Posted by: Rasma R | February 5, 2017

Chisinau, Moldova


The country of Moldova is also known as Moldavia and officially as the Republic of Moldova. It’s a landlocked country in Eastern Europe bordered by Romania to the west and Ukraine to the north, east and south.


The capital is Chisinau with impressive Soviet-style architecture and many amazing landmarks such as the neo-Classical Nativity Cathedral. The city is the largest in Modova and its main transport hub. Chisinau dates back to 1420, a great deal of it was leveled in WW II and during an earthquake in 1940. From the 1950s onward it was rebuilt in Soviet style.


Stefan cel Mare Central Park is the main park in Central Chisinau. It was formerly known as Pushkin Park. This is the oldest park in Moldova and stretches for 7 hectares. Residents have nicknamed it “The Park of the Lovers’” since it is a popular meeting place for couples. The park has 50 species of trees among which the mulberries and acacias are between 130 and 180 years old.


At the entrance to the park is the statue of Stefan cel Mare or Stephan the Great erected in 1928. This monument was designed by sculptor Alexandru Plamadeata. He was Moldova’s greatest medieval prince and ubiquitous symbol of Moldova’s brave past.


The main entrance to the park is marked by the Holy Gates or also known as Chisinau’s Arc de Triomphe. The arc dates from the 1840s and marks the centre of the city. It was built to commemorate the victory of the Russian army over the Ottoman Empire. It is often draped with the Moldovan flag in the middle.

There are merry-go-rounds and swings for children. As you go walking you’ll see that there are various stalls that sell kvass, wine, fruit and sweets. During WW II a communal grave to Soviet soldiers was established here. There is the wooden, two-theater Rodina cinema, a gymnasium and a hothouse.


The park has four fountains with the main one located right in the center, where all the paths and alleys meet.

The Avenue of the Classics of Moldovan Literature was opened in the park in 1958. Here you can see the statues and busts of Romanian and Moldovan authors and social figures. The entrance to the avenue is guarded by marble lions.

During Soviet times, the Alley of Friendship was created. Here prominent guest of the city planted trees. In 2009 free park WiFi access was launched.


The highlight of the park is the Nativity of Christ Metropolitan Cathedral. Dating from the 1830s with its lovely bell tower. This is the city’s main Moldovan Orthodox church. It has rich interior frescoes.


Facing the statue of Stephan the Great is the Parliament House.


Opposite the Parliament House you’ll find the impressive Presidential Palace.


The Army Museum has found its home in the Center of Culture and Military History. The museum offers an exhibit on Soviet-era repression with stories of Red Terror, forced famines, mass deportations and gulag slave labor all told through photos, videos, newspaper clippings and dioramas. On display are interrogation rooms and items including Soviet propaganda posters and Cheka and NKVD uniforms.


The National Museum of Ethnography & Natural History offers such fascinating displays as the life-size reconstruction of the skeleton of a dinothere, an 8-tonne elephant-like mammal that lived during the Pliocene epoch. There are dioramas of national costumes.


The National Art Museum displays an interesting collection of contemporary European art, folk art and medieval items. At times there are also temporary exhibitions.


The Pushkin Museum is where Russia’s national poet Alexander Pushkin spent three years exiled between 1820 and 1823. Visitors can see his tiny cottage, filled with original furnishings and personal items, including a portrait of his beloved Byron on his writing desk. In the building facing the cottage is a three-room literary museum which documents Pushkin’s life. It was here that he wrote “The Prisoner of the Caucasus” English-language excursions have to be booked in advance.


For free tasting tours you have to call ahead to register at the Chisinau Brewery. This brewery is the oldest in Moldova and make the popular Chisinau Beer. Today the brewery is owned by Turkish beer giant Efes. It is located just east of the center in Ciocana.


Repression Memorial is a unique monument to the victims of mass deportation under Stalin.


The Government House is where the cabinet meets. This is a massive building that stand opposite the Arc de Triomphe. It is noted for its Soviet-style architecture.


