Although it lacks major tourist attractions, Saratov is a pleasant city with a thriving commercial centre and an attractive green river embankment. Founded in 1590, Saratov was initially a fortress forming a line of defence for the trade route along the Volga.
A large community of ethnic Germans, mostly farmers, settled along the Volga around Saratov in the 18th and 19th centur- ies and even got their own autonomous republic within Russia in 1924. However, this was abolished during WWII when Saratov was actually occupied by the Nazis. Emigration and deportation have since decreased their numbers.
The first man in space, cosmonaut Yury Gagarin, lived in Saratov and studied at the local university, which now bears his name. The lively café scene on pr Kirova and the town's distinctive German flavour (due mainly to the tourists it attracts) make Saratov an enjoyable place to spend a day.