Volgograd, Russia

Distance: 0 miles
Time on bikes: 0 hours

We start today with a walk to see the largest concrete statue in the World – Mother Russia. It’s about a ten minute walk and we stop at a kiosk on the way to buy some breakfast. This takes some deliberation as the lady behind the kiosk window has a variety of deep fried products on offer, however we only recognise the obvious chicken and fish options. We go for some large cylinder shaped, breaded things as a bit of a gamble, unsure whether they’ll be sweet or savoury.

We continue our walk towards the statue, but in a search to find some shade to eat our breakfast. We end up taking a bit of a side lane through some trees and across a railway line. There’s nowhere to sit so we find some steps which get us back onto the main tourist route. At the top of the steps we find a wooden bench where we can sit and we see an elderly lady already sitting down. As we approach, she reels off a load of Russian at us and it’s difficult to get a word in to tell her we don’t understand what she’s saying.

The lady eventually pauses for a short breath and we ask in a polite way if she speaks any English. Her response takes us back a bit as she says ‘of course’ and then goes on to tell us that she can take on a guided tour of the monuments and statues in the area and tell us about the War and the fall of Stalingrad. She offers to do this for £10, so we take her up on it and proceed to walk with her up the steps.

Her guided tour starts immediately and she gives a fascinating account of the City, the area and the people of Stalingrad at the time of the conflict and tells us the background of all the statues, portrayals and Russian inscriptions as we walk along. At the same time, we tuck into the breakfast we’d bought and are a bit surprised to find that breakfast today consisted of a giant crab stick with garlic butter encased in a breaded shell. A bit like a Chicken Kiev, but with a crab stick instead. As strange as the concoction may sound, it was delicious.

We walk around with the lady for about three hours and are fortunate to time the changing of the guard. These poor guys have to stand motionless for an hour and were sweating profusely after their march to be in position. Our tour culminates at the top of the hill where we’re told the facts and figures of the statue and information about the construction. We then say thank you and goodbye to our guide who had really helped us understand the background and reasons for the creation of this dedication to the men and women that served.

We wander down to see a church that was only built recently built and when we go inside we see the altar is just being put together. It’s just like any other building site, but we got a picture of the workmen building the altar as their work will probably stand the test of time and it would be interesting to see how it fares in the decades to come. As it was now about 11.30 pm we decide to head back to the hotel to pay for another night. We’d been told about a museum in the city, and having the freedom of just leaving the bikes and kit at the hotel had great appeal as the temperature was scorching hot.

We try again with the hotel reception to register our visas and this time a different lady gives us a form and says we can go down to the immigration office and just tell them that we’d like to register with the hotel for spending ten days in the Country. She writes the address on some paper and tells us to get a taxi into the centre to sort it out.

We get a few things sorted in the room before heading out. This end of town is a bit downbeat, so we’ll probably spend the rest of the day and evening exploring the centre. We manage to get a taxi, but he wants to charge £6. This is about three times more than what the hotel advised, but after a bit of discussion he’s not prepared to budge on price so we decide just to take it and pay the tourist tax.

We take a map with us and follow the route the taxi takes to get an idea of distance and what we’d like to see after sorting the immigration register out. He drops us outside a nice looking building and we wander inside. This goes quite straightforward, but have to wait for forty five minutes to be seen. We have to pay two Roubles each per day of stay, so forty Roubles in total for ten days. That’s about 80p.

That done, we go for a walk around the City and see some nice buildings and statues. We start with getting something to eat, and as we’d seen some people walking around with some tasty looking snacks we stop at one of the booths to try and get something. Carl tries his hand at talking to the girl on the other side of the window to try and get a chicken wrap, as we don’t understand anything on the menu. This seems to go well, and the girl seems to have exactly what we’re after. The guy takes a chicken from the rotisserie and she gets a tortilla wrap which is about the size of a dishcloth – this is going to be good.

After a suspiciously short period of time she hands us a bag and off we go. We wonder what she’s given us as it didn’t take very long from the chicken coming off the skewer to us being presented with our ‘chicken wraps’. We wander over to a bench in the nearby park and find out what we’ve got. Well, it’s quite literally ‘a chicken in a wrap’. We laugh at what we’ve got and have no option but to dig in and create our own chicken wraps in the park.

