Welcome to Moomin Valley

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Moomins!

Yeah all right you’ve got me, this whole trip was just an excuse to visit Moominvalley. Well more precisely the Moominvalley museum in Tampere dedicated to the works of Tove Jannson. Like y’know Moomins! Oh alright, I’ll explain a little more, the Moomins and their friends are a cast of fantastical characters that populate the novels of the Finnish writer and illustrator Tove Jannson. Moomintrolls are distantly related to trolls, but prefer to live in houses rather than behind stoves or under bridges. The series charts the adventures of Moomintroll his family and friends (my favourite is Snufkin the chap sitting in the tree in the illustration below with his trademark and much beloved hat) as they deal with everything from floods to comets. If you have a young reader in the house with a taste for the fantastical then I recommend the Moomins series unreservedly. Continue reading

Cathedrals, Empresses and Tsars

Late neoclassical with a hint of Byzantinium.

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. 🙂

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 a little bleak up there. After the trip to the roof, and saying hi to the ravens, we headed across the Senate Square to check out the bronze horseman, the equestrian statue of Peter the Great erected at the direction of Catherine the Great. Just the making of the statue is a tale in itself, with a cast of characters ranging from an eighteen year old French sculptress to a greek Lieutenant Colonel engineer of the Russian Army. And of course there’s a poem by Pushkin, in Russia, I’ve discovered, there’s always a poem by Pushkin.

All in all a good way to bring our stay in St Petersburg to an end. Next stop Helsinki then points north for the Manchester of Finland, see you there.

Interior of St Isaacs

Interior of St Isaacs with G contemplating a miniature of St Isaacs, the religious images started out as paintings, some by Karl Bryullov, but as the paintings started to decay in the cold and damp they were replaced by mosaics at the direction of the architect Montferrand.

Interior of St Isaacs looking up

Interior of St Isaacs looking up into the barrel vaults of the naves.

The interior of the dome, somewhere up there is a white dove.

The interior of the dome, like life, somewhere up there is a white dove.

View from the dome walkway over the Neva

View from the dome walkway over the frozen Neva.

View from the dome.

View from the dome and a hint of St Isaacs square to the left.

Petro Primo Catharina Secunda - To Peter the First from Catherine the Second.

Petro Primo Catharina Secunda – To Peter the First from Catherine the Second. The bronze horseman statue, a big damn statue on a big damn stone.

Aurora

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Aurora, has a couple of meanings it can mean the great lights seen twisting and turning in the night skies of the north, or it can mean sunrise, or it can in fact mean the roman goddess of the dawn. So Aurora is an interestingly ambiguous name to give to a naval cruiser. On the other hand she was laid down in St Petersburg, so maybe the first meaning is closest to the mark. Aurora’s most famous for firing the first shot in the assault on the Winter Palace that kicked off the October revolution, she also fought at the battle of Tsushima, where she covered the retreat of the fleet and subsequently broke through the Japanese lines to Manilla*.

She is, along with the Mikasa (Adm. Togo’s flagship) the only survivor of Tsushima, and the USS Olympus in Philadelphia, she’s one of the few remaining pre-dreadnought warships still afloat. Oh and her guns were also used in the defence of Petrograd, so you can understand why the old lady is treasured the way she is 🙂

After the Aurora our day was pretty much done and we walked through the winter darkened backstreets to Gorkovskaya metro and then home.

*Guess who picked the Russo-Japanese war as an essay topic at the Naval College.

On the ice of Neva

Standing on the ice of Neva. On our way to the Aurora we decided we’d see whether the the ice was thick enough to take our weight. Yep, it was, though I wouldn’t guarantee it out in the centre of the channel. 🙂

The Aurora, a protected cruiser (that means lightly armoured).

