Archive for Russia


Zodiac Modern Art in Moscow

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Leo, Zodiac Park, Moscow In one of the northern suburbs of Moscow I found this little park with 12 works of modern art. Closer inspection revealed that each represented a sign of the zodiac.

Despite my best efforts, I haven’t been able to find the name of the park but it is only a couple of minutes walk from Sviblovo metro station on the Orange Line (Number 6 – Kaluzhsko–Rizhskaya Line). There is also a pretty little white Russian Orthordox church with a golden onion dome which is also worthy of a photo or two.

When I first visited the park, I didn’t realise at first that each piece of art represented a sign of the zodiac. All the pieces were made from various pieces of scrap metal. The bull representing Taurus and the lion representing Leo were easily identifiable but other pieces were a bit more abstract. For example, instead of an archer for Sagittarius, there was a small boy with a catapult. There was also a bit of humour with Pisces. Two large fish are sharing a meal at a table and the meal is of a fish. Picses, Zodiac Park, Moscow

In addition to not finding out the name of the park, I also don’t know who the person was who created this pieces of art so unfortunately, I can’t credit them. However, if you are ever in this part of Moscow, it is a quiet little place to sit and relax for a while.

Images of all pieces of art in the Zodiac Park can be found on my Moscow Flick set:

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My 10 Top Travel Photos of 2011

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2011 has again been a good year for me to discover wonderful new places in the world. Rather than bore you with a very brief and inadequate description, I thought I’d rely on the old saying of “a picture paints a thousand words” or rather in this case a photo. Here are my favourite photos I took during the last year.

Kronborg Castle

My first trip of the year was to the Danish capital of Copenhagen. I’ve been there many times and decided to head up the coast to Helsingor and the famous Kronborg Castle. It is said to be the setting for Shakespeare’s famous play “Hamlet”.

Kronborg Castle – One of Northern Europe’s finest Renaissance castles


Sveti Stefan

I spent a couple of days on the Montenegro coast at Sveti Stefan overlooking this iconic iselt.

Sveti Stefan – Famous visitors here include Elizabeth Taylor and Sophie Loren.


Mandarin Fish

My first diving trip to Manado was extremely rewarding. On a night dive I managed to capture a couple of pictures of the elusive Mandarin Fish on a night dive.

The elusive Mandarin Fish on Bunaken Island, Manado, Indonesia


Queens Colours 1/24th Regiment

The Battle of Isandlwana in 1879 was the greatest defeat a British force ever suffered at the hands of a native army. On that fateful January day, the Queens Colours of 1/24th Regiment were lost in the Buffalo River. Two weeks later, against all odds they were recovered. Queen Victoria added a wreath of immortals around the crown as reminder of what happened to those colours at Isandlwana. Today, they are hanging in the Havard side chapel in Brecon Cathedral, Wales.

Queens COlours of 1/24th Regiment that were lost and later found after the Battle of Isandlwana in January 1879.


Burning Bush / Fire Extinguisher

High in the Sinai Mountains in St Catherine’s Monastery. It is a hugely significant religious site and  this picture is of the Burning Bush. I found it slightly amusing that there is a fire extinguisher next to it…just in case.

In 2011, the Burning Bush is less of a safety risk that back in the days when it was described in the book of Exodus thanks to a fire extinguisher.


Soldier on guard, Hall of Valour

The Battle of Stalingrad was an horrendous fight to the death for hundreds of thousands of Russian and German soldiers. Today at the Hall of Valour at Mamayev Kurgan in Volgograd, there is a permanent guard.

A soldier stands guard in the Hall of Valour, Mamayev Kurgan, Volgograd


Petra through the Siq

The Siq at Petra is a long passage all visitors have to travel through to reach the famous Red City. As you approach the end, you get your first glimpse of the Treasury in Petra.

Nearing the end of the Siq and catching a first sight of the Treasury at Petra.


Kotor – cruise ship

The old walled town of Kotor in Montenegro is a popular cruise destination.

