visual guide – samara, russia

Samara was a nice surprise I got to experience, while traveling for work to Russia. Here is what to see in Samara 😊 Of course, walking and photographing always go hand in hand 😉

A historical location...

Before the fall of the Iron Curtain, Samara, known back then as Kuybyshev, was a closed city – nobody was allowed to travel to or stay overnight in Samara, without a special permission, given, most often, by the Secret Police of the Communist Party. This was due to its critical importance to the Soviet space and aircraft industries. Not only that but, during World War II, all government departments and diplomatic corps were moved from Moscow to Samara – which might explain the presence of a huge bunker built by Stalin in Samara, in 1942. Nowadays, the city is open more than ever, people are friendly, willing to welcome travelers from all over the world and to enchant them with their city. This year, Samara Arena hosted a bunch of World Cup football matches, so the locals had their fair share of foreigner travelers 😛

Being on a business trip, the schedule did not allow me to see much of the beauty of Samara. I missed a few important spots, such as Stalin’s bunker, but I got to see some others, such as the Monument of Glory.

Overlooking the Volga river, the monument depicts a man with wings over his head and it is dedicated to the Kuybyshev workers of aircraft industry, who were working hard during and following World War II. The square in which it is located, Slavy Square, is a meeting point for locals and travelers alike, where kids play around the water fountains.

All you need to do is pray...

In the same square as the monument is the St. George church, a Christian Orthodox church, which people can visit until late in the evening. Unlike the other churches in Samara, here you do not have to cover your head (as a woman) and you can take photos. I always loved the interiors of the Orthodox churches (including ones in my home country of Romania!), as they are beautifully painted with scenes from the bible or with portraits of various saints. 

One other Orthodox attraction in Samara is the Iversky Women’s Monastery. Nuns live and work here, taking care of the monastery grounds and praying. As a woman, you are only allowed to enter the church with your head covered. Despite not being a fan of these type of rules, I still wanted to respect the traditions of the host country I was visiting, so I borrowed a scarf from one of the nuns (apparently sign language works fine in any circumstance 😊). Also, you are not allowed to take photos during the service, which makes sense!  The interior was rather astonishing to tell you the truth, with a lot of gold decoration, apart from the already traditional wall paintings of saints and religious scene.

The grounds of the monastery are pretty big, considering it is located in the city, not on its outskirts. The green of the plants and trees, against the red of the brick constructions really gave an incredible sight.

Among all the Orthodox churches, whose domes you can see around the city, the Roman Catholics have built a spectacular church, the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Built in a neo-Gothic architectural style, the church was, for a long time, the tallest building in the city, due to its two towers. Throughout its history, the church withstood many acts of vandalism, being shut down by the Communists. It was given back to the Roman Catholic church, for worship, in 1991.

Walk and look around...

One other attraction point in Samara is Leningradskaya Ulitsa, a pedestrian-only street, where you can admire the beautiful 19th century houses that used to be occupied by the merchants who sold various stuff in the nearby market. Even nowadays, the street is filled with shops, restaurants and street performs are a common sight.

Samara’s architecture is rather eclectic. On one street, you see gorgeous 18th and 19th century houses, made from red brick stone or embellished with various Western decorations…

…and on the other you have rude, simple, collective apartment buildings.

For good measure, you can also throw in some Art Nouveau, 20th century buildings and you have an interesting mix.

Some of the older buildings are either in ruins or poorly maintained, but I still think they keep their charm, either way. And since I have a thing for doors and windows, I took a lot of photos of those 😛

If you, as I, have only a limited amount of time to spend in Samara, I suggest that the best way to spend that time is to walk around. You never know what hidden (or not so hidden) gems you might find 😊 All in all, Samara definitely needs to be re-visited. I still have a ton of things to see and I heard that a walk along the Volga river bank in Samara adds a bunch of years to your life (at least that’s what the locals say 😉)