Stalingrad: Turning Point of the Eastern Front by Paul Errington

Growing up in the 1960’s and 70’s I was brought up on the World at war TV series and Purnell’s History of the Second World War magazine series leading to a lifelong interest in Military history the Western European Theatre but also the Eastern Front, the scale of which fascinated me.

Great Battles in the Cities of Soviet Russia and on the expanses of the Russian Steppes where huge armies clashed in what was the most Titanic struggle of WW2. One place held my interest more than any other, a City where arguably the most destructive and costliest Battle of World War 2, and in fact History, took place and where the momentum of the campaign in the east turned against the Germans: Stalingrad.
Battle of World War 2 - Stalingrad

The Battle symbolizes many things including the clash of the ideologies of Fascism and Communism both of which were brutal regimes which led to the suppression of hundreds of millions, the personal struggle between Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, but most of all the savagery of a modern Industrial war fought in an Urban environment where the loss of life was numbered in the 100’s of thousands; a final death figure will probably never be known.

But Stalingrad has also been held as a turning point of the second World War in the east, a place where the German Wehrmacht suffered its greatest
ever disaster in the field and its largest formation the 6
th Army was almost completely wiped out.

After researching the Battle for several years in 2001, I was fortunate to visit for the first time the City now called Volgograd and the surrounding Steppe Battlefields to the west and south of the City where so much remains to be seen. The battle can be viewed and Toured from the first crossing of the Don River to the final surrender by Field Marshall Friedrich Paulus at the Univermag Store in the City Centre, visiting locations relevant to all the phases of the Battle where memorials and original Battle-scarred buildings still stand bearing witness to the ferocious fighting and courage and sacrifice of those from both sides who took part.

One of the places I found the most emotive was the location to the North of the City in the suburbs of Rynok and Lataschinka where the first elements of the 16th Panzer Division, Armoured cars of Panzer-Aufklärungs-Abteilung 16 reached the Volga river in the late afternoon of the 23rd August 1942 having made their famous dash across the land bridge between the Don and the Volga. The German troops involved referred to it as overwhelming, or Ein Historisches Augenblick, an Historic moment.

From here high on the west bank of the Volga they could see the mighty river itself, the Asiatic steppe shimmering in the heat haze and extending far into the distance to the east plus the Northern part of the City and the Industrial district where they would soon be involved in brutal fighting. In the distance huge clouds of smoke and fire hung over the
City where over 600 German Bombers had begun their saturation bombing of the City itself, Soviet archives estimate that over 40,000 civilians were killed on that day alone
by the bombing. Looking at the same view you can envisage their feelings of success and exhilaration that now the Volga had been reached the Russian campaign may be
nearing its triumphant conclusion.

Volga Crossing
Volga Crossing

At that moment of Triumph I’m sure not many of them were aware of the scale of battle that was waiting to engulf them and what the fate of themselves and hundreds of thousands of other human beings would be. But the moment and feelings were only fleeting as they began to be engaged by Soviet Anti-Aircraft Guns crewed by young female crews who began firing over open sights at the German Spearhead. As the famous Russian writer Vasily Grossman wrote “This was the first page of the Stalingrad defense”:
the Battle for the City of Stalingrad had begun.

Urban warfare, or Rattenkrieg, in the sewers and underground shops of the factories, the cult of the sniper, the evolution of street fighting tactics, extremes of weather conditions, attack and counter attack, encirclement, starvation and surrender and the final victory of the people of Soviet Russia and the Red Army. This was a turning point in History.

Even in subsequent visits that first sight of the Volga in that historical location left an overwhelming feeling of a moment in history and the beginning of infamous battle that
was to follow.

First view of the Volga
First view of the Volga

The Mamayev Kurgan, the Factory District, Lyudnikovs Island, Pavlovs House, Tsaritsa Gorge, the Railway Station and the Grain Silo etc are all names that will be familiar to those who have studied the fighting to capture the City. But out on the Steppe west of the City are the Airfields of Gumrak and Pitomnik the reconciliation Cemetery complex at Rossoschka including the memorials to the over 100,000 Germans soldiers still missing in action. Soldiers Field, Bald Hill – Memorials to the heroic Soviet defenders, Kalach and the Don River crossing and the area of the German defense lines around the so called Marinovka Nose.

Mamayev Kurgan
Mamayev Kurgan

Grudinin Mill
Grudinin Mill

The Tour we have put together is one that will allow the visitor to understand all the major phases of the Battle , looking at the whole picture from the point of view of both the Axis and Soviet Armies , the senior Commanders and the ordinary soldier, the Civilian experience and the famed resilience of the Red Army soldiers.

