Tag Archives: history

Budapest

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!

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How I Spent My Summer Vacation: Part Three

26 Aug

This summer feels like it just flew by.  It was a bit shorter than last year, but it was also significantly busier.  It was filled with travel and visitors, family and friends.  I have split this post into three parts in order to share photos.  This is the third of the three posts!

The third, and final, big event of the summer was a visit from Ben’s parents.  We spent a few days in Moscow, a week in St. Petersburg, and then a few more days in Moscow while they were here.  We managed to visit a TON of museums in both cities including the new Tretyakov State Gallery, the Armoury Chamber in the Kremlin, the Hermitage, the Trubetskoy and Alekseyevsky bastions and the Museum of Torture at the Peter and Paul FortressKunstkamera, the Zoological Museum, the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, and the Russian Museum of Ethnography.  We covered A LOT of ground in those two weeks and I’m so happy that they were willing to make the trip over here and were up for so much site-seeing.

We happened to have good timing when we were in St. Petersburg.  Ben had previously heard that there is a day when paratroopers gather in parks, get drunk, swim in fountains, and maybe start fights.  Turns out that day is August 2nd, VDV Day, the celebration of Russia’s Airborne Forces.  We were in St. Petersburg for this and saw the gathering, drinking, and swimming, but, fortunately, not the fighting.  This holiday was actually only a few days after Navy Day which was a huge celebration in St. Petersburg given its location on the water.  We saw more gathering and drinking, and a bit of fighting that day, but not as much swimming in the fountain.

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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).

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Victory Day

11 May

This past Thursday, the 9th of May, was Victory Day here in Russia, a day that commemorates the capitulation of Nazi Germany to the Soviet Union in 1945.  This is a major holiday here, like a whole-city-shuts-down, parades-with-tanks sort of holiday.

Since we live about a block and a half from the parade route, Ben and I walked out to see it as it passed our neighborhood. We managed to get a great spot right along the railing and only had to wait a few minutes before the first set of helicopters flew over head.  They were followed by some jets and planes, all heading towards Red Square.  This must have marked the end of the ceremony that occurred there.  Within a few minutes after the last set of planes flew overhead, the parade started rolling past us, headed away from the Red Square ceremony.

Here’s a brief video I shot:

I’ll let the photos below do most of the explaining, but the short summary is: WOW.  I asked Ben afterwards if this is just Russia’s way of saying, “Don’t eff with us – this is only what we bring out for parades.”  We could feel some of these vehicles before they even passed our line of site.  It was worth watching at least once while we are here.

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Estonian History Museum

3 Mar

We have lots of photos, so over the next few days I will be sharing them in separate posts.  They are all ready to go, though, so I have no excuse for getting off schedule!

Since we did not know too much about Estonia, we decided to check out the Estonian History Museum in the Great Guild Hall.  It was a really well designed museum with a lot of information, including a permanent exhibit entitled “Spirit of Survival – 11,000 Years of Estonian History.”  The Great Guild Hall itself is 600 years old and located in Old Town.  It is a pretty fascinating history with many social, political, and religious changes.

Here are some photos of the Hall, as well as some of Ben and I having fun with their interactive exhibits.

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St. Petersburg: Part Three

27 Jan

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!

After two crazy-busy days of tourism, we took a day off on Thursday to hang out and relax.  Our biggest accomplishment was braving the icy streets to go to the grocery store for some food.  It was a lovely day of family with feet up.

We were back at it on Friday, though.  We ventured out for brunch at Brooklyn Local Cafe. I was sold the moment I heard they actually had bagels.  Bagels are one of the things that I miss A LOT over here.  They made a good one, too.  Once we were fed, we visited the Russian Museum which is the largest depository of Russian fine art in St. Petersburg.

State Russian Museum

State Russian Museum

Since the Russian Museum is not quite as large as the Hermitage, we had time to walk around and explore a bit after.  We primarily wandered up and down Nevsky Prospekt, a main street in the city.  We were able to spend some more time looking at sites that we passed with our guide earlier as well.  This included walking around and taking a million photos of Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood.  It is certainly impressive and makes Moscow’s Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square look even more like a model at Disney than I originally thought.

