We are back in Europe.

Europe sign.Fifteen kilometers out of Yekaterinburg we passed a sign to tell us we were back in Europe. Just to make sure we didn't miss it a few metres down the road was a white line to mark the exact spot! All the books say the Ural mountains are the boundary between Europe and Asia but on our route they could only be called the Ural hills as they were hardly noticeable, let alone impressive.

The Ice Cave at Kungur was our next objective ("famous for unique ice formations with frozen waterfalls and transparent lakes"). All the directions our guide book gave was "5km from Kungur". Nevertheless K-Nine found them (you try sign language for "which way to the ice cave?"). For the record they are 4.5km North East of Kungur at 57.439297°N 57.007413°E.

The Kazan Kremlin with new Mosque.There is a car park where you stay overnight for a small fee. The caves themselves are, as you would expect - cold, and can only be visited as part of a group with a guide. Our guide (Russian only) rushed us through in an hour by switching the lights off if we showed any signs of stopping too long to look at anything. There is very little ice, mostly wet rock. Worth a visit, but take warm clothes and a hard hat if you have one. Not for the claustrophobic.

The Annunciation Cathedreal in the Kremlin.Following our success at finding a great parking place at Yekaterinburg in the heart of the city, right by the main attraction, we tried the same tactics in Kazan. And it worked! We drove to the Kremlin (fort) and found a car park with fine views right under the walls. (55.795358°N 49.105163°E).

We were, alas, moved from our car park on the second day in Kazan, but only because they were preparing for their 1000 year celebrations and wanted to set up a beer tent in it.

Peter & Paul CathedralThe Kazan Kremlin, with its outer walls painted brilliant white, dominates the north west corner of the city. Within its walls are a number of towers and churches dating from the 17th century and, rather surprisingly, a very new and very large mosque!

If only on esthetic grounds a mosque seems an odd thing to build in the 21st century inside a 500 year old fort! I am surprised that UNESCO (who list the Kremlin as a World Heritage Site) are happy with this.

Within the city the SS* Peter & Paul Cathedral is well worth a visit (the obligatory gift shop sells lots of icons but they were sold out of indulgences when I was there).

Also well worth a visit, or two, is Pizzeria Giuseppe on ulitsa Kremlyovskaya. If you are lucky, as we were, Giuseppe will stop by your table with a bottle of Grappa and reminisce (in English, French, German, Italian, Russian or in our case Hungarian with Peter).

* SS abbr. 1 steamship. 2 hist. Nazi special police force. 3 Saints.
Stephen Stewart.

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