The Tour will be led by myself and one of the most knowledgeable and experienced Russian Historians and Guides of the Battle, who first took me to Stalingrad all those years ago: Evgeny Kulichenko. No-one knows the Battle and it’s history as intimately as Zhenya, who is a lifelong resident of the City and who has studied the Battle since being a small boy growing up with the stories and first-hand accounts of the surviving veterans. We look forward to welcoming you on an amazing tour of an incredible battlefield.

5 Big Reasons to Visit Eastern Europe

Think of Europe, and we know what would spring to mind, popular holiday and sightseeing destinations, such as the likes of Italy, France, Germany and Portugal, for example. But what about those destinations a little further east?

It may not have the most glamorous reputation, when you have the glitz and glamour of western Europe heavy weights like the French Riviera and the sunny Spanish coast to compare it to, but there’s a lot more to Eastern Europe than stag do’s and a cheap pint.
In fact, we don’t think we’re alone when we say it’s actually one of the most fascinating pockets of Europe.

The view over Budapest from the Fisherman’s Bastion

From the Czech Republic to Russia, there’s plenty to see and do, and if you aren’t mesmerised by it all, we’ll eat our hat! But, as we’re not ones to keep things like this to ourselves, here are our top 5 reasons to enjoy a holiday in Eastern Europe.

History

Eastern Europe has more historical tales than you can shake a stick at. It is complex, it’s gruesome and it’s fascinating. The good, the bad and the downright ugly, from the Red Army to the Iron Curtain, there’s a lot to be learnt. And, you don’t have to be a history buff to be astounded by what can be found here.
Auschwitz, for example, is a place where the word ‘visiting’ simply does not explain the wave of emotion and the feelings that you experience when you are where the most deadly of the concentration camps stood.

Auschwitz

In 2016, a record 2 million visitors, from all over the world, came to Auschwitz. Walking into the site, you’re met with the eerie reality of what happened there, not all that long ago, allowing us to re-live to the darkest echoes of the past.
Budapest offers a unique look at how previously independent communities of Buda and Pest, separated by the Danube, have come together to create one of Eastern Europe’s most popular cities.
From medieval castles to memorials built in honour of the Soviet liberation of Hungary from Nazi forces, it’s one of many fascinating cities that should be on every European explorer’s wish list.
In Berlin you can still learn about the reality of the segregation, including the Iron curtain that lead to the Cold War.
Brandenburg Gate

With parts of the Berlin Wall still visable, and Brandenburg Gate now one of Berlin’s most popular attractions, the reminders of the past that separated the communist countries of Eastern Europe and capitalist countries of the west are still apparent and give us an interesting opportunity to learn about the history of Europe as a whole.

Variety and Culture

Within a relatively small area of Eastern Europe, you can enjoy a variety of different cultures. From Finland to Russia, the cultural landscape is diverse. You can even cover a whole spectrum of exciting destinations is just a short time, as there are plenty of exciting countries in close proximity to each other.
Even though the east is rapidly becoming more westernised, enjoy the Bohemian lifestyle in the Czech Republic, the rich culture of Russia with its outstanding arts, music, and of course, ballet.
Even cities such as Prague and Krakow are still steeped in fascinating tradition. Cobbled streets, horse and carts and plenty of museums and theatres, you can be sure to get a cultural feast in either of these cities.

Krakow

But, it’s certainly doesn’t end there. With the likes of Vienna, Ljubljana and Dubrovnik, there’s plenty to see for all the culture vulture’s out there.
And, best of all, you’ll get more for your money! In most areas you’ll find a vast difference in costs between Eastern Europe and its western counterpart. A pint of beer a relative steal, and a tasty meal just a snip at what you’d expect to pay, even at home.

Sight-seeing

A real crowd pleaser, Eastern Europe doesn’t fall short when it comes to photo opportunities. Forget about the Eifel Tower, here we’ve got the un-sung heroes that might even top the list when it comes to sightseeing opportunities.
As Winston Churchill once said “The Balkans produce more history than they can consume” – and that’s just the start of what’s on offer! In fact, Vogue called Eastern Europe 2017’s hot travel destination. Ooh, you trendsetter, you!
As we’ve already stopped off there, let’s delve a little deeper into Prague… it is host to a wonderful selection of landmarks, most famously the Astronomical Clock, and of course, Charles Bridge.

