Sunday 8th May 2011
Day Off In Volgograd
It was around 8:30 when I woke, such a good feeling to have a little lie in. The morning started in a relaxed way – with no rush. After breakfast Simon had a contact here that we were going to meet. Sofia came to the hotel at 10:00 am. She had organised for an English student – a very polite, friendly guy called Ilya.
It was a beautiful sunny day in the city as we walked round. We started in the square and headed down the avenue of heroes. As we walked by the Red Army Monument and the Eternal Flame there was a group of soldiers laying wreaths. There was a huge number of people laying single and bunches of flowers at the monument.
Further down there were lots of signs the Victory Day Celebrations would soon be under way. We soon reached the River Volga – the huge river that helped save and resupply the troops and the city.
We walked along the river bank to the Panorama Museum and next to that the shell of the old flower mill – the only building from the old city of Stalingrad left standing. It was around this time that Sofia had to reluctantly go to work – Ilya took us into the Panorama Museum. It was a little like the Tardis inside – it was spectacular to see the displays of weaponry and uniforms. It was easy to see the poorly equipped Germans with their thin uniforms compared to the very thick warm clothes of the Russians. There was a stunning 360 degree painting and display of the Stalingrad battle.
It was now around mid afternoon and Susie had to go to the airport to see if her bag had arrived. The decision was made to have a quick bite of lunch first before Susie and Ilya left for the airport. So Simon and I went for a wander through the park, up to the beautiful grand building of the city railway station. We then headed back to the hotel to do some photos and blogs.
One very happy Susie arrived with her bag and early evening al lfour of us decided to go and see the statue of Mother Russia. Ilya was kind enough to take us on Volgograd’s underground tram. As we mounted the steps we saw the statue for the first time – she took my breath away. Even though we still had a fair walk up the hill she had such a presence, standing 84 metres high with an almost goddess feel.
As we walked up the steps we were climbing between two walls which had battlefield carvings of soldiers and scenes – it felt to me as though the soldiers depicted were embedded in history. We passed through the Stalingrad Memorial with a sculpture of a hand holding the eternal flame with all the names of the soldiers around the building. The stairs followed the inside edge of the building in a spiral to exit at the top. As we exited we turned to our right and there she was – towering above us into the sky. Just sheer magnificence is the only way I can describe it. Apparently she faces west with her sword held high.
There was a happy feel that night as we had dinner with lost luggage returned and a pleasant feel to the evening.
Looking forward to The May 9th Parade tomorrow…