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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Samovars V

I love samovars.  While I do not have one, I do like looking at them and taking photos of them.  See my prior blog posts:  Tea a la Russe,  Samovars IISamovars III, and Samovars IV.

On our summer trip through Siberia, we saw lovely antique samovars in the wooden village of Listvyanka and in an Old Believers museum near in Shaluty.  If you really want to know where these villages are, just go to the middle of nowhere and turn left.



Fabergé buzzer
When we returned home, as luck would have it, I visited the Bowers Museum in Orange County.  Until January, they have a small visiting exhibit called Fabergé:  Imperial Jeweler to the Tsars. This exhibit of pre-revolutionary decorative enamel and cloisonné objects includes lovely bells/buzzers including one in the shape of a samovar.  A nice feature of the Bowers was that I could take photographs (no flash). This is not the case in major museums in Russia, otherwise I would even have more samovars to savor.  


And what do you do if you have a working samovar?  Make tea, of course, and perhaps add some raspberry preserves to the cup, just like grandma used to do.  Or, if you have a Faberge buzzer, simply ring for tea.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Moscow Shopping

Being trapped by memories is rather illogical. Our memories are a freeze-frame of a place as it once existed. Over time, places change -- just like we change as people. Mr. Wonderful and I returned to Moscow after a 14 year absence. My memories of working and living there were generally good. But seeing it now was a real surprise. The city had grown, traffic was exponentially busier, and the shopping had gone from virtually blah to fabulous. Given that I follow news from Russia, I should not have been surprised, but I was. Illogical yes. Pleasant, also, yes.

Across the street from the elegant Bolshoi Theater, there is the Третьяковский Проезд (Tretiakovskii Passage).  To the left: Ralph Lauren Polo (blue awnings), to the right: Armani (off-white awnings).
Bolshoi Theater
Tretiakovskii Passage
A short wall to the right, there is Red Square and ГУМ (GUM).  Thinking back less than 30 years, the term Red Square made us think of oppression, military parades, and dictatorship. GUM (which basically translates to State Department Store) was metaphor for a decrepit building, lack of material goods, and old ladies seated at card tables selling a few lacquer boxes. Today, Red Square teems with tourists and ice cream vendors. GUM is an enormous three-level mall of luxury boutiques and high end groceries. On the side facing Red Square there are cafes with umbrellas and cappuccino.  The transformation is remarkable.  Here are a few views of the inside with its lovely pre-revolutionary architecture restored and updated ...

Mr. Wonderful thought that the "Historic Toilet" sign was hilarious, until I pointed out that at Harrod's in London there is a similar facility with posh Edwardian frills.

I picked up some French face cream at Артиколи (Artikoli) 
And was relieved to read that only the first floor Louis Vuitton boutique was closed for reconstruction, while the ones on the 2nd and 3rd floors were open for business.

Not far from GUM, heading away from Red Square and behind the Bolshoi is ЦУМ (TZUM), which translates to Central Department Store. Like GUM, it is a multi-level Mecca of luxury, as is the Petrovsky Passage ...
Years ago, the shopping street was Тверская (Tverskaya). While it remains a busy street with many restaurants and shops, like the computer stores,
the high-end eateries and clothing and jewelry shops have migrated to the area behind the Bolshoi Theater and along a curving street called Кузнецкий Мост (Kuznetskii Most). Within a quarter mile radius, there is a plethora of shops that make you think of Paris and Milan. Only the architecture and signs in Cyrillic remind you that you are East of Paris.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Naadam Festival -- Mongolia

Last month we had the amazing good luck to be in UlaanBaatar for the Naadam Festival. Naadam's roots come from ancient Mongol tribal traditions, but today the Festival commemorates liberation from China in the 1920s and is an excuse for a nationwide good time. Traditional sports for the festival are horse racing, wrestling and archery.
Nine White Horse-Tail Flags
The official ceremonies open with the entry of nine white horse-tail flags: white for peace and nine representing Chinggis Khaan and his eight generals.  Black horse-tails are used for war and for the excellent Black Chinggis Vodka.



Many beautifully costumed festival participants steam into the country's main stadium in Ulaanbaatar.  We even saw the Mongolian Olympic team march in holding their flag.
Olympic Team
The sporting events are lots of fun and can be seen very close-up. I loved the archery competitions, but need to work on my form.
The other fun event was the Ankle Bone Shoot.  A team of men flick a piece of sheep ankle bone off of a wooden slide on their knee and try to hit a small target in front of them. The team members waiting for their turn sit on tiny wooden stools and cheer the "pitcher" on with low growly chants.
Wrestling is a taste I have not acquired, but it was fun to watch the winners of bouts do their triumphal Eagle Dances.
Wrestlers doing their Eagle Dance
I am not posting horse racing photos for two reasons. First, I am not a proficient enough photographer to capture the speed of a mass of horses running flat out in the countryside for almost a marathon while "manned" by boys less than 10 years of age. Second, given the utter intensity and length of the race, some of the horses hearts inevitably give out and they collapse and die.  One had to be put down near the end of the race we attended.

But, on the lighter side, Coca Cola is everywhere
 and all the children are cute.

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