Charles Bridge, Prague

In fact, in 1989, the largest number of tourists were recorded at Charles Bridge, coming in at a whopping 1562 people. Doesn’t sound like a lot? Considering the bridge is only 1600 feet in length, and with four lanes of traffic, that’s almost one person per foot!
But, of course, that’s only dipping your toes into this amazing city. There’s also Prague Castle, Petřín Park and Wenceslas square right on your doorstep. Luckily, there’s also a host of fantastic bars, restaurants, and cafes, if you need to take the weight off for a minute or two.
The imperial city of Vienna gives you a chance to see incredible architecture, such as the Hofburg Palace, in all of its glory. And, of course, we have to mention the Giant Wheel.
What better way to see the city than from the top of a 64 metre tall Ferris wheel? It’s also one of the oldest operating wheels in the world, so it has its historical value, too.
Hofburg Palace, Vienna

Whilst in the ‘City of Music’, for all you Musicophiles out there, there’s plenty of sights that sing to your tune, having been home to Mozart, Beethoven, Johann Struas and Brahms, you can even head over to Schoenbrunn Palace where Mozart presented his first concert at the age of six!
And what about the UNESCO world heritage site of Warsaw’s old town? With the Royal Castle and King Zygmunt III Waza Column, there’s plenty to see whilst you’re there.
That’s before we even mention the spectacular sights of western Russia. With plenty to see in Moscow and St. Petersburg from the Kremlin to the Bronze Horseman statue, you will certainly leave with a lasting impression.
Phew! That’s enough to fill any photo book, and that’s just skimming the surface…

Food and Drink

If you’re into hearty and wholesome foods, you’ll be very excited by the Eastern Europe cuisines. You can find and array of traditional and unique dishes in each of the countries you visit, and if local cuisine is your thing, you’re in for a treat when you’re touring the east of the continent.
Soups, meats, fresh fish and vegetables, you’re on a tour of the taste buds as the food in eastern Europe is renowned for its spectacular flavour. A tasty goulash in Hungary, catch of the day on the Dalmatian coast, or maybe a hot or cold borsht in Poland (Beetroot soup, if you were wondering.).

Goulash & Borsht

But, as with many places in relatively close proximity, of course you’ll get some overlap. Stuffed cabbage, stews and even a tasty chicken schnitzel will be on the menu in many Eastern European countries.
And, if you’re not one to turn down the opportunity to try a new tipple, there’s plenty of local spirits to quench a thirst. From Russian Vodka to Polish Wódka, you can get a taste for Schnapps in Austria, Becherovka in the Czech Republic and a Palinka in Hungary.

Geography

From picturesque beaches to stunning mountain scenery, and all that is in between, Eastern Europe has it all.
Heading over to the coast of Croatia is fast becoming one of the top travel plans of many Brits and it’s easy to see why. White, sandy beaches and the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic, it’s far from the dull and dreary scenes we’re so used to at home.

Heading inland, if you’ve got a head for heights, the Tatras Mountains are certainly a good shout. Forming the border between Poland and Slovakia, their granite peaks were formed over 60 million years ago and attract over three million visitors a year!
But, even with the heavy footfall from inquisitive tourists, the mountains have maintained their pristine state and well worth a visit if you want to see nature at its finest.

We’re even treated to some of the most amazing waterways offering some incredible river cruising opportunities along the River Danube. Flowing through Germany, Austria and Hungary, you’ve got the perfect opportunity to embark on possibly some of the most relaxing sightseeing trips in Europe.

 
We could go on for days, but don’t let us just tell you how great Eastern Europe is, let us show you. Take a look at our exciting range of eastern European coach tours, here.
 

The Gallipoli Pilgrimage by John Patchett

Early on 9 January 1916 the last British troops withdrew under cover of darkness from the beaches of Helles; the Gallipoli campaign was over.

As in the previous month when ANZAC Cove and Suvla Bay areas were silently emptied of troops, the operation was a tactical success with no loss of life suffered.
What had started as a bold and imaginative Allied plan to eliminate the Ottoman Empire’s threat to Russia had over the previous ten months been conducted with almost unrelenting incompetence at the command level.
Of the half a million Allied troops deployed around half had become casualties of enemy action, disease and extremes of weather. The Turks had suffered even more but had won a decisive victory.

01 Helles
The Helles Memorial, where 21,000 are remembered.

The main reasons for failure were quite clear, even at the time. There was no element of surprise as the Royal Navy had been trying to force the passage of the Dardanelles to attack Istanbul long before it was admitted that a land force would have to play a major role by deploying onto a hostile shore.
The fighting ability of the Turks and their Ottoman subjects was also severely underestimated. They had faltered as our allies in the Crimea and in more recent showings against Greece and Russia they had come off badly. However in all these previous encounters they had been outnumbered and badly administered. This time they were fighting on their own soil.
02 Cemetery at V Beach
Cemetery at V Beach, Helles, showing wall mounted cross, Stone of Sacrifice and pedestal graves.

