Month: August 2019

“There’s the black and…

“There’s the black and white one by Brazilian artist Speto, a beautiful bird by L7M from Brazil and a mural in the manner of fantasy surrealism by Belarussian artist Bazinato.”

OS GEMEOS, Pylimo g….

OS GEMEOS, Pylimo g. 60

“The brothers from São Paulo are among the top names in street art. They dropped by during the Vilnius Street Art Festival in 2015 to pay respect to their Lithuanian grandfather, who’s pictured sitting in the palm of a giant in this mural.”

I made my way…

I made my way up the hill to Toompea, also called Upper Town. That’s the Russian Orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.

I was talking to a couple of lovely young women in a shop because I was a little lost and they told me to turn right past the church and I said oh, the fancy one at the top and they said no, that’s the Russian church. I almost laughed they said it with such an eye-roll.

There are many other…

There are many other murals but the idea that the city has turned around, I don’t know. You’ll see the massive Soviet era developments in tomorrow’s pictures and some of them are quite remarkable.

That’s a cat up there. Tomorrow I’m not going to miss The Cat Museum!

Thanks gang, it was…

Thanks gang, it was FUN!

See how young they are? They walk Fast like young people do, not like ME. When I go on these walking tours, as I have in every city, I wear my trail shoes with laces and trot along in my best effort to keep up.

At the end my feet are feelin’ it for sure, so the next day I tootle along in my flips, at my pace, and it’s so Peaceful.

..but it’s been painted…

..but it’s been painted over by the new owner of the restaurant. He decided to be less confrontational and “Make empathy great again”.

You have the opportunity to “Give Little Donald a Hug”. No one in our group bothered to walk across the street, but these tours don’t give you a lot of time so maybe that’s why?

..and more….

..and more.

It’s so interesting how different the Old Town in Riga is from Tallinn’s Old Town, not surprisingly though due to the difference in architecture, and the Art Nouveau wave of the early 1900s in Riga.

..there were still plenty…

..there were still plenty of tourists but instead of being in groups of 100, the groups were more like 20.

There was no immediate evidence as to the owner of that bike but once grandma had her turn others in the group all jumped aboard for their photo op too.

Side entrance to the…

Side entrance to the Hermitage when you have an internet ticket.

When we say The Hermitage we are probably thinking of the Winter Palace but many more buildings are part of the complex.

Those figures are holding up the portico of the New Hermitage, the only building in the complex built specifically to hold art.

The Howling Wolf that…

The Howling Wolf that greets you at the train station..

((“According to the legend, Grand Duke Gediminas (ca. 1275 – 1341) was hunting in the sacred forest near the Valley of Ðventaragis, near where Vilnia River flows into the Neris River.

“Tired after the successful hunt of a wisent, the Grand Duke settled in for the night. He fell soundly asleep and dreamed of a huge Iron Wolf standing on top a hill and howling as strong and loud as a hundred wolves.

“Upon awakening, the Duke asked the krivis (pagan priest) Lizdeika to interpret the dream. And the priest told him: “What is destined for the ruler and the State of Lithuania, is thus: the Iron Wolf represents a castle and a city which will be established by you on this site. This city will be the capital of the Lithuanian lands and the dwelling of their rulers, and the glory of their deeds shall echo throughout the world.” Therefore, Gediminas, obeying the will of gods, built the city, and gave it the name Vilnius – from the stream of the Vilnia River.”))

This was the church…

This was the church where I was supposed to turn right, and for 5 euro you get to climb up to the top of the tower. It didn’t feel as high as St Isaac’s in St Petersburg but it was a hike anyway.

The Winter Palace, for…

The Winter Palace, for 150 years serving as an imperial residence. In November 1917, after the October Revolution, it was declared a museum.

It must have been quite a compelling home but as a museum it does feel a little hodgepodge – how do you successfully display so very very many pictures and objects..

..I decided to have…

..I decided to have a treat next door.

It wasn’t very good, and actually of all the places I’ve visited this trip, I’ve found the least to tell about, food wise, here. I’ve tried all my tricks – street food, pub food, expensive food, to little success. Oh well.

..along with Tony Soprano…

..along with Tony Soprano who is there at the station too. The inset is from the internet.

