Friday, October 2, 2015

The Syrian Saga

                                                         (web picture)

Syria is a small country which might, God forbid, become the cradle of a big disaster called World War 3.

Those who think, how noble on the part of Europe to open its gates to syrian refugees - think again. It would have been more noble if Europe had done something real to restore the order in Syria, and  thus prevent the flood of refugees which is bad for all parties: Europe feels 'invaded" by people of another religion and mentality, the syrian refugees , unrooted from their natural environment, are planted in places where they'll loose their identity and dignity, becoming second-hand citizens  for life.

Putin is trying now to do something about restoring that order. It's a bit late, but better late than never, as they say.  His chances to succeed , that's entirely another matter. He's not alone, the iranians are there too;  their main concern is to consolidate Assad's regime, and so, bring some kind of stability to the region where they also do have interests of their own.

It might work , if  the americans won't interfere. It is the americans who have started the whole  thing with the "arab spring' concept, and the naive demand for democracy to replace the heads of Mubarak, Khaddafi, Assad - the result being total chaos followed by the appearance in the area of the new, barbaric player called Daesh.

My guess is that Obama ,won't leave office in 2016 without  first bringing about an armed conflict with Russia , conflict which might eventually escalate into a world war. The clash has started with the sanctions imposed on Russia over Ukraine dispute, and is now going on with the russians' effort to save Assad which is not what the americans want.  I can only hope my guess turns out to be wrong. 

Anyway, as an  israeli, I don't trust any of the above (russians, americans, certainly not iranians)). We'll just have to wait and see how things evolve.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Land or Water

                                       (web picture)

I like to visit islands but I'm not sure if I would like to live on one of them. Islands are small and completely surrounded by water whereas I prefer land. Land gives one the feeling of more stability.

More stability does not necessarily mean more security. I live in a country which has the sea on one side and land on all its other sides, but this land is unfriendly, to say the least.  So, I feel like living on an island from the transport  point of view (to the outer world -by sea and air only), but it's worse than living on an island from other points of view: lack of peace - conflicts and wars with hostile neighboring countries.

Anyway, islands are being marketed to the tourist as little paradises. Many people with money buy a vacation house on the island of their choice. I  once met a nice german woman who possesed such a house on a greek island.  I sometimes found myself thinking about her and  and her property with worry, because of the anti-german sentiments in Greece of the last years as a result of austerity measures imposed on the latter by the EU. 
Now it sems the situation is quiet; time when Greece needs a  bailout.

Well, nothing is without some risk in this world.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Seeking Equality

                                                          (Web picture)

The other day I bumped into a beggar, not the usual type of beggar . It was a young woman holding in her left hand a plastic jar for coins, and in her right hand a ...smartphone for keeping her company during her sitting (on a chair) and waiting for the coins to come.

That made me think.
I know some families that are clients of the welfare authorities, and not only do they have smartphones but also cars, airconditioners, and other items that are not exactly considered basics.

The above reminded me of an article I once read.   According to that article the task of social welfare nowadays is not only to assure a minimum of living to everyone, but also to seek some sort of equality .

Well, the world is certainly changing.  We live in a society of tremenduous gaps, and this is a very explosive situation that has to be dealt with one way or another . 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Moscow 10 - Old Arbat Street

The 'soul" of Moscow as they call it, is a long pedestrian street full of atmosphere. Easy to get there. At one end, the Arbatskaya metro station, at the other end, the Smolenskaya metro station. 

It has everything;   a bank, a cute post office, theaters, an automatic toilette which opens with a plastic card (obtained by inserting some coins in a slot), the headquarters of Aeroflot - the russian airlines .
              W.C.- a cop showed me how to get the card that opens it.

                    front of the Vakhtangov State Academic theater

                                                         Post Office at a corner

The street is lined with souvenir shops and  eateries, sprinkled with street performers and art vendors. Amid all this - the house of Alexander Pushkin, the famous russian poet, where he lived for several months with his young wife Natalia.

Teremok - chain food specializing in russian crepes

Paintings for sale

                                        Pushkin's house museum

                      young bronze couple: Pushkin and his beloved

                                                         Pigeons'  vendor

                                         Tai chi demo by the girl in blue

I visited twice: on a cloudy day and on a bright day and enjoyed it on both visits. Perhaps it's not a "must see"  place, but still one that gives much insight into the russian way of life (past and present), and offers a pleasant stroll along an old and famous street.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Moskow 9 -- Moskva river boat tour

Moscow, the capital city of Russia, is situated on the banks of the river Moskva . A river trip or cruise is a great and...monotonous way to see the city center and its main attractions; no traffic, no smog, no pressure of any kind. It's cool and cozy inside the cabin;  you can buy a drink and enjoy the views .

inside the boat cabin

There are all kinds of boats circulating on the river, and several kinds of tours to choose from. I bought my tour ticket at the embankment near the Kievskaya metro/railway station ( a very impressive building in itself). It was a one way ticket to Novospassky bridge, and from there I walked up to Proletarskaya metro station.

