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Travels in Russia

Russian Remonts
Stop Theif!
Almost Worth Staying For
Offshore Your Rubles in Swiss Accounts
Russian Women
You Can Buy Anything in a Russian Kiosk!
What Did Russians Eat Before Potaotes?
Nothing Like a Birch Branch Beating!
Anything Can Be Scrap Metal
Serious Soviet Pollution
Day-Tripping Around the Garden Ring
The Russian Poezd
Yeltsin's Family
Soviet Photography
Happy Times in HTML Hell
Road Runners Rule!
Piva is Good!
A Subaka Says What?
Soviet Swimming
Manly Russian Men
And Peter is a Distant Second
Invest in Russia?!
The Zen of the Line
But He Went by the Name of Lenin
That Looks Just Like My Dom
Russian Adoptions by the Dozen
Internet Cafes Are Everywhere
Going to the Movies
Russian Visas
Eta Notebook Batteria, Durak!
Fidelity is Not a Brokerage
Soviet Suburban Living
Taking the tramvai
Cash Transfers Across Russia
Time to go...
Do Your Spring Cleaning Now!
Reclama Nation
Russians Do Tours
Going Local
Pecktopan = Restaurants
Yevgeniy Primakov, Who?
101 Reasons Why NATO's War Sucks
A State Secrect: Women's Ages
Russians Blew up the US Embassy!
It's Dacha Time Again
I Love Me a Starlite Diner
Anything Goes at Night
Yesho Piedesat Gram Vodkoo
Shock Thearpy
IMF & Reform
Zoos Should Be for Politicans
There Was Giligan, And the Skipper Too
The Regions Exist?
Do You Believe the Media?
What is Russian Feminism?
Russian Music Rocks
Bye Bye Fast Food
Yest Klooch?
Addicts Are Addictive
Racism in Russia Too
An Education in Russian Politics
Orphans Are Lonely
Making Bliny
Nasty Newspapers
#51 If you get the jokes
Sick as a Dog
Those Crazy Russians
An Open Road Ahead
Iron Felix
You Can Buy (Almost) Anything in a Market
Education Makes Elections Happen
Ice Cream in Winter
Superstitions Are Sneaky
The Adventures of Flat Jon
Ice Fishing in Sibera
Death is Painful in Any Culture, Anywhere.
Lenin is Alive
Every Thing is Leaking
New Russians
Go Dollar!
Corruption is Endemic
The Joe-Cool Moscow Crew
Taxes Will Find You
I'm Driven Mad
Holidays Last and Last
It's All About Location
Taxies Take You Everywhere
Russian Religion Re-emerges


Russia, June 14, 1999

Going to See Mama Russia

Odd, the battle for Stalingrad was fought in Volgagrad!

A Stainless Steel Beauty!
Ain't Miss Kyiv Pretty?
I paid money to see this?
Ain't Volgagrad ugly?
The Power and Glory

Powerful, eh?

a bombed out bakery

All that was left.

A few were sacrificed for the whole
The Wall of Names
I'd heard stories about her and I'd even seen pictures of her, but I really wanted to see Mother Russia for myself. Mother Russia is the largest freestanding statue in the world, and she commemorates all the combatants, Soviet and German, that died in the Battle of Stalingrad.

See, I'd seen the giant stainless steel statue in Kyiv, which sits impressively on the river bank, and is visible from all over the city. I was duly impressed, but I was told she was the smaller sister of Mother Russia, so I wanted to round out my Soviet Monument series with a bang.

Although Mother Russia commemorates the Battle of Stalingrad, she sits in the city of Volgagrad, since the name was changed after Stalin's death. I decided to leave Moscow for Volgagrad the day Lidia left on an assignment to Ulyanovsk. We both took the same taxi into Moscow, which dropped me off at the train station and her at work. Well, to my great surprise, the train to Volgagrad did not leave in the evening, like most others, but earlier in the day. Yikes! I'd have to wait till the next day. I tried to call Lidia, and even took a taxi to her work, but to no avail. She was already on her way to the airport. Oddly enough, all my friends were out of town so there I was without a place to stay for the night!

Just as I was starting to seriously think of going to the Moscow Youth Hostel, I happened to see my friend Dave. He, very graciously, offered me a place for the night and even invited me out to dinner with his friends. The dinner stank, but we had a good time.