Why Tony Soprano? Wow, I can’t remember what the guide said. I can’t remember a lot of what the guide said but in my mini-defense, it was very noisy. The internet is telling conflicting stories except that the artist created the sculpture in 2009.

Tony wasn’t here first, he was in an art exhibit. They moved him to the train station to greet the arrivals, because he is tough on the outside but a good guy on the inside..something like that..

On our tour from…

On our tour from Tallinn to Riga we had two ladies from the Czech Republic who recommended we find this place in the Central Market where they sold a particular specialty of Riga.

So we went to the Central Market, very near the place where they were holding the food festival the night before..

SEPE & CHAZME, Kauno…

SEPE & CHAZME, Kauno g. 1

“The street artist duo from Warsaw created this painting on this empty Kauno Street wall – a firewall that was supposed to separate two adjacent buildings. The second building was never constructed, leaving a perfect canvas for street art.

One place that was…

One place that was not too hard to find because of the HORDES of people was the collection of Rembrandts. The picture you see in through the door is the Mona Lisa of the Hermitage.

That’s the line to file into a breathtaking room full of Rembrandts..

“This sculpture was built…

“This sculpture was built to commemorate Fa-meows Lithuanian prose writer, essayist, playwright and painter – Jurga Ivanauskaitë (1961 -2007). Why the cat, you might ask… Well join our Alternative tour, and my colleagues will tell you!”

I did join the tour and the guide did tell about it but I forget the Exact reason they chose a cat as the commemoration, something about spinsters being associated with cats?

..from the card’s description:…

..from the card’s description: “RIZHSKIY SAMOGON is high quality 43” white honey brandy produced from Latvian honey in the greenest neighborhood in Riga – Mezaparks.

“After fermentation and double distillation in copper pots it is filtrated through forest moss and activated carbon. Honey brandy is filled in 2 liter bottles and has a pleasant taste and aroma of the spirit drink.”

..if only you had…

..if only you had half a chance to actually see one.

Monday the museum is closed so Tuesday is especially crowded with people taking their last chance before leaving St Petersburg. Wednesday they are open late and it’s the least crowded opportunity, so that’s when I’m going back. First Thursday is free day so forget it. I didn’t want to leave visiting until the last minute so there we have it – Tuesday and Wednesday.

Art Factory LOFTAS, a…

Art Factory LOFTAS, a community of artist loft-dwellers in an old manufacturing complex used as an event space and cultural center.

All participants are welcome to make anything they want but the theme is supposed to be Freedom.

Tim found an organ…

Tim found an organ concert in the Lutheran Riga Cathedral and we met there after taking a post-lunch break.

Speaking of the Cathedral, in Latvia 40% of the population identify as Lutheran and 25% as Catholic. In Lithuania 77% of the population identify as Catholic. And in Estonia? 54% declare themselves non-religious and only 14% say religion is part of their daily life.

Well this was something….

Well this was something. I went in because it was crowded to find that it’s Event Dining.

Copy-paste from their website: “Here we live according to the old Hanseatic customs, which are expressed in every act and every little detail of the servants, the current dwellers of the house.

“Everything that you see, hear, taste or touch, has been made by the role models of 15th century, so the traveling visitor entering the house will find themselves in the wheel of time, led by ordinary servant folks as their guides to complete your medieval experience.”

Another of the most…

Another of the most celebrated collections is their selected works by Matisse.

The Hermitage version of Dance is on the left, and MOMA’s is on the right. They are So Different most especially in the feelings they evoke. Wow is right.

I looked it up, MOMA’s is a preliminary work, the Hermitage version is the finished work. Is it because what we know first is what we like best? I’m too attached to the MOMA version…

October Square….

October Square.

Palace of the Republic, began in 1985, construction halted, restarted, and finally fully operational 2001 and the Labor Union Palace of Culture, 1956.

“Here, at Olde Hansa…

“Here, at Olde Hansa restaurant we are dedicated to bring you all the wonders of medieval kitchen and spirits what drinkmasters have created.”

The music was great, the ambiance, service, and food was totally fun, and the house-made schnapps was the star of the show. Good job Olde Hansa!