We’d been recommended to see the museum dedicated to the battle of Stalingrad and this was superb. We spend over an hour wandering around as they have an excellent display of artefacts, relics and depictions of the War. There’s no English, but most of the displays are visual anyway. We see a copy of a French newspaper which Bene is able to translate, so we did have something to read. Outside, there is a building left as a relic of the war and one of the last standing posts of the Soviet Army when defending the city. It’s sobering to see the state of the brickwork and the impacts from bullets and shells.

It’s extremely hot today and we’re glad of the decision to stay off the bikes. We walk around town, stopping off several times at cafes and shops to top up on fluids, but still feel completely drained. We feel like we’ve seen most of the place within walking distance and are a bit surprised to see that many areas are falling into disrepair and look like relics from an era of heavy investment which has long since come to an end.

We end the day seeking shade in one of the parks where we roll out a straw beach mat acquired at lunch time and try to get some rest on a wall. Carl has no problem falling asleep, although he does feel like he’s lying on a pierrade as the wall is red hot from being in the sun most of the day. Waking up thirty minutes later, feeling lightly cooked we get up and go for a walk to find something to eat.

We come across a sports shop with mountain bikes outside so we pop in to see if they have a good mini pump we could buy in case of getting a puncture. Although we brought one with us, when using it for the first time it was, well a bit crap. We’re in luck, and the girl in the shop was very helpful. She was also inquisitive about what we were doing in the City and spoke quite good English. She also told us that we had done our tour on the hottest day of the year so far, so it was a bit reassuring that it wasn’t just us finding the heat oppressive.

We walk around trying to find a nice cafe and remember seeing one earlier on which we decide to return to. When we go inside and get a table, we’re a bit surprised to have landed in a German restaurant. Not quite expected, but the menu looked good and the food and service turned out to be excellent, so we were happy with our choice.

We debate about walking back to the hotel, but as it had been a long day we opt for a taxi for the three mile journey. It was a bit longer than we remembered and we were pleased when we were only charged £4 for the journey. We’d tried to agree the fare up front, but he just kept saying to get in and seemed like a fair chap. As he charged less than the outgoing cab, we gave him the difference as a tip and thanks for being nice to tourists.

Although we were cream crackered and it’s after midnight, we go for a walk up to the statue to get some photos of the place lit up at night. We’re glad we did and when we get back to the hotel we crash out.

Jour 82 – Vendredi 9 Juillet 2010

Volgograd, Russie

Distance: 0 miles – Temps a moto: 0 heures

Nous  commencons la journee en allant vers les jardins ou est la statue et nous trouvons de quoi petit dejeuner sur le chemin, il y a un choix de choses frites, et nous en prenons une au hazard sans savoir si ca sera sucre ou sale. C’est un rouleau comme une quenelle au crabe et sauce a l’ail, bizarre pour le petit dejeuner, mais tres bon. Le bas des jardins n’est qu’a 5 minutes de l’hotel. Il y a un grand escalier et de nombreuses sculptures et au sommet il y a la statue de ‘mere Russie’. Apres la premiere partie de l’escalier une dame nous adresse la parole, et elle parle un Anglais parfait. Elle nous propose une visite guide des jardins avec l’histoire de la guerre et de la chute de Staningrad pendant la deuxieme guerre mondiale pour environs 10 euros. Elle commence tout de suite les descriptions sur la resistance des Russes a Stalingrad,et que la ville avait resiste aux Allemands pendant longtemps malgres leur manque de preparation contre les Allemands et qu’il y a un batiment qui a été garde en etat depuis la fin de la guerre en mémoire des soldats qui s’y sont battu. Les statues represententla force des soldats, sybolisant le fait qu’ils ont protege la Russie en utilisant la Volga par des fontaines autour des statues , et des statues qui representent aussi la force des femmes qui ont aussi participe a la bataille; il y a aussi un mur qui represente la determination des soldats. La statue au sommet, celle de ‘mere Russie’ est la plus grande statue de beton du monde est elle est très impressionnante. Nous arrivons aussi juste a temps dans une des parties qui est guardee pour voire le changement de la guarde. Les pauvres soldats sont tous en sueur, la guarde change toutes les heures, mais ca ne doit pas être drôle de rester dans la meme position pendant une heure dans cette chaleur. La dame doit avoir parle pendant près de 3 heures, nous sommes bien contents d’avoir fait la visite avec elle, c’est la premiere fois que nous trouvons des informations en Anglais depuis un moment.

