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Pete and Elaine's Travels

Hello all,
Welcome to our Travel page.
This is where we will try to keep a record of our travels beginning in 2011
-we will update it as often as we have time! Of course we are not continuously travelling, we come home after each journey!!!

Our first itinerary ;-
20th January to 23rd January, San Francisco
23rd January to 19th February, touring north and south islands of New Zealand
19th February fly to Sydney, Australia where we will be staying until 25th February,
26th February, land at Heathrow airport

Second journey;-
We took the caravan through Belgium, Switzerland and Italy, when we did lots of walking, sight seeing, painting and reading.

Third itinerary;-
To celebrate our Ruby wedding anniversary, on Wednesday September 7th 2011, we fly direct to China, with a short stopover in Dubai. On arrival in Beijing, we join the tour with Wendy Wu, spending the next month travelling the length and breadth of China.
We finish off the holiday with a couple of days in Dubai, returning home on October 7th.

Fourth journey;-
29th January to 16th February, South Africa
16th February to 20th February, Zambia

fifth journey:-
USA, September 4th to October 7th 2012

sixth journey:-
Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, flying January 19th 2013

Seventh journey:-
India and Nepal, flying November 21st and returning December 5th

Eighth journey
Chile, flying January 22nd and returning 4th February

Ninth journey
Namibia, flying on July 24th and returning on August 11th

10th journey
would you believe it, the 10th and off to Western Australia on July 6th finishing off in Singapore on the way back

And so to the 11th adventure, Secret Lapland, January 20th to Monday 25th January 2016

Well unbelievably the twelfth journey, we fly 18th March to Myanmar via Bangkok, and cruise on the Irrawaddy until April 3rd

And onto journey 13, from October 7th to October 18th, the Silk Road in Uzbekistan.

Journey 14 begins on Monday 6th March, 2017 when we travel to Southern India.

Now Journey 15, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania,
May 14th to May 22nd 2017

Journey 16, Copenhagen and Stockholm, September 6th to September 14 th 2017

Journey 17. Peru and the Amazon

Journey 18. Russia, September 29th to October 14th 2018

Diary Entries

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Location: Volgograd, Russia

A long day of sight seeing today has shown us some phenomemal feats of design and engineering. An amazing day.

The city has in a way, an atmosphere of sinister notoriety. In 1942, the Nazis made an attempt to capture the city to control the Volga and cut it off from the Caspian oil fields. It was one of the major battles of the war in which 90% of the city was destroyed only much later to be remodelled in Soviet grandeur.

The heroic defence is commemorated in Mamayev Hill Open Air War Memorial completed on 1967,and is still the highest point in the city. The sheer scale of this place is astonishing. This place was built so that the horrors of this battle would never be forgotten and repeated! We were walking on the site where 32500 bodies were buried. By February 1943, two million lives had been lost.

This remarkable memorial complex was constructed as a monument to human courage and fortitude and each statue and square are located in important places.

It is a tremendous feat of skill to the designer and planner. There are 200 steps leading to the top, one step for every day of the battle.

This broad flight of steps flanked by relief sculpture and accompanied by the sounds of the city at war depicts battle scenes and it's heroes....some absolutely horrific. For instance to detail just one, I can pick out a face surrounded by flames. It tells the story of a soldier who was carrying two bottles of incendiary material, Molotov cocktails I supppose. One of the bottles took a bullet and he was engulfed in flames but he carried on running and jumped into a German tank to explode it..

The massive centre piece is the gigantic statue of Mother Russia, Russia Calling, which stands at 89 feet to the tip of the sword she is wielding. This is one of the largest free standing statues in the world and inside are some of the bones of the dead. It was originally built of concrete but was too heavy and had been modified with a lighter material. It is very difficult to miss it as she exudes power and dominates wherever you look.

As you wind your way down from the top, you reach the monumental statue of the Grieving Mother, the Statue of Sorrow which stands in front of an area called the
Lake of Tears.