This one made me…

This one made me come back and look again. Then I went back a third time to take the picture. It’s called Nude (Black and Gold). 1908.

Back at the hotel I looked her up hoping to find her story. According to one article “”We can arrive at a state of inspired creation only through conscious work,” wrote Matisse. In two Hermitage canvases, “Seated Woman” and “Nude. Study”, we can see how Matisse worked toward the final, majestic chord of this painting, “Nude. Black and Gold”. Matisse was to choose this work to illustrate his writings on art.”

Tomorrow I’m on an…

August 14

Tomorrow I’m on an all day tour to a national park, home late, and then the next day I’m off early for a 12 hour tour from Tallinn to Riga, again home late. So it might be a couple days before I can catch up.

There’s a lovely flower market leading to the gates of Old Town.

There are plenty of…

There are plenty of shop windows to look at and business life seems relatively prosperous in this historic area.

St Petersburg is organized in concentric circles from The City to The Historic District to the Central Historic District. I’m in the Central Historic District and probably won’t see much outside of here.

This is the courtyard…

August 7

This is the courtyard of my hotel. My room is on the second floor and the view from my ample window looks out over those trees. Small as the room is, I’m very happy.

See that little pet house in the lower left? Guess who lives there?

Several people, including the…

Several people, including the sweet Cat Museum lady, said that I should visit ‘the shopping center’. I can’t imagine myself at a shopping center, but I took the name and looked it up.

The shopping center is actually a department store, GUM, built in the Socialist Realist style in 1951 located on Independence Avenue (Praspiekt Niezaliežnasci). It’s also called the State Department Store.

Simona! I went…

Simona! I went to Angel Spa and it was something. In all my very long life I have not had an experience like this one. they did the hammam on that heated marble table in a steam room. It was pretty awesome!

It wasn’t as scrubby as the Korean ladies, or as down-home as the Moroccan experience, but wow.

On the first day,…

On the first day, just off the plane, strolling around I ran across these heavenly delights, the walnut-shaped ones called oreshki, thickish crispy dough with a center of perfect caramel, not too sweet, not too much, not too sticky. All night I thought about how I would get another one the next day.

But the next day I couldn’t find the dang things!

Then today I got a picture on my phone and asked at several bakeries until one guy standing in line while I was asking took my phone, brought up the map, and sent me to the perfect spot, the one in fact that I had found the first day.

I couldn’t buy the whole bag because then I would have had to eat the whole bag so I just bought three.

Wikipedia says WWII destroyed…

Wikipedia says WWII destroyed as much as 85% of the buildings in Minsk and all the infrastructure.

When the Soviets took control they scraped it all away and started fresh with these grand boulevards and heroic buildings and apartment building complexes to hold all the Russians who would re-populate the city.

Breakfast in these Baltic…

August 23

Breakfast in these Baltic hotels has been included, and dang but I can’t say no. For like 5 days in a row I ate breakfast beans and fresh tomatoes until my digestive system rebelled. Now I’ve been eating a sandwich with a pile of cucumbers, tomatoes, and red peppers. There’s cereal and plain yogurt too.

Today I had a short list of places I wanted to check out and I realized my preferred ‘walking around’ scheme. I like to have a destination in mind, map it out, head in that direction, and let myself be distracted.

Here is one such distraction. What is this place? And the doors are open so I’ll check it out!

Copied from the plaque out front:

“A stone church stood here before the country’s conversion to Christianity. The present Gothic Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, often called the Franciscan Church, with three naves of the same height was built in its place in early 15th century..

This is the shop,…

This is the shop, and it’s next to the Imperial Hotel, so I can find them again myself.

I can now say Thanks! in Russian so well that when I say it Everyone responds, like it’s automatic. They first smile though, and then give a ‘you’re welcome!’ in a few different forms, but I always get the smile first and that’s the point.

On one corner is…

On one corner is McDonald’s, of course, and on the opposite corner is TGI Friday.

You cannot walk across the boulevards for the most part, which is good for traffic, and in every couple of very long blocks there are pedestrian tunnels so it’s good to plan ahead on which side of the street you need to be! You can see the crossing tunnels there on the corners.