The National Library is a building worth taking a look at. The area in front of the library has many cafes.

The Botanical Garden tourism destinations

The Chișinău Botanical Garden was established in 1973 and stretches for 83 hectares. It is located in the Durlesti Creek Valley. The garden has sectors with elements of forest vegetation in Moldova. Among the woody species rare for Moldova grow – Ginkgo biloba, Tsuga Canadian Douglas fir, cypress Arizona larch and others.


Valley Mills Park was established in 1950 and originally known as the “Central Park of Culture and Rest Leninist Komsomol”. The park is in a lovely location on the shores of Lake Mills Valley. In the park you can find many different species of trees such as chestnuts, acacia and maple among others.  The lake has carps and ducks swim upon the water. The park has a summer theater, children’s town “Andries” beach and station boats.


Cascade scale of the park has 218 steps and is longer than the famous scale of Potemkin in Odessa which has 200.


The Chisinau Water Tower is an architectural monument. It was built at the end of the 19th century and was a main part of the city’s water system.


Chisinau Zoo among the animals here you can see the Przewalski horse, Banteng tiger, Turkmen kulan, European beaver and others. There are also many different species of birds such as the step eagle, black vulture and mandarin duck.


A large pond surrounded by greenery has become home to a variety of waterfowl such as geese, ducks and mute swans. On the banks visitors delight to see long-legged storks and herons.


Feeding the animals is forbidden but under the supervision of zoo staff you can feed curious Bactrian camels and the Markhor.

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Posted by: Rasma R | February 2, 2017

Baku, Azerbaijan


Azerbaijan is a former Soviet republic. It’s bounded by the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains that span Asia and Europe. Baku the capital is the commercial hub of the country.


The Heydar Eliyev Cultural Center is an impressive example of 21st century architecture. It seems to have ever-changing angles from whichever way you photograph it.


The center hosts concerts and several exhibitions and has on permanent display a collection that features the gifts received by Azerbaijan’s presidents.


The Palace of the Shirvanshahs is a palace complex built with sandstone. It was the seat of northeastern Azerbaijan’s ruling dynasty during the Middle Ages. Dating from the 15th century it was restored in 2003. There are museum items to see here and an entertaining audio-visual display. Entry by the main ceremonial courtyard and a small gateway on the left leads into the courtyard of the 1428 Divanxane, an open-sided octagonal rotunda where Shirvanshah Khalilullah I held court.


Maiden’s Tower a 29m stone tower is Baku’s foremost historical icon, offering rooftop views that look over Baku Bay and the Old City. Much of the present structure seems to date from the 12th century. Qiz Qalasi is an Azeri name that is usually translated into English as Maiden’s Tower but a better translation would be Virgin Tower. The walls are 5m thick at the base and it has unique projecting buttress.


The Medieval Market Square located right in front of Maiden’s Tower has assorted archaeological diggings and is considered to be the site where Jesus’ disciple St. Bartholomew was martyred. The small, former market square areas are now used as an open-air exhibition for a selection of historic stones.


Bulvar offers visitors cafes, fountains and fairground rides. The seafront park is popular with families and you can listen to amateur musicians. Buildings along here include the International Mugam Center, the Baku Business center and the four-story Park Bulvar Mall. You can get to the promenade area through the underpass found in front of the old Puppet Theater.

Clock Pylon looks between an electricity pylon and an oil derrick. This is a digital clock that forms the central Bulvar landmark. It is surrounded by Bulvar Park with a trio of rare baobabs, to ancient olive trees and a lovely little cactus garden.


The Puppet Theater is a little theater dating from 1908. This is a neo-Classical building with twin, spired domes.


The Funfair is an amusement area that offer fun rides which are found throughout the tree-shaded gardens of the Bulvar.



Park Bulvar Mall opened in 2010. It is Baku’s first international-style shopping mall.