The Turks had some professional German support in the field. They also had an outstanding divisional commander in Mustafa Kemal who later, as Kemal Ataturk, led his country to a political revival the results of which can still be seen today.
On the other hand the Allies had a largely overage and indecisive command structure, which wasted the bravery of its troops, from Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand and India.
03 The Sphinx jpg
The Sphinx cliff feature above ANZAC Cove.

In previous editions of Salute magazine I have extolled the benefits of taking part in a professionally run battlefield tour, something I had not been able to do myself for several years. The hundredth anniversary of Gallipoli seemed the right time to change all this and for some very good reasons.
My grandfather had been to Gallipoli as a young gunner with the Royal Field Artillery; he had never been inclined to speak about it, nor the following years in Salonika, on the Western Front and in Russia.
For my wife Durga the rationale for going there was stronger still. Her great grandfather had enlisted in the Gurkhas in Burma and fell at Gallipoli. When her mother’s family fled from the invading Japanese in the next war all their family records were lost, thus information for more detailed research was not available.
It was almost certain that he died with 2/10GR, the battalion I joined in 1967. We added another, local angle for our visit as a villager remembered on our Kingussie War Memorial had died there with the ANZAC forces, having emigrated to Australia in 1907.
04 Lone Pine
A stunningly imaginative epitaph on a grave at Lone Pine.

After a long deliberation we chose Leger Battlefield Tours and had no reason to regret this, as they had well rehearsed schedules and provided excellent value for money. We had British Airways flights and a night in Istanbul at each end of the trip.
The five nights on the peninsula were at the pleasant Kum Hotel, on the beach on the west, facing the Aegean Sea, whereas most other groups stayed in the towns of Eceabat or Canakkale. We had three and a half days covering the battlefields at a sensible pace, then a day at Eceabat, Canakkale and Troy.
Finally we had an afternoon and the following morning before the flight home to explore Istanbul. The friendly people, fascinating historical sites and the superb tram service made us wish we had had more time there.
06 Grave of Havildar Puna hang Limbu
Grave of Havildar Punahang Limbu at Chunuk Bair.

Because of summer heat and centenary crowds we went at the end of September and in our week there progressed from cool tee shirts to warm fleeces. There were 27 in our group, all of whom had either been with Leger before or had a family reason to visit Gallipoli.
Our tour guides, Gary Ashley and Erdem Keseli, were outstanding in every way, taking on a large number of personal requests to visit particular graves and memorials as well as providing detailed commentary and assistance throughout.
The Turkish authorities have taken great care to preserve the battlefields though the growth of trees and shrubs now make it difficult in some areas to relate to photographs and accounts of the time.
In a straight line it’s only twenty miles from Helles in the south to Suvla Bay at the northern limit of the landings but there is plenty to see in between. In particular the Canakkale Destani is an ambitious museum project, which makes you feel you were there, sometimes very forcefully. It’s largely unsubtle propaganda, of course, but in my opinion none the worse for that.
09 Trojan Horse
The Trojan Horse from the 2004 Brad Pitt film is now at Canakkale.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission continues to do a magnificent job. As on the Western Front there are many more names on memorials, 27,000 plus, than on individual graves, 6,000 plus, interestingly about the same figures as for the whole of the Burma campaign, excluding prisoners of war.
Due to local religious sensitivities the Cross of Sacrifice is replaced by a plainer one embedded onto a memorial wall, which also incorporates the Stone of Remembrance. Due to the soggy ground Individual graves are pedestal shaped and without regimental badges.
As ever some of the individual family epitaphs are heart breaking to read even a century on. Most of the cemeteries and memorials were designed by the Scottish architect Sir John Burnet. There were many casualties from Scotland, mainly from the 52nd Lowland Division and two brigades of dismounted Scottish Yeomanry.
10. Hagia Sophia
The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul was built as a Byzantine church, then became a mosque and is now a museum.

The French have a separate cemetery with their unidentified dead in four ossuaries. They held the right flank with great gallantry throughout and their artillery supported the whole Helles front. The Turks had no individually identified graves but have erected symbolic, named headstones instead, as well as some striking sculptures of a stridently patriotic nature.
08 The Aegean Sea
The Aegean Sea from Shell Green Cemetery.

