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Well hello comrades. After another long hiatus I’m back with some more stories from my recent travels. A month ago the leaves where changing colors and blowing around the city. Now, the leaves are gone, temperatures are much colder and we have had some snow. Actually the night before I left for Kiev we got about a good 5 inches that stuck. I had to leave pretty early, around 5:30, to get to the airport and it was still coming down on my walk to the metro. Very beautiful. Perfect and still untouched by the mess of the morning commute. 

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Kiev was a real surprise. Absolutely stunning and also a very dynamic city. It was great to have some topography again (Petersburg is as flat as a blin) and explore this old, rich, ex-soviet capital. This pictures are from the great war museum which was very grandiose and also massive. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera for the monastery/church section of our tour where we got to enter the extremely claustrophobic catacombs housing the remains of scores of saints, many of them several centuries old. We did get a nice sunny day to view everything by, so we were  grateful for that. Ukraine is definitely a place I would like to return to with more time if I have the chance. At least in Kiev, Russian is spoken almost universally. To me, it seemed like a more modern, friendlier, funner version of Russia. Even the food which is very similar to what we eat in Russia tasted better. And their money is colorful and awesome. A long list of pros. The only con was that we were only there for two days. Add to it your list of places to go off the beaten path.

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From Kiev we took the over-night train to Moscow which in itself was quite fun. Two full cars of rowdy Americans. I’m usually not one for big cities but Moscow was also very enjoyable and felt more vibrant and alive than Petersburg. Perhaps it’s just the new-place-syndrome (in fact i’m sure the morning commute in Moscow is awful compared to Peter) but it was a most welcome change. Also, the people there were much nicer and not as aggressive as people in Peter lead us to believe. There is something of a competition between the two cities, Peter considering itself more high-brow and cultured and enjoying a more refined, relaxed kind of as existence. They say Muscovites are pushy, unfriendly and that they talk too quickly. From out experience, which was limited I admit, I did not find much truth to these warnings. The city dwarfs Petersburg, is much older, and in a completely different style. The elegant symmetrical order of the northern capital is no where to be seen in Moscow. It made a very nice change of pace. One of my favorite things was going to the great Tretyakkov gallery which is full of Russian art. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures as by this time my battery was dead. It was really the first times I got to see a decent amount of Russian art and I was blown away. We have visited many museums, but until now the only one of art I have been in is the Hermitage which is all foreign art. The Russians keep their own stuff in separate museums. One of my favorite artists was Vasily Vereshchagin who was a really interesting guy. Traveled all around the world and spent a lot of time in the south and the far east and many of his paintings depict the Russo-Turkish War. The guy actually died when the battleship he was on hit a mine off the coast of Port Arthur in the Russo-Japonese War. A real adventurer. 

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Here is another I saw called Tsarevich Ivan Riding the Grey Wolf by Viktor Vasnetsov that I really liked.

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We also made it to Christ the Savior Cathedral as made famous by the infamous Pussy Riot. It was magnificent inside but photographs were not allowed. I wonder why…

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And here we have the Bolshoy Theater (big theater) where I was able to score opera tickets for $3 thanks to a nice little setup they have there. The theater sets aside about 30 tickets for students in the crap seats. In fact on the ticket is written неудобное место which literally means “uncomfortable spot.” This opera, The Tsar’s Bride by Korsakov (which was excellent), was about 3 hours long with four intermissions so many people didn’t stay for the entire duration and we were able to move to better seats. Anyways, back to the system. So the theater sets these seats aside but the students themselves have to organize who gets them. So in the morning on the day of a show, a student will come to the theater with a piece of paper, number it one to thirty and then write his name on it. He then waits until the next person comes along at which points he gives them the list and goes about his merry way as the newcomer puts his name down and waits for the next person. Then everyone comes back at 5pm to line up in the order on the list and go buy their $3 ticket for the 7pm show. Pretty cool.

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The singing, the pit and the set, were excellent.

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Red Square at night. There is now a three story mall (bright, lit-up thing on the left) directly across from Lenin’s Tomb (on the right). How times change.

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The view from INSIDE the walls of the Kremlin.

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Cathedral square in the Kremlin. 

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Inside the church where all pre-Peter the Great tsars were buried when Moscow was the old capital. Stood right next to the marker of Ivan the Terrible. 

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Changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldiers.

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The Air and Space Museum.

And here just a few more to round it off from today in Petersburg. Hope you are all well.

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