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

We had warm beverages at Cafe Singer in the Singer House, Kevin treated himself to a jersey at the Zenit store, we  marveled at the treats in the Kupetz Eliseyev Food Hall at the Eliseyev Emporium, enjoyed cocktails at the Grand Hotel Europe, and finished off the day with dinner at Van Der Wafel.

Saturday was our last day in St. Petersburg.  We planned a few last things, but spent much of the day packing up and preparing to head to Moscow.  We had lunch at the Idiot restaurant and then walked to see the Bronze Horseman statue.

Bronze Horseman

Bronze Horseman

Earlier in the week we decided to take an overnight train back to Moscow and books our tickets.  Our transportation to the station was very late and as we rushed onto the platform we learned that the train we selected was one of the very few trains that does not leave from the station known as the Station Where Trains to Moscow Depart From.  Since trains leave so often, we were able to find four spots on one that left a few hours later.  We grabbed a table and some beers and waited it out.  We were not able to get one compartment for all four of us, but Heather and Kevin were together with another couple, as were Ben and I, and we were in compartments next to each other.  I fell asleep before the woman even checked our tickets and overall enjoyed the overnight train.  It was a little warm in the car and the other couple with Ben and I were not the best roomies, but I would definitely travel this way again.

And then we were in Moscow!

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!

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St. Petersburg: Part Two

19 Jan

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!

We toured the city on 26 December.  Led by an English-speaking guide that Heather and Kevin booked through easyRussia, we covered A LOT of ground in St. Petersburg.  This is a photo-heavy post (see gallery at the end), so rather than explaining too much detail/history I recommend that you use the links to learn more about the places we saw!

Our flat was pretty close to the Kazan Cathedral, which stands out due to its impressive colonnade.  Built in the early 1800’s, it was modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  We did not enter the cathedral, though, simply passed it while walking.

Kazan Cathedral

Kazan Cathedral

We then moved on to another cathedral, the St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral.  Our guide rushed us here so that we would arrive in time to see part of the service.  It is fairly small inside, but like all of the Russian Orthodox cathedrals that I have been in, it is covered top-to-bottom in ornate decorations and iconography.

St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral

St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral

As we walked back to the main street of St. Petersburg, we passed Moika Palace, the location where Rasputin’s assassination began with cyanide poisoning.  We opted out of the tour of the cellar room due to timing and expense.  While most palaces were converted to mundane use after the revolution, this one was given to the Education Commissariat and was preserved as a museum.  It is currently the Palace of Culture of Educators, hosting events and theater productions.  One of my favorite quotes from wikipedia about it is this: “The courtyard where Rasputin attempted to flee from his killers is now occupied by a kindergarten playground adjacent to the palace.”

We also past Nabokov House and quite a few palaces that were converted post-revolution.  We saw St. Isaac’s Square which includes St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the Hotel Astoria, and Mariinsky Palace, which now houses the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly.

Mariinsky Palace off St. Isaac's Square

Mariinsky Palace off St. Isaac’s Square

We stopped for lunch at Stolle.  They are a “pie” shop, with both savory and sweet pies.  They are AMAZING!  We were very excited to find they have locations in Moscow as well, so we will definitely check them out again.

We walked along the main street for a bit and then hopped on the metro to see the Peter and Paul Fortress.  We didn’t go into any of the museums or sites, but it was impressive to see.  I am also glad we were able to see it in winter because they frozen river covered in snow was impressive.  We also walked to the cabin of Peter the Great, which was a tiny little cabin that is preserved inside of another small building.  It was such a contrast to all of the palaces we passed throughout the day.

At the Peter and Paul Fortress

At the Peter and Paul Fortress

We passed many other sites along the way since the whole city is covered in historical locations and monuments.  It was about six hours of tour, most of which were walking, so we were exhausted by the time we made it back to the flat.  We managed to drag ourselves back out for dinner, though, and enjoyed a nice dinner at an Armenian restaurant called Kilikia.

As I mentioned before, 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!

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