As the Indian and Gurkha dead were cremated after the war, the only individual 2/10GR Gurkha grave is for Havildar Punahang Limbu whose remains were found quite recently on Chunuk Bair, towards the limit of the Allied advance.
His marker is of Bulgarian granite, which is now being used as the earlier Portland stone discolours in the salty air. For us he symbolized all the Gurkhas who had died so far from home.
On our last evening on the peninsula we visited Shell Green Cemetery, one of many in ANZAC Cove, where we laid a poppy on the grave of Trooper Sydney Brown of the 1st Australian Light Horse. He had come a long way too, from Kingussie via Australia, to his final resting place overlooking the Aegean Sea.
05 Statue of Mustafa Kemal
Statue of Mustafa Kemal at Chunuk Bair.

 
This Gallipoli article was originally written for Salute Magazine, a free magazine for the ex Service community in Scotland. Find out more, here.
 

Will and Pat Nicol take on our Highlights of Eastern Europe Tour

Will and Pat Nichol recently travelled with Leger on our Highlights of Eastern Europe tour, after sending some great photos to Leger HQ, they have kindly taken the time to answer a few questions for our blog.

So, if you’re looking to head off with Leger shortly, here’s what they have to say about their experience:

What was it about the tour that made us want to book? We had planned to visit these cities on a backpacking trip booking as we went, until, your brochure dropped onto our mat. It was going to every city we wanted to visit. Now, having reached a mature age, we decided to let you take the strain.
Which day were we most looking forward too from the itinerary? The day we were looking forward too, was the trip to Auschwitz and Krakow. Both places have been high on our list, due to the fact we have always been interested in WW 2 history. Auschwitz, what can we say, the impact  was exactly as we had imagined. Krakow, we had been told the old town was stunning, yes it was, both by day and by night.

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“Thanks for laying on a flypast of a Lancaster at the Mohne Dam. Surprised everyone one on the coach. Took a model of a Lancaster with a loop of fishing line and my wife held it in a suitable position near the dam – looks brill.”

How did we find the travelling aspect of the holiday? It was easy, sit back and relax, comfortable seats, excellent drivers, plenty of refreshments, good choice of DVD’s to pass the time on the long days, what more could you ask.
Which city that you visited, was the most memorable? Prague, without a doubt, so much to see, so much to do. A city to re-visit, finished off with a boozy ride around the city in a vintage tram – brill.
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“Mike and Keiran try to recruit a new Leger driver”

Did we find any hidden or unexpected delights on our tour? Yes, we did. Being aircraft enthusiasts we found a hidden aircraft museum in the middle of Warsaw.  Amongst all the hidden gems were four WW2 Russian aircraft, which we never dreamt of seeing, they are as rare as hens teeth!
What was the best part of the trip? the evening tour of Budapest. A fantastic champagne organ recital followed by a stunning tour of floodlight Budapest. We took hundreds of photographs!
"Keiran and Mike present the Budapest guide with two cuddly sheep for her children"
“Keiran and Mike present the Budapest guide with two cuddly sheep for her children”

What would we say to someone who was thinking of booking this tour? Don’t think about it, just do it, you will not be disappointed.
What was our favourite part of the whole experience? Spending a whole day wandering around Prague, its bridges, its squares and shops… and a pint of beer (or two!), watching people and the river activities. Ending the day with the vintage tram ride as already mentioned
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Do we have any funny stories from the tour? Yes, I spent twenty minutes riding the lift. Having forgotten my room key card in haste to collect my suitcase from the lobby. The keycard was designated to the floor we were on, so it took considerable time  to find a guest staying on the same floor. I thought I would be spending the night in the lift and without dinner too.(Moral, always carry your door key when leaving the room).  Four fellow travellers after hearing about my dilemma decided to take the stairs to breakfast the following morning. Not realising they were using the fire exits, once the door had closed behind them, they were trapped. After shouting and banging on the doors to no avail for over half an hour, they thought to call Mike Brannon on their mobile phone to come and release them. They made breakfast, just (Moral to this one, don’t use fire escapes except in an emergency).
Finally, would you head off on  tour with Leger again? Yes, already thinking about taking the Bavarian Castle’s tour.
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“My wife Pat really appreciated the coach named after her, seeing as it was her 60th birthday, she thought I had arranged it, I haven’t said I didn’t.”

One of the most rewarding things from a travel company’s perspective is to hear that customers have had great experiences on their holidays and we’d love to hear from you too!