The views on both sides of the river are captivating: the "Red October"chocolate factory (I fell for their milk bar 'Alenka'), Gorki Park (russian Disnyland),  the Kremlin, St. Basil's Cathedral, Moscow State University, the Tetryakov Gallery, Peter the Great monument, etc...

'Red October' chocolate factory

                              Tetryakov contemporary art Gallery

                                   Peter the Great monument (partially captured)

At the end of this leisurely water trip, I felt glad I gave myself the opportunity of seeing  Moscow from another angle.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Moscow 8 - GUM and ZUM

It may sound strange, but the above words are the names of two very respectable department stores in the very heart of Moscow: Gum (pronounced Goom) located along the Red Square, and Zoom (pronounced Tsoom) next to the Bolshoi Theater.

GUM is actually a shopping mall, and a very expensive one. 
I think there's something wrong in the location  of this extravagant mall in the historic center of Moscow, especially opposite Lenin's mausoleum.
Having said that, the place is well worth a visit as it is unique architecturally.

                          the red  color belongs to Lenin's mausoleum

It is not exactly an one - piece building like ZUM; it consists of a series of arcades on three levels connected by small bridges and covered with a glass roof. Inside, there are lots of designer shops with western brands. It definitely has class, and it fits the requirements of both the russian elite and the rich tourists.

                      the glass ceiling and the interconnecting bridges

On the ground floor there's a luxury supermarket (which sells among other goodies, finest vodka and black kaviar). For the people with a tight budget there are the ice cream stands which are very popular.( I must confess I didn't like the taste of the local ice cream sold there).

                         licking icecream always makes a good picture

On the third floor I got acquainted with an eatery called Solovaya 57. It's a sort of canteen where you can have a decent meal for a decent price. I had lunch there  twice, and fell in love with their pastry of cherry strudel and cherry pie.

                   people taking the escalator to the Solovaya 57 canteen

                                            Solovaya 57- inside and outside

ZUM is situated in the theater area (Bolshoi and Mali theaters). It is a high end department store with renowned brands in clothing, cosmetics, shoes, accessories, perfumeries. Those looking for real fur will find it here.Those who wish to relax with a cup of coffee will do so at the nice cafe on the fourth floor,

                          the facade of  ZUM department store

Across the store there are some shops, eateries and benches. People seem to enjoy sitting on those benches , and looking ahead at the entrance of ZUM, at people going in and out of the big store.

             in the background, the red sign of the back side of ZUM

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Moscow 7 - The Bolshoi

If you're lucky enough to obtain a ticket for a ballet or opera performance at the worldwide famous Bolshoi Theater - then  you probably get your chance to be exposed to the highest form of culture available.

Tickets, however, are expensive and have to be bought in advance; even a tour of the  building's renovated interior is not without problems. The tour takes place only on certain days and you have to queue. As I was limited by time, I decided to just go and have a look from the outside at the historic building and its surrounding area.

The Bolshoi is not far from The Red Square and one can easily reach  the place  by metro.  There was no sign anywhere with the name Bolshoi, so I had to ask a passer-by to make sure that was It.

The neoclassical building is beautiful and  has a lovely fountain and garden in front of it. People seem to love sitting on the benches in the little garden, enjoying the sight of the fountain.

The 'neighbor' on the right side of the building  is the back (ugly) of the ZUM department store. (Something should be done about that; it kills the view).

                                the back side of ZUM (Tsoom) store

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Moscow 6 - May They Rest in Peace!

So many great people in one, relatively small place!!

Moscow's prestigious cemetery Novodevichi 
is the resting place of who's who in russian politics, culture, science, military and other walks of life.

To mention just a few : Khrushchev, Yeltsin (politics), Chechov, Gogol (writers), Prokofiev, Shostakovich (composers), Oistrach (violonist), Rostropovich (cellist), Shaleapin (opera singer), Galina Ulanova (ballet dancer), Tupolev (scientist).

Nikita Khrushchev-  his bust                                                   Boris Yeltsin
surrounded by a black and white structure

  Anton Chechov                                                      Fedor Shaleapin

                                                                      Galina Ulanova

Two wives of famous politicians seemed to attract a lot of visitors: Nadezhda Alliluyeva, Stalin's second wife ( committed suicide) and  Raisa Gorbachev, wife of Mikhail Gorbachev ( died in a german hospital after a 2-month struggle against leukemia).

