Wednesday, September 22, 2010

RED SQUARE

Photograph by © Alex
The heart of Moscow encompasses the Kremlin and Red Square. They are often confused as being the same place but they are actually separate entities that sit next to each other. There is an urban myth that 'Red' has to do with communism or the color of the surrounding brick. The name actually comes from the Russian word 'krasnyi', which meant beautiful before modern Russia dialect changed it.

Photograph by © Thomas Gasienica

Red Square is known for its impressive military victory parade that takes place every May. This year Russia held out a historical olive branch to various world leaders by inviting NATO troops to join the parade. The event marked the 65th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany.
Photograph by ©Richard Bumgardner
Although I was not at the parade, it must have been fascinating to see the Western allies march through Red Square. At the end of this blog you can see a small snippet of the victory celebration as fireworks dance over St. Basil's Cathedral.
Photograph by © Vladimir Zakharov
St. Basil's Cathedral carries the theme of victory. Ivan the terrible built it to commemorate Russia's conquest over the Mongol Tatars. Some people believe that Ivan had the architects blinded after the cathedral was built so they could never build anything like it again. I've never seen anything like it; it is extremely unique. The upper portion of the building is such an interesting mixture of rigid geometry (pyramids) and organic forms (onion shapes). These shapes are all purposely fixed to form an eight pointed star. The meaning is specific to denote the eighth day which represents Christ's resurrection.

Monday, September 20, 2010

KREMLIN TREASURE

I find myself noticing Russian headlines after having traveled in Moscow this last month. I think these headlines capture a unique period in Russian history that may surprise many Americans. In the same week that Ozzy Osbourne gave a birthday toast to President Dmitry Medvedev on his 45th birthday, Norway and Russia found resolution in their 20 year old boundary dispute. The NBA recently opened up an office in Moscow to meet their growing basketball fan base.

In addition to seeing performances by the Bolshoi Ballet at the Russian National Theater, you can also catch shows by artists such as Sting, ZZ Top, Boyz II Men, and Joe Cocker. Imagine seeing Joe Cocker sing 'You are so beautiful' in the State Kremlin Palace.

The State Kremlin Palace (one of the many places I visited) sits within the Kremlin walls - the biggest Medieval fortress in the world. It is a city within a city which boasts a myriad of man-made wonders. It has the world's largest canon and bell (both non-working), timeless artifacts and architecture of old Tsarist Russia, a Venetian cathedral dedicated to the Archangel Michael, a 16th century armory, and a diamond treasury that houses the 190-carat Orlov Diamond. This diamond is black in color and there are debates surrounding its origins and some of its history. The latest theory is that the black diamond was formed in outer space. For the longest time, people believed that the diamond was cursed; three previous owners supposedly committed suicide. Stories such as these add intrigue to the beautiful treasures of the Kremlin.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

CAFE PUSHKIN

Photograph by Digital Kamehameha
Within the first 12 minutes of the Russian movie "12", a juror refuses food and declares, "Thanks anyway, I have a business lunch at Cafe Pushkin. Don't want to spoil my appetite." Of course the juror never makes it to his appointment. What the juror thought was to be a snap verdict turned out to be a long exercise of careful deliberations. While I was in Russia I felt it was important for me to approach the people, the landscape, and the culture with a mindset of careful observation and appreciation. I savored the week that I spent there and it turned out to be a marvelous adventure.

Photograph by
Nikolai Kichatov

While the character in "12" missed out on his Cafe Pushkin experience, I managed t make it to the world famous restaurant. Cafe Pushkin spans four floors and the cuisine can be described as Franco-Russian: a classic French menu with Russian ingredients.

Upon entering, I had no idea that the menu is a lengthy 12 pages of (mostly) cold items and hot items (as specials), and somewhat impossible to figure out. Included in the menu is a full page of aperitifs, a full page of honeys, a full page of cigars and cigarettes, and a wonderful selection of homemade cured pickles and mushrooms. I decided to try something different, by ordering the smoked eel appetizer and stuffed pike head. Should you ever make it to Cafe Pushkin be prepared for a unique, and expensive dining experience.


This video was posted via an independent source.
The header should read, "MARTHA STEWART."

Sunday, September 5, 2010

SUN VALLEY, IDAHO

Sun Valley Welcome © by Roland Portillo
There's only one kind of person I know of who daydreams of an outdoor setting filled with mayflies, caddis, and stoneflies. If you happen to be an avid fly fisherman - you know exactly what I'm talking about. During this time of year Sun Valley, Idaho, makes a great backdrop for all kinds of summer activities.

Silver Creek Nature Conservancy © by Keith Willits
While there, I saw plenty of people gearing up for mountain biking, river rafting, hiking, and horseback riding. However, none of these activities drew me - not even the spectacular gondola ride up Bald Mountain (9150 ft.) where you can stop off at the 7700 feet and enjoy a barbeque lamb burger.

Brown Drakes on Silver Creek © by R. Chad Chorney
Instead, the beautiful Idaho countryside made me long for a good pair of boot foot waders, a long casting fly rod, and a box filled with a nice assortment of flies. Unfortunately, my desire to go fishing went unfulfilled. My next destination, if you can believe this, is Russia. I'll be visiting both Moscow and St. Petersburg. For now the very thought of casting my fly rod in the mesmerizing waters of Silver Creek will give me something to look forward to when I get back home. I won't even mind if my old flyline is wound up with memory coils.

Underwater Rainbow on Silver Creek © by
R. Chad Chorney