The Flame Towers were completed in 2012. This is a trio of blue-glass skyscrapers. The three towers range from 28 to 33 stories and are particularly impressive at night offering a light show that interchanges from a fire effect to pouring water to the national flag.


Sahidler Xiyabani is a most impressive feature of the park that stretches south from the Flame Towers. This is a row of grave-memorials of Bakuvian victims of the Red Army’s 1990 attack along with the early martyrs of the Karabakh conflict. There is also a memorial to Turkish WW I soldiers and to the British and Commonwealth troops killed fighting them. Beside the eternal flame you’ll find awesome panoramas across the bay, the city and back toward the Flame Towers.


Fountains Square is a popular place for strolling. This leafy piazza forms Central Baku’s natural focus. The fountains here are lovely including one that is topped by shiny silver spheres that give fish-eye reflections of the trees and stone facades.


Here you can see the lovely statue-inlayed facade of the Nizami Literature Museum and just outside of the McDonald’s is a bronze statue of a young lady with an umbrella, bare midriff and mobile phone.

Azerbaijan, Baku. Center of Baku City

The Nizami Museum of Azerbaijan Literature is housed in an impressive 20th century building. The facade has ogive arched niches that are set with statues of the nation’s literary greats.

The exhibitions let visitors take a look at the history of Azerbaijan through the prism of writers.


Nizami Statue is a fine statue of Azerbaijan’s 12th century poet Nizami Ganjavi. It stands in a prominent place in the stepped gardens that lead up from the museum, named in his honor.


The Yarat Contemporary Art Center offers many inspirational artworks. Don’t pass up the cafe which is set around a repurposed metal press taken from a former naval factory building.


The Baku Eye was officially opened in 2014. This 60m giant wheel offers an attractive light show after dark. It spins about slowly each ride taking almost 15 minutes including stops. There is also a video loop of the structure’s construction playing as well as views of the bay and city.


Q Gallery is one of the numerous free-to-enter commercial galleries in the Old City. It has a fine collection of 20th century Azerbaijani art.


The World’s Second-Tallest Flagmast has a giant flag flapping above the Bulvar’s southern tip atop of a 162m flagpole.


The Historical Museum has well-presented exhibits on the history and culture of Azerbaijan. Visitors admire the opulent 1895-1901 mansion of H.Z .Tagiyev, one of Baku’s greatest late-19th century oil barons. See the impressive neo-Moorish Oriental Hall and Tagiyev’s rebuilt Art Nouveau bedroom.


Tahir Salahov House Museum – Tahir Salahov is Azerbaijan’s greatest living painter. The Baku house where he lived has a good collection of his later artworks. There are some wonderful Stalin-era carpets and a fascinating range of photos showing the artist meeting everyone from Brezhniev to Michael Jackson.


The State Art Museum offers Baku’s foremost collection of classical art. The museum is housed in a two century-old oil-boom mansions.


Bibi-Heybet Mosque is a 1998 neo-Ottoman-style mosque. It replaces the original 13th century mosque demolished by the Soviets. The interior is quite impressive and the rear terrace give views across an oil-rig port.


Archangel Michael Russian Church is the center of Baku’s Orthodox community. Visitors are welcome to admire the icons and the colorful ceiling murals.


Juma Mosque standing in its present decorative carvings, this “Friday” mosque dates back to 1899. It’s an active mosque which as lovely patterned interior vaults around a central dome and chandelier.



The Supreme Court is an elegant new stone building with a colonnaded pseudo-Greek facade.


Bahram Gur Statue stands in a fountain pool in front of the lower Funicular station. This statue is from 1958 and depicts a mythical Azerbaijani hero using a giant scimitar to slay a snake-like water-spewing dragon.


Neriman Nerimanov Statue is a gigantic Soviet-era statue honoring Neriman Nerimanov, Azerbaijan’s first communist-era leader.


Vahid Gardens Through an arched gateway in the Old City you enter the pretty garden. It is dominated by the imaginative bust of poet Vahid, incorporating characters from his work into the lines of his hair.


