We stayed at the Volga, the once beautiful art deco hotel in the main mall in Saratov. We're sure Ernest Hemingway must have downed a few vodka toasts there sometime. We had a drink and ate across the mall in a place that Damon Runyon would have immortalised. Apart from Yuri Gagarin, Saratov also represents the heart of the German Volga region and the ancestral home of Peter Ustinov, for those old enough to remember. It has loads of theatres and culture, is on the Volga (who needs anything else?) and has a heart. The mall is long with a large market at one end and a large square at the other, plus numerous old parks and squares not yet occupied by apartment buildings.
We also visited the Radishchev Fine Arts Museum off the main square – don’t miss it for the cast iron staircases let alone the art. An exhibition on Alexei Bogoliubovs landscapes and marine works was truly wonderful. Also an exhibition of Russian cartoon sketches was beyond me but had class.
We left Saratov feeling good about the place. There were still many old wooded buildings near the centre and it still had a heart. And how could you not love a city with the cheek to have a street named after Sacco and Vanzetti?