Saratov is a laid-back place and has a bit of a seaside resort atmosphere, although it lacks major tourist attractions. The former name of ul Kirova is Nemetskaya (German), a sure sign that Saratov was once at the heart of the Volga German region. Wartime deportations spared few Volga Germans and only a handful returned here from exile, but their presence can be felt in the city’s distinctly Central European ambience.
Across the Volga river in Engels, once known as Pokrovsk when it was the capital of the Autonomous Socialist Soviet Republic of the Volga Germans, is an outstanding collection of paintings by the Volga German Yakov Veber.
The first man in space, cosmonaut Yury Gagarin, lived in Saratov and studied at the local university, which now bears his name.