The Aurora, a protected cruiser (meaning lightly armoured). Three funnels and ventilators so that’s three boilers down in the engine rooms, secondary armament along the side and note the ram style bow, all typical warship thinking of the period.

looking forward from the aft gangway

Looking forward from the aft gangway

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Zayachy Island and the Petropavlovskaya Fortress

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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 fortress jut across the Neva from where we are staying. Built (like a lot of war machinery) for a threat that never eventuated, the fortress has had many uses including as an infamous prison during tsarist and revolutionary times. There’s a working mint, plus museum as well as the cathedral of Peter and Paul. For us the most absorbing part of the visit was walking through the grim cell block of the Trubetskoy bastion reading about the prisoners and how they were kept, bleak is a word that springs to mind. After that we adjourned to a restaurant for a late lunch and to thaw out a little bit. Next stop the Aurora.

Apartments early light

Leaving the apartment, if you look closely you can see the windows are doubled to give a form of double glazing, you can also use the space between as a natural refrigerator in winter. Checkout the oversized downpipes as well, I guess they’re not as easy to jam with ice.


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From Zayachy Is. That’s actually a floating restaurant called the Flying Dutchman in the distance. The floating house in the foreground is the headquarters of (I think) the water police.


Crossing over onto Hare Island

Crossing over the Kronsverksky strait onto Zayachy Island via, of course, the Kronsverksky bridge (1938) with a couple of dis-interesed looking pigeons.


By the time the bastion was built the threat of a Swedish invasion had waned and the fortress was used 'mostly' as a prison for political prisoners, Dostoeveskvy did time here.

The Peter and Paul fortress bids you a cordial welcome, now don’t get any bright ideas. By the time the bastion was built the threat of a Swedish invasion had waned and the fortress was used ‘mostly’ as a prison for political prisoners, Dostoeveskvy, Bakunin,  did time here and so (strangely) did Tito. After the revolution the prison continued in use, this time for the enemies of the state.


Peter’s botik, it’s not actually a dinghy but a scaled down version of a warship that Peter discovered at one of the royal estates. Unlike Russian boats of the period it could sail against the wind, Peter learned to sail in it and the rest, as they say, is history. Or in Peter’s own words, ‘From the amusement of the child, came the triumph of the man’.


Peter the great statue by Chemiakin, the face of Peter is taken from his death mask but the proportions of the body are closer to the old iconography. Needless to say it was a controversial work at the start...

The Peter the Great statue by Chemiakin, the face of Peter is taken from his death mask but the proportions of the body are deliberately modelling the elongated proportions you find in the old iconography. Needless to say it was a controversial work with the locals.


Peter and Paul Cathedral

Peter and Paul Cathedral in the centre of the bastion. There’s a steeple as well, tallest building in St Petersburg, which strangely I didn’t take a photo of…


The bones of the last Tsar and his family were repatriated here.

The bones of the last Tsar and his family were repatriated here.


Shrine to the slain Tsar

Shrine to the slain Tsar


Pulpit?

Man that is a lot of gilt…


Renovations continue

Renovations continue.


Chandeliers again

Chandeliers again


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Spears, arrows, shields and swords surmounted by the double eagle. A little bit of martial whimsy on the way out of the Fortress.


Looking back at the ... gates.

On the Ioannovsky bridge looking back at St John’s gates. This is what you build when you figure out that cannon have made traditional castle style static defences redundant, think of it as Fortress 2.0 Although castle’s still look much more impressive… 🙂


Walking back

Walking back across the Ioannovsky Bridge, our destination for lunch just to the right of Galina’s hat.

A night at the Mariinsky theatre

Mariinsky theatre,  with Aleksandr Golovin's luxury curtain of 1914 and the Tsar's box to the left

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. 🙂

We’d booked our tickets before we left, and the choice was between a performance of Swan Lake or Chemiakin’s The Magic Nut. In the end we decided that the Nut was the one, because where else are you going to see a performance of it? Answer nowhere. The Nut’s a tale of the magical Crackatook nut, Princess Pirlipat and Herr Drosselmeyer’s enchanted young nephew. In Hoffman’s Nutcracker tale, Herr Drosselmeyer tells the heroine Marie (Masha) this story while she is recuperating from the attack of the Mouse King. In other words this is the back-story for The Nutcracker.