“Rebuilt a number of…

“Rebuilt a number of times, it was reconstructed in Baroque style after the fire of the 18th century. This is when the façade got a new pediment with pilasters. The church was taken from the Franciscans several times, but in 1998, it was returned to them.

“During its last reconstruction, a lot of authentic Gothic details, frescoes and elements of Baroque architecture were unveiled in the church.”

Obviously the plaque was made well before this current complete remodel! Check out those awesome rugs on the floor.

..the place we ended…

..the place we ended up at was perfect.

We had sorrel soup, a fantastic herring dish, a local beef dish we loved, and potato pancakes with apple sauce and lingonberries. Tim is a good sharer!

I asked the server what was the national drink of Latvia and she said Riga Black Balsam, so I had it. Here are only some of the ingredients of Riga Black Balsam:

“The traditional recipe was created by Abraham Kunze, a pharmacist living in Riga. ((A pharmacist!)) It is made from 24 all natural ingredients, including 17 botanicals. The ingredients that contribute to the complex and versatile flavor of Riga Black Balsam include common roots and herbs such as Valerian, Wormwood, Black Pepper, and Ginger, as well as rare ingredients such as Gentian, Linden flower, and Peruvian Balsamic Oil.”

It did taste a little medicinal, designed as it was by a pharmacist.

Saint Isaac’s Cathedral originally…

Saint Isaac’s Cathedral originally built as a cathedral but was turned into a museum by the Soviet government in 1931 and has remained a museum ever since.

I was just walking by on my way to another cultural heritage highlight The Russian Vodka Museum, but I will want to come back here and go inside.

There was not a…

There was not a country called Estonia, with recognized borders, until 1917. I’m copying this from Wikipedia:

“Territorial changes of the Baltic states refers to the redrawing of borders of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia after 1940. The three republics, formerly autonomous regions within the former Russian Empire and before that of former Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, gained independence in the aftermath of World War I and the Russian Revolution of 1917.

“After a two-front independence war fought against both Bolshevist Russian and Baltic German nationalist forces, the countries concluded peace and border treaties with Soviet Russia in 1920. However, with World War II and the occupation and annexation of these republics into the Soviet Union twenty years after their independence, certain territorial changes were made in favor of the Russian SFSR.

“This has been the source of political tensions after they regained their independence with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1988. Some of the disputes remain unresolved.”

I started counting and…

I started counting and lost interest at eight. So many many brides, grooms, and photographers here doing wedding album shots. They had to wait turns in many of the more photogenic spots.

Russian women are massively into hair color. I see it and I think ooow, I want that too, and then I come to my senses.

SO awesome. This…

SO awesome. This whole floor was devoted to 20th Century Belarussian artists. I had not heard of a single one of them.

I was standing right here when I realized that by looking at the dates on the pictures the story of modern Belarus would become evident.

To keep in mind:

18th c. Belarusian land annexed to the Russian Empire

1918 Independent Belarusian People’s Republic

1922 Eastern regions annexed to the USSR and western to Poland

1939 Western regions joined the USSR

1941–1945 Naxi occupation when Belarus lost 1/4 of its population in World War II

1991 Republic of Belarus.

I knew this existed…

I knew this existed and wondered if I’d run across it. Yes I did.

What is printed on the pedestal: Pasiek Zibintininka. Looking this up it talks about a Lamplighter, and shows a figure much like this one, but without the lamp.

I didn’t even go…

August 19

I didn’t even go out until lunch today and now as soon as I write this I’ll be caught up with my story.

Those are the doors leading to the underground restaurant where I enjoyed grandma-made local cuisine.

There was a KGB…

There was a KGB museum which didn’t turn out to be much, but I was probably thinking of another KGB display in a cellar somewhere.

This was on the top floor of a fancy hotel just outside the rooftop bar. I went for the views but sadly it wasn’t to be.

Mai Dantsig, 1930-2017…

Mai Dantsig, 1930-2017
My City, Ancient and Young, 1972

That church is my church in Upper Town, my hotel is behind it, and the construction is for the new Metro that marked an important turning point for Minsk.

Tallinn seems an excellent…

Tallinn seems an excellent destination for shoppers. The stores have a wide range of goods and of high quality from what I can tell strolling by the windows.

I admit the temptation of Baltic amber!

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