If you fancy becoming a Leger Blog Star, get in touch at blog@legerblog.co.uk

7 of the Strangest Easter Traditions around Europe

We’ve hit the time of the year that we’re bombarded with chicks, Easter bunnies and enough chocolate eggs to keep even the most indulgent chocoholic happy for a few years.

It’s something that we’ve become accustomed to, with most of us expecting Easter eggs in the shops as soon as the Christmas decorations have come down, but it’s not the same across the globe. Even our European neighbours have their own ways of celebrating Easter. So, while we’re tucking into our Easter eggs this weekend, here’s what our European friends will be doing to celebrate.
little girl standing by Easter tree

Germany

Germans prefer to use their eggs to decorate trees as part of the Sommertagszug festival. Although it’s held three weeks before Easter Sunday, Sommertagszug is still deemed an Easter celebration and is probably one of the most important holidays of the year in Germany.
Locals come out in their droves to officially welcome summer and tell winter that it’s time to take a hike. As well as the Easter tree, the festival also uses an Easter bonfire for a ceremonial burning of a specially made winter tree and a snowman. Not only is it a unique start to Easter celebrations, it’s certainly an extravagant way of welcoming the summer months in.
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Switzerland

The Franconian Swiss, the people of Franconia in Northern Bavaria, focus their celebrations around water. Water, as we know, is a life source and since Easter is about celebrating life, they decorate their wells with Easter eggs, spring flowers and ribbons to celebrate the gift of life that the well provides them with.
They’re said to be not so fond the Easter Bunny too, however, the children don’t miss out. The Easter Cuckoo delivers Easter eggs instead.
Scrambled eggs for a big omelet

France

Now, forget about the chocolate egg, the French stick to the usual kind. In a tradition that supposedly goes all the way back to Napoleon.
In Haux, France, the residents celebrate Easter Monday by making an omelette of epic proportions. We’re talking 4,500 eggs in this recipe, several chefs armed with wooden paddles to make it and a giant skillet to cook it in.
Once cooked, the hungry residents can tuck in and enjoy their Easter omelette. It’s certainly a way to avoid a subsequent chocolate sugar rush.
Buckets of water for drinking horses

Poland

You may not have heard of it, but Smigus-Dyngus is a Polish Easter tradition you won’t forget in a hurry.
On Easter Monday, young boys gather with the intention of soaking girls in water. Buckets, water pistols and just about any other vessel can be used to partake in this game.
Although it may sound like an over the top water fights, the tradition had its origins in the baptism of Polish Prince Miezko on Easter Monday 966 AD.
Legend has it that if a girl gets soaked during Smigus-Dyngus, she will be married within the year. Let’s hope it’s a warm Easter in Poland this year.
Lamb cake

Russia

Come Easter time, shops in the UK are filled with arrays on chocolate treats in many shapes and sizes so a chocolate bunny certainly wouldn’t look out of place. Russians, however, prefer to have their treats to look like lambs. And they hold back on the chocolate too.
Yes, their Easter lamb treat is made out of butter. Russians believe that lambs are lucky as they’re the only animal that the devil couldn’t transform into. It certainly sounds calorific, but possibly not as tempting as a chocolate egg.
Screenplay close-up 2 (generic film text written by photographer

Norway

In Norway, Easter is a popular time for people to divulge in a little crime fiction. So much so that publishers actually bring out Easter Thriller Specials.
Known locally as Paaskekrimmen, the tradition is said to have begun in 1923 when a book publisher promoted their new crime thriller on the front pages of the newspapers over Easter. It’s said that the adverts resembled news stories so much, people didn’t realise it was a publicity stunt. Ever since the taste for Crime Fiction has stood firm over this holiday in Norway.
So, how will you be spending your Easter bank holiday?

10 Pancakes From Around the World

The humble pancake, the flat cakes that are loved so much we named a day after them. Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday, was originally taken up as an opportunity to get rid of all forbidden foods for Lent. You’ll be glad to know, we aren’t the only nation with a fondness for pancakes.

Having been around for 30,000 years, people from around the world have mustered up countless ways to perfect their pancakes. Here’s our top picks to help you avoid the same old crêpe this Pancake Day.

American Pancakes

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Going one further than us Brits, Americans have actually dedicated the whole of February to be the month of pancakes! Eaten for breakfast and made with buttermilk, the American pancake is cooked with baking powder making it thick and fluffy and is often served with butter and syrup.

Denmark: Aebleskiver

Homemade Aeblskiver Danish Pancake
Aebleskiver is a traditional Danish pancake, traditionally served around Christmas and accompanied by a mug of mulled wine. Small and spherical, Aebleskiver is prepared in a special frying pan and moulded to create the round shape.