Nearby is a beautiful place, known as the Hall of Glory. It is in here that you start to get a profound understanding of what went on here in those six months in the winter of 1942-1943.
I suppose you could call this a gigantic cylindrical shape with a circular hole in the ceiling. Beneath this hole is a huge statue of a hand holding a torch which holds the eternal flame. As the sun shines through this aperture, a perfect eye shape is illuminated on the mosaic wall which contains the list of all of the thousands who died here in this battle.
We found this a very moving place. The music of Schubert's ' Daydreamer' echoes round the hall.
There is a guard of honour which holds a constant vigil and stands to attention as people lay red carnations to honour the dead. It is a great honour to be chosen to stand on guard here and the opportunity is only bestowed on those thought to be heroes of the army. Every hour there is a changing of the guard ceremony, and we stood and watched their fascinating frog marching around the hall...their movement and precision reminded us of ballerinas.

Just below the hall lies the Heroes Square which is surrounded by impressive gigantic stone figures depicting various soldiers, men and women.

At the bottom of the steps before reaching the avenue of Russian poplar
Trees, lies another Square called Standing to the Death Square. Another huge statue symbolically defending the steps leading to the Motherland of Russia.

This is a phenomenal place and extremely poignant, very well laid out with every item created to give maximum effect, but it must have cost a fortune!!

We left here to go down to the riverside to find the Battle of Stalingrad Panorama Museum. It is an enthralling place. The ground floor chronicles the stages of the German advance right through to Soviet victory. The exhibits include mangled weapons and the general's great coat riddled with bullet holes. They certainly meant to get him. The piece de resistance lies at the top of the central spiral staircase. Here is a 360 degree panoramic painting of the brutal battle as it would have been focussing on depicting what it was like in the trenches and throws of battle for the ordinary soldier. It is a terrific painting and depiction of war in all its gruesomeness.

Outside on the river embankment the pathway leads past tanks and armoured vehicles to the Grudinina Mill, a bombed out flour mill. It will never be restored standing untouched as a monument and reminder to the horror of war. The Mill was a defensive stronghold for the Soviet troops. As was the closeby Pavlov's house. This became known as a prime example of patriotism and heroism. Orders were to defend to the death although their position was surrounded by the enemy, and death wasn't long coming. The average life expectancy in the battle was just 24 hours and for every soldier killed another was there to take his place and to do their duty to vigorously defend the motherland from aggression.

All in all, a very impressive place to visit.

This afternoon after lunch, four veteran soldiers were welcomed on board for a question and answer session, three of the veterans fought in the battle, the fourth was an ex army colonel. The youngest was ninety two. It was a great insight into the patriotic beliefs of the army, past and current. And a great sense of patriotism and duty to the motherland. They were so pleased to be the centre of attention and although they started off shyly they soon got into their stride when talking about their experiences in the army.
There was a point when steam was coming out of Petes ears!!

A fascinating way to end our tour of this country, provoking many thoughts and answers to the questions we had when we arrived here

Friday, 12 October 2018

Location: Volgograd, Russia

Few places on earth can have had such an enormous influence on the history of Stalingrad or Volgograd as it is now called.
The modern city sprawls for 56 miles along the riverbank and should serve as a warning against all future military conflicts. The city today is surrounded by the rough wilderness of the southern Russian steppes.

It is an important industrial centre noting aluminium, oil, shipbuilding, chemical production and car manufacture amongst its products. It is also a huge transport hub.

It was here that a bloody battle of the Soviet Red Army finally turned the tide against the seemingly invincible Nazi Germany. But the history lesson was for tomorrow.

Today we had a short orientation walk through the city centre with a short ride on the underground trolley tram system! And again here, I had an adventure with getting trapped in the doors! Fortunately we have no more underground rides!

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Location: Saratov, Russia

We are just beginning to realise that we are just scratching the surface of what this country is about and what has gone off here.

