Monday, June 26, 2017

A serious day

After our day of crazy fun, we had a sobering day yesterday in Vilnius, Lithuania. We visited the KGB museum which is to commemorate the Russian persecution of lithuian Jews and government supporters. What I hadn't thought of before was how recent the persecution was.  The Russians and KGB were here till 1991. 



An isolation cell

Below is a torture cell. The cell is flooded too depth of a few inches.  The prisoner stands on the circle stand in the middle of the room.  They eventually fall into the water, then get up and stand on the circle while wet and cold.  They eventually die.



Taking a break after our time in the museum


Saturday, June 24, 2017

A rather bizarre happening

Yesterday betsy and I decided to go to the top of the hotel to get a view of the city of Riga from above.  After we found the right bank of elevators we were a bit curious about a couple who were also waiting for this elevator.  As they were locked in a rather warm embrace, we decided to use another elevator.  They however on spotting us tried to engage in conversation and became more concerned about thanking us for coming .  we rode the elevator.  By the time we reached the top, we were best of friends, Inge and Alexander.  Alexander ushered us all into the fancy, schmancy bar and got us seated.  We weren't sure what was happening.  They talked to each other and then they got up to leave.  We asked for a picture,  inge didn't stop, but Alexander came back.  He asked another patron to take the picture and he planted himself between betsy and I.  The man taking the picture said to Alexander "your nipple is showing, does that matter?"  Alexander tried to adjust his white linen jacket as best he could and the following picture happened.  

Lunch yesterday with friends in a Lido self serve.  We tried many different dishes and shared.  This is cold borscht with fresh dill and the other is hot beat and cabbage soup.  Both delicious

Below is meatloaflike sausage with tomato sauce and kraut.  Also delicious.  The bread is a tradition here with beer.  It is called fried bread and appeared to be dark rye soaked in garlic butter then Deep fried.  


Below fish and vegetables and a crepe with cheese filling

 Fresh camomile from the market

Sharing vodka and conversation with two couples in our group.  One Mexican, the other Chinese 


Midsummer holiday celebration in Riga, Latvia

Yesterday and today in Riga, Latvia. Just happens to be longest day of the year which is a good reason for a holiday.  After dinner last night we walked down to the old town section of the city.  Women wore rings of flowers on their heads and men wore rings of oak leaves.  Lots of singing and dancing.



Our guide told us about a liquor he thought we all should try.  Riga Black Balsam. We found a very small bottle and bought it.  The guide suggested we add it to our coffee.  We liked it better by itself. Will never be a favorite


This morning we had a great local guide who showed us much including many art Nuevo style buildings


Thursday, June 22, 2017

After crossing the Russian boarder we needed to celebrate

This morning we left St Petersburg in the bus headed for Estonia. When we were two miles from the boarder, the bus was stopped and a Russian border guard got on the bus and checked everyone's passport. As we approached the boarder a bit closer we were again boarded by another border guard and again showed our passports.  At the boarder we all excited the bus with our carry on luggage and individually went through immigration.  Here we all got an exit stamp In our passports on the page with the Russian visa.  After we were back on the bus and went about 100 yards another guard boarded the bus and checked that we all had the appropriate exit stamp on our visas.  I would show pictures, but no photography was allowed in the whole process and our guide had emphasized several times to answer all questions yes or no and not make jokes.

Estonia looks a lot like Ontario. Not many people live in the country.  Most are in Tallin which is the biggest city where we are staying tonight.  Tallin is a high tech center and also has a very old part of the city where we walked through and did some shopping this afternoon.  We are in a 'modern' hotel.  Our least favorite of the trip.  Small room with few amenities. We asked at the desk for two wash cloths and a few minutes later a worker came to our room with this

We had a good dinner in the old part of town with our new friends


The main course was pork, potatoes, sauerkraut and fresh picketed beets. The whole meal was good, but the best part was the bread and beer.  Great very dark bread which must have contained molasses.

