Astrakhan is the Caviar Capital of Russia. It is often called a “Venice on the Volga”, because a great part of it is located on 11 islands in the upper reaches of the Volga River Delta. Therefore the city has more than 50 bridges. Astrakhan is just 154 kilometers / 96 miles away from the Caspian Sea, a major sturgeon habitat. Entire Astrakhan Province is a very warm place that is famous all over Russia for its farm products, especially for watermelons. A very interesting fact is that in Sweden there is a brand of cider called “Astrakan”. This drink is made out of apples, once imported to this country from Astrakhan Province. Also, local plant breeders have managed to cultivate a hybrid of watermelon and melon, which is called a “moon watermelon”. Originally Astrakhan had nothing to do with Russia: these lands belonged once to the Golden Horde, to Khazaria, and subsequently to the Khanate of Astrakhan that was an independent state. The Khanate was conquered by the Russian Tzar Ivan the Terrible and the entire area became part of the Tzardom of Russia shortly afterwards. Modern Astrakhan is a cosmopolitan city with a diverse population of more than half of a million people: nearly 200 ethnicities that belong to 19 religious denominations live there.