We asked Svetlana our tour director, if if would be possible to take the bus from one port and drive through the country to the next one to be picked up by the boat there so that rural life away from the river could be experienced.
Answer There is no infrastructure, terrible and impassable roads. Until the World Cup, it was very difficult in these areas. They had not seen tourists at all. Svetlana had great difficulty when organising the tour itinerary in finding anywhere which had buses suitable to transport us round the cities.....a lot of money was pumped into the cities to clean them up and modernise them.

We thought that this was a lovely city.
To boot, it is fifteen degrees today with clear blue skies. Interestingly, Kazan where we were a few days ago is now two degrees and the Volga is due to freeze over at the beginning of November.

This city and its surrounding area, is known as the bread basket of Russia, as it developed as a large centre for grain and oilseed because of the favourable soil and climate conditions found here. It also had Russia's first tobabcco factory so it is a wealthy place. It was closed to visitors until 1991 as it was also a military area.

Lots of Germans lived here. Catherine the Great guaranteed them, freedom, no army conscription, few taxes, inexpensive bank loans, in order to stimulate the growth of agriculture. So lots of nationalities but in particular Germans settled here. World War 2 caused mass deportation so there was a drastic decrease in Germanic population. After the war, many wanted to come back to their homes so the German government offered considerable financial help to the Russians to reintroduce them, but many found that those homes had been permanently taken over by the local Russians. Again, the German government was there to support them financially to resettle.

One of the other claims to fame of this city is that it was the home of Yuri Gagarin who came here with his family at the age of 15. There is a story about his return to earth after his space flight. He landed far from the expected place where there were crew waiting for him on the ground. In fact he landed thirty Kms from here in a farmer's field. There was a peasant woman and her daughter in the field who saw this thing fall out of the sky and when he emerged from the spacecraft, Voyuz one, and took off his helmet, they ran away screaming as they thought that he had taken off his head and was an alien spite of his calling out to them to tell them who he was.

The other pride and joy of the city is the National Glory Park on Sokolovaya Hill, called The Cranes. It is an open air museum of the military and folklore. At the top of a hill stood a very large monument towering above the eternal flame and the plaques of the names of the dead and the villages from which they came.
There was a great panoramic view of the city and the river from here.
People believed that the souls of the dead rose into the sky as cranes at the highest point in the city, hence, the name of the park.

We spent some time wandering round churches and of course the shopping mall before heading after lunch to the Gagarin Museum for a guided tour. There was a special room devoted to Gagarin but there was also an exposition of folklore. We finished off with a short but amusing concert by harmonica players. Apparently the difference to an accordion is that it has less keys but it had a lovely entertaining sound.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Location: Samara, Russia

Today was a surprise, sunny and a balmy 10 degrees. We have come to visit the city of Samara for a two and a half hour city tour by bus with stops at various arttractions.
This was more than enough!

Until 1991, this was a closed city of Soviet origin, even outside Russians needed a permit to enter the city. It was built as a military armaments and weapons centre and it was also a space centre. We stopped briefly by the Soyuz rocket before going onto the observation point at Glory Square. Here there is a very tall statue to commemorate the achievements of the military industry and also the eternal flame.
There are good views of the embankment which has a sandy area and is very popular in summer for the locals. It is evident that there has been money spent in this part with new steps and landscaped areas leading up to the square. Apparently this was all done here and elsewhere for the World Cup. Maybe this is why places are immaculate in the historic centres! It would have been interesting to see it before that. The Soviet residential blocks which were given free to the populace, were dire.

We stopped outside Stalin's bunker which was closed. It is an eleven storey bunker built for Stalin in case of invasion but it was never used as he never left Moscow.

This is a major industrial and economic centre. It was chosen as the alternative capital in wartime and was designated an evacuation zone should Moscow and other areas fall to the Nazis. It is certainly a city which likes its monuments.