Crystal Hall is a diamond-faceted sports and concert venue which sparkles in colors across the bay. In 2012 it had the honor of hosting the Eurovision Song Contest.


“Death Star Hotel” site once construction is complete this will be a spherical hotel building. Plans are to include a free-fall experience in the central atrium. Well worth a look once it is done. Sci-fi fans have dubbed it Death Star.


Crescent Moon Building with several gleaming towers still under construction at Crescent Bay opposite Port Baku. The architecture is spectacular and in the form of a gigantic upside-down crescent moon.


The Azeri TV Tower was built in 1996. It is a free-standing concrete telecommunications tower rising to a height of 310 meters. It has become one of the city’s most prominent landmarks. There is a rotating restaurant on the 62nd floor which opened in 2008.


Dom Soviet is a most striking Soviet-era building with a bulky stone construction with an impressive series of layered stone arches and topped by a series of mini obelisks. The best view of it is across a set of fountains from the Bulvar when lit up in the evening.


Sixov Beach is the nearest beach to central Baku. It is ideal for sunbathers and has a romantic backdrop of giant offshore oil rigs.

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Posted by: Rasma R | January 27, 2017

Yerevan, Armenia


Former Soviet republic Armenia is a country located in the mountainous Caucasus region between Asia and Europe. The capital is Yerevan which offers grand Soviet-era architecture. There are many interesting squares with fountains and government buildings with columns.


The Cafesjian Center for the Arts is the city’s major cultural attraction and has made its home in a vast flight of stone steps known as the Cascade. There are two external garden galleries and five exhibition halls which can be accessed by an internal escalator. Here visitors can see artwork from the personal collection of Armenian-American philanthropist Gerard Cafesjian. 20th century and contemporary sculpture and furniture are displayed.


The garden galleries have recessed fountains, modern stone steles featuring carved crosses and contemporary sculptures.

On the ground floor you’ll find a large gift shop and an art library with a small children’s section.


The History Museum of Armenia offers visitors an extraordinary collection of Bronze Age artifacts. Many of the items on display here were excavated at the Necropolis of Lchashen near Lake Sevan in the 1950s. Other highlights include bronze sculptures, four-wheeled wooden chariots with metal decorations, carved stone fertility symbols and an impressive array of weapons and armor.


Visitors can also delight in medieval khachkars, 18th and 19th century Armenian costumes, a 5,500-year-old leather shoe that was found in a cave in the Vayota Dzor region in 2008, carpets and embroidered amices (liturgical vestments). The exhibits has Armenian, Russian and English labels.


The Armenian Genocide Memorial & Museum commemorates the massacre of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1922. This two-story exhibition space was built into the side of the hill so that it would not detract attention from the monument above. The story is told through photographs, documents, newspaper reports and films.

Armenian Genocide Memorial, Tsitsernakaberd, Yerevan, Armenia, Caucasus, Asia

A broad pathway leads from the museum. It is flanked by a 100m-long wall engraved with the names of the massacred communities, leading to the memorial that was built in 1967. The memorial has a 40m-high spire next to a circle of 12 basalt slabs leaning over to guard the eternal flame. The 12 slabs represent the lost provinces of western Armenia, land lost to Turkey in a post-WW I peace deal between Ataturk and Lenin, while the spire has a fine split dividing it into larger and smaller needles, the smaller ones representing western Armenia.

On the grounds is a stand of trees that was planted by foreign leaders.


Blue Mosque on this site since 1765 and today is the only functioning mosque in the city. It is decorated with exterior tiles. The interior is tiled as well and it has a small minaret and a shady garden with fountains and lovely flower beds. Visitors must dress properly with no bare legs or shoulders and women must wear a headscarf when entering the prayer hall.


The Yerevan Brandy Company is a fortress-like distillery standing upon a hill overlooking the Hrazdan Gorge.


