On Thursday I cleaned, then headed to the airport to collect my guest, Janna. We came back, I made a curry which we ate together, and we watched the Steve Martin movie “Roxanne.”
On Friday we went to the Aquarium. I didn’t even know this existed but Janna wanted to go, it is at the Komsomol Mall, or “Komsomoll” as the Russians call it (“moll” is how they spell “mall”). Komsomol is the name of the youth wing of the Communist Party which used to be as popular in the Soviet Union as the Boy Scouts are in the UK and the USA. Nowadays it is not such a big thing, but its name pops up quite often in street names, metro stations, buildings and district names.
After weeks of bel0w-zero temperatures only occasionally creeping up to 1 or 2 degrees above, Friday was finally a sub-tropical 11 degrees. This had the result that all the snow melted at once, backroads became more like rivers, roads going up hills were like waterfalls. And there was lots of mud. It really wasn’t the best day to go walking around areas of Volgograd that didn’t have much in the way of pavements. So when we missed our marshrutka stop for the mall and had to walk back down the road, it was almost inevitable we would be up to our ankles in mud before too long.
After some inventive route-picking to avoid the worst of the mud, and pools of meltwater, or walking too close to the road where speeding cars would splash us, we eventually headed for the high ground and spotted Mama Rodina, the statue of the Motherland standing proudly facing us (normally when I pass her I am on the other side and she is facing away).
We eventually reached the mall. I think it is the most impressive of the many malls I have seen, more like an out-of-town shopping centre like we have in the UK, surrounded by car parks. And indeed, there was an Oceanarium at one end, so that is where we headed. I was keen to get some pictures for my blog but Janna bought the tickets and didn’t think the extra 100 roubles for permission to photograph was worth buying – the rule was no flash photography so any pictures would not have been impressive anyway.
So I will describe what we saw there. First there was a pool with a few fish and terrapins who seemed curious about the people looking at them, and another pool with some catfish who would stick their noses above the water right next to us. Then there were a few tanks with various colourful fish of varying sizes, including some large pike. There was a large tank with two seals in, one of them had a dead eye, but he would come up to the glass and follow the people on the other side (even excited children running backwards and forwards!). There were some reptiles – geckos, snakes and lizards, and two giant tortoises that creaked when they moved (I’m not sure why they belonged in an aquarium but they were interesting to see). There were crocodiles who all seemed to be asleep (but kept their eyes open), there was a boa constrictor, there were some bones of ancient prehistoric monsters like plesiosaurs and other scary looking creatures.
Outside the mall was an amusement arcade with video games, air hockey tables, and a mechanical giraffe which kept opening and closing its mouth. As we came out one group of people was standing beside a machine that was spewing out hundreds of tickets which were coiling on the ground – I assumed it must have been broken but it is possible they actually wanted to use them all.
The mall was a fun place – they had electric cars which children could ride around in which would have been great if I was 40 years younger. They had a fast food area with all the big names (we had a meal at the Jar Pizza outlet).
The journey home was less stressful (we just hopped on a marshrutka which went straight to my building) and the rest of my curry was waiting for us, so we had a pretty good evening!