Ready to continue our photo tour? In the second part, I’ll take you to Volgograd’s most famous tourist attractions, try Russian fast food, and brew tea in an ancient-style samovar. Let’s check it out!
During the week, we visited one of Volgograd’s most famous attractions: Mamaev Kurgan. The name “Mamaev Kurgan” actually refers to the hill where one of the city’s most popular statues, The Motherland Calls, is situated. If you look up Volgograd on Google, you’re bound to find a photo of this valiant lady in the top image search results. But did you know it’s such a different experience actually seeing her statue up close?
Before we start, I thought it might be helpful to show this diagram that’s found outside of the monument(s). When you visit Mamaev Kurgan, you’re actually visiting 7 attractions at once!
Carved into the steps is the phrase, “For our Soviet motherland! USSR!” The entire complex was finished in 1967 to commemorate World War II and Volgograd’s involvement.
Standing on the steps of the entrance. Although it doesn’t look like much from the photos, it’s actually a bit of a climb to get to the top!
Another part of Mamaev Kurgan. There are two walls on either side of the stairs with inscribed images from World War II and scenes from the Battle of Stalingrad.
One of my favorite panoramic photos Click on the photo for a full size version!
Inside the memorial building. The statue in the middle is called The Eternal Flame and is the second in Volgograd (Remember the first one?). The two soldiers on either side are supposed to stand completely still for an hour as part of their army service, and can only step down when their replacement shows up.
Another panorama of the hall. The entire wall is covered in shiny mosaic glass. The red scrolls that hang down from the walls are also made of mosaic, and list over 7,000 soldiers who were part of the Battle of Stalingrad.
Mini dilemma of the day: Was I supposed to smile for a photo or pose solemnly to be respectful? This was a mix of both
We slowly made our way up to the top of the building, where two more soldiers stand by the exit. The view here was amazing, especially when I think of how much work was put into creating the building!
What we’ve all been waiting for: The Motherland Calls statue
When we were walking back to the car, this cat came out of the bushes and started to meow (loudly) to pet him. He was so friendly that I couldn’t resist :)
On the right photo you can see my wtf face because I was so surprised that cats here are so friendly! In the neighborhood where we stayed, there were a lot of semi-stray cats. I say “semi” because they live outside, but the locals feed them leftovers.
My terrible posing impression. I’m sure my glasses make a great weapon
Right before we left… Kitty came back to wish us a good day! I really wish we could take him with us :(
And one final photo from Mamaev Kurgan before we drove to our next location…
Friendship Park! The official name is “Friendship Park: Volgograd – Baku [Azerbaijan],” and in Russian it’s Парка Дружбы: Баку-Волгоград. Unfortunately some of the attractions, like the fountains and amusement rides, weren’t working (we were in the middle of winter, after all) but it was still a gorgeous park!
Lanterns light up the central lane, and circular benches allow guests to sit down and enjoy the park– you can see a bench on the right. I also like how the color scheme was (inadvertently?) yellow, including the tiles, central entrance, and even the benches :)
This was taken under a copy of Azerbaijan’s Maiden Tower– although it’s 3 times smaller! It was fun to walk around the tower (there’s a staircase in the back), although we couldn’t get into the tower itself.
Back to walking :) It was a lovely day to visit the park– it looks like autumn was in full swing (even though it was mid-November!)
Our final stop for the day was the Kazan Cathedral, which is the most important church in Volgograd. It’s a fully-functioning church and has a bell tower, meal room, and even a school for girls on the side. I really love the style, especially the red/white/green color scheme– in person, the church is really colorful and stands out among everything else!
The next day, we headed to the Battle of Stalingrad museum. My aunt kept asking, “Did you go to the panorama yet?” but I had no idea what she meant until we came here. The museum has a huge circular room with a panorama of the Stalingrad battle, from beginning to end. You can visit the panorama by itself, or you can start by going through the entire exhibition, which has mementos from World War II.
Choo choo There’s an entire fleet of tanks, cannons, and a train that were all used in the war outside of the museum.
One of the best parts of the museum was the interactive touch screens scattered around the exhibits. You could play videos, read information about the war, and even learn about the biographies of generals and other participants of World War II.
Examples of some of the exhibits. On the left is an example of a typical bunker that was used during the war. Oftentimes, soldiers would pin a photo of Stalin somewhere (notice it’s on the wall here).
On the right is an example of the weapons that were used, and snippets of newspapers that covered the war.
Unfortunately the lightning in the panorama room was too dim and I couldn’t get a full picture of the panorama. However, you can go on a virtual tour on the official website’s interactive widget— how cool is that?
On the final day we walked through the train station (the irony isn’t lost on me ), which has trains running to different cities in Russia and abroad. I was surprised to find out that taking a train from Volgograd to Moscow would be around 17 hours and around $25! To put into comparison, you could take a 2 hour flight for $45, but save so much time. Which would you rather choose?
I’ve been interested in possibly taking the Trans-Siberian railway in the future, but again, it takes a lot of time to travel between 2 stations because the tails haven’t been updated in a while.
Anyway! On the way back home, we stopped by a blinchik kiosk, БлинБерри :)
Blinchiki is a Russian dish (and arguably, a national treasure) that consists of a thin, crepe-like pancake. The beautiful thing about blinchiki is that you can make them any way you want. Sweet? Pat some Nutella, add banana slices, or drizzle condensed milk. Savory? Pop in some smoked salmon, caviar, or ground beef, and voila!
I ordered a blinchik with salmon and sauce. What I didn’t realize was that instead of smoked salmon (my favorite), it was actually grilled salmon.
On our final night in Volgograd, we had a get-together with some family members. They had this really antique samovar (from the 1800s!) and of course I wanted to try it out. To brew a cup of tea, you need to light a fire inside the samovar and feed it wood chips. Our host made a little pot of tea concentrate with loose leaf tea, mint leaves, and spices, which we put on top of the samovar. When the tea is ready, you use the little tap on the bottom, and fill your cup with some nice warm tea :)
I think this was one of the best teas I’ve ever had! The flavors were really rich and smoky, and I added a bit of honey to enhance the taste.
Anyway, that’s it for now! Thank you for coming along on my adventures in Volgograd, and stay tuned for a post on Moscow soon!