We spent the afternoon on board. There was a discussion forum at some point where the three scenic tour guides answered questions that we had about the country.
I can't remember it all but there were some very interesting comments made:- did they see relations with the west in particular how did they view recent issues in the western press.......relations with the west were not good!! There was a lot of propaganda which has been around for years. Re Novachok, there is no credible evidence that Russia was involved, they cannot believe that to highly skilled officers would be so careless as to leave evidence such as the perfume bottle for some one to find to incriminate them, they are much more professional than that so it must be fake news. They retold the party line, i.e. It is a joke.....

......where are the fields with cows, sheep, goats.....they do exist but we won't see any as health and safety rules mean that they have to be kept away from the rivers....there is some communal farming but much is privatised now, because of sanctions from the west, agriculture is thriving, as the government has encouraged the people to grow their own to meet shortages on imports. So agiculture is booming as the country becomes self sufficient and doesn't need to rely on imports from other countries.

.....are men and women equal, yes they are

.....what are the problems with can buy alcohol cheaply in the supermarket, attempts to control consumption is failing, more worryingly so is the attempt to curb smoking, at two euros per packet it is cheap and easy to buy.

......religion, under the Soviets, religion was separate from the state so many became atheists, today many cities are multi faith.

We finished off the early evening with a vodka tasting session, the word vodka coming from water. Bottles are cheap and come in several flavours...not our tipple I'm afraid. Vodka shots are to be taken cold, and down in one with pickles to take off the edge of the alcohol.

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Recent Messages

From Little babbie
Hello Parents,

Have you tried guinea pig yet. They were displayed on all the market stalls when I went. Usually with a red pepper or apple stuffed in their mouths. Sounds like you’re having a great time.

Have emailed several times but they are all bouncing back xx
Response: Hello babbie, we have seen several roasted and live guinea pigs, we plan to taste one before we leave, we have had alpaca, found that a bit tough!
From Sister
Glad you are safely there and look forward to reading your blog. XX
Response: A week gone already!!
From Your sister
Enjoying the vicarious travel, as usual. XX
Response: From inside of your dry home we presume
From Mike and Anne
Hi glad your holiday is going well. Enjoying reading your blog interesting as ever. Looking on the bright side a 'dry' March will help with the medication xx
Response: Dry and searing heat, but much better than rain although there was a terrific downpour in the night. Hope all,is well
From Sister
Maybe it is really me, accompanying you surreptitiously to keep an eye on you. I have never been called 'scary' before, even by students. X
Response: Mmm, how do you know that!!
From sister
Looking forward, as always, to accompanying you on your journey. XX
Response: We have an Aunty Dotty look alike with us in the group, mannerisms the lot! How scary is that!!!!!!
From Sister
Delighted to be back on my vicarious travels. Sounds fascinating already. XX
Response: It all seems a bit surreal to be standing in these historic places dating back to the first century BC!
From Kathy & Ken
So jealous - looks like you had another amazing adventure x
Response: Keep stashing away the money whilst you work!!!!!
From Angela and Gilbert
What an experience, can't wait to view the pictures
Response: It was indeed! Now waiting at Bangkok airport for the flight home
From KB
Hola parents,

