Astrakhan – Tatar Markets and Mosques


Old wooden house and store in front of 18th century church

The Muezzin’s call to prayer rang out from the loud speakers of the local mosque over the wooden roof tops as the sun rose in Astrakhan. I was back in non-slavic Russia.

Astrakhan sits on the Volga River near its discharge point into the Caspian Sea. It’s famous for sturgeon caviar (now banned as this fish is in danger of extinction) and having been a trading post on the Silk Route between East and West – the town was once populated with multi-ethnic traders from Persia, Armenia, Khiva, and India, amongst others.

There is a beautiful white 16th century Russian Kremlin (fortified town), old churches, mosques and a Tatar Market. The river promenade has been revamped with parks, floating restaurants and statues. Just blocks from grand public spaces, suburbs of traditional wooden homes stand, just, lived in and in varying states of repair.

Unfortunately the river boats from Volgograd had finished for the summer so I arrived again by over-night train. It was headed ultimately for Grozny in Chechnya and a bunch of soldiers partied into the night as we rattled along.

I then had an adventure getting to my hotel which was about 7k out of town. I’d rung to get the local bus number I needed but when I asked the drivers of those buses they said they didn’t know the road.  After asking in a nearby kiosk I was told a different bus number and yes, that driver knew the place.  I was dumped on an unexpectedly quiet corner and after checking my map found I was miles on the wrong side of town! I had either pronounced the street name wrong or it was known by some other name!

A receptionist in a hotel nearby checked online and found me a bus back across town to my proper destination. This time I discovered the amazing benefits of following myself by GPS on Google Maps!

On finally arriving at the right part of right long road where my hotel was meant to be, the hotel was not there.  A slightly grumpy call to the receptionist there had me traipsing back up the road and her coming out to meet me!

Thankfully I had all day so all this was just an extra bit of sightseeing! Afterwards, I felt like a local catching the crowded minibus “mashrutka” in and out of the town centre each day!

My prize for all this dashing around was having a room to myself for dorm prices. The hotel was a huge purpose built motel but was strangely designed and now mouldy and cracking. That combined with being out of town meant I was one of few guests.

The sun shone, black seabirds cross-crossed the sky and I met the call to prayer with a happy and grateful stretch!


Lenin Statue in front of a Kremlin tower and part of wall


Kremin’s Prechistenskie Belfry Gate and the Assumption Church inside


Hope no one was standing on this balcony when it went!


One of many beautiful old mosques – this one built in 1810


Pickled veges galore a the Tatar Bazaar…


Selling honey…




…and dry goods (just to reveal a few tasty colourful stalls). Yum! Happy strolling!

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6 Responses to Astrakhan – Tatar Markets and Mosques

  1. Chelle says:

    Hey Sez, just to say I’m loving reading all about your travels! Its such a great idea to do this blog, it will be great for you too look back on in years to come and remember all the little details you’ve made the effort to include. Happy travels! Bet its bloody freezing there now! Stay warm 🙂 x

    • Bumblebee says:

      Thanks Chelle, glad you’re enjoying it! It’s cool for me too even now – it helps me to step back from the day to day busyness of travelling every now and then to take in how truly lucky I am! X

  2. Gaileen says:

    What a fascinating market! Your travels to find the hotel will be a memory you laugh about for many years… even if a bit grumpy at the time. The call to prayer just reminds us that we are somewhere different and exciting (as long as it is not next door at 4am). Keep having fun.

    • Bumblebee says:

      Hi there!! Yes the market was really colourful and full of amazing food! The honey lady especially was gorgeous – when I asked to take her photo she gave me a big golden toothed grin but my phone camera was too slow to catch it. Still I think I still got the twinkle in her eye!

      As for the long way to the hotel, in the next town I visited, Elista, I asked the minivan lady “Do you go to “Hotel” stop?” She said “Yes”. Then twenty minutes later I tapped her on the shoulder “Is Hotel still coming?” We had gone past it ten minutes ago! I had suspected one stop could be it but assumed she’d tell me!! Out to the end of the line and back again I went! That made me laugh! I tightened up my practices after that – I think I was getting a bit too relaxed! 🙂

  3. Pingback: Ulan Ude – East meets West | Bumblebee Trails

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