And what a back story, the surrealist sets, my favourite the undersea kingdom, the eclectic mix of electronic and traditional scoring and finally a Hoffmann story that’s just a little…edgy. I also really like how when you get to the theatre and all the winter jackets and boots are removed everyone is wearing their best. Lot’s of kid’s in the audience and they definitely enjoyed the opera. Then it was a walk back along the Kryukova canal, over the Moika river to the Neva and then a crossing of the Blagovensishkiy bridge. Yeah St Petersburg, kind of like Venice, just with more snow.

Canal

Kryukova canal and Moika river looking back towards the Mariinsky theatre.

More winter dark

More winter darkness and snow on the banks of the Moika river.

Blag..

Crossing the Blagoveshchensky Bridge by night.

There’s this cake shop…

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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 to like.

House of the book

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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 a steel frame borrowed from skyscraper design), air conditioning, lifts and a system to clean snow off the roof.

The building’s had a chequered history, it was the American embassy during WWI, but after the revolution it ended up as a bookshop and it’s been operating that way ever since (even during the siege). The two heroic but slightly cold looking winged ladies on either side of the windows are industry and navigation. Got a feeling we’re standing on the road bridge over Griboedov Canal, looking along Nevsky Prospekt.

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

A walk along the winter Neva

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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

From Moscow to St Petersburg

Somewhere in Russia on the Moscow to St petersburg express

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.. 🙂

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

Ice Village

The Snow Maiden

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 told the story over dinner of how, when he’d been naughty as a child, his father who worked at one of the local rocket plants, would come home and threaten to pop him in a rocket and send him off into space, “no, no daddy, don’t send me off into space!”.  Olga got to practice her english on me during the meal and I tried out my conversational Russian, which by the way is way worse than Olga’s english.

After dinner, and a few vodka’s, we all headed down to Revolution Square to see the Ice Village by night. Ice Villages are one of those Russian winter traditions that springs up  in the centre of any Russian city of sufficient size in about November of each year and last until about March. The ice statues and houses are fashioned from ice blocks brought in and glued together with melt water to get the rough shape, then the blocks are hand sculpted to their final form. You can actually go inside some, and of course there’s the obligatory slide for the, er, kids.

Big kids

Like I said, kids :)

Lenin keeping a watchful eye on proceedings

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 time to miss the end of the great patriotic war but just in time for the start of the cold war.

You can also get your MacBook Air fixed in the tank factory district, which made Galina very happy. On the way home from that we ended up having bear dumplings at a restaurant, as you do in far off Chelyabinsk.

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Ancient Mayans, east of the Urals

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OK, so what do you do on your second day in Chelyabinsk?

Why walk through a gateway to the future of course. 🙂 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 in the right direction. Of course if you walk through in the wrong direction…

After (hopefully) navigating into the future, rather than marooning ourselves somewhere in the 1980’s we walked down Kirovka boulevard, where you’ll find a series of life size statues of the inhabitants from various historical era’s. The other thing to note is that there are still some wonderful old wood and brick buildings left, I kind of hope they don’t pull them all down which is what usually happens in city centres. After stoping briefly at the opera house to see whether there was anything on of interest (there wasn’t) we went off to visit the apartment where G grew up and have afternoon tea with a friend of the family. Finishing up the day with a walk in the forest in the winter dark, cold and very clear.

One ice version of a Mayan religious gateway coming up

One ice version of a Mayan religious gateway coming up

Beautifully carved timber building in the zodchestvo style

Beautifully carved timber building in the zodchestvo style

Little boy with camel

Little boy with camel, and G in a rather warm fur lined coat. By now G had figured out that layering might be great trekking in Nepal, but it sucks mightily if you’re going in and out of buildings every five minutes. Hence the very warm old school coat.

Old style streetscape

Old style streetscape

Yep more statues alon Kirovka.

Yep more statues along Kirovka…and hey, is that statue getting fresh with G?

The eternal flame, burning in the snow

The eternal flame of remembrance, burning in the snow. The memorial commemorates the tank crews of the WWII Urals Volunteer Tank Corps who mustered in at Chelyabinsk and ended their campaign in Prague, a hell of a ride.

Kurchatove monument by night

Kurchatove monument by night

Walking along the park trails.

Walking along the park trails in the winter dark

Chelyabinsk, it’s more than you think

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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 headed out to see the sights. Kira came with us as far as Revolutionary square but got cold feet (literally) and turned back. Turns out revolutionary square was where the winter fair was this year so we amused ourselves on the ice slide under the watchful eyes of Lenin.