You look like are having a fab time. Just catching up on your blog. Keep safe xx
Response: Hello babbie
Am trying to get blog up to date, wifi very iffy, hope you had a good easter
From Sue Brockwell
Happy Easter. Sounds a fascinating hol. Now in Isle of Man. House with lovely views out to sea. Drive across island and lunch out next plan. X
Response: Ooh, we liked the Isle of Man, it was like going back in timehope the sun shines for you. It has been forty plus degrees here and feels hotter!
From Sister
Fascinating. Look forward to seeing the photographs. I think I would have been annoyed at being kept back because I was a girl, though. That would have gone against the grain. However, we have to respect cultural differences if we are visitors! XX
Response: Fascinating is the right word to use. Something to see at every turn
From Sue and Les
We are having a BBQ tonight a bit nearer home in the illustrious Padstow. We now have full family complement so not a dull moment. Glad you are having a great time. We are enjoying reading the updates.
Response: I hope it's Aussie style BBQ with plenty of steak and fish. Hope the weather is staying kind for you all, you must be well into the school holidays by now, looking forward to seeing you when we get home.
From JB
Brilliant story on 29th July Mother; did Nana never teach you not to get in cars with strangers (particularly naked ones)!
Response: Nan never knew any naked men I am sure!! I can just imaging her comment!!!! And
Well, I wouldn't have minded but he was over seventy and every inch of skin was a chocolate brown colour! When he got out of the car when we got to dad, his comment' I hope you don't mind your wife travelling in a car with a naked man' Father's comment..'No'
You will be pleased to know that your father has tried to outdo you with the hobo look, as he refused to shave, except he didn't look suave, just a slim version of Santa Claus in the making. Once it got hot, it started to itch and it all came off!!!!'no staying power
From Sandra/Dave
Pleased to read you are enjoying yourselves. Nipped round to yours, everything fine, lawn green and neatly trimmed. Weather here not good at the moment, rained most of yesterday, slightly better today. X
Response: Ouch, rain not good, we are now in the heat, 35 degrees, this has been quite an adventure with lots of stories to tell!!! Off,East tomorrow, we are finding that Australia doen't like yahoo so we are finding it difficult to get and send emails. Thank you so much for popping round to the house.
From Anne & Mike
Enjoying your blog. Glad your having a good time xx
Response: Hello both, tried to ring you before we came away but I guess you had not returned from your travels..hope you had a great time. We are now in Exmouth, wifi very difficult, am sitting in the visitors centre with 30 mins free wifi, will try to update blog when I can, all good here, have had a problem with a broken windscreen, stone from a road train didn't like us, all taped up, trying to get to Broome to sort it out...britz tried to send us to the nearest repair place which was 500 miles from here in the other direction! Just going to book a glass bottomed boat trip over the reef, they are trying to get us to go snorkelling but we wouldn't look cool with the woggle under our arms as we are not that confident swimmers
From Lynne
Looks like you are having a great time. It all sounds amazing. We look forward to reading some more! Continue to enjoy x it was lovely to see Christine and Charles We had a good catch up xx
Response: Are your jaws aching then???
You would also like it here! Just finished the first leg of the holiday, now for the northern bit and the heat. Ironic to be away in the British heatwave!
From Sister
Sounds fascinating. Interesting that Elaine's ancestors may have been among the earliest emigrants-albeit compulsory ones. XX
Response: I think compulsory might have been right, dodgy stock as Pete says!!
From Clare & Mart
Enjoy!! xx
Response: A fab place, you would both love this lifestyle. We'll let you know what the Motorhome holds in store for us!
From Sister
Sounds fascinating! Hope you find a woolly jumper shop! XX
Response: Yep, entrance to fish river canyon sold a fleece, weather now much warmer!!!!!!
From sister
Was there no room in your luggage allowance for me to curl up in a suitcase? Lovely to follow your travels again, anyway. XX
Response: Sorry, no room. It looks as if we shall have some splendid places to visit in the coming days.
From Mollie and Lindsay
Congratulations Elaine and Pete.
What a marvellous account of our wonderful holiday in India and Nepal. Greatly appreciated.
Tummy back to normal at last.
Many thanks for your hard work.
Mollie and Lindsay
Response: Nice to know that it brought back memories, mostly good ones I hope
From Doris
Glad to be back to my vicarious travelling-always fascinating and instructive. XX
Response: Vicarious might be the right word, this is a fascinating place...and tomorrow we leave India and are off to Nepal
From Barbara Keen
Hi Elaine& Pete

Read your log today, and it is a very good reminder of all we did and what we saw during our adventure.

Best Wishes Barbara&Reg Keen.xx
hope I got it right then!
From Sister
Hope the Cambodians are celebrating Pete's birthday in a traditional manner-whatever that may be. Happy Birthday! XXX
Response: Nope they do not celebrate birthdays, but the group have remembered him, very kind of them!