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10 Jan

Ben and I snuck in a quick trip to Budapest before we both head back to work after the holidays.  We were supposed to have two and a half days, but a frustratingly long delay in departure on Tuesday left us without the extra half day.  We still managed to get in three museums, two activities, and a trip to the thermal baths.

Budapest_02Our hotel, the Bohem Art Hotel, was fantastic.  From the moment that we booked the room, the staff was attentive and helpful.  They coordinated a ride from the airport to the hotel and were very responsive to my e-mails notifying them of the multiple delays we experienced leaving Moscow.  It is in a great location, close to the Danube on the Pest side.  The decor was great, with art displayed throughout the hotel.  Each room has a unique artwork: that is my photo of the one in our room to the right (Classic Double, Room 110).  The other rooms’ art can be previewed on the website here.  I would definitely recommend it to anyone planning a trip to Budapest.

Budapest_06We started with the Hungarian National Museum.  We try to hit a history museum early on when we visit a new location because it helps make sense of everything we see during our trip.  This provided a decent overview of Hungary’s history from about the 12th-13th century until the 1990’s (the earlier exhibits were either closed when we were there or not very impressive).  There was also a small exhibit of Hungarians scholars “who made the 20th century.”

Next up, we checked out the Museum of Ethnography, which proved to be fairly disappointing.  It is located next to Parliament, though, so it was worth the walk to see that building.  There was a lot of construction, so we did not get any good photos of the building, but a Google images search has many.

We finished up Wednesday’s activities with a trek up the very steep hill of Castle Hill.  We intended to visit the Labyrinth of Buda Castle, but ended up at a different labyrinth exhibit (I have now learned that the other was closed down in 2011).  It was fun to see some of the caves, but the displays were very strange and very cheesy.  This did not stop up from having fun and taking advantage of photo ops, like Ben posing with a gargoyle by Dracula’s “grave” and doing his best King Joffrey impression.

On Thursday, we spent an hour trying the puzzle room game Claustrophilia.  It caught my eye on TripAdvisor as the #1 attraction for Budapest and seemed like something new and fun.  The idea is to find hidden items and solve puzzles in order to figure out the overall game.  We had a lot of fun and I think we worked well together, but I don’t think that we got too far at all.  I love puzzles, though, so it was a great way to spend an hour and I would love to find more games like this.

A friend recommended that we try the thermal baths while in Budapest, so that afternoon we headed up to the Szechenyi Baths.  This particular location seemed to be highly rated online and the whole facility was coed, so Ben and I could spend our time together.  We enjoyed the time we spent and suspect that we could have easily spent a whole day there if we had more time (there are eighteen baths!), especially if we signed up for any of the spa services.

Our last stop of the trip was to the House of Terror, a museum dedicated to the history and impact of the Nazi and Communist regimes in Hungary.  The museum is housed in the building that served as the headquarters for the secret police of both governments.  The building was renovated to house the museum and is mostly exhibits based on artifacts and video, but replicates some details such as the offices, cells, and gallows that were located there.

Ben and I both agreed that we would have liked to have had another day in the city, but, overall, really enjoyed our stay.  While January may not have been the most beautiful time to visit, we were able to do everything that we wanted without any crowds or lines.  Maybe we’ll make it back there sometime in better weather and get some more photos.

до свидания!

Are You Ready for Some Football?

29 Sep

Disclaimer: while “football” typically refers to soccer in European countries, in this case I do mean American football.

Ben and I aren’t exactly what you would call football fans, but the further away we are from the sport the more appealing it seems.  When we lived in Gainesville, it was impossible to avoid all-things-Gators, but in California it was less common and pretty fun to occasionally see a blue-and-orange sticker or t-shirt.  Here in Moscow, though, running into fellow Gators is pretty exciting.  And it does happen: at my school alone I have a co-worker, two parents, and two older siblings of current students who all went to UF.

So, two weeks ago Ben and I decided we were in the mood for some college football.  A little searching turned up that there was not one, but two bars in the city that were advertising the Gators vs. Hurricanes game.  We rounded up a small group of friends and enjoyed a little bit of American-culture here in Russia.

Apparently this intrigued one of our Russian friends enough that he went out and discovered that Moscow has an American football league.  This league means business: they offered Tim Tebow $1 million to come play two games, but he turned down the offer.

Naturally, we had to see what this was all about.  So, yesterday, we bundled up (it is COLD out!) and went to Torpedo stadium to see Black Storm take on the Moscow Patriots in a semifinals match.  It. Was. AWESOME.

American Football in Moscow

Pyrotechnics During Introductions

They weren’t necessarily the most skilled players, with few successful passes and players slipping in the mud before they could even be tackled sometimes, but the basics were all there.  I have never seen so many yellow flags thrown, sometimes they were even tossed when NO ONE WAS MOVING.  Ben mentioned that usually in Moscow we are in situations in which we have no idea what is happening, but this time we totally knew the rules.

American Football in Moscow

In Action

Not knowing anything about the teams, we all went in without allegiances.  Ben decided early on to support the Patriots because he liked their use of orange smoke in their intro.  I held off until halfway through the first quarter, eventually settling on Black Storm because they seemed more capable of catching the ball.  Plus, they have a total superhero name.  In the end, Black Storm was victorious and will advance to the finals.  I hope we are there to cheer them on to championship!

