there really wasn’t anyone around. It was totally free to enter the complex and they didn’t even charge for taking pictures (lots of Russian museums make you pay an extra fee). Even the guard was pleasant. This is such a weird city.
It’s not really set up to be historically accurate—although who’s to say what “accurate” really means? I mean, I’ve never been in an ancient Tatar village, so who knows. But I think I’m allowed to make some assumptions—like the fact that an ancient Tatar village wouldn’t have a pool hall and bowling alley, and the paths wouldn’t be made of beautifully laid stone. (And believe me, there were no dirt roads here; this has got to be the cleanest place I’ve ever seen in this country.) And I mean, Colonial Williamsburg isn’t accurate; the paint on the fences is always fresh, there aren’t pigs milling about in the streets, and it’s far more likely that you’ll smell potpourri from the soap shop than anything you actually would have smelt in 1750. (This is a pleasant upgrade, but it doesn’t prevent me from sometimes wishing they had an “EXPERIENCE THE REAL CW WEEKEND.”) But Tugan Avylym is definitely commercial rather than historical. The buildings were all immaculately decorated, there were flowers everywhere, the lanterns were all shiny and polished. It kind of felt like being in a life-size version of the It’s a Small World ride at Disney World. But in Russia.
(no, the fact that I have no pics of the buildings in their entirety is NOT meant to be artistic. my iPod camera is just really ghetto)
There were a couple boys playing on this bridge in the middle of the complex. They looked like they probably should have been in school, but no matter. I was mostly laughing the whole time at the fact that Tugan Avylym even has its own Crim Dell. [For those of you that don’t know, the Crim Dell is the beautiful (and really scummy, flesh-eating-bacteria-filled) lake in the middle of my campus. There’s a beautiful red bridge that has its own superstitions and everything.]
I went into the Blinnaya, this small cottage that was very Williamsburg-esque as it had an old school oven and cooking instruments. There was a woman making oladi (which are these sort of fat baby pancakes, a little different from regular blinchiki) in a wood stove in a cast-iron pan with a handle that was probably five feet long. So yes, super Williamsburg-y. I got a plate full of oladi and tea and pestered the woman about the complex—when it was built, who built it, etc. It’s pretty new (built for the Kazan millenial festivities in 2005, I think), but she didn’t know who the owners or investors were—not the government, clearly. I’m intrigued by who exactly wanted/could afford to present a sparkly, Disney-style rendition of an ancient Tatar village. Or, more accurately, who wanted to make a pretty penny off of it. CW was founded in the early 1900s by the Rockefellers as an historical and philanthropic endeavor; Tugan Avylym, on the other hand, is totally a commercial enterprise. It seems like Kazan is filled with shiny little things like this, tucked into corners.
So there. Now I’ve done my homework assignment for next Thursday and have also subjected you all to it.