Kazan is said to be Russia's third capital and the heart of its Muslim population. It's easily the most interesting city so far. The Urals were no more than a gentle rise on our way here to European Russia and the banks of the Volga.
The 12th century Kremlin (fortress) built by Ivan the Terrible is a World Heritage Site. The site contains a striking mosque, a 15th century Orthodox church and several excellent museums. The mineralogical museum is the best I've ever visited and the adjacent Natural History museum is world class. Along with dinosaur and mammoth specimens there is an interactive exhibit that allows you to photograph yourself in contact with prehistoric animals including a sabre tooth tiger and a baby mammoth. Quite a sight. I'll do my best to add some footage when I have the opportunity.
A quick visit to the Temple of the World's Religions is somewhere between tacky and inspiring. My universalist Quaker forebears would appreciate the intent.
An hour by local train takes us to the island fortress of Sviyazhsk, founded by Ivan the Terrible in his wars against the Tartars. The fortress also played a role in the war between the Reds and the Whites following the October Revolution of 1917. You might not know that American troops supported the Whites though primarily in Siberia.
A restaurant on the island served up the best bowl of borscht I had all trip.
Still not a single American or Canadian since arriving in Russia. Very few non Russian tourists. The Russians continue warm and welcoming and the streets continue to be free of litter.