Saturday 18 July 2015
Now we're here things are looking up.
The cities (Vladokavkaz, Pyatigorsk and Stavropol so far) are green and pleasant. The streets are clean (except for a missing grate above a large well on the road in Vladikavkaz) and signposted, the traffic is considerate (so far), there is a mix of old architecture (one can imagine the literary elite of Tsarist Russia enjoying the theatres and galleries of the old spa town of Pyatigorsk), the Orthodox churches stand shining and proudly open in all towns.
This is the famous Russian Steppe. In the winter of 1942-43 it was the scene of the most decisive battle of WW2. Over 1 million died as the German 6th Army was surrounded and defeated between the Don and Volga Rivers in the Battle of Stalingrad. More on that later.