Daria Chertyshova is a Saratov-based journalist and editor. She is also CEO and founder of Human, an independent lifestyle & urban culture magazine dedicated to Saratov. Born in raised in Samara, another big city on the Volga River, Daria moved to Saratov to study in university, found many opportunities in the city and decided to stay there for good. As she describes it, she couldn't find the job she liked so she had to invent it herself. The result is a inspiring city magazine with beautiful design and exciting stories which you can find in many cafés, restaurants and shops around the city. We met Daria in Saratov to discuss with her the changing face of the city, the latest openings and where to head beyond Saratov.
It gives me an opportunity to break down the stereotypes, to push boundaries and see the country from a new side. Over the last few years these trips have become more and more interesting, bringing surprises around every corner. And although you expect it from Moscow and St Petersburg, finding a superb wine bar in Krasnodar, a trendy deli with local produce in Rostov-on-Don or the most delicious pistachio and vanilla ice cream in Saratov is still something extraordinary.
My favourite city is St Petersburg. Even if you avoid museums and galleries, and stop exploring the streets and architecture, the art and creative vibes are permeating you via the snatches of overheard conversations in the streets and cafés. There’s a different pace of life in St Petersburg. It’s so distinct from any other Russian city and yet very Russian at heart.
I was also very impressed by Rostov-on-Don. Ordinary and provincial at first glance, this city has a buzzing food scene with interesting restaurant concepts and high-quality food. I’m pretty sure many of those places can easily compete with the some of the best restaurants in Moscow.
I never leave Saratov in summer. Locals often joke about Saratov’s resort potential. Obviously, Saratov is no resort but in summer there’s a palpable holiday vibe in the city. The smell of the Volga River is wafting through the air, gardens along the river turn green, restaurants open their riverside terraces, there’s loud pop music from the party boats cruising along the river and the whole city is only talking about boats and beaches. I enjoy living near such a large river as the Volga. Whenever I have free time I go wakesurfing on the river. This water sport is getting more and more popular here. A couple of years ago local enthusiasts opened the new Saratov Surf Camp where you can surf with professional instructors.
I try to go to Khvalynsky Ski Resort at least once during winter. It’s only three-hour drive away from Saratov and you can snowboard and then relax in local hot springs.
Life in Saratov is pretty slow-paced, there isn’t much fuss, hardly any traffic jams. My workplace and home are a stone’s throw away from each other. There’s a defined historical city centre, and both water activities and bike rides in the enormous Kumysnaya Polyana Park are within a 20-minute ride. It helps me with time management and allows me not to feel like a boiled rag after work. This city doesn’t suck my energy out which is very important for me.
I’m inspired by the endless business opportunities in our city. There’s a dizzying number of vacant niches in business and I’m so inspired by the people who overcome all odds to bring their projects to fruition and make this city a little bit better.
It’s been five years since I founded Human, and throughout this time we’ve been trying to show that every person and every project is interesting in its own way. We find the most interesting people, companies and projects and tell about them to our reader. We don’t write about visiting celebrities, we don’t have gossip columns or other attributes of traditional glossy magazines. It’s the minimalist design, the quality of our content and the commitment to the best European magazines that make us so up-to-date. We also have a design bureau HumanPRO which develops brand identity for new companies. A year ago, I also founded another project with the partners from the interior design showroom Eclectic Studio. Our website eclectic.cloud is just at the start and there’s so much to do - to tell people about modern interior design in Russia in plain language is not easy but we’re doing our best.
My favourite place is the headquarters of our Human Magazine. It took us a while to find this perfect spot on the central street in the former office of the Soviet publishing house Slovo. We have panoramic windows overlooking the gigantic bridge over the Volga River and low-key but stylish interiors with a huge selection of magazines from all over the world. Besides, our office and our library are open to everyone, so do pop in if you’re in town. We’re just across the road from one of the third-wave coffee shops Portland Coffee, and a stone’s throw from the embankment. My perfect day starts with a stroll along the river, armed with a book and a takeaway coffee.