After that we walked to the St Alexander Nevsky cathedral and got tickets for the organ recital that evening. And yes that is an oddity, a church in Russia with an organ. The story goes back to revolutionary days when the church was de-sanctified and used for various purpose before ending up as the concert hall for chamber and organ music. Now it’s a church again and the local clergy is rather unhappy about having this organ in their Russian orthodox cathedral. There’s a bit of a tussle going on between the music lovers and the church as a result.

Then we walked along the main road to the University to see some of the places where G lived, went to school and worked when she was growing up. Weather was just extraordinary, snow falling as tiny diamond bright crystals out of a blue and cloudless sky, with no wind. We ended up walking along Lenin prospect all the way to Igor Kurchatov’s monument at the edge of the recreation park, which is an amazing sculpture of two slab monoliths with an inscribed split atom, apparently there used to be an electric arc that ran between the two halves but the power bill was a bit excessive so they turned it off.

For those of you not familiar Igor Kurchatov was the director of the early Russian nuclear program, he’s a local lad, born in Sim a small town about 340 km to the west of Chelyabinsk. He swore not to shave his beard until they’d successfully tested the A-bomb but subsequently decided he liked his beard so he kept it, cutting it into ever more extravagant designs as he got older, no surprise, his nickname ended up as ‘the beard’. Much of the soviet nuclear program was (and still is) located in the Chelyabinsk region, which is also why the area is heavily contaminated by radiological waste.

After paying our respects at Kurchatov’s memorial we walked through the snow covered forest behind then headed back stopping at Stollie’s pies for lunch then headed home to freshen up before the concert. As it turned out it was a great concert, the organ is one of Russia’s best made by the German Hermann Eule company and finished up with an Beatles encore. Also included was a large lady in a dress appearing between works to declaim I’m not quite sure what. But according to G, this is part of the fun of going to a concert in Russia. 🙂

Morning in Chelyabinsk, snowing though you can't see it

Morning in Chelyabinsk, snowing though you can’t see it

The furry hat is Canadian,  bought when G got stuck in Montreal for a week due to Hurricane Sandy

The hat is Canadian, bought when G got stuck in Montreal for a week during Hurricane Sandy

Give a girl a piece of cardboard and how much fun can she have?

Give a girl a piece of cardboard and how much fun can she have?

And here I am, photo bombed by Lenin.

Photo bombed by Lenin

Would a winter fair be complete without a wooden windmill?

Would a winter fair be complete without a wooden windmill?

A camel, in winter?

A camel, in winter?

Never call a bactrian camel, a dromedary, never….

Never call a bactrian camel a dromedary, never

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Galina's school's war memorial. From the class room to the battle field. Somewhat sobering.

Galina’s school’s war memorial. From the class room to the battle field.

St Alexander Nevsky cathedral and organ concert hall

St Alexander Nevsky cathedral and organ concert hall

Russian byzantine is the style, designed by Alexander Pomerantsev who also designed the GUM department stores

Russian byzantine in style, designed by Pomerantsev who also designed GUM

A little bit more of that Byzantine madness

A little bit more of that Byzantine madness

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Slightly weird, mausoleum style monument to Lenin in the park.

Slightly weird, mausoleum style monument to Lenin in the park.

G's alma mater, note the weird gargoyles hanging off the roof

G’s alma mater, note the weird gargoyles hanging off the roof

Kurchatov and the atom

Kurchatov and the atom

A red train to Chelyabinsk

In which we depart from Moscow and arrive in Chelaybinsk

Yes we’re off to far off Chelyabinsk, on the eastern side of the Urals, standing between europe and asia and a stone’s throw from Siberia. Home of  G’s alma mater the South Ural State University, the Chelyabinsk Traktors and of course my parents in law. Should be an interesting trip.