Chinese Pancakes – Chong you bing or Scallion Pancakes.

Fried chinese pancakes served with salad leaves with tea and cho
Not the sort you’d expect with your Peking duck, these pan-fried pancakes are a savoury option made from dough rather than batter and have a distinctly chewy texture. With a handful of spring onions thrown in for good measure, they’re often served with a side of soy dipping sauce.

Russian Blinis

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Small, thick pancakes, made with buckwheat flour and yeast, they’re usually topped with sour cream and fish. More of an upmarket pancake, the Blinis is sometimes topped with caviar and served as an appetiser.

Austria: Kaiserschmarrn

Austrian Kaiserschmarrn with apple sauce
Very thick and custardy, the Kaiserschmarrn is fried in butter and torn into bite-size pieces. Served with nuts, raisins and apples, Austria named their pancake offering after their Kaiser, Franz Joseph I, who was renowned for his love of the dish.

Greece: Tiganites


Dating back to the sixth century, Tiganites – a typical thin pancake traditionally topped with honey, cinnamon and yoghurt – are still a popular breakfast throughout Greece. On the island of Corfu, there’s a religious festival where the pancakes are served in honour of the island’s patron Saint Spyridon.

Germany: Dutch Baby/German Pancake

Big dutch pancake
Looking more like a Yorkshire pudding than a pancake and the size of a dinner plate, the Dutch baby is usually seasoned with vanilla and cinnamon and dusted with fine sugar. It’s baked in a cast iron skillet, cut into slices and served for breakfast. Knives and forks are optional.

Poland: Naleśniki

Homemade cottage cheese with orange juice and pancakes
The Polish version of the blini is rolled and filled with sweet or savoury cheese. A sweet, homemade cottage cheese is a popular filling with a mix of sugar, farmer’s cheese and an egg yolk thrown in too.

Netherlands: Pannenkoeken

Pancakes and Bacon
Pancake restaurants are popular with families in Holland so you can imagine their pancakes are some of the best you can find. They tend to be rather large and great for a good appetite as they measure around 30cm in diameter. A particularly popular choice of filling is bacon and stroop, a thick, molasses-like sugar syrup. Delicious.

France: The Crêpe

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And finally, of course we couldn’t leave out the crêpe! Originating in Brittany, the crêpe is a thinly cooked pancake traditionally served with sweet fillings such as chocolate and fruit. How about mixing it up a little? A traditional French savoury option is cheese and sautéed vegetables or you can even treat yourself to a flambéed option with an indulgent boozy orange sauce.
Will you be trying something new this Pancake Day? Or will the sugar and lemon suffice? 
We also head off to New Orleans to celebrate Pancake Day in style by joining the ‘Fat Tuesday’ or Mardi Gras carnival, as it is better known, on our Mardi Gras in New Orleans plus Nashville and Elvis Presley’s Memphis tour heading out on the 7th Feb 2016.
 

Be Brave With Your Breaks: Top Travel Tips from Dr David Lewis

Be Brave With Your Breaks:  Top Travel Tips from Dr David Lewis

 

Thinking about trying a new holiday destination – or even an entirely new type of trip – can be a big step for people.

 
Maybe you like to go back to the same places every year as you know you’ll have a great time. Or maybe you always like to do a cruise as that kind of holiday has worked well for you in the past.
 
But maybe 2013 is the year of change. You fancy being a bit more adventurous, seeing some of the ‘must-see’ sights the world has to offer. But where do you start? It can be quite intimidating trying to figure out all the places you might want to go and how to get there.
 
We have worked with renowned Psychologist Dr David Lewis to develop some top tips to help aspiring adventurers make their travel dreams come true:
 

  1. It’s all about the planning, planning, planning. Where have you always dreamt of going? What do you want to see or do when you get there? If you are undecided speak to someone who has already done it. There is safety in numbers and hearing about other people’s exploits emboldens you to do likewise.
  2. Once you’ve decided on your trip – do your homework. By learning as much as possible in advance about where you are going, you will make it more interesting, enjoyable and rewarding. And help build up the anticipation!
  3. When preparing for a holiday, or even when you are away, keep a checklist and tick off tasks and items as they are completed. This will increase your confidence and prevent slip-ups or lapses in memory.
  4. If you are going to a place where English may not be widely spoken or understood, even if you are on an escorted tour, write down a few basic phrases in that language to help you communicate. You will feel empowered by having it to hand ‘just in case’.
  5. Having to rush unnecessarily depletes energy levels and increases stress. Leave yourself plenty of time to get places or consider an escorted tour where the travel arrangements are all sorted for you, removing that element of worry.
  6. As people get older they need more ‘me time’ to collect their thoughts and increase energy levels. Try to spend at least 15 minutes a day chilling out away from too many distractions.
  7. Never say never. And don’t ever use ‘I’m too old for that’ as an excuse for not doing something you secretly long to do. At the same time be prepared to say ‘no, not for me’ if you really don’t want to undertake an activity or go to a certain destination.