Another place that I particularly like is Kumysnaya Polyana Forest. Just a short bike ride away, and I’m on a beautiful thickly wooded hill where I totally forget that I’m on the outskirts of a big city. Once I even celebrated my birthday there. It’s a car-free place so everyone had to cycle there loaded with all the food, presents, and picnic equipment.
A few years ago Saratov joined the coffee revolution which brought many third-wave coffee shops to the city. In fact, one of the most famous coffee roasters in Russia, Maksim Manylov, lives in Saratov. His company Volga Coffee Roasters supplies excellent coffee to cafés both in Saratov and all across Russia. I always order flat white in Portland Coffee and satisfy my dessert cravings with sweet and creamy Raf coffee at Coffee is a Fruit Coffeeshop.
You can find excellent breakfasts at Patissiere Café. Poached eggs, Israeli shakshuka, cottage cheese fritters with crème fraîche are my favourites.
Go to Doberman hot dog café. They often update their menu adding some unusual toppings and ingredients like curry, pineapples or olive paste.
Saratov is certainly not the best nightlife destination in Russia but one place I love is Harat’s Pub on Gorkogo Street. It’s small and cosy, and has a good variety of both draft and craft beer, and excellent snacks and bites to boot. A pint of Belgian beer would go perfectly with their spicy fried almonds and a heaping skillet of oysters.
For a tranquil dinner with wine I’d suggest Med Wine Bar. They do modern takes on classic dishes and have a small but interesting wine list. And it’s perfectly located for after-dinner strolls along the Volga embankment. If you like bigger and livelier places, go to Soho Restaurant located in an old mansion in the city centre.
Dates should be perfect. Personally, I’d go to Verhoff Chocolaterie. It’s a local bean-to-bar chocolate maker which carefully selects beans from the best cocoa plantations in the world. They serve over a dozen varieties of hot chocolate and delicious ice cream (the best I’ve ever tried), and have an eye-popping selection of chocolate bars in the perfect monochrome packages. Every time I pop in I’m struggling to believe that I’m in Saratov.
Given the fact that Saratov is located in a lowland area surrounded by hills, there’re quite a few lookouts for scenic views. One of my favourite is the observation point at the Pobedy Park, next to the Zhuravli memorial complex.
A newly-renovated Russian restaurant with a tongue-twister name Po Shchuchyemu Veleniyu (literally meaning The Wish Upon a Pike). I love their new interior - very modern yet filled with historical Russian furniture and objects of craftsmanship.
There’re no chain hotels in Saratov so it’s not that easy to find a place with standartised services and quality. Opt for Zhemchuzhina Hotel which offers huge rooms and panoramic views over the Volga River or Address Hotel with nicely decorated rooms but not such a good location.
Ideally between mid-June and mid-August to enjoy the full range of activities in the city.
I strongly recommend the Radishchev Museum even if there aren’t any major temporary exhibitions. The permanent collection and the interiors are just magnificent.
Go for breakfast to Patissiere Café, then walk along the embankment and the main pedestrian street, grab a coffee at one of the many specialty coffee spots along the way, have lunch at a Russian restaurant Po Shchuchyemu Veleniyu. After lunch, head to the Radishchev Museum and explore the garden next to the Theatre of Opera and Ballet. Grab a bite at Doberman hot dog café. Watch the sunset at Pobedy Park with sweeping views over the city. Finish your day at Med Wine Bar or Harat’s Pub. If you’re staying here for another day, go on a private city tour with Igor Sorokin, a local historian who knows everything about Saratov. Otherwise, if history is not your cup of tea, charter a motorboat and take a wakesurf lesson at Saratov Surf Camp school or try your hand at wake boarding at Volga Wake Park or Bodry Vodny. My other suggestion would be to rent a bike and go to Kumysnaya Polyana, a lush and dewy Russian forest just outside Saratov.
My favourite getaway is the Stepan Razin Cliff, a land of endless sunbaked fields, ragged coastline with a series of chalk cliffs and incredibly wide Volga River. I love going there with my family and friends to recharge and mingle with nature.