The red train arrives

The red train arrives, next stop Domodedovo airport.After hauling luggage up and down interminable stairs I had to strip down to a t-shirt on the platform to cool down, much to the amusement of G and the shock of the native Muscovites

Gratuitous train picture with snow

Gratuitous train picture with snow

View through the woods

View through the woods

Siberian air, well at least we won't lose the aircraft in the snow

Siberian Air (S7) is ready to board, well at least we won’t lose the aircraft in the snow

 

 

 

Ferris Wheel ride

Because nothing says winter in Moscow quite like a Ferris wheel ride above a snow covered VDNKh park.

View from the little Ferris wheel across the VDNKh park

View from the little Ferris wheel across the VDNKh park, with the central pavilion off to the left in all it’s gingerbread glory

A glimpse of the the Worker and Collective Farm Woman Monument, looking suitably monumental...

A glimpse of the the Worker and Collective Farm Woman Monument, looking suitably monumental…

Ostankino Television Tower in the background.

The main gates (Propylaea) peeping above the tree-line, you can see the spike of the Ostankino Television Tower in the background and the curve of the entry concourse through the trees

Cityscape in the distance

There’s that monument in the distance

More of the park, bare and mournful

More of the park, bare and mournful

Well at least there’s a gondola

Another glimpse of the the Worker and Collective Farm Woman Monument

Another glimpse of the the Worker and Collective Farm Woman Monument

 

On the edge of space

Monument

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 there’d by a Tsiolkovsky lunar encampment in the sea of Tranquility today…

In the base of the monument is a space museum which is where we headed after admiring the monument in the somewhat frigid temperature. FYI it’s not made very obvious but you need to buy an extra ticket to take photo’s, and there are photo police wandering the exhibition (which annoyed the crap out of G). Despite that this is a great little museum brimming over with history, but still suffering from the hangover of soviet circumspection about it’s failures. To my mind it could be so much better by talking honestly about the near misses, disasters and tragedies of the program as well as showing more of the story of all those involved in the program  e.g. the engineers and  technicians, as well as the husbands, wives and children* of the cosmonauts. Definitely worth the visit, and worth being pestered by the photo police.  Oh and the idea of making the monument out of titanium, literally priceless.

*For example Elena Yurievna Gagarina the eldest daughter of Yuri Gagarin is the director of the Kremlin State museum (The Armoury) which we’d visited yesterday.

Looking down Cosmonauts alley towards the space stella

Looking down Cosmonauts alley towards the space stella

Solar sundial

Solar sundial

Konstantin Tsiolkovsky looking suitably prophetic

Konstantin Tsiolkovsky looking suitably prophetic

Frieze at the base of the monument celebrating all the people who made it possible

Frieze at the base of the monument celebrating all the people who made it possible

Yuri Gargarin's spacesuit the SK-1 (Skafandr Kosmicheskiy) it's more of a pressure suit intended to protect you from depressurisation (and during ejection) rather than a true space suit for work outside the capsule

Yuri Gargarin’s spacesuit the SK-1 (Skafandr Kosmicheskiy) it’s more of a pressure suit intended to protect you from depressurisation (and during ejection) rather than a true space suit for work outside the capsule

The hero's medals

The hero’s medals

The Vostok (East) 1 capsule, only one driver low miles.

The Vostok (East) 1 capsule, only one driver low mileage

The little beeping ball that started it all

The little beeping ball that started it all

Little Laika's capsule

Little Laika’s capsule

Belka and Strelka, and a space capsule built for two very small furry cosmonauts

Belka and Strelka, and a space capsule built for two very small furry cosmonauts

Leonov’s Berkut (Golden Eagle) space suit, a modified Vostok Sokol-1 intravehicular (IV) suit.

Leonov’s Berkut (Golden Eagle) space suit, a modified Vostok Sokol-1 intravehicular (IV) suit.

No it's not a zero g shower, this is an inflatable airlock used by Alexey Leonov to carry out the first spacewalk during the Voskhod 2 flight.

No it’s not a zero g shower, this is an inflatable airlock used by Alexey Leonov to carry out the first spacewalk during the Voskhod 2 flight.

The Soviet E6 Luna lander during a cruise to the Moon.

