Monday, 23 December 2013

Day 205 and 206 - Krasnoarmeysk to Volgograd and surrounds - Mon 16 and Tues 17 Sept

Day 205 and 206 - Krasnoarmeysk to Volgograd and surrounds  - Mon 16 and Tues 17 Sept
Mon: BoyRob woke at 4.30am worried that heavy rain would bog us in our campsite, so we dressed hastily, put in 4WD hubs and inched gingerly back up to highway - no worries. We were wide awake by then so continued to drive in dark and rain until dawn broke, pulled over on highway south to Volgograd for wash, breakfast, and to clean mud off steps and floor. We've decided to find a hotel whilst we get the sheets and towels laundered and explore the old Stalingrad, its battlefields, museums and memorials. 

200kms later we booked into a suite at the posh Astoria Hotel in all its Russian opulence, with gilt sconces, marbled glass lights, polished floors, dark timber furniture, flocked wallpaper, taffeta and sheer curtains in frills, scrunches and bows - but the plentiful hot water and spa bath was the real bonus. We had a workout every time we climbed the steps to the 4th floor though! Dinner at restaurant... good salads, but menu is specialist toppings for same slab of meat. 

Tues: Volgograd interesting city full of history particularly WWII. Explored impressive Mamai Mount, gigantic statue of Mother Russia, mother of lost sons, glittering church, round memorial with perpetual flame guarded by sentries, displays of tanks and Migs.

The chapel on site was ornate, with a bell tower and jeweled pictures of saints.

Went on to 360⁰ Stalingrad Museum, a memorial to the great Battle of Stalingrad that defeated Germans and turned tide of WWII at a cost of 1.5 million soldiers. Inside is circular, topped by an arresting panorama. The memorial showcases medals, war items, photos of soldiers, motorbikes, and thankyou gifts to city (including shields, clocks, jeweled clothing).

We walked back along riverbank to our parked vehicle and on arrival noticed driver’s side key lock had been drilled out - lock having fallen between outer/inner door thankfully so would-be thieves couldn't open door. Someone obviously tried to break into the truck either last night in hotel carpark (unlikely as security were on duty all night, but they are checking their video tape) or broad daylight today parked at Mamay Mount, or on the street whilst we were in museum. Frightening - best case scenario, stolen electronics etc, worst case, stolen whole vehicle (with of course, no insurance). Remote key still opens and locks, but we’ll be vulnerable to other opportunistic thieves until we find a Fuso dealer to replace the lock     ....and so it begins....

Topped a mixed day with awful pizzas at Franks Karaoke around the corner, but at least had fun ordering and then making conversation between the iTranslate app and Frank’s friend on the other end of his mobile phone. The 'insulated' door between the diner and the karaoke bar definitely did not work! Turned out it was two for one for every tankard of beer ordered, but any effects soon wore off in climbing back up to our top story. Off towards Rostov and border tomorrow.

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