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Fill your pockets with rubles when visiting Saratov, as most places do not take credit cards and Western Union transfers require a Russian notarized passport to be presented. Beware if changing currency at the train station, as counterfeited rubles appear to be the favored exchange rate for foreigners. Saratov was home to the first man in space, cosmonaut Yury Gagarin who studied at the local university that now bears his name. Sitting on the Volga River, Saratov historically was a city of gold diggers and merchants. Today you can still see the remnants of this charming past in a laid back atmosphere with a touch of seaside resort vibe and Central European ambience.
There are plenty of old farmsteads, buildings and houses that display the city's earlier history. The city is believed to have been established around the 1589 mark, on the foundations of a Tatar village that was a guard point along the Volga River. From a somewhat shabby town, it became a rich prosperous city after the famous rebel Emel'yan Pugachev occupied the city.
There are no dangerous mountains to abseil or fast running rivers to raft down, just a gentle mix of groves, woods, forests and steppes with stunning vistas due to the mix of European and Asian flora and fauna. During the winter months skiing rules and in the summer months it is time to go fishing, hunting, canoeing, sailing or other calm-water focused activities. River cruises on the Volga are always a tourist hit, as it is the longest river in Europe. To indulge in some cultural pursuits go to a performance of opera or ballet in the Bolshov Theater or head to one of the oldest theaters in Russia, the Saratov Slonov Academic Drama Theater. You can sit in a folding chair and watch a foreign movie via a projector screen in the "Dom Kino" or visit the circus that happens to be one of the first to be established in Russia. For the arty crowd there is the Radischev Art Gallery to meander around and the sporting enthusiast can get their vocal cords bellowing at a local soccer game.
If you want to get out of the city exploring, then you should head to the 12th Century "Old City of Uvek" on the outskirts of town.
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