Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Onward and Downward

As I said in my last note I had wanted to try the local municipal banya or Russian bath house. However when I got there the keeper of the door was none to pleased to see me saying it was the day for ladies so I departed before he called the police . There was no way of knowing this fixing of gender days so I will have to try again else where though I will be checking if the same applies.
On my last day in Novgorod I went out to an open air museum for traditional wooden structures particularly farm buildings and churches. It is a lovely site by a small lake and is use for weddings. There was one on at the time with extensive traditional occurrences such as threatening and insulting the best man,the bride burning a posy and much singing and laughing at what I guessed were double entendre.While this sounds rather contrived it was well done and it was clear the whole party enjoyed themselves.
The train left on time and I found I was sharing with only one other, a soldier going back off leave( Maxim) .He had a bit of English so between us we managed to have some conversation.
Into Moscow at 05 30 after depositing my luggage at the station for Volgograd I set off to Red Square who's name has nothing to do with the Bolsheviks but has had that name for some 400 yrs and is a corruption of the Russian word for beautiful. It sounds stupid but it is just like the pictures. The one exception the Lenin Mausoleum is much smaller than I thought some 20 ft tall with the reviewing platform we used to see the Politburo on only some 12 ft up. I got some good photos around the square and the Kremlin including the Lubianka ( or the New Zealand embassy) not clear from the map. Then off for a 13 30 start for Volgograd. This time I shared the berth with a mother and daughter the latter about to go off to Moscow State University . They were visiting the mothers parents and were from Chelyabinsk ,which happens to be Irina's' mothers birth place.
The Hotel Volgograd is a large hotel very nice and central. I have to say the weather is a bit extreme for me , in the high 30s and I believe into the 40s at noon. So lots of water .My first day was spent at Mamaev Kurgen the centre of the battle, a mound some 102 m. high which now has the most spectacular war memorial I suspect anywhere . It is a 72m. high depiction of Mother Russia holding aloft a further 11m. long sword . As part of the complex there is a rotunda with lists of a small proportion of the dead and an eternal flame. All in all a very moving place making you remember that within a 3 Km radius of this spot but mostly on it 700,00 Germans and some 1,000,000 Russians died between august 1942 and the end of January 1943.( yes six months )
Today I went to the museum of the battle again very well done with lots of relevant material including a lot from ordinary soldiers. Interestingly this is the only place I have seen with extensive reference to Stalin.
I am off to Astrakhan on Friday by boat overnight down the Volga should be good.It is late I am tired due to heat so hope to say more tomorrow .Love to all John

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