The next day, I headed out early to get my ticket. I didn't get it the day before cuz I was so mad at Russia's double pricing system. Russia has a policy, randomly applied, that foreigners pay three to thirty times more than Russians for tourist related activities. My foreigner ticket was priced at $50, while a Russian ticket was $16. The $34 difference really pissed me off! I wouldn't mind a slight surcharge, maybe 25%, since as a foreigner, theoretically I do not pay taxes in Russia, but +300%! Outrageous! So, I went the tricky route.

I had a Russian buy me a ticket, paying him a $5 for his troubles, and headed for the train. Once there, the lady in charge of my section, called a dezhorniya, took a look at me and then at the ticket. She hesitated a moment, then asked me if I was Russian. Knowing I was in trouble, and knowing she had supreme power over me (Get off the train, cheat!), I smiled, and asked what the "fine" would be for a poor student trying to see her beautiful country. Another $5 later, I was chilling in my bunk with a smile on my face. I'd taken a big risk to save some cash, and I'd pulled it off! Of course, I do not recommend this option to anyone else, (wink).

The next morning, we rounded a bend in a hill, and I was rewarded by a beautiful lady, amazingly tall, looking over me. Mother Russia! I was so thrilled to be seeing her!

My thrill was short lived though. When the train pulled in, I was very disappointed when I didn't see a single babushka there whispering "Kaveritra."

I was expecting there to be quite a few poor grandmothers there, willing rent out an extra room to a poor American student. I'd rater not do the hotel thing in Russia since the same double pricing applied, but worse. A Russian would pay around 100 rubles for a room, while I would have to pay 100 dollars for the same! And the rooms are not worth either, since many date from the 60's with what seems to be original linens!

Anyway, with the babushka option out, I decided to make it a day in Volgagrad, and take the night train to my next destination, Toglatti. Luckily, the double pricing of train tickets doesn't happen in the provinces too much, so with my $6 ticket, I headed out to find an Internet provider. I needed to check my email, since my PCV friend Matt had sent me directions to his Toglatti apartment after I'd left Moscow. An hour, an IBM store, a long walk, and several doors later, I was in an Internet provider's office, shooting the breeze as my emails downloaded. This computer technology is amazing!

As the day grew hot, and I'd been sweating for 48 hours without a bath, it was time to get wet. The wide, cold, swift Volga called, and finding stairs to the water, I jumped in! It was so cold and refreshing to go for a midday swim on such a hot day, that I was floating for an hour. Once the heat left me, it was time to check out the monuments to the battle.

I went to the amazing Panorama, where a view of the battle was painted for a 365-degree view of the hell of war. On the ground floor was an amazing display of artifacts from the battle, including a good display on German soldiers. Oddly enough, the Soviets separated the ordinary Germans, from the Fascist regime that sent them to their deaths.

After the moving scene, I went to the actual hill the perspective of the battle was painted at. Wow, there she stood, Mother Russia, calling on all of the Slavs to defend the homeland. Quite a moving experience! I sat at her feet for a few hours, writing postcards in the shade, working through the experience in my mind.

Soon enough, it was time for me to find some food and get back to the station. I was on the platform, waiting and waiting for my train, when I finally realized it was the train that had been sitting on the next platform the whole time. A quick dash to the first open door as the train started to move, and a long trudge through the entire train to my car later, I was happily sweating in my bunk, on my way to Samara. Unfortunately, there isn't a direct train to Toglatti, and I write this on the 18-hour train to Samara with a three-hour bus ride to go.

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Strangely, you don't mention the haunting music played at the memorial site. Why is that?

In re-reading this post there are many aspects of the memorial site I didn't mention:

The long walk to the top of that hill. The sound of the breeze through the populars. The Russians doing tourist photos around me. The view of the Volga wraping around the city.

In essence, the utter peacefullness of the memorial.

I did write all that to my friends on the postcards I mention in the post, and I remember it now. Still, as to music, I don't remember any. Not to say there wasn't/isn't music, just not in my memory.

most of your story is wrong , my wife has family in Volgagrad,and also Togliatti, i have been many times by train direct, and also not paying inflated prices, that went out about 4 years ago . anyhow i'm glad to know that you have cruiseed around over there cheers Harry . ps i was last there in July - August 04

My story is correct, for in June 1999, double pricing did happen from Moscow to Volgagrad. That's why there is a date on the entry.

Its good to hear they've stopped double pricing though. As you can tell, I sure didn't like it then.

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