We started our trip in St Petersburg; formerly Leningrad. Here is the square
behind the Czar's winter Palace; the so called "birthplace of the Oktober
revolution in 1917
In the car leaving south from St Petersburg with my two friends; Anton and
Lena. Ahead of us; 36 hours on the road.
We passed this place along the highway between St Petersburg and Moscow. "
Samovars "R" us"; I guess. Overpriced Czarist and Soviet era souvenirs for the
We drove by car some 1500 kilometers ( on fairly miserable Russian two lane
roads) south from St Petersburg through Moscow, Tula, Orel, Kursk, Belgorod
then we turned east in the direction of the Don river towards Stalingrad on
Along the way we saw miles and miles of Sunflower fields just as described in
accounts of the German advances in 1941-42
Here is a period photo of a German soldier posing among the sunflowers during
the 1942 campaign toward Stalingrad
Below: Somewhere south of Voronezh; I am pretty sure that I found the exact spot 65 years later. I mean; it
looked like the same spot anyway.
This is a typical village house painted in blue and white. These colors are
very typical in warm regions. As we headed south, the temperatures rose into
the 40s (Celsius) meaning around a hundred degrees Fahrenheit.
Below is a view of the bridge at Kalach on the Don river. This is where the
two great Soviet pincers met on November 22, 1942 trapping 6th army in the
Approaching Stalingrad from the west across the seemingly endless steppe. Arid
and sun-baked; it's the most inhospitable landscape I have seen in Europe
Modern day Volgograd seems to spring from the steppe. One moment, you are in a
vast empty plain and suddenly at the edge of the city.
Reminders of the city's past are everywhere. Here: "Glorious heroic
Stalingrad!" appears over a 10 foot wide facsimile of the Order of Victory.
The main monument to the battle of Stalingrad is the statue of Mother Russia
atop Mamaev kurgan in the center of the city. The statue stands about 3/4 of a
mile from the road and is reached by climbing 200 steps to get to the base of
The Mamaev kurgan is an ancient tartar burial mound standing about 300 feet at
it's peak. It was heavily contested during the battles of the autumn of 1942.
In 1967 the Soviet Union erected the statue known as " The motherland calls".
The largest free-standing statue in the world; it measures 279 feet from the
base to the tip of the sword.
Most 5-year-old boys' dads take them to Disneyland on summer vacation. But my
kid is eventually going to have to get used to the strange things that I do; so he may as
well get started now.
huge circular room at the base of the statue houses the eternal flame
accompanied by funeral music and Russian army guards. Just like I have always
read; it is one of the most somber places on earth.
view of the factory district along the river north of Mamaev hill.
Room-to-room fighting in each of these three factories is well described in
every book written about Stalingrad.
This model depicts the city center as it appeared after the battle. Field
Marshal Paulus' last headquarters was located in the cellar of the univermag
department store on Mira prospect.
Below is the front of the department store today. It was rebuilt after the
battle and continued to house the Univermag until the 1960s when the front was
closed off due to the construction of the famous "intourist" hotel.
The room which served as Paulus's headquarters is still present in the cellar
and is marked by a plaque
The ruins of the grain mill have been preserved to show the condition of the
buildings after nearly 3 months of street fighting in the city center.
The flea market was one of the most interesting things we saw in the city.
There were a couple of guys there who make trips out to the steppe and search
farm houses for relics. They also obviously use metal detectors as well. On
some weekends they bring found items to the flea market. Very few tourists go
here but there apparently is something of a local collecting community. I
couldn't resist the bullet riddled helmet which appears in the photo at right
center. So I bought it.
My souvenirs of Stalingrad. The buckle and the M40 single decal army helmet
were found in a trench near the Gumrak airfield about 10
kilometers west of the city.
This was my hotel during our stay in Volgograd. A great place. Only 5 suites;
it was built in the early 50s to house government guests and diplomats who
made pilgrimages to the city. Eisenhower stayed here. As well as Zhukov,
Khrushchev, Castro, Charles de Gaulle; ect, ect. I got the larger suite
because I wanted to use the same bathroom that Eisenhower used. He was a
Republican, you know....
This is Stanislav Borischev; the gatekeeper at the hotel. He was born in
Stalingrad and lived here all his life. During the battle, he and his family
were not evacuated from the city. From September '42 until February '43; they
lived in the boiler room under a technical institute near the city center. He
told how the building took many hits from aerial bombs and later; artillery.
After Paulus' surrender he remembered the German's being marched away wrapped
in rags. Later; a number of them returned to be used as labor during the first
rebuilding. Most of them were toothless and wasted away by Typhoid, typhus and
pellagra. Stanislav's mother took pity on them and would occasionally throw
them onions. The Germans answered back by tossing them medals and such which
they tore from their uniforms.