There are daily guided tours and tastings. There is a cellar full of barrels dating back to the 19th century.


The Modern Art Museum of Yerevan opened in 1972 and was the first specialized museum of contemporary and modern art in the Soviet Union. Many prominent local artists have donated their artwork and these form the core of the collection.


Some recent acquisitions include impressive artwork from the last decade. Highlights include paintings by Karen Petrosyan, Armen Gevorgyan and Laura Avetisyan.

Lots to Sell

G.U.M. Market is a covered market that offers fresh and dried fruits. In the summertime you can see peaches, cherries, apricots and berries. In the winter dried fruits and nuts like strings of syrup-coated walnuts known as sujukh. Other produce for sale are fresh vegetables, aromatic herbs, pungent basturma (finely cured ham and large blocks of cheese.


Matenadaran is a cathedral-like manuscript library. The base of the impressive collection are the illustrated and bound manuscripts that survived through the centuries. The building dates back to 1957. Visitors can see a statue of Mashtots teaching his alphabet to a disciple. There are six other statues of great scholars and writers standing by the door. The outdoor gallery has carved rock tombs and khachkars that were brought here from ancient sites around Armenia.


The library has over 23,000 manuscripts, fragments, documents and maps. The central hall focuses on the development of Armenian medieval sciences, literature and arts through the centuries. Other halls showcase Greek and Roman works, Iranian and Arabic manuscripts and singular items.


Zorovar Church dates back to 1694 and is a lovely church to see. It is one of the oldest churches in Yerevan.



Martiros Sarian Statue is a bronze sculpture created in 2008 by D. Yerevantsi, honoring the painter Martiros Sarian (1880 – 1972).


The Lover’s Park is a favorite place to relax for both locals and visitors. It is one of the oldest parks in Yerevan and in the 18th century it was called Kozern Garden, named after the suburb it is located in. In 1949 on the 150th anniversary of the birth of Russian poet Alexander Pushkin it was named in his honor. In 1970 it became Barekamutyun or Comradeship as a tribute to the friendship of all Soviet Union member nations.


The park got its present name in 1995 because it had become a park where young couples would come strolling. The park was finally renovated in 2008. Today it is a lovely green space with a design inspired by Japanese traditional landscaping.


The park has a small artificial lake with two islands. Near the lake is an amphitheater where you can watch movies during the summertime. There is also a cafe which is a nice place to eat and drink. All over the park are sculptures, mini-waterfalls and cozy corners. In the evening it is lit by decorative lighting.


Republic Square was originally named after Vladimir Lenin. This is the city’s main square and was renamed in 1990. The square was designed by architect Alexander Tamanyan.


The stone pattern in the very center of the square resembles an Armenian carpet and the greatest attractions are the musical fountains which operate between sunset and 10 PM in the summer.


Swan Lake is a most lovely place. From spring until late autumn swans reside in this artificial pond. In winter it becomes an ice skating rink. Since it is located near the Opera House it was called after Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet. This is a great place for evening walks.


Victory Park is located on Nork Hill. This is where every year Victory Day is celebrated on May 9. The park is also known as the Park “Akhtanak”. There is a central monument called “Mother Armenia” rising 43.5m in height. The monument is a symbol of defense of the country with a woman holding a sword in his hand and a shield is at her feet.

An eternal flame burns before the statue on a granite platform. Nearby is the grave of the “unknown soldier” and military equipment of different years is found close-by.

yer victory 2.jpg

In the park are a variety of attractions for children, some cafes and a small pond. There is a nice view of the city from here.


Freedom or Liberty Square is also known as Opera Square and was formerly Theater Square. It is part of the Yerevan Opera Theater complex and is bordered by four streets.


Statue of writer Hovhannes Tumanyan

In the square you’ll find statues of writer Hovhannes Tumanyan and composer Alexander Spendiaryan. This semi-circular square is known for its significant role in the modern history of Armenia.


Statue of composer Alexander Spendiaryan

Called the “symbol of democracy” in Armenia the square can hold up to 50,000 people.