Back to the hotel,  our shower is a bit cramped.  The glass wall swivels in and out.


A view on the square in the old town


During our dinner the sun was blinding me.  The sun never sets here.  


Betsy made friends with this guy on our walk


These girls in tutus were having a batchelorette party. The wedding is next week

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Is it a subway or an art museum

We visited several subway stations in Moscow.  They were first built by Stalin in the 1930s. He wanted them to look like palaces.  It was an unusual use of money, but makes a beautiful place to go for transportation.  You can't live in Moscow without being exposed to good art.  It made me think of Merrill High School where you can't walk the halls without seeing good art.  Below are a few pictures from the subway.  You can see many more beautiful pictures if it on Google. Just google Moscow Subway.







The subway system is a beautiful thing.  Subway stations that were built during times of economic downturns are not so beautiful

Sunday, June 18, 2017

It's Sunday so we should visit a monastery

Today we traveled north of Moscow to the small town of Sergei Posad.  It was founded in the 14th century and is renowned as a center of ancient Russian art and architecture. It has served as a place for pilgrimage and as a religious capital of Russia.  We did see a lot of pilgrims who traveled long distances and waited in lines for hours to view relics in the churches. We entered a walled section of the city which contained 8 churches all together.  Following are pictures of some of them.




This is line of pilgrims waiting to view relics.  Because we wanted to just look at the churches, we were allowed to walk past them and enter.  We were restricted as to where we could go, but it still felt weird to jump the line.  This woman's job was cleaning debris and wax off the little tables where worshippers lit their candles


Did you check out her shoes 

On the way out we found this little girl enjoying ice cream with her dad.


At lunch I finally got a bowl of borscht. It was a bit watered down, but tasty.  

On the way we stopped at this store.  It is a super super Wal Mart. The guide showed us Putins favorite vodka and what he thought was the best Russian chocolate. Following pictures are all from that store.
Above bins have rice, lentils, etc.



While visiting the monastery we tri d the local special drink. It is made from fermented rye bread.  Sounds disgusting, but is really quite good and refreshing


Tonight after dinner we will be touring the art in the subway and going back to red square after dark


Saturday, June 17, 2017

(Backup) Inside the Kremlin and a wedding invitation

Today we took a drive around downtown Moscow.  The buildings are quite beautiful. Love the architecture and the design of the buildings. Above is church.  We saw many like it.  They are really beautiful

Below we are in the GUM. This is a Hugh shopping mall buildt during the 18th. Fancy and expensive for the most part.  Prada, etc. 


Below we are across the river from the Kremlin. Kremlin means fortress.  We went inside the Kremlin and visited the Armory which is a museum of Russian treasures.  The exhibits were amazing.  Most everything from the 18th and 19th centuries.  The gowns were beautiful and heavy.  Thousands of fresh water pearls and diamonds.  We couldn't take pictures inside the museum.  Fancy carriages, chain maile suits 
Fabrege eggs.

We got out of the museum just in time to see a military parade.  Lots of goose stepping. 


Downtown Moscow   


Our new friend Bindi from New Delhi.  We visited with her at breakfast.  At the start of the conversation, she asked us if we voted for Trump. The answer was important to her.  If we had answered wrong, the friendship would have not taken off.  We will visit her when we go to India.


 Being a tourist is very hard work.

When we got back to the hotel, as we opened our window which faces the courtyard, we noticed the area was being set up for. Wedding.  We watched the whole thing from our window.  Learned that it was a traditional Russian wedding.  All guests brought a bouquet of flowers for the bride and an envelope with money for the groom.  




For dinner we went to a grocery deli in the next block.  There we met a Ukrainian woman who works for delta airlines and lives in New York.  She helped us pick up some Russian deli for for our supper.  When we returned to the hotel we talked to some of the hotel workers in the lobby.  They brought us up a microwave, bottle opened, plates and silver.  We dined in and it was good.




Good night!