A cruise ship docked at Kotor, Montenegro



This photo isn’t so much a favourite, I just want to highlight a problem (excuse the blurriness). When threatened, Pufferfish expand their bodies. Its a rare sight and is incredibly stressful for them. On this night dive in Aqaba, the guide annoyed this Pufferfish enough for it to puff out it’s body. I was really annoyed that someone meant to educate and protect the marine environment could do this. It was at a 5* PADI centre in a marine park.

This poor Pufferfish was annoyed by our dive guide and felt it had to expand it’s body to defend itself.


Ma’In Hotsprings

If you want to visit a fantastic spa resort in a stunning setting, the Ma’In Hotsprings 260m below sea level in Jordan will not disappoint.

The main waterfall at the fabulous Ma’In Hotsprings in Jordan.


I regularly update my Flickr account with my latest photos which you can find here:

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Thats all from me for 2011, now I’m looking forward to 2012 which will take me to more new places and the Euro 2012 Championships in Ukraine.

On the banks of the River Volga in Southern Russia is the city of Volgograd. During World War II, the area was the scene of some terrible fighting between the Soviet Red Army and the German Army Group South. Much of the city was destroyed and has since been rebuilt. Throughout, visitors will find many interesting places that tell the story of the city that was originally called Tsaritsyn by the Tatars, renamed Stalingrad by the Communists and is today known as Volgograd.

Mamayev Hill was the original site of the Tatar settlement Tsaritsyn. It is the highest point in the city with commanding views of the area. Today, there is a colossal statue of Mother Russia which can be seen from miles away. She stands on top of a mound which is a mass grave of 34,000 soldiers who died hear. There are 35 Heroes of the Soviet Union buried here including the legendary sniper Vasiliy Zaitsev along with the commander of the 64th Army and twice Hero of the Soviet Union, Marshall Chuikov.

Like many cities around the world, the river is at the heart of it and Volgograd is no different. The River Volga winds its way from central Russia down to the Caspian Sea. At Volgograd it is a wide river carrying huge cargo ships. Along both banks are beautiful sandy beaches and during the summer, the water temperature can reach 25 Celcius which is on par with places like the Red Sea in Egypt in April. Every hour, short cruises depart sailing up and down the river and it allows a wonderful perspective of the city.

The Panoramic Museum is a fantastic place for anyone with even the slightest interest in the military history of Volgograd. It is located next to the Old Mill which is one of the few buildings that survived the battle. The damage to the Old Mill gives an idea what the devastation across the city. Inside the museum, there is a wealth of wonderful exhibits including the rifle used by Vasiliy Zaitsev. Plenty of time should be allowed to see everything the Panoramic Museum has to offer.

During the final days of the Battle of Stalingrad, the German Headquarters was in the basement of the Department Store. The store survives and a museum can be found hidden away in the basement. Among the items on display are portraits of the 5 Red Army soldiers who discovered the Germans and were asked to find a senior ranking office to accept their surrender. One of the men, Private Altukov of the 38th Motorised Brigade, is still alive and living in Volgograd.

Lyudnikov’s Island takes its name from the fact it was an area of the city under Soviet control that was isolated from the main force. The command post still survives although very badly damaged. Close by are a number of mass graves of fallen soldiers 138th Division who died here during the Battle of Stalingrad.

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Three Days In The Hero City of Volgograd

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Mamayev Kurgan

Mamayev Kurgan

I decided to take a 3 day trip to the city of Volgograd in Southern Russia with the main aim of exploring the battlefields of the Second World War. From September 1942 to February 1943, the fighting was harsh and around 2 million men and women died. Much of the city was also destroyed with little more than 5% of the original buildings surviving. Today, more than 1 million people call Volgograd home.

