Before 1961, this city, whose name means “Volga City,” held the name Stalingrad. Along with Leningrad, Sevastopol, and Odessa, it was the first honored at the end of World War II with the title Hero City for serving as the battlefield upon which the Great Patriotic War was won. A visit to Volgograd necessarily must include a visit to the Mamayev Kurgan, the site of the renowned “Motherland Calls” statue. At the time it was built, it was the tallest statue in the world at 82-meters (or 279-feet) height. Leading up to the base of it is a staircase of 200 steps climbing this strategic hill, each step symbolizing a day of battle that took place here.
Nearly 2 million casualties resulted from the fighting here, making it one of the deadliest in all history. A visit to the eternal flame memorial, with actual ruined walls left in place following the battle, is an emotional experience that only a few places in the world can inspire. Additionally, the Panorama Museum stands out with displays that include the sniper rifle of Valery Zayetsev, the shooter popularized in the West in the film “Enemy at the Gates.” Visiting this museum, and the city itself, adds a whole other dimension to the story of the battle that saved the world from Adolph Hitler.