Before last week, the furthest south I had been in Volgograd was a school in the Kirovskiy Rayon, just south of my regular teaching haunt Sovetskiy. Every Tuesday I get the Number 2 bus which goes from the centre, through Voroshilovskiy and down Universitete, the main road leading south out of the centre.
On Friday I again got on the Number 2 bus but this time I did not get off at Sovetskiy, I continued all the way to the end of the line (a 2-hour trip each way), which is Krasnoarmeiskiy Rayon. The name means “Red Army District” and was originally a seperate town before Volgograd (then Stalingrad) swallowed it up.
Even further back in history the town had another name – Sarepta, and was a community of German-speaking farmers and manufacturers. I talked about the museum dedicated to Old Sarepta and the Volga Germans in my previous blog.
The first thing I noticed when the bus approached the central part of the district was the high snow-covered hills. Volgograd is not exactly flat – the southern part especially is quite hilly, but usually the horizon is very low and all you can see in the distance is long, flat plains. Krasnoarmeiskiy’s backdrop is hilly.
It was also a lot more built-up than I was expecting. There are giant bank buildings, the long Engels Boulevard, shopping centres, tramlines, great bridges, it is like the centre of a large town in its own right. My school does have an office there, but I have never visited it and wasn’t sure exactly where it was located.
This is also the point where Russia’s two great rivers connect. The Volga-Don Canal was built in the 1950s and essentially connects the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea and cities all the way up the Urals. A giant arch marks Lock No. 1, the first point at which ships must rise from the Volga level as they gradually reach the level of the Don river, lock by lock.
I took some pictures of a frozen stretch of waterway – I’m not sure if it was just a backwater or part of the canal system. There were people skating and playing on the ice. I walked a little way on to it but the occasional cracking noise beneath my feet put me off going much further.
We visited Old Sarepta then made our way back to the central area – they have interesting covered pathways with little stores, and little sculptures like this hippo and monkey (below). We took a look down Engels Boulevard – we couldn’t see a statue of Engels but there was a giant monument to the oil company Luk (it translates as “onion”) and a plaque explaining how they had very generously paid for the reconstruction of the boulevard. Luk’s regional headquarters are based in the district – one of my students works for them.
It was fascinating to see this large, thriving community so far from the centre of Volgograd but ostensibly part of the same city. I almost wish I had made the effort to come down and explore this part of town earlier.