Chkalov Staircase

VladimirSmirnov/ TASS

The best way to observe this winding 8-shaped stairway is from a boat on the Volga. Its 560 plus stairs, tracing two humongous circumferences, link the city’s two main embankments: Verkhnevolzhskaya and Nizhnevolzhskaya. This stairway was the idea of Aleksander Shulpin, who was mayor of Nizhny Novgorod during the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War. Moscow gave the project its go-ahead and earmarked a budget in 1943. The same year, marking the victorious Battle of Stalingrad, ground was broken for the stairway. It was named in honour of Valery Chkalov, the legendary Soviet pilot who was first to fly from Moscow to Vancouver nonstop across the North Pole. Chkalov, a native of Nizhny Novgorod, is commemorated with a monument in Minin and Pozharsky Square, to which the stairway exits. The Hero combat boat, placed at the foot of the staircase in 1985, used to be part of the Volga Navy fleet. Manned by a crew of three and armed with a surface-to-air machine gun, the Hero fought in the Civil War and the Great Patriotic War, including the Battle of Stalingrad. These days the Hero sees a lot of music gigs, played on the floating Fish stage, when the Chkalov Stairway becomes one enormous auditorium. The boat also witnesses the annual upstairs running races.