June 29, 2015
Plans for Volgograd had changed during the final weeks. We weren't quite sure how the schedule would work out. We arrived at 8:25 am on a bright sunny morning. The train came to a halt and we hurriedly got our luggage to the exit door. I was among the last to deboard and emerged to see what looked like a sea of eager faces coming toward our car. They were weighted down with flowers.
Our women in the train cars ahead were already receiving long-stem roses and bouquets. Running toward our car was Alexander (Sasha) Malashkin, the raging entrepreneur pictured on the front of my book, The Power of Impossible Ideas. Hugs and exclamations abounded. We had never had such a welcome here before! Always it was warm, but nothing like this. More on this to follow.
Our Volgograd friends had rented a van, apparently not accepting our intent to travel by taxis and metros. They whisked us off to our hotel in downtown Volgograd. I'd been gravely concerned about this hotel, remembering it as a tired old rundown piece of Soviet architecture. Since inexpensive was "in" for this trip, I took the low price and hoped for the best. Pulling up to Hotel Volgograd the exterior appeared as before, drab brown Soviet architecture; upon entering I was shocked. Renovated with 19th century moldings, gold leaf, walls full of gorgeous fabric and paintings, plus two sleek Otis elevators …. it all bespoke of foreign money. Who would have invested in this old building in an outlying Russian city? Waiting for passports, I marveled at the new stained glass behind the registration desk. On inspection, the rooms were small but elegant––and all of this for $50 to $70 a night depending on occupancy?