Cathedrals, Empresses and Tsars

Last day in St Petes dawns, gloomy and overcast So what to do? Well a quick visit to St Isaacs cathedral and a side trip to the statue of Peter the Great seemed in order. ūüôā St Isaac’s is a big sleeping mastiff of a building, crouching on 11,000 oak pilings it looms, brooding, above the St Petersburg city-scape. The views from the rooftop are great although in winter it’s … Continue reading Cathedrals, Empresses and Tsars

Zayachy Island and the Petropavlovskaya Fortress

The second last day Our room was cold in the morning, possibly because I opened the window a crack in the night to get some air. Larissa our host was somewhat horrified by the idea of opening a window, the draft you know, but it is if nothing else a great incentive to get up, so we did. After breakfast with Larissa we walked to the Petropavlovskaya … Continue reading Zayachy Island and the Petropavlovskaya Fortress

A night at the Mariinsky theatre

So tonight we attended the Mariinsky theatre for a performance of the Magic Nut. A great theatre and a just about the most amazing ballet I have ever seen. We left a little late so it was a dash across the city, then a flat out run at the end to get there before curtain up, because that’s how we roll. ūüôā We’d booked our … Continue reading A night at the Mariinsky theatre

Church of the Saviour on Blood


In this city of determinedly western style the Church of the Saviour is a sudden shock of medieval romanticism. Built on the site of Alexander the second’s assassination, the church embodies an inherent contradiction it’s a resolutely backwards facing shrine to the most effective, and pragmatic, reformist tsar since Peter the Great. Continue reading “Church of the Saviour on Blood”

There’s this cake shop…

Stopping off for cake and coffee at Sever, that icon of Soviet era pastry making. A little known fact of the Cold War was that the Americans were just as concerned about the eclair chasm as they were about the missile gap. You can find the latest incarnation under the Grand Palace (44 Nevsky Prospect). Weird coloured pastries, good coffee and quick service, what’s not … Continue reading There’s this cake shop…

House of the book

Now St Petersburg’s biggest and oldest bookshop, Dom Knigi (house of the book), formerly the Singer company of America’s corporate headquarters in downtown St Petersburg. The story is the company wanted a sky scraper, like their head offices in New York, but St Pete’s strict building code prevented it, so they went all out with a gaudy Art Nouveau exterior, heaps of glass (thanks to … Continue reading House of the book

The Hermitage

Palace square (Dvortsovaya Ploshchad) and the Alexander column, biggest of it's kind in the world.

Monumental moments

Palace square is big, I mean really, really big*, on the monumental scale it’s close to titanic. So in the middle of winter with only a few people in the square you feel ant like walking across the centre of the square, all of which may have been the intent. The Hermitage, an imperial palace damaged by fire then rebuilt, a treasure trove of art, the sight of the Bloody Sunday massacre of 1905, yes that Sergei Eisenstein film, then later the headquarters of the Kerensky government after the Tsar’s abdication, yes this is the government building that the Red Army stormed during the glorious October revolution of 1917**. Continue reading “The Hermitage”

A walk along the winter Neva


We’re staying with relatives while we’re in St Petersburg, so we have a place in Valsilyevsi Ostrov on the 6th line, yes just like in New York they give the streets here numbers. Also just like Manhattan Valsilyevsi Ostrov is an island, in fact the largest of the islands on which St Petersburg is built. Today we’re going to visit the Hermitage, but first a stroll along the Neva to see if the central Admiralty Museum is open, it was closed for renovations as it turned out. Continue reading “A walk along the winter Neva”

From Moscow to St Petersburg

We’re taking the Sapsan express from Moscow on a 650km three and a half hour rail  journey that will take us to St Petersburg across the snow covered landscape of Russia. And when we get off the train in St Petersburg there’ll be the Farewell of Slavianka playing over the station speakers to welcome us. Now this is why I like train travel.. ūüôā Continue reading From Moscow to St Petersburg

The last day

Chelyabinsk, park, adjacent to the University

Woke up on our last morning really early, in fact early enough to catch G’s father in the kitchen on his way¬†off to work, with the sodium lights still illuminating the empty snow filled¬†pre-dawn¬†streets.¬†Our run of good brilliant weather continued with a¬†dawn¬†of clear blue skies, so naturally it was off to the University sports centre to hire a couple of cross country skies… Continue reading “The last day”

Ice Village

In the evening we visited¬†Olga and Sasha,¬†childhood friends of¬†Galina,¬†for dinner at their apartment. ¬†One thing I’ve noticed about Russian apartments is that there’s just enough room to swing a cat as long as the cat doesn’t mind having some nasty clips around the head. Olga, Sasha, and Katya their daughter are all squeezed into what we’d call a one bedroom apartment back in Australia. Sasha … Continue reading Ice Village

Chelyabinsk, or is that Tankograd?

Back in the day, Chelyabinsk was one of, if not, the most important tank manufacturing sites in wartime Russia, to the point where the city ended¬†up being nicknamed Tankograd. The monument below¬†is on Lenin prospect in the tank factory district, where unsurprisingly they still make tanks, along with tractors. The¬†monument is a¬†real tank the model IS 3, nicknamed the pike, which was finished just in … Continue reading Chelyabinsk, or is that Tankograd?

