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The Republic of Mari El is full of interesting places to visit: Sheremetev castle, an open-air ethnographic museum, and mineral springs. Kozmodemyansk is a town that the Russian authors Ilf and Petrov used as a prototype for the town of Vasyuki in their famous book the Twelve Chairs. The Benderiada festival is held every year celebrating Ostap Bender, the main character in the novel, and you can visit a museum bearing his name. But the real wealth of this region is its local nature—the Kamennaya Gora Nature Reserve, dubbed the Switzerland of Mari El, lakes, forest, and sacred Mari pagan temples.More about the region