Volgograd was formerly known as Stalingrad, and was the center of one of the most important and bloodiest battles during World War II. As like many river-side cities it has strategic value, and being on the major river (Volga) between the Caspian Sea and Moscow, perhaps even more so…
Having established I had the day in Volgograd, I started walking, picked up a map courtesy of an open wi-fi network, and found that the Volga river was actually pretty close by. I headed down there first, and spent about an hour just sitting in the sun on the banks of the river, a welcome feeling after being couped up in the train for nearly two days. In the river were a couple of small boats fishing, and some fisherman on the banks as well trying for the early morning catch.
The big ferry terminal building was to my left, and so I wandered along, wondering briefly if I could get a ferry down to Astrakhan. It seemed that it might be possible but I found the ferries even more complicated than buying train tickets, and eventually decided not to bother. Upstairs they had an open coffee shop (which apparently doubled as a strip clup at nights!), and as it came with free wifi I had a Chinese dish (quite the mix of food this place!) for breakfast, and checked email and the like.
The rest of the day I spent wandering around town, stopping when my bags became annoyingly heavy, and when a brief flash-storm came rushing through out of nowhere. In the afternoon I came across what appeared for all money to be a Communist Party rally, and again I felt mildly frustrated that I couldn’t understand the langauge – but it was interesting to watch anyway, with the anthem playing as well.
The center of Volgograd doesn’t have much in the way of tourist sights, aside from some statues, the big square, and the usual war and eternal flame memories that seem prevalent throughout ex-Soviet countries. It also has a big angel memorial statue – “Mamayev Kurgan” somewhere in it, and although I’d seen it on a rough tourist map, I walked for ages in the direction of where it should be without any luck, before needing to head back to buy some snacks and catch the train out of time.
Volgograd seemed to be ok to visit as a city, but I think it’s more useful as a place to leave from rather than a destination – I’d love to take the week long ferry to Moscow one day…
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