The Soviet E6 Luna lander in cruise mode enroute to the Moon

Luna 9 lander

Luna 9 lander

Venera probe

Venera probe

The Soviet E3 lunar orbiter, that first took pictures of the far side of the moon

The Soviet E3 lunar orbiter, that first took pictures of the far side of the moon

Zvezda developed KP-V-3A ejection seat,  for emergency in the ascent phase and normal ejection before landing, no soft landing system on Vostok!

Zvezda developed KP-V-3A ejection seat, for emergency use in the ascent phase and normal ejection before landing, no soft landing system on Vostok!

Yastreb (Hawk) developed to be more rigid after the problems on Voskhod 2 suit used once during a crew transfer, it was not a good design and discontinued.

Yastreb (Hawk) developed to be more rigid after the problems on Voskhod 2 suit used once during a crew transfer, it was not a good design and discontinued.

Yastreb (Hawk) helmet closeup

Yastreb (Hawk) helmet closeup

Sokol (Falcon) spacesuit, what every well dressed cosmonaut wears on a trip to the ISS. This is a strictly keep you alive suit, not intended for EVA.

Sokol (Falcon) spacesuit, what every well dressed cosmonaut wears on a trip to the ISS. This is a strictly keep you alive suit, not intended for EVA.

Orlan (Sea eagle) spacesuit in airlock mockup

Orlan (Sea eagle) spacesuit in airlock mockup

Orlan spacesuit in EVA

Orlan spacesuit in EVA, with space girl

The Krechet (gyrfalcon) was a semi-hardshell space suit developed for the Soviet manned lunar program, a lot more advanced than the equivalent generation of Apollo suits. It was designed by NPP Zvezda.

The Krechet (gyrfalcon) was a semi-hardshell space suit developed for the Soviet manned lunar program, a lot more advanced than the equivalent generation of Apollo suits. It was designed by NPP Zvezda.

Lunokhod rover

Lunokhod rover

Luna 24, soil sample return mission

Luna 24, soil sample return mission

Lunokhod rover

Lunokhod rover

Soyuz capsule, heat shield jettisoned showing the retro rockets and emergency placards

Soyuz capsule, heat shield jettisoned showing the retro rockets and emergency placards

And soviet space poster art

And soviet space poster art

'Wow dad, is that an RD-214 ?', 'Why yes it is the RD-214 engine, did you know that it used a storable mixture of Nitric Acid and Kerosene, and was developed for ballistic missiles with a short readiness time requirement?', 'Geee...'

‘Wow dad, is that an RD-214 ?’, ‘Why yes it is the RD-214 engine, did you know that it used a storable mixture of Nitric Acid and Kerosene, and was developed for ballistic missiles with a short readiness time requirement?’, ‘Geee…’

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

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

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

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

The yellow temple

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 off the lake as the whole area sits at about 700m. Anything else? Oh yeah, the Hindu temple is dedicated to  Ida Batara Dewi Ulun Danu, the goddess of the lake.

Entrance to the temple complex

More picturesque Meru's

Artist and lion

In the Taman Ayun complex, an artist at work.

Ubud

Well once it used to be the stronghold of feudal lords but now it’s the arts capitol of Bali… 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 Versaille as  a tropical Balmoral really. 🙂

Temple guards at the Elephant temple

Hello ladies…

The river Styx

In a somewhat ironic intersection with myth the original Styx (after which the Styx creek was named) was so awful that one could bind an oath just by using its name, and if you drank from it the waters would render you voiceless for nine years…

As I work in the duchy of Hamiltonia, I like to joke that I have to cross the Styx to get to work..

Hamilton North, NSW 2292

I thought that the rain we got the other week would result in a banker but it was such a slow, steady fall that the creek just rose, nice and slowly, and then fell, nice and slowly. The kind of rain the farmers love.

I always have mixed feelings about rain after a prolonged dry period. The creek gets so clogged up with gunk and rubbish that it’s kind of cathartic to have it all swept away by one huge, cleansing flood. But then I know that all the crap has just been shunted down to Carrington mangroves, or the harbour, or the beach.

elephant_cushion

It’s still … THERE … even though I can’t see it.

stress_frog

There was an article in the Herald about the OdysSea group, who are encouraging people to litter-pick along the beaches. They’re great, those young folk, and I must admit I rather  envy them. The…

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