We were excited to visit Volvograd, a city you probably haven’t heard of unless you know of the former name, Stalingrad. It was here that the Russians got pounded by Hitler’s 6th Army and the siege of Stalingrad is one of the most famous and most pivotal battles in the whole of WWII. Their city may have been mostly destroyed (more bombs in 48 hours than any time in the London Blitz), but the citizens here are proud of their role in the Allied victory and the Soviets stuffed it full of monuments, avenues and embankments named after those that helped in the WWII effort. Here’s some cool things we did when in Volvograd.
First off, we went by the beautiful theatre and found out that they are still building grand churches in Russia.
Next, we went down Heroes’ Avenue (everything in the city is designed around venerating the soliders of WWII) to find the beautiful Volga. Along the river, we found a bombed out mill still preserved.
By the mill is a museum about the seige of Stalingrad called the Panorama Museum of the Battle of Stalingrad. None of it is in English, so we went through it fairly quick. As the name suggests, there’s a panorama of the battle that makes the museum definitely worthwhile.
Behind the museum is a little memorial to Pavlov. Pavlov’s platoon retook a residential building from the Germans. With 26 killed and only four of them left, Pavlov took command as the senior of the four. They ended up fortifying the block and killed hundreds of Nazis, even repelling tank attacks, despite the odds. I wrote a more full version of the story here. A little bit of the residential block was saved as a memorial to Pavlov.
Next up, the main attraction. “The Motherland Calls” is an epic statue, think of a mini version of the Christ Redeemer statue in Rio or a mini Statue of Liberty. Along the way, you can see Soviet artwork in the bask reliefs with music coming out of them. Very eerie!
The eternal flame room on the way up is very impressive too, with the copper walls reflecting the flickers of the huge flame. With the names of the dead on the wall and the soldiers standing at their posts, it feels equally sombre and impressive.
When we get out, we wind our way up to the main statue. The sun starts to go down and the sky paints everything purple and red. Lucky us!
We went down the hill and found a place to eat on the way back. Our waiter was Nigerian and we struck up a conversation. He was happy to chat at length, for 5 minutes at a time. Maybe it was the fact that I knew Nigerian politics, maybe it was because he was nice, but whatever the reason, he gave us free food!
With us being super cultural, we obviously like trying local food and drink. So, we ordered some infused vodka, honey flavoured and birch sap infused, and then necked them. Actually, the honey one we sipped a bit, it was 38% but tasted like a soft drink.
That was the end of our Volgograd/Stalingrad experience. We were totally pumped for Moscow the next day and it would be the official end of the Trans-Siberian (does St Petersburg still count?)! It’s flown by!