Monday, 6 April 2009

Volgograd

Well I am back from holiday and slightly wishing that I still was on holiday in sunny, hot Volgograd rather than cold, rainy Moscow but there we go. The holiday kicked off in Volgograd a town 18 hours train from Moscow famous for the battle of Stalingrad that happened during World War 2; a battle that pretty much decided the fate of the Nazis and secured the Soviet Union for the Russian. It is also a battle which is mentioned a lot by Mark in the hilarious Chanel Four comedy, Peep Show.

Being as I was only in Volgograd for two days I decided that it was important to see as much as possible. After checking into out hotel and dumping our luggage we set off along the Alley of Heroes down to the river Volga. It was wonderful to be walking along in plus 22 degrees, in jeans and a t-shirt and to see the spring sunshine sparkling off the river. After noticing boat trips going across the Volga to a small town opposite the spirit of adventure took over and we set off to explore a small very provincial Russian village entirely made up of wooden huts, dirt tracks and, of course, stray dogs.

After returning from our little wander around the village opposite Volgograd we decided to walk along the Volga and visit the museum to the Siege of Stalingrad and the House that the Russians decided not to renovate after the Siege to show the world how bloody and awful the battle was and the effect that the bombs and weapons had had on the infrastructure of the town. One thing that struck me while going around the museum was that the average age of those who fought in the war was around my age- 21. It seemed hard for me to imagine my male friends being drafted and sent off to fight in a war knowing that in all likelihood they would not return.

The next day we ventured up to the biggest statue in Russia, Mat’ Rodina or Mother Russia, after getting a little lost by trying to use public transport to get there we gave up and took a taxi. The statue was on top of a hill in a park near the Volga filled with memorial statues and a huge eternal flame monument to honour all of those who perished in the Siege of Stalingrad.

After a few photos from the top of the hill, mostly of me impersonating Mother Russia, it was time to jump on the next train going further south to Sochi, a popular black sea holiday resort that is twinned with my hometown- Cheltenham.

Volgograd is a wonderful place and I would recommend it to anyone with a love of history. Admittedly history is not one of my greatest passions but even I loved being here and being able to learn from the past. The strangest thing about being in Volgograd was that despite having such a huge and terrible siege happen in this town it does not have a heavy thick atmosphere one would expect but in fact feels lighter and warmer than some of the monastery towns I have visited in the north of Russia. It was strange as well to imagine such a bloody siege happening, as England was never invaded during the war we have no sites of historical significance like this at all.

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