Nadezhda  Alliluyeva

                                                                Raisa Gorbachev
              (A female statue is overlooking the grave; at the back- tiles that cover ashes in the wall).

The Novodevichi cemetery looks more like an exhibition of sculptures: bronze sculptures, marble sculptures, sculptures depicting accurately  the deceased and their profession; life size statues or just busts. A huge variety of styles, materials , colors.                   
Luckily, my knowledge of the russian alphabet helped me with reading  the names on the headstones.  At a certain point I also followed a guided group, and so I managed to visit most of the famous graves.

Many trees and bushes lining the alleys and the rows, as well as flowers near the graves - soften the rigidity of marble, bronze and stone  used in the building of the monuments. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Moscow 5 - Izmailovsky Market

'Izmailovsky' is  mostly  a weekend market, and it comprises several sections: souvenir section at the front; flea market, antiques, and art, at the back.  Like all markets, this one is also colorful and exciting, but not noisy; the lack of noise came as a pleasant surprise to me.

I wandered through all the sections, but since I was interested in buying some souvenirs, I naturally concentrated on the souvenir part of the market .

Besides the souvenir stalls,  there was a space (full of smoke) with meat stands, red tables and chairs, for people to have a barbeque meal.
Here's my meal (not cheap): grilled lamb (big bone, little meat), some vegs, a very delicious pita bread, a bottle of sparkling mineral water.

The souvenir part of Izmailovsky market is based mainly on two elements: matrioshka dolls and memorabilia, with some additional stalls and shops that sell T- shirts, russian fur hats with ear flaps woolen socks, shawls,  lacquer boxes, table coasters etc..As they say, there's something for everyone.

According to Wikipedia, matrioshka is  "a set of wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside the other" .To put it simply - doll inside a doll, inside a doll, inside... The name 'matrioshka', as one understands,  refers to the mother figure of a big russian family.

I was utterly amazed at the huge variety of those dolls. They were of all shapes, colors, size, quality, hand-made or only hand-painted, with 3-5 and even more nested figures. Prices - accordingly.

As for Memorabilia items-  these include soviet era medals, pins, knives, coins, stamps, propaganda posters, busts of soviet leaders, and more.(Back, at the flea market , one could find  ' heavier' military stuff :rifles, helmets, uniforms, war masks).

The best part of my day was at the end of my visit at the market when I reached the metro station to go back to town. Outside the metro station called Partizanskaya, a trio from Colombia was performing rhytmical spanish songs and enchanting the audience. The russians seemed to be very generous with the money they put in the yellow box.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Moscow 4 - Within the Kremlin Walls

Once again I found myself in a long queue , actually two queues- one to buy a ticket , the other at the security checkpoint.

I knew touring the Kremlin ( Moscow's fortified complex overlooking the Red Square and the Moskva River) could be a matter of several hours and there was no place there to buy food or a drink, so I carried with me a bag containing a snack, some fruit and a bottle of water. The young man at the checking point wanted me, for some reason, to get rid of the bottle. It seemed crazy. I went to another checker who let me in without any problem.   

After entering the gates of the Kremlin  one gets into an  atmosphere heavily dominated by the great russian  spirit, history, architecture, religion, wealth.

                                                     entering the Kremlin

The Kremlin grounds, surrounded by red walls and towers are well kept, with  a lot of pathways and gardens. There are five cathedrals, a huge bell (that never rang), a big cannon (that never fired), the headquarters of the President of Russia and his administration (not open to public), several museums.. .

                                                           walls and towers

I particularly liked the Cathedral Square with people going in and out of the churches, standing outside, chatting and taking pictures ( no photography inside). From the  pathway adjacent to the square, there's a good view of the Moskova river .

the cathedral square
Russian czars were crowned in the Assumption Cathedral  and burried in the Archangel Cathedral.  

The Archangel Cathedral has more than fifty royal graves, including that of Ivan the Terrible  &two sons, and those of the Romanov dynasty members.                                            

For many people, the highlight of the Kremlin tour is a visit to the 'armory'- the rooms that house the treasures of the czars. It is not allowed to take pictures inside , and words cannot do justice to what the eyes see there: superb royal carriages, items in gold, silver and precious gems given as presents by foreigners to the czars, coronation gowns, thrones, and then the jewelery chamber (the Diamond Fund for which one needs a separate ticket and going through security check).

                             heading to the armory entrance under sudden rain drops

When you see the treasures of the czars it's easy to understand the meaning of revolution. People were starving, and the czars were accumulating  exorbitant riches. The clash had to come sooner or later.