Ancient Mayans, east of the Urals

OK, so what do you do on your second day in Chelyabinsk? Why walk through a gateway to the future of course. ūüôā Well more precisely walk through¬†an ice¬†replica of the ancient Mayan gate to the future at Labna on¬†the¬†Yucatan Peninsula. As¬†to the gate there’s a few simple rules, first make a wish, second hit the tambourine on the way through and third walk through … Continue reading Ancient Mayans, east of the Urals

Chelyabinsk, it’s more than you think

So what do you do when you’ve just landed in Chelyabinsk on Christmas Eve? Answer, after supper with the parents (and the shape of dinners to come) walk around¬†to the hospital chapel¬†for midnight¬†mass. Mass had actually finished so G and Kira (G’s sister) lit some candles and we headed home to bed. In the morning it was¬†clear blue skies and -14 C so¬†after breakfast we … Continue reading Chelyabinsk, it’s more than you think

On the edge of space

Take the metro to the VDNkh station, walk outside and across the street and this is what you see, the Monument to the Conquerors of Space erected in 1964.¬†While¬†getting¬†to the moon was one hell of an achievement for the United States, my affection is still for the Russian space program¬†and what¬†they achieved with determination, ingenuity¬†and bravery. Had things gone just a little differently, well maybe … Continue reading On the edge of space

The Kremlin

Kazan cathedral

Day two and an earlier start thanks to setting the alarm and figuring out where the¬†coffee¬†filters were. Also found out that if you really want to cool the kitchen down quickly just open the window a crack in the early morning of a Russian winter, works a treat, although G is convinced I’ll catch my death from the draft. After breakfast we¬†headed out¬†and took the metro to Red Square, arriving at around 10am where we queued at the ticket office in¬†Alexandrovsky Gardens. My first queue in the snow, which I believe is traditional in these parts. Then with Armoury tickets in hand it was a quick walk through the¬†Borovitskaya Tower entrance, along the¬†wall¬†of the Armoury to join another amiable queue¬†for¬†half an hour, still snowing. Finally we got¬†inside dropped our jackets in the cloak room, donned the white plastic overshoes, and ascended the stairs to¬†the Armoury.¬† Continue reading “The Kremlin”

Red square, Boyars and Bulgakov

St Basil

On foot, in Moscow, in winter…

We woke, late, and headed out into the Moscow¬†morning, it’s a cool day but not unusually so at about -10 C with¬†snow falling in big fat flakes. Our staring point for the day¬†is, you guessed it, Red Square. But after that our trail gets a little more eclectic.¬† Continue reading “Red square, Boyars and Bulgakov”

Plains, trains and the Moscow metro

Honk Kong

And a New Year in Russia (2013)

The day after new years day I’m sitting in Hong Kong airport transit lounge at four in the morning waiting for the connecting Aeroflot flight to Moscow, big M4 parka¬†in tow. I have ¬†my visa, all other paperwork is in order and G¬†is meeting me at the airport. Purpose of visit? Why to¬†visit my parents¬†in-law and for G to show me her home. First time to Russia, it’s¬†a¬†little exciting, besides which there’s the prospect of the central naval museum in St Petersburg. Continue reading “Plains, trains and the Moscow metro”

Land in the Sea

Tanah Lot at sundown, from the southern headland

The end of our trip

Last day, last evening and we¬†were¬†on our way to our¬†last stop, Pura Tanah Lot, for the sunset and hopefully a cold drink (or two). Once we’d¬†payed the entry fee and run the gauntlet of the tourist market, selling the usual touristy tat, we passed through a set of pillars into¬†the temple proper mixing in with the pilgrims and other travellers. The temple is one of the seven sea temples that protect Bali, each is¬†placed so that¬†the next¬†is in view. Continue reading “Land in the Sea”

Monkey forest (sacred)

Cute but...

Well it lived up to it’s name, there was a forest and it was filled with monkeys, macaques to be precise. They live pretty well off the food that the tourists bring, did see a few rather stout¬†types lolling around. Word of advice¬†don’t bring food in, the little gangster’s will demand it with menaces and believe me you don’t want to get bit. Hepatitis B is prevalent in crab eating macaques, and then there’s the rabies. Continue reading “Monkey forest (sacred)”

The yellow temple

Candi Kuning which means, strangely enough, ‘yellow temple’ (not to be confused with The King in Yellow) sits on the edge of lake Bratan in¬†Bedugal. There’s a Hindu and a Buddhist temple on the same site and they seem to get¬†along OK.¬†¬†The Meru’s standing out into the lake on small islands are very picturesque and the whole temple complex stands within a garden. Cool wind … Continue reading The yellow temple


Well once it used to be the stronghold of feudal lords but now it’s the arts capitol of Bali‚Ķ Spent an¬†hour or so pottering around downtown Ubud, the town’s grown a bit and merged with the nearby village with lots of backpackers, cheap stays and bars. So it has a bit of¬†a¬†college town feel to it.¬†If you’re visiting¬†check out the royal palace. Not so much … Continue reading Ubud