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Magnitogorsk/Russia

Introducing Magnitogorsk

Like Frankenstein's monster, memorable Magnitogorsk is a city brought back from the dead, with pr Lenina as its reanimated Stalinist spine. Across the Ural River, the steel mills of the Ordzhonikidze district are magnificently ugly, with snarling, densely packed gangs of chimneys belching dense curtains of smoke in fearfully multifarious colours. This is most photogenically viewed from Park Pobedy, behind the gigantic, 83-tonne, square-jawed colossus of the Tyl Frontu memorial. Over 15m tall, this pair of Soviet archetypes hold aloft an enormous sword, symbolic of the city's industrial support for the WWII patriotic effort.

The new gold-domed Ascension Cathedral and the gold-spired mosque are anomalies on the otherwise industrial skyline.

Magnitogorsk is a fascinating stop, but it's best to keep it brief. If you find yourself stuck here for a night, the Hotel Valentino (376 766; ul Gryaznova 24; d/tw incl breakfast R1760/1960) is an acceptable new business hotel just southwest of pl Mira.

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