Volgograd (then Stalingrad) was flattened in World War Two. It has been completely rebuilt with Soviet-style grandeur – wide boulevards, monuments on every corner, and of course a few Lenins. Set on the Volga River, I found it surprisingly beautiful.
The people also seem to have an arty bent, at least the ones I met, and there were several funky looking drama houses in the centre.
I arrived in this South Russian City early evening on the night train from Moscow,after back-to-back (virtually) night trains from Murmansk, through Saint Petersburg then Moscow. It felt nice to be in slightly milder weather.
I dumped my bag at the hostel and went out to catch the dusk over the river. Dinner was a picnic of left over chicken, hard boiled eggs and bread that a fellow passenger had insisted I take. A now elderly and retired army major, his family had loaded him up with food for the journey between children but he preferred vodka!
Over the next two days, I went to Mamayev Kurgan to see the gardens, statues and flame commemorating losses in WW2, including the incredibly striking 52 metre high monument, “The Motherland Calls” – this is on a hill overlooking town which was captured by the Nazis then recaptured eight times during the war; the State Panoramic museum; the Old Sarepta German settlement (founded in 1765); and I had a picnic in the sun by one of the massive locks in the Volga-Don Canal.
To finish off my visit to this justifiably proud town, the owners of the hostel hosted myself and another traveller to apple pie and cups of tea from fresh tea leaves from the Caucasus. Apparently I was their first ever Kiwi guest and they were keen to learn all they could!!
It also turned out that my fellow traveller, from Japan, would be the last non-Russian traveller or tourist I would see in my remaining two weeks in Russia!