Elabuga is a 45 minute bus ride away. The city has a completely different look, feel and pace to Chelny. Elabuga boasts a history of around 1000 years and is very proud of its historical significance within the Republic of Tatarstan. As a result, Elabuga has museums and exhibition halls, the quality of which you won’t find in modern young cities like Chelny or Nizhnekamsk.
This edition of Matryoshka City is basically a diary entry of that warm summer’s day in which I decided to get up off the sofa and do something memorable on my unexpected day off.
I arrived in Elabuga at around 11am. After a late breakfast at ‘Rock & Rolls’ consisting of seafood soup, a burrito and coffee I went to ‘Manhattan’ bowling alley to hopefully throw a few strikes. Straight away, I noticed how good the equipment was in ‘Manhattan’. The bowling lanes were in perfect condition and the balls were almost new. It was as if the place was built and opened that week.
The woman at the front desk explained why everything at this particular bowling alley was such good quality. Apparently, the owner of the club bowls himself. He takes bowling seriously as a sport so when he invests in equipment and repairs, he wants the best because he uses the lanes too. Also, ‘Manhattan’ hosts a stage of the All Russia Bowling Championship once a year. Therefore the lanes must be suitable for official competitions – ones that I won’t be participating in any time soon, because on this particular day I bowled a pathetic score of 142.
After bowling, the tourist information office of Elabuga, located on Lenin Square, told me about something interesting at the Elabuga Exhibition Hall – a museum space for temporary, constantly changing exhibitions. I went to check it out.
At the Exhibition Hall I learnt all about the Republic of Tuva. Tuva is within the Russian Federation near the border of Mongolia. It has a population of 313,000 people. The capital city is Kyzyl. The official religion of Tuva has been Buddhism since the 17th century. Before that, the Tuvan people were Shamanic. Now, the religion is a mix of Buddhism and Shamanism.
What was initially planned as quick 30 minute wonder around the exhibition became a fascinating 90 minute lecture by the curator.
Not only because I was interested in what she had to say, but also because it was raining heavily outside so I decided to stay longer and learn more.
She told me about the traditions of the Tuvan people and explained the items on display.
There was a cross section of a typical tent in which they live, many items of Tuvan jewelry, musical instruments and clothing.
Before I walked into the exhibition, I didn’t even know there was a place called Tuva. I walked out with acquired knowledge and the urge to tell people about what I had just seen.
After a very reasonably priced late lunch at the Shishkin Hotel, I caught the bus back to Chelny, fully content with my decision to not stay at home and do nothing all day.
It was an eye opening experience learning about a distant and unfamiliar culture.
Elabuga is a peaceful and calm town to walk around. I want to go back there soon to visit a number of other museums, including the City’s History Museum.
Sometimes the best adventures are spontaneous and unplanned.