Tuesday 21st February 2017

Having travelled overnight we arrived in Volgograd bang on time at 08:19.

The railway station from our hotel room.

The city was shrouded in freezing fog which cleared to reveal a very grand city. It was founded in 1589 but made history when known as Stalingrad. In 1942 the city became the scene of an epic battle that changed the course of WWII. The number of citizens and soldiers who died in this battle is almost twice the current population of the city. Volgograd had to be rebuilt from scratch in a style known as Soviet baroque with large squares, equally large buildings and broad avenues.

At Mamayev Kurgan is a hill which was a strategic location during the war and is now a memorial complex, the centrepiece of which is a massive statue of Mother Russia wielding a 27 metre sword. It is one of the largest freestanding statues in the world.

Out of town, a good hour in a car, is the first lock of the Volga-Don Canal. Built in 1952 it is a grand gateway to the waterway which connects the White and Black Seas by way of the Volga and Don rivers. One million people were involved in its construction of the 101km canal and was the final link in a European waterway ring that shortens shipping routes. Today though the canal was frozen and contrasted with the turquoise blue waters of the River Volga. In the sunshine temperatures reached 6 C which has led to a rapid melt of the snow and the frozen ground so water is running off land and footpaths and welling upwards through the soil and the foundations of the roads. In many places there are frost broken surfaces and deep black puddles. Motor vehicles bear no resemblance to their original colour!!

We leave this evening at 19:59 by train to Urgench in Uzbekistan arriving on Thursday 23rd February.

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