I’m here for a year, right? So there is plenty of time to go and explore the city, find new things, check out the biggest landmarks. I don’t have to do it all in the first weekend. So there’s nothing wrong with having a little rest day from all the stress, just chill out in my apartment. Besides, after all the walking I have been doing recently my feet are feeling very achy and blistery, and need some time to heal.
In any event, I went on a little exploratory mission late last night, in a direction away from the river. It took me through some very non-touristy parts of the city, dark and forbidding, with long stretches of silence abruptly interrupted by the screech of a train’s wheels, or the heavy clunking and rattling of a tram. But I found my target, one of Volgograd’s two KFC restaurants. It was on a main road, beside a LukOil petrol station, but it seemed strangely apart from the central districts and shopping areas where you would normally expect to find one.
My craving for Western junk-food sated, I decided to take the scenic route back (I really did not want to see the non-scenic route again!). I followed the main road towards the centre of the town then turned at the Central District turning, marked by a sign and a big statue.
This took me down to the central station, however there was no obvious way over, under or through this (and lots of security guards looking suspiciously at everyone, and me still without my passport) so I tried to find a way around it. This (eventually) led me into a magical park. There was a bean-bag café, play areas, long, wide boulevards, my tablet started beeping at me indicating there was free Wifi, and I found a fairground, complete with ferris wheel, stalls, shops, lights, and Russian folk music over a tannoy.
Thirsty again by now, I approached one of the stalls that had a stocked refrigerator and asked “Pepsicola?” (this is the same in Russian as in English). “Sorok” I was told. This is a word I know, it means forty. Forty roubles for a can of Pepsi – that is very reasonable. I counted out 40 roubles and completed my first transaction that didn’t involve reading a till display screen.
Emerging from the fairground I found myself on my own street, Krasnoznamenskaya Street, and I thankfully walked home to douse my feet in cold water.
Today I have only ventured out to the supermarket. It is still open at 5pm on a Sunday, so Volgograd scores over Bromley in that respect. I was pleasantly surprised to find some items I did not think I would find here – baked beans, tortilla wraps, salsa. But I could not find other things I thought would be straightforward – pepper and tomato soup. The search goes on.
It is still very much summer here, the days are oppressively hot and the evenings only marginally cooler. However the weather can be very changeable – I arrived in a rainstorm and the first day was very windy.
I have a Russian lesson in the morning tomorrow and three English lessons with students in the afternoon/evening, including my first group classes. I would like to have those all prepared but I need information: details of what I am teaching them (eg lesson 1 or lesson 56) and the materials I will be using. So far I have not heard back from either of the teachers. I may have to prepare all three lesson plans in the space of a few hours after my Russian lesson tomorrow morning.