Tyumen and Samara are just two of Russia’s most beautiful cities, with historical plazas, peaceful riversides, and elaborate architectural works. You are likely to find a number of gems as you explore these cities…
Youthful and Vibrant: Tyumen
Tyumen was the first Russian city to be founded in the country’s Siberian region back in 1586. The capital of the country’s oil and natural gas industry, Tyumen is more than just an industrial hub and boasts many artistic and cultural sites for tourists. And with a population of 700.000, most of whom are under the age of 35, it is no surprise that Tyumen is a fun, modern city, full of youthful exuberance.
Three things to do in Tyumen
- Tura Embankment: One of the most popular places in Tyumen – for locals and visitors alike – is along the banks of the River Tura. Along the extensive riverside one can find many parks and cafes with views which overlook its currents. The embankment is also located not far from other important tourist sites, and lies a short walking distance from the Lovers’ Bridge which is featured on all the city’s postcards and tourist knick-knacks, along with the historical city museum, university quarter, and the Holy Trinity Monastery. During the spring and summer, the river bank plays host to various musical performances and waterjet displays. The special tours organized for visitors around the area over the summer are also not to be missed.
- Farewell Square: Farewell Square is one of Tyumen’s main city parks, and as its name suggests, its construction was wrought with somber significance. The statue located at the square was built in remembrance of the town’s students who fought in the World War II never to return and was built in 1991 by the graduates of the years between 1941-1945. The statue depicts a uniformed solider being waved off by a barefooted women. The significance of the bare feet is to show how suddenly the war hit and the call for service was delivered, so that there was no time even to give the soldiers a proper send-off. Every year on 22 July, students from the 1940s leave wreaths in remembrance of their deceased comrades at the foot of the statue.
- Holy Trinity Monastery: Holy Trinity Monastery, located in the heart of the city’s historical quarter, is a historical structure which demonstrates a combination of Russian and Siberian architectural styles. A stone’s throw from the banks of the River Tura, the monastery was constructed out of wood in 1616, only to be knocked down in 1708 to make way for the stone structure visible today and renamed ‘Holy trinity’. Throughout the Soviet Era, the building functioned as the base of the city’s waterworks, as well as fulfilling some military use, but was handed to the Tyumen Diocese in 1995. The monastery’s first service sincere-opening was held in 2003, and it continues its active religious functions until this day. The public building is best viewed in spring and summer time, when visitors can enjoy the floral arrangements of its parkland.
The Artistic and Cultural Hub: Samara
Russia’s sixth largest city, Samara is young, vibrant, and enamored with the arts and feeds off the energy of the Volga River. The city hosts a wealth of opera and theatre buildings, impressive religious structures, and features which hint at the city’s Soviet past.
Three things to do in Samara
- Gorky Academic Drama Theatre: Named after the titan of Russian literature, Maxim Gorky, the theatre is one of the most remarkable buildings in the city. Structurally one of the best examples of the architecture of old Samara, it resembles something from a fairy tale set along the banks of the river. Having hosted countless stars of theatre and ballet throughout the Soviet and Russian periods, the Gorky Academic Drama Theatre remains one of the most importance cultural centers in Samara and the surrounding region. Known locally as the ‘Temple of Art’, the theatre holds local art performances day upon day. Even if you opt out of enjoying a performance, you can always take some snaps of the lush surrounding park in which the building is located.
- Iversky Women’s Monastery: Of all the elaborate architectural works lining the banks of the Volga, none compare to the Iversky Women’s Monastery, whose construction was launched in 1850. What began as a rather humble project launched in the name of a small community called the ’Sisters of Charity’ funded by donations from the local townsfolk, is now a major attraction that draws visitors every day, despite lying a little far out from the town center. The structure later expanded into a large monastery complex as the community grew, however, like other religious structures under the Soviet Era, was closed down and converted into a warehouse. During this process, many annexes of the complex were destroyed. The convent was later restored to its original glory after being handed back to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1992. The building is now open for all those who wish to attend its services, or explore the surrounding gardens.
- Stalin’s Bunker: Have you ever considered how much thought old political leaders had to put into having an emergency refuge? If you find yourself in Samara, then you can find out first-hand with a visit to one of the Soviet leader Josef Stalin’s secret bunker – reserved just in case things went awry during or after World War II. Work began on this top secret refuge – intended to be the most impenetrable yet – in February 1942. The bunker is located near the city’s beloved Strukovsky Garden beneath the Culture and Art Academy building. The well-hidden entrance leads to an underground lair plunges 37 meters into the earth. This might not seem so amazing unless you recall that Hitler’s own bunker was only five floors deep, while Churchill and Roosevelt’s measuring a measly two floors in total. Enter the structure for a small fee, and explore the strategy rooms and dormitories within.
Source: AtlasGlobal, Text: Carolin Arsel