Volga Boatman Episode 4: Samara
And so it was back on the Volga, longest river in Europe, the Tigris and Euphrates of the North, the only place in Russia were flamingoes can be found. Our course was set toward the most Eastern point of our journey, to the famed beaches of Samara. We drank wine on the deck late into the night, played guitar and threw our voices against the river’s mute banks, only pausing when cries of “shlyoos, shlyoos!” warned us of another lock ahead.
Samara is famed for its fighter planes and chocolate, but we found something far more interesting: Stalin’s bunker.
I’m normally annoyed by ignorant Soviet kitsch, by tourists shooting photos with no respect for the tens of millions Stalin killed, but even I succumbed to the allures of the bunker, which Stalin built nine stories below the Academy of Culture and Art in case of a Nazi invasion of Moscow. Replete with conference tables, maps and telephones, and even false doors to give the illusion of space, the bunker was never used and has become one of the many ghosts of the Soviet era lingering in this country …