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Destination: Volgograd

Volgograd is one of Russia’s oldest cities and an important industrial centre with just over a million inhabitants. It has already been an important commercial hub during the Soviet era and remains so in the present day. To most Europeans Volgograd is perhaps more well-known under its Soviet name Stalingrad and for the famous resistance against the German troops during the Second World War. In fact this historical legacy still stands so strong that in 2013 the city council voted in favour of using the name ‘hero-city Stalingrad’ during six important commemorative days every year.

Geography

Volgograd is located 1000 kilometres south of the capital on the convergence of the Volga and Don Rivers in the south-eastern region of the European part of Russia. A canal connects the two rivers since 1952. The surrounding landscape is marked by the rough wilderness of the southern Russian steppe.

History

Since Volgograd was established as the fortress of Tsarytsin in 1589 it has been a commercially and historically important site. The location on two rivers turned it into an important harbour with flourishing trade and commerce and the city grew rapidly. Tsaritsyn was renamed into Stalingrad in 1925 and it then became a centre for heavy industry. This is one of the reasons for which it became an important target during the Second World War. The Battle of Stalingrad and the resistance against the Nazis is equally the most tragic and most triumphal event in Soviet history. Having claimed a million and a half lives it remains the deadliest battle in the history of warfare. During the war large parts of the city were destroyed, but due to its symbolic links with Stalin it was rebuilt more quickly than other places.

What to do

Volgograd has nearly been rebuilt from scratch after the war, which means large parts of the town are shaped by Soviet architecture from the 1950s and 1960s. Nevertheless, the city’s history is ubiquitous. There is the Mamayev Kurgan, the hill on which the Battle of Stalingrad took place and the Panorama Museum, which houses a panoramic painting of the event, but fallen warriors are commemorated at many other corners of the city. Volgograd is also home to the largest Lenin statue in Russia and the Motherland Calls statue, which is one of the world’s highest and most complex of its kind. Trips to the surrounding rural area offer a relaxing holiday and there are options to go hiking and fishing and to do boat or canoe trips.

Climate

Volgograd has a humid continental climate. This means summers can be extremely hot, with temperatures climbing to 30°C in July, while winter can be cold with temperatures falling well below zero. By Russians standards, however, these winters are relatively mild with light snowfall and dry air. Spring and autumn have nice temperatures with less precipitation and usually very enjoyable seasons.

Weather in Volgograd

 

How to get there

Despite its name Volgograd International Airport can mostly only be reached via domestic flights. There are seasonal connections to Greece and Cyprus. The railway links are good and it takes around 20 hours to get to Moscow or 34 hours to St. Petersburg. Moreover, there are occasional international trains to Eastern European destinations, though these may be seasonal. Due to its location on the river Volgograd can also be visited as a stop on a boat cruise down the Volga River.

Why you should visit

Though the lack of beautiful, ancient architecture may put some travellers off at first sight, the city is steeped in history and national pride. In this Volgograd offers a taste of the Soviet Union that has been eradicated in cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg. Due to this unique position in Russian history large numbers of Russian tourists flock into the city every year and a trip to the famous ‘hero-city’ should be on the itinerary of any foreigner wishing to get to know Russia better.