'Mighty stream so deep and wide; Volga, Volga our pride'... so goes the old Russian boatmen's song expressing the country's relationship with this vast river, and it's no exaggeration. At 2,294 miles long, it's the longest river in Europe by some distance, and with the help of various canals and waterways, it connects the Caspian Sea to Moscow and even St Petersburg. In fact, more than half of Russias 20 largest cities lie in the Volga's great basin, making it of enormous importance to the country.
The river snakes its way through the Russian Steppe, the apparently endless expanse of prairie extending eastwards, and on either side is a magnificent wilderness of mountains and forests, and countless towns and cities all a very long way from the beaten track.
The most famous city on the river is perhaps Volgograd, which under its former name Stalingrad was the scene of a hard-fought Russian victory that changed the course of World War II.