Nous sommes de retour a l’hôtel vers 11h30 et nous décidons d’y rester encore une nuit pour aller visiter le reste de la ville et nous enregistrer avec la police, il doit faire au moins 35 degrés, et nous sommes bien contents de ne pas monter sur les motos.

Nous prenons ensuite un taxi pour aller faire la procedure officielle, le taxi nous charge 3 fois le prix que l’hôtel nous avait dit, mais ca n’est que 6 euros après tout, et ne parlant pas Russe nous ne pouvons pas vraiment disputer le prix.

Une fois au burreau d’enregistrement il nous faut attendre 40 minutes avant de voir quelqu’un, mais la procedure n’est pas longue après ca, et il nolus faut la faire de toute façon. L’hotle nous a dit de nous y enregistrer pour la duree de notre visite de la Russie comme nous pensons camper de temps en temps et nevoulons pas avoir a refaire la procedure dans chaque ville.

Une fois que c’est fait, et comme nous sommes au centre ville nous cherchons de quoi manger, et trouvons un petit kiosque qui vend des kebabs et autres, Carl essaye de se faire comprendre, mais casemble plus dur que d’habitude…il fait le poulet et la serveuse semble comprendre, elle nous montre une tortilla et un poulet dans la rotissoire. Nous sommes bien contents et elle nous prepare quelque chose en prenant un poulet de la rotissoire. C’est prêt tellement vite que nlous nous demandons ce qu’elle a prepare, le paquet qu’elle nous donne nous parret bien lourd…nous allons nous installer sur un banc en ville et c’est la surprise : un poulet entier et deux tortillas geantes ! Pas très pratique a manger, mais nous nous debrouillons sans nous en mettre partout. C’est bien plus que nous ne pensions manger, mais nous ne voulons pas gaspiller et mangeons le poulet entier.

Après ce repas de gargantuas nous allons voir un musee sur la bataille de Stalingrad sur le site ou ils on garde le batiment en etat depuis la guerre, je n’avais vu ce genre de choses que dans des films, c’est impressionnant de voir un batiment avec des trous de bombes et crible de trous de balles. Le musee semble très interessant, mais nous ne comprenons pas les inscriptions, sauf une page d’un journal en francais. Dans le musee il y a aussi une reconstruction de la ville pendant la guerre dans une salle panoramique ou il y a des tranchees des munitios, des debris. Nous trouvons ca très impressionnant et très bien fait, nous n’avions jamais vu une reconstruction pareille.

Nous sortons du musee et nous dirigeons vers la plage, il fait très chaud et nous sommes contents de ne pas monter sur les motos. La ville est en mauvais etat, et nous trouvons ca triste, elle devait être belle il y a 30 ou 40 ans, mais n’est pas entretenue du tout. La plage n’est pas trop attirante, l’eau y est un peu verte, nous ne sommes donc pas trop motives pour un baignade. Un peu plus loin nous arrivons vers un petit jardin ou nous nous endormons fatigues par la chaleur et notre longue marche en ville. Ensuite nous allons dans une patie un peu plus affluente ou les jardins sont mieux entretenus, une rue pietonne ou il y a beaucoup de monde et de nombreux cafes.

Nous passons un magazin de sprot ou nous achetons une pompe a velo pour les pneus, celle que nous avons n’est pas bonne et comme le pneu de Carl semble avoir une petite fuite ca nous sera surement utile. La vendeuse est très curieuse de voir des etrangers et de savoir ce que nous faisons ici, elle nlous dit que ca n’est pas toujours aussi chaud heureusement.

Nous essayons de trouver un café sympa ou manger, et nous installons dans un café allemand qui a un menu en Anglais, quelle bonne surprise. Le repas est très bon. Après ca nous hésitons a retrer a l’hôtel a pieds, mais n’etant pas surs de la distance et etant bien fatigues, nous prenons un taxi…Heureusement, la distance était de plus de 3 km et ne nous coute que 4 euros.

Les statues sont eclairees dans les jardins près de l’hôtel, nous décidons donc d’aller y faire un tour avant de retourner a l’hôtel. Nous avons bien fait de rester un jour de plus, la ville en vallait bien la peine.