 
So whether you secretly want to scale Mount Kilimanjaro, see the volcanoes in Italy, or you long to sail along the Fjords of Norway, we say – go for it! Those in need of some holiday inspiration can also visit our website where you’ll find plenty of great break ideas including our Grand Explorer tours to destinations such as America, Russia and the Arctic Circle.
 
 

10 facts you may not have known about Russia

Find out what made our list of facts about Russia below:
 

  • Moscow has the busiest Mc Donald’s in the world (30,000 people entered on the first day of opening)
  • There are more than 600 universities in Russia
  • Russia is home to the world’s largest active volcano Klyuchevskaya Sopka which stands at 4,750 metres.
  • Russia is the second biggest oil exporter in the world
  • 10% of St Petersburg is covered by water
  • Russia is the only country in the world to have 12 seas
  • Russia is so vast it spans 9 time zones
  • The first man into space was Russian, his name was Yuri Gagarin
  • Vitaly Petrov is the only Russian Formula One driver to date
  • Life expectancy in Russia is 59 years for men and 73 years for women

 
Do you have any facts about Russia? Please share them in the comments below. For more information on our tours of Russia take a look at our Tours of Russia page.
 

Leger Holidays launch new Grand Explorer website

Here at Leger we are pleased to announce the launch of our new Grand Explorer website.

The site houses our great range of Grand Explorer Tours, which cover a vast array of countries and take in some simply breathtaking scenery,
These tours are carefully planned right down to the very last details; we can even pick you up from your home with our door-to-door service, so there is absolutely nothing for you to worry about.
With destinations including places such as Russia, India, China, Norway and even the Arctic Circle these tours really are not to be missed.
For more information on our tours visit our new Grand Explorer website
 

From Russia, With Love

From-Russia,-With-Love

By Margot
I would be surprised if I was the only Leger lady to have more than a passing interest in the latest James Bond film Skyfall. I’d like to say it comes from my passion for one of Britain’s longest-standing cinematic legacies and NOT just Daniel Craig…but that might be a bit of a porkie.
I’ve grown up with Ian Fleming’s super spy and the last half dozen actors to have taken on the role will always hold a place close to my heart. I will always remember the first time I saw ‘Goldeneye’- I was less concerned about the super weapon falling into the wrong hands and more the safety of Pierce Brosnan! It certainly kept me gripped, anyway.
Putting one of Ireland’s best exports to one side, I also couldn’t help but be captivated by the locations in the film, especially Russia. It left such a lasting impression that I decided to make the trip myself a few years ago, taking my son for his 21st birthday.
We both agreed that it was one of the best holidays we’ve ever shared.
It was probably down to the fact that we managed to visit so many different places in the same trip, including Berlin– to see the Brandenburg Gate and The Wall – and Warsaw: the Belvedere Palace was beautiful and the city itself was great for a little shopping on a budget!
When we did reach Moscow, though, the Red Square really surpassed my expectations – I remember my son rolling his eyes as I commented on clean and well-kept it was (unlike his room as a teenager, I might add.) The guide on the tour was absolutely fantastic and really helped us appreciate some of the aspects that others might overlook. The tube stations, for example, were adorned with chandeliers, oil paintings and statues – they were quite breath-taking.
Also, it had been a life-long dream to take in the ballet in the place where it originated, at least where I think it did! I went to see a production of Swan Lake in St. Petersburg and I’m so happy to have enjoyed it in Russia, world famous for its dancers.
We both loved exploring the markets in Helsinkiand sightseeing tours through Stockholm and Copenhagen. However, no matter how hard I looked, Sean Connery wasn’t lurking in the shadows! With such a varied itinerary, including everything I’d hoped to see and some sights I hadn’t expected, I think it’s safe to say that I managed to put 007 out of my mind, if only for a little while.
If you have any further questions about Leger Holidays’ Grand Explorer tours, including the Grand Russian Spectacular and Highlights of Scandinavia, please do get in touch through our Facebook page or call us at 01709 787 463.