Locals and visitors enjoy the botanic garden, zoo and Aqua Park in the northeastern part of Yerevan.


The Yervan Botanical Garden covers 90 hectares and was created on semi-desert foothills. There are over 1,070 species of plants which represent the flora of the Caucasus, Crimea, Europe, North America and East Asia. Among the highlights are a chestnut leaf oak. tulip trees, Polish larch, Manchurian nut-tree and a collection of orchids from all over the globe.

The rose garden has over 300 varieties of 14 kinds of roses. Such sorts as La France, Zonder, Meldung, Yvonne Rabie and the Princess de Bearn.

The Yerevan Botanic Garden also has a library at the Institute of Botany. Here you can find more than 28 thousand books that describe the flora of Armenia in detail and research done in Geobotony, biochemistry and more. The Seed Library has a fund of seed flora of Armenia.


The Yerevan Zoo was established over 60 years ago and represents a collection of animals from the Causacus region and all over the world. There are 2,300 different animals and birds. There are plans to rebuild the zoo. It also has animals included in the Red Book, which ensures the preservation of their species.



The Yerevan Aqua Park “Water World” is a great place to relax on hot summer days. It is located between the botanic garden and the zoo. There are many water attractions, swimming pools, cafes, restaurants and shops.

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Posted by: Rasma R | January 22, 2017

Tbilisi, Georgia



In our armchair travels we have arrived in Georgia, a county at the intersection of Europe and Asia. This is a former Soviet republic that is home to Caucasus Mountain villages and Black Sea beaches. We are visiting Tbilisi the capital of Georgia. This is an amazing capital with diverse architecture, impressive churches and Soviet Modernist structures.



Gabriadze Theater was founded in 1981 and became the first puppet theater in Georgia. This impressive building is decorated with a wonderful clock tower.


The Clock Tower looks like something out of a fairy tale and was built by puppet master Rezo Gabriadze.


On the hour an angel pops out of a door near the top and strikes the bell outside with a hammer.


Old Tbilisi is a wonderful place to explore. You’ll discover that the main sites of the city are located here. This area is also known for its sulfur bathhouses that are fed by natural hot springs. Close-by is Shardeni Street where there are many modern, popular restaurants, open-air cafe-bars, trendy nightclubs and art galleries.


Anchiskhati Balilica is the city’s oldest surviving church. It was built by King Gorgasali’s son Dachi in the 6th century.


This is a three-nave basilica with weathered frescoes and walls built of big stone blocks.


Erekle II Street is lined with cafes and galleries.


The street gives access to the Peace Bridge which is an impressive glass-and-steel footbridge, stretching over the Mtkvari. It was designed by Italian Michele De Lucchi and opened in 2010.


A major highlight of The Museum of Georgia is the Archaeological Treasury, displaying pre-Christian gold, silver and precious-stone work from burials in Georgia dating back to the 3rd millennium BC. On the top floor is the Museum of Soviet Occupation.


At one time Meidan was the site of Tbilisi’s main bazaar. Today this place is busy with traffic and lined on both sides with cafes adn restaurants.


It opens to the Metekhi Bridge over the Mtkvari with Narikala Fortress hovering over it.


Narikala Fortress dominates the Old Town skyline. This fortress dates back to the 4th century at which time it was a Persian citadel. The best way to reach it is by cable car from Rike Park or walking up from Meidan. The views over the city are spectacular.


Rike Park is located along the eastern riverbank with lovely flowers, winding paths, pools and fountains. The Peace Bridge joins it to the west side of the Mtkvari.


At the north end of the park you’ll find two large metallic tubes which are a concert hall and exhibition center. They were designed by Italy’s Massimiliano Fukass.


The National Botanic Gardens of Georgia was formally known as the Royal Gardens and became the Botanical Gardens in 1845. The gardens are located below Narikala Fortress with a river flowing through it, dividing the 128 hectares.


