A fans’ guide to Saransk

We’ve all heard of Moscow, St Petersburg and Sochi, but what about Saransk – is that a name you’re familiar with?

Saransk is the capital city of the Republic of Mordovia. The city stands in the Volga basin at the confluence of the Saranka and Insar Rivers, about 390 miles east of Moscow. It was founded in 1641 as a fortress. These days, it’s one of the most beautiful cities in Russia and world-famous for its sporting achievements, as it’s the home town of many Olympic and World champions.

Saransk_from_Ferris_wheel

Source: Wiki Commons, WildBoar

The city’s modern and European-looking streets attract thousands of tourists from all over the country. It combines historical buildings, Soviet-era apartment blocks, fascinating sports venues, crowded malls and cosy parks. It really is a friendly, exciting place to visit.

Pushkin’s Park is a great place to relax and watch the world go by, while there’s no shortage of churches and cathedrals, museums and memorials. The Cathedral of St Theodore Ushakov with its gleaming golden domes is particularly impressive, and well worth a visit.

Being quite a small city, there’s only one kind of public transport – the bus. However, they’re available everywhere from early morning to late at night. Alternatively, you can take a taxi. The prices are cheap, and the drivers friendly and outgoing. But maybe the best way to get around and see the sights is on foot. That way, you can go wherever you like and stop when you want – a great way to discover this fascinating place and its many wonders.

Where to stay

There aren’t as many hotels in Saransk as there are in the other World Cup 2018 host cities (the population is only about 300 000), and none directly near the Mordovia Arena, but there are various apartment rentals to choose from. In the centre, Saransk Hotel and Meridian are both within easy walking distance of the stadium, with a number of other hotels further away.

Of course, there are also apartment rentals, hostels, and a range of other options available for travelling fans, including a tent city, we believe! But for Saransk more than any other host city, you need expert, friendly advice on where to stay and finding the best deals. That’s why you need to partner with RNTO. Just give us a call on 0207 985 1234, and we’ll make sure you get the best-value accommodation available.

The stadium

The Mordovia Arena is part of a large new development just across the bridge over the River Insar from Saransk’s city centre. It forms part of a new area consisting of residential units, parks and shopping malls. The arena, also known as Saransk Stadium, will be the new home of Mordovia Saransk once the 2018 World Cup is over.

Its capacity for the tournament is 45 000 seats, which will be reduced to 28 000 after the World Cup by removing the upper tier. During the World Cup, the Mordovia Arena will host four first-round group matches.

The stadium is located on the eastern edge of Saransk, less than a kilometre (10-minute walk) from the city’s main Sovetskaya Square. Saransk’s main railway station lies a little further north, but still just a little over 2 kilometres away. At the moment, there aren’t many options to eat and drink around the stadium, but with the city centre nearby, that’s hardly a problem.

While most central parts of Saransk are all within walking distance of the stadium, you can take bus 44 if you’re in a hurry, though the route from the railway station is rather circuitous. It’s a quick connection from the bus terminal though. Alternatively, there are multiple marshrutkas (shared taxis) which run along Volgogradskaya Street next to the stadium. And remember: your FAN ID  allows you to travel free on selected public transport routes.

The tournament gets underway on 16 June at 7.00 pm, when Peru clash with Denmark. Three days later, Colombia take on Japan.

What to see

There are more than 40 churches and chapels in Saransk and its surrounding area which tell the history of the Mordva people. There’s a route that’s about 3 miles long that takes in the best of them.

Start at the Ioanno-Bogoslovsky (St John the Evangelist) Temple on Demokraticheskaya Ulitsa. The Church of St John the Evangelist is one of the few architectural landmarks in the Mordovian capital that dates back to the seventeenth century. There’s also a smaller Church of the Epiphany within the premises of the main church, but this is a modern building. The first written evidence of the adoption of Christianity by the local people dates from the sixteenth century. The first to adopt the Orthodox faith were the local elite, and by the mid-eighteenth century, the conversion of the Mordva people was more or less complete.

After leaving the church, walk towards Kommunisticheskaya Ulitsa and take a ten-minute stroll to the Mordovian Erzia Museum of Visual Arts. You’ll need at least an hour to look through the museum’s collection, which contains more than 1500 items, including works by contemporary Mordovian artists, Orthodox icons and nineteenth-century drawings, etchings and paintings by well-known Russian artists.

Leaving the museum, walk another 500 yards through the garden square towards Sovetskaya Ulitsa to find the imposing golden-domed Cathedral of St Theodore Ushakov. Next to the cathedral is a monument to Fedor Ushakov – a Russian admiral who commanded the Black Sea Fleet in 1790–1792, and considered by many the town’s patron saint.

Next to the cathedral is the Alexander Nevsky Chapel with its octagonal dome, built in 2000 in memory of Mordovia residents who died as a result of wars and natural disasters. A hundred yards away is a monument to Patriarch Nikon (1605–1681), a venerated reformer of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Then head down to Krasnoarmeyskaya Ulitsa, to find the Church of the Assumption of the Holy Virgin – actually, two separate churches built in 1734 and 1802. In 1882, a new bell tower was built between the two churches, uniting them as one.

Leaving the Assumption Church, go around the corner and you’ll find yourself in Pushkin Park. You can walk through the park, past a small town zoo, to come out on Moskovskaya Ulitsa. Turn right and walk a little further until you reach the Mordovia Local History Museum, whose most ancient exhibits go all the way back to the Mesolithic period. This is one of the few places where you can learn about the customs and traditions of the Mokshi and Erzia ethnic groups that make up the Mordva people, including the history of their gradual conversion to Christianity.

Next, walk down Moskovskaya Ulitsa towards Sovetskaya Ulitsa, back through Pushkin Park. After 15 minutes, you’ll come to the Mineralogy Museum with its collection made up of all the principal minerals, rocks and mineral resources of Russia and beyond.

Opposite the museum is the Mordovian Drama Theatre. The republic’s national theatre tradition dates back to the 1930s, although this particular building was constructed in 2007 on a spot previously occupied by a two-storey pre-revolutionary building, home to Saransk’s first movie theatre.

Saransk isn’t short of impressive squares, either. Soviet (Sovetskaya) Square is Saransk’s historic centre. The area used to have its very own kremlin, but it was burnt down in the 1800s. In the 1960s-1970s, the square went through a major overhaul. Historic buildings were removed, the square expanded and administrative buildings were added. Today, the square is home to the Mordovian capital administration and the House of the Republic – a monumental building that’s the residence of the head of Mordovia.

Then there’s Victory Square, which also forms part of the city’s historic centre, with its focal point – the monument to Mordovia’s soldiers who perished in the Second World War. Or Millennium (Tysyacheletia) Square, opened as recently as 2012 and dedicated to the unification of Mordovia with the peoples of the Russian state. The dominant element of this new pedestrian area is the Zvezda Mordovii (Star of Mordovia) fountain, 60 metres in diameter with LED lighting.

Other fountains worth seeing are the Forever with Russia complex with its monument depicting two women in national Mordovian dress holding an ear of wheat in their hands to symbolise the fertility of the Mordovian soil. It’s especially spectacular at night, when the lights are turned on. Or visit the ‘fountain descent’ on Moskovskaya Street, with its monument to Pushkin. The descent leads towards the city’s Pushkin Park, a great place to relax on a sunny day.

Bars and restaurants

Saransk may not have the widest choice of places to eat and drink of all the 2018 World Cup host cities, but you won’t have any problems finding somewhere suitable. There’s more than enough choice, including a number of sports bars which are sure to be popular throughout the tournament.

Whether it’s live music, great food, meeting other fans or just watching the World Cup unfold, there are plenty of options to enjoy the competition with a beer or two.

As always, the official Russia 2018 website has some useful recommendations.

Watch for free

Experiencing the glamour and excitement of the World Cup in one of the 12 stadia hosting the event is an unforgettable experience. But what if you can’t get a ticket – what’s the next best thing?

The ‘Fan Fest’ areas have giant screens set up in huge open areas where fans can watch all the action live. And the best thing about it is that they’re free!

Over 5 million people attended the 2014 Fan Fest events in Brazil. Not only are they a great way to follow your team and meet supporters from all around the world – they mean you can truly enjoy the unique culture and friendly hospitality on offer in each of the host cities and take home some amazing memories of Russia 2018.

In Saransk, head for Sovetskaya Square, right in the city centre. With room for 25 000 fans, it’s a great way to enjoy all the action from Russia 2018. And for more information, see the official FIFA website. See you there!

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