If you arrive at the airport which was used as a German airstrip during the battle, the terminal building proudly states “Hero City Volgograd”. My guide met me at the airport and drove me to my hotel. The journey took around 30 minutes. I stayed at the centrally located Best Eastern Hotel Volgograd which is typical of the Soviet era hotels that have been modernised yet still retain some features of the bygone era. The entrance and stairways were beautifully ornate given the impression of a far better hotel than the 3* grade it has. However, the room was a bit more basic. The bathroom was reasonably modern and there was air conditioning which was very welcoming but the bed couldn’t be described as comfortable and the TV only had a few Russian stations. There was a fridge but no safe for valuables. Breakfast was included but the choice was repetitive. One major plus was free wi-fi throughout the hotel. In a country when mobile phone roaming charges are so high, it was a welcome lifeline.

It quickly became apparent I would need to use my limited Russian a lot more in Volgograd. Almost all the signs are only in Cyrillic and few people speak English. That said, I did find menus in both Russian and English at one cafe. I found the use of an English speaking guide during my 3 days in Volgograd absolutely priceless. There was little in the way of tourist information available in any language, never mind English so if you plan an independent trip, make sure you have your information before you arrive.


All Saints Church and Tank Turret at Mamayev Kurgan

All Saints Church and Tank Turret at Mamayev Kurgan

There are memorials to be found right across the city. The observant visitor will notice monuments with T-34 tank turrets. There are 80 of these in total and they mark the furtherest point of the German advance before the Soviet counter attack began on 19th November 1942. It gives you an idea just how close the city came to falling. Of the various places of interest, two of the more popular are Mamayev Hill and the Panoramic Museum.

I also visited the small museum in the basement of the department store. Its hidden away and takes some finding. It was here that the German commander Friedrich Paulus was found by 5 Red Army soldiers, one of whom still lives in Volgograd today. Other places I visited in the city included Lyudnikov’s Island, the tractor factory where the last T-34 was produced and the Grain Elevator where so many men died.


Monument to Meeting of Soviet Forces, Kalach Region

Monument to Meeting of Soviet Forces, Kalach Region


During my 3 days here, I ventured more than 50 miles from the city to the point where the German Army was finally encircled trapping 330,000 men. It is at a point on the Don – Volga canal which Stalin built to link these two mighty rivers. The canal is huge, capable of transporting large cargo ships. I also visited some old German trenches, the only German cemetery at Rossoshka, Soldier Field and the church at Gorodische which the Germans used as a hospital.

I found some comparisons with the Western Front battlefields of France in that where ever you looked, there were memorials and graves to the fallen. The Volgograd region has it’s own ‘iron harvest’ of rifles, cartridge cases, helmets and the like from the fight and in excess of 1,000 soldiers remains are found each year. Unlike the Western Front, many of the memorials are not well signposted so for the independent traveller, would be difficult to find. However, the significance of what took place here 70 years ago and the efforts of soldiers like Vasiliy Zaitsev and Private Altukov of the 38th Motorised Brigade who found Field Marshall Paulus should never be underestimated.

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On the 9th May 1945, the weapons fell silent as the struggle in Europe came to a finish. The Western Allies and the Soviet army had smashed the German forces and every year, Russia marks the occasion with a victory parade.
2010 is the 65th anniversary and this year’s celebration in Moscow will be a bit diverse. Presentations started a few days earlier when twenty-two British veterans from the Arctic convoys were awarded medals by the Russian envoy to the Britain, Yury Fedotov. The veterans had helped ferry necessities to the northern Russian cities of Arkhangelsk and Murmansk. In total, nearly 1,400 ships help keep the Soviet Union supplied.

As part of the Victory Parade, there will be a fly past of nearly 130 airplanes and helicopters from different periods of history. Over time, Red Square has experienced countless parades devised to show off the strength of the Soviet forces but this year, the parade will have a more international feel about it. Troops of the Welsh Regiment from the British Army, US 18th Infantry Regiment, pilots from the French Normandie-Nieman squadron and an honour guard from the Polish military will all march with army units from Russia and other CIS nations.

As well as the Victory Parade in Moscow, there will also be celebrations in other cities too. In Ukraine, 75 Russian paratroopers will march through Kiev as the country celebrates the end of World War II which was also known as the Great Patriotic War in the Soviet Union. The Russian unit was invited to take part by the Ukraine government

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