Go Black Storm!

Go Black Storm!

до свидания!

Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics

21 Jul

Space travel is kind of a big deal here, so it’s no surprise that there is a museum dedicated to it.  Yesterday, we visited this museum, the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics, here in Moscow.

The museum mostly walked through the history of the Soviet/Russian space program and included a section dedicated to worldwide space endeavors.  There were original artifacts, replicas, models, photos, personal belongings of scientists involved in building the first spacecrafts and cosmonauts/astronauts, and even the actual, taxidermy bodies of Belka and Strelka, the first dogs to go into orbit and safely return.

Belka and Strelka

Belka and Strelka

The Soviet space program boasted many firsts, including the first man in space (Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin, 12 April 1961) and the first woman in space (Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova, 16 June 1963).  Interestingly, Tereshkova’s flight occurred only two years after Gagarin’s, but it would be another nineteen years before a Soviet woman went back into space (Svetlana Yevgenyevna Savitskaya, 19 August 1982).  The third and only other female Soviet/Russian cosmonaut to go into space to date is Yelena Vladmirovna Kondakova on 4 October 1994.  In contrast, the United States did not have a female astronaut in space until 18 June 1983 (Sally Ride), but has had a total of 45 female astronauts in space since then.

I learned a lot from our visit and would highly recommend this museum to others.  There is a lot of history, science, and fun to be had there.  The bigger models and displays included translations in English, but some of the smaller bits of memorabilia were only in Russian.  We were with a Russian speaker, but I would still have enjoyed it without translation assistance.  See below for a few more photos (all photos in this post are courtesy of Ben).

до свидания!

The Importance of Hot Water

13 Jun

Have you ever come home from an intense workout or maybe a really hot day and thought, “I could go for a nice cold shower right now!”?  If so, I am betting that you actually meant a “nice just-cool-of-luke-warm shower” because a true cold shower, without any hot water in there, SUCKS.

Every summer, section by section throughout Moscow, the hot water is turned off for a period of time.  Last year Ben and I managed to be out of town when this occurred.  This year, though, they have reached our section and we are both here.  We are currently on day three of ten without hot water.  I am pretty sure that the cold water that we do have is just reserved snow from the winter because it is FREEZING.  They have to actually be chilling the water to get it this cold.

I keep saying that we are having the true Moscovite experience and it will only make us stronger, but I suspect that when Monday rolls around and I am faced with shower number seven I just may be trying out the showers at my school.

до свидания!

Moscow with H&K: Part Two

12 Feb

So. Many. Photos.   While this is definitely a good thing, it also means that it is going to take some time to sort through it all.  I have decided to share photos and stories from our vacation in pieces.  Hope you enjoy!

The second half of our time with Heather and Kevin in Moscow included trips to Red Square, the new collection of the State Tretyakov GalleryGorky Park, and the Izmayolovo Kremlin and Market, where we visited the Vodka Museum.  Our attempts to see the more contemporary collection at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and the Kremlin were thwarted by ridiculously long lines (we really lucked out with our previous museum visits).

Notable eats during this portion of the visit included more Georgian food, this time at Saperavi Cafe, North Korean food at Koryo, and drinks and snacks at the great soviet bar down the street from us.

Heather and Kevin seemed to really enjoy their time here and they were awesome guests.  I think that the “Russian experience” has the potential to be overwhelming, but they totally went with it.  Guys, you are amazing.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for visiting!

Last post from this vacation will be photos from our metro tour.  Should be up next weekend-ish, but there is a preview in the gallery.

Reminder: the photos are a mix of all of our photos, so big thanks to Ben, Heather, and Kevin for their contributions.  See below for the gallery!

до свидания!

A Year in Moscow

27 Aug

One year ago today Ben and I landed in Moscow.

The past year has definitely been an adventure.  From surviving our first winter to taking our first European vacation, we have had some amazing experiences.

Most of the year was spent settling in to life.  It definitely takes more effort to do everything, but now we have been through every season and have experienced the majority of daily activities.  I am hoping that this makes the upcoming year a little bit easier for both of us.  In this case, I think easier equals happier.

Most importantly, since arriving, we have found a great place to live for us and Nebbie, found satisfaction in our work, and made some amazing friends.  These elements are what has turned Moscow into our home, not just a place where we are living.

Here’s to the start of year two!

до свидания!

Novodevichy Cemetery, Convent, and Pond

20 May

Today was spent at the Novodevichy Cemetery, Convent, and Pond. The weather was warm, but beautiful and made for an enjoyable excursion. I decided that the only way this blog would be posted tonight was if I made it light on words, but heavy on photos, so if you would like more information about the cemetery or convent use the links above.

The tombs below include Nikita Khrushchev, Alexander Lebed, Raisa Gorbachova, Sergei Eisenstein, Peter Kropotkin, Anton Chekhov, Nikolai Gogol, Constantin Stanislavski, and Boris Yeltsin.

Here are the photos!

до свидания!