WORLD CUP: Samara famed for Volga river and Soviet beer

In this photo taken on Saturday, April 28, 2018, an artist, right, performs waiting for football fans at the new the World Cup stadium in Samara prior to the Russian league soccer match between Krylia Sovetov (Wings of Soviets) and Fakel (Torch) , Russia. (AP Photo/Yuri Strelets)

MOSCOW (AP) Samara is a city defined by the vast Volga River, which has held a unique position in Russian culture for hundreds of years.

It’s been depicted in some of the country’s most famous paintings, like Ilya Repin’s ”Barge Haulers on the Volga.” The Soviet Union’s Lada cars were named after a type of Volga boat and built near Samara.

Fans may also be interested to know Samara is famous for its beer.

The city hosts a game between Uruguay and Russia which could well decide the host nation’s fate in the tournament.

Here’s what you need to know about one of the 11 host cities in Russia:

THE STADIUM

Samara’s 45,000-capacity stadium was tricky to build thanks to its complex domed roof, designed to evoke the majesty of space. As recently as February, the stadium didn’t have a pitch installed, prompting a rebuke from FIFA. The arena finally opened April 28.

Allow plenty of time for travel on the buses running for fans, since the stadium is more than six kilometers (3.7 miles) outside the city center.

WHAT TO KNOW

Samara is an industrial city perhaps best known for making the rockets used to send Russian cosmonauts into space.

During World War II the Soviet government was evacuated to Samara, then known as Kuibyshev after a Communist leader, when it looked like Moscow might fall into German hands.

WHAT TO DO

The wide Volga River dominates the city, and its long embankment is dotted with restaurants and cafes, as well as artificial beaches. The river’s cold, though, and not especially clean.

Visitors can also take a boat trip up the river – perhaps with a buffet and drinks aboard – for several hours.

Among Russians, Samara is also known for its Zhigulyovskoye lager. It was the Soviet Union’s most popular beer, best enjoyed with traditional Russian snacks like dried fish.

WHAT TO WATCH

Samara will host six matches, starting with the Group E game between Costa Rica and Serbia on June 17.

Denmark will then take on Australia in Group C on June 21, followed by a Group A match between Uruguay and host nation Russia on June 25.

On June 28, Colombia plays Senegal in Group H.

There’s a game in the last 16 on July 2, potentially featuring Brazil, and a quarterfinal July 7.

More AP World Cup coverage: www.apnews.com/tag/WorldCup