View of Narikala Fortress from the botanic gardens

Here you can see displays of 4,500 species of flora from Georgia and all around the world. These are wonderful gardens where you can walk for hours under trees and waterfall-dotted gardens.


On the way up to the gardens you’ll go by the only Mosque in Tbilisi dating from 1895. The interior has lovely frescoes and visitors can enter as long as they remove their shoes.


From Narikala Fortress you can take a wonderful scenic walk west along the Sololaki Ridge. The main landmark here is the statue of Mother Georgia a 20m-tall aluminum symbol of Tbilisi, holding a sword in one hand and a cup of wine in the other.


This is a classic metaphor for the Georgian character, warmly welcoming guests and with passion fighting off enemies.


Past the statue of Mother Georgia you’ll come to the ruins of the Shahtakhti Fortress. The fortress once housed an Arab observatory and then became the huge private residence of Bidzina Ivanishvili, who was Georgia’s richest man and Prime Minister.


The landmark Metekhi Church has a strategic place on a rocky outcrop above the Metekhi Bridge. Beside it is the equestrian statue of King Vakhtang Gorgasali.


This was the place where the king built his palace. In the 5th century was the first church here and the present church was built by King Demetre Tavdadebuli (the Self-Sacrificing) between 1278 and1289.


The highlight of the National Gallery is the hall of wonderful canvases by Georgia’s best known painter Pirosmani (Niko Pirosmanashvili, 1862 – 1918). He is well-known for his animal and feast scenes. There are also portraits and rural life canvases. Other artwork displayed are by top 20th century Georgian artists Lado Gudiashvili and David Kakabadze.


One of the most thrilling rides you’ll take in Tbilisi is by cable car. This was newly installed in 2012 and takes visitors from the south end of Rike Park, up high over the Mtkvari River and the Old Town right up to Narikala Fortress.


Another ride not to be missed is by Funicular up Mt. Mtatsminda. The views from the top are awesome and you can relax, eat and drink in the Funicular Complex restaurant.


Baratashvili Bridge is a traffic and pedestrian bridge that was built in 1966.


The railings of the bridge are decorated with bronze, life-size people figurines. It is particularly lovely at night.


Just a short walk south from Meidan you’ll see a collection of unusual brick domes rising up from the ground behind a small park. These are the city’s famed sulphur baths known as Abanotubani. Both French writer Alexander Dumas and Russian poet, playwright and novelist Alexander Pushkin bathed here. The domes are the roofs of the subterranean bathhouses.


Turtle Lake is a popular place to be during the summer and is located to the east of the Ethnographic Museum and above Vake Park. People enjoy picnicking and relaxing in the cafes overlooking the lake with wonderful views of the city.


Vake Park was opened in 1946 and is a popular meeting place. There is also the interesting Memorial of Glory. There are monumental stairs which lead uphill and from there you can get to the open-air museum in 30 minutes by foot.


The Open-Air Museum of Ethnography has a collection of traditional, wooden houses that have been collected from all around Georgia. They are spread over a wooded hillside that offers great views. In the lower section are interesting exhibits with buildings that have traditional furnishings, rugs, utensils and attendants will explain in English. While here a good idea is to have a Georgian lunch at Rachasubani.


Tibilisi Sea is officially known as Tbilisi Reservoir, an artificial lake opened in 1953. It is the largest lake near the city and a place both locals and visitors enjoy in the summer.


There is a free public beach here and for a fee you can enter the Tbilisi Sea Club where you can have a refreshing drink.


The Museum of Fine Arts displays a collection of icons, crosses and jewelry in precious metals and stones from all over Georgia and old Georgian churches. Here you can see the lovely little pectoral cross of Queen Tmar that is set with four emeralds, five rubies and six pearls and is the only known personal relic of the great 12th century monarch.


Mtatsminda Park is an amusement park atop of Mt. Mtatsminda. There are family and kid zones and a thrilling roller coaster. There are video games, