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Exploring the Volga River

Referred to fondly as Volga-Matushka (Mother Volga) in Russian folklore and literature, the Volga flows through central Russia, with some of the country's largest cities situated in the Volga’s watershed. With its source in the Valdai Hills, and emptying into the Caspian Sea below Astrakhan, the Volga is Europe's longest and largest river. Together with its many tributaries, most notably the Oka, Kama, Vetluga and Sura rivers, the Volga flows through an area of up to 1,350,000 square kilometers, and for three months of each year most of the river is frozen. One of the best ways to explore the wonders of Volga-Matushka is by boat and there are a number of tour operators offering Volga River cruises.

During the years of industrialization under Joseph Stalin’s rule, the Volga was widened in places by means of dams, allowing large vessels to travel virtually the full length of the river. In places navigation through the dams is made possible by huge double ship locks that raise and lower boats by manipulating water levels. The Volga-Don Canal connects the Don River and Black Sea, while Saint Petersburg and the Baltic Sea are connected through the Volga-Baltic Waterway and the Moscow Canal connects the Volga to the Moskva River which passes through central Moscow.

Lying at the confluence of the Volga and Samara Rivers, Samara is Russia’s sixth largest city by population. With the city lying on the east bank of the Volga, and the Zhiguli Mountains rising up from the west bank, the promenade along the river is a popular entertainment and leisure venue. Other places of interest to visit in Samara include the Samara Academic Opera and Ballet Theater, the Samara Regional Art Museum, the Museum of Natural History, a museum dedicated to Russian writer Alexey Tolstoy and the Samara Zoo.

Yaroslavl is located at the confluence of the Volga and Kotorosl Rivers. Although the city was affected by the Russian Civil War and the air-raids of World War II, it remains a superb example of a city developed during the Russian Tsardom. Listed as one of the Golden Ring cities for its role in Russian history, Yaroslavl's historic part of the city is also listed as a World Heritage Site and boasts up to 140 architectural monuments. Certainly, it is a city worth visiting when cruising on Russia's Volga River.


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