With the football world cup just around the corner I thought it would be a good opportunity to look at the cities that many football teams and their fans will be traveling to over the next through months. I am going to use the National teams schedules to explain what’s on offer in the cities that are going to host games during the competition.
This world cup special, top European city breaks post will start with the England national team.
England’s three group games will be played in the East of Russia. With their first game taking place on June 18th in Volgograd, their second on the 24th June in Nizhny Novgorod and their last pool game taking place in Kaliningradon June 28th.
These three cities are not close together as you my expect and any travel between the three would be extensive.
During the second world war Volgograd was called Stalingrad and was the venue of one of the bloodiest battles during the fight for the western front. Over one million Soviet lives were lost in the hand-to-hand battle that defeated the German army, and the city is now thought to be full of ghosts.
Much of the city was destroyed during this period, and has now been re-built as a typical soviet style city with wide boulevards and grand Stalinist architecture.
The Motherland Calls sculpture is a defining feature in Volgograd and stands as the most prominent of the many memorials to those who lost their lives during the Battle of Stalingrad. Mamayev Hill (also known as hill 102 during the battle) was passed back and forth between the Germans and the soviets during the war and can now visit to take in the amazing memorial complex that is currently in place.
Mamayev Hill is also the site of the current stadium that will host England’s national football team on the 18th June. Being site on the side of the River Volga you will find bars and restaurants a plenty down at the river front, but is also well-known for midges during the evening so repellent is a must.
Next on the itinerary is Nizhny (as it is fondly called) it can also be referred to as the wallet of Russia, Much of the capital comes from this area. This area was completely closed off to foreign nationals during the soviet era as it housed many of Russia’s Armament factories, and was even re-named as Gorky after the famous writer who grew up here.
In a city that has been known as Russia third capital there are more Cathedrals than you could shack a stick at but the beautiful Stalinist architecture has also brought about one of Russia’s finest looking Kremlin in this city.
Nizhny Novgorod seems to be a mismatch of cultures, technologies and eras that somehow all work seamlessly together to produce an urban landscape that just should not be missed. The city boosts unlimited monuments and statures that seem to get better and better, it is a fantastic base for historic walking tours and also industrial age museums that will take you back to a time that our generation is fast forgetting.
Russia’s westernmost city is positioned between Poland and Lithuania and feels more like a European city than the majority of Russia. The cobbled streets and leafy parks make for a pleasant stroll between the Pregolya river, central square and medieval cathedrals.
Kaliningrad was seized from the Germans in 1945 and has a proud military background that is on show everywhere. As you follow the Pregolya out towards the Baltic you will no doubt come across ships, submarines and missiles that are station out of Kaliningrad.
The 14th Century Konigsberg cathedral is possibly the main city attraction and defiantly on that should be taken in. Rebuilt with German donations made in the Potsdam agreement it is named due to this area being the city of Konigsberg (kings mountain) the capital of Prussia and later became the mainstay of the German Empire.
The western Front
As you will have seen from the schedule that the England football team will take. The three cities all have strong connections to the second world war and all have monuments and museums that will greatly interest those that are interested in the history of wars.
These three western cities of Russia all constitute a slightly more European feel to them than the more central and eastern cities of Russia do.
Take your time explore the culture and you will find interest for everyone.
Let me know what you think?