Wednesday, March 9, 2016

RUSSIA: leafing the pages of Volgograd

Russia is a very big country. A big country comes with more unexplored land and more hidden gems dotted across the country. Volgograd is definitely one of those. If you’ve seen the movie “Enemy at the Gates”, you might remember the name "Stalingrad". Now let me tell you, Stalingrad is Volgograd. The city actually went though 3 name changes, from Tsaritsin to Stalingrad and then Volgograd. The city was completely destroyed during the Great Patriotic War (WWII), but then it proved itself to be a survivor, a true “City of Heroes” when it was successfully rebuilt from the ruins. Today, Volgograd is bustling with energy with a very compact city center. Here is my favorite places to escape to when I have the time (and the will).  

Motherland CallsStanding tall at 279 feet, this is the most iconic attraction in Volgograd— a statue of Mother Russia calling the troops into battle, the statue of “Motherland Calls”. In order to get to the statue you will have to ascend a staircase with 200 steps, signifying 200 days and nights during the Battle of Stalingrad. At the same time, you will get pass the ruined walls that tells the story of the war with disturbing noises of the battlefield. 

Mama Kurgan
photo credits: Lee Siew Suan

Mamayev Kurgan is the main vantage point during the war. Having been witness to the horrendous fight during Nazi onslaught, it is the perfect location to build a memorial complex that commemorates the Stalingrad Battle. In the middle of the complex, there is an Eternal flame guarded by 2 soldiers and there will be an elaborated “Change of guard” ceremony from time to time. Before you step out from the building, be sure to check out the plaques surrounding the Eternal Flame with all the names of the fallen. Don’t miss the Church of All-Saint’s and the lake of tear, which in my humble opinion, is the most touching of all monuments.   

360 Panorama, Stalingrad Battle Museum

The museum will surely impress you will its array of Soviet and German weapons, coats, propaganda and documents. Rifles of Vasily Zaitziev, the famous sniper can be found here. It also houses an incredible 360 Panoramic Mamaev Kurgan Battlefield canvas painting (largest in all of Russia), telling visitors the story of the gruesome battle with vivid descriptions plus intense details. 

Pavlov’s HouseWhile the Panoramic museum is an impressive gem of the city, don’t overlook it’s lawn with a free exhibition of tanks, warplanes, train and old cars. Besides, there is a ruined flour mill (the only building left after the bombing of Stalingrad) in the middle of everything, with the statue of the children of war standing next to it. Situated directly opposite the museum is the legendary “Pavlov’s House”, remained only as a red brick-wall in front of an apartment block. It serves as a dear reminder on how Srgt. Yakov Pavlov and his troop defended this vantage point for 58 days.  

The only tree that survived WWIIThe Pavshiv Bartsov square is located just in front of my university. Right on the square there is a poplar tree with a story to tell. It is the only tree that survived the Stalingrad Battle, with pain and bitterness embedded in its roots while pride shines through its branches. A granite plate was installed in 1975.  

Lake EltonThis is the only place on the list I am yet to set foot on. It is said to be the largest salt lake in all of Europe and one of the most mineralized bodies of water on earth. The salt lake is located in the nature reserve “Eltonski” in Pallasofka district, near the border of Kazakhstan.  
A lot of statuesHistory is everywhere here. Volgograd is all about paying tribute to its war heroes, and the city makes sure you notice it! Basically you’ll run into a statue every 50 steps (or less!) you take, I guarantee. I am not going to fake it by telling you how fascinated I am (I am not that into history), but they are certainly dear to the citizens of Volgograd. My personal favorite is this: a granite monument dedicated to the war-zone doctors and the doctors of Volgograd. 
Photo credits: Liew Chia Chen

Don CanalThe Don Canal is located in the Krasnoarmeyski region and boy it was tricky to get to! I hardly remember how I reached this part of the town, all I remembered was boarding a marshut with a “c” ( i think it was 2c). This 110km long canal connecting Volga river and Don River was built by prisoners of war, with a huge archway standing proud to signify triumph. There is a park right next to it where you can stroll leisurely along the water eating an ice-cream, my kind of perfect Sunday!

Alley of Heroes, Volga Embankment and the many gardens near to it
Photo Credits: Lee Siew Suan

Finally, introducing my favorite part of the town, dear “Naberezhnaya”. It is particularly beautiful during Spring when tulips and Lilacs are in full bloom! In the summer, this is the favorite picnic spot for locals and an excellent place to people watch. In fact, it seems to be a fairly popular place for wedding proposals! Love is in the air!  

Photo Credits: Lee Siew Suan

Victory day, 9th MayVolgogradians take Victory day very seriously. The celebration normally last a week with series of events, military parade, concerts, and then finishes with a firework show or laser show. There is a reason why the Victory day is celebrated way better than New Year! Russians are patriotic, especially the residents of Volgograd. I remember performing a song in Russian about a mother who lost her son to WWII. I was nervous so I kept my eyes shut throughout the performance and when I opened my eyes I was stunned to see some really young teachers wiping away their tears. The war doesn’t just affect those who live through it, it affects the whole nation, no matter young or old, even the unborn. So they constantly strives to remember and celebrate the victory of The Stalingrad Battle which was a decisive Soviet victory over Nazis.  

Photo credits: Dr. Jonah Seeni
photo credits: Wong Wai Hoe
Photo credits: Ng Chen Huey

So there you go, my list of interesting places/things to do in Volgograd! Calling out to all Volgogradians, where is your favorite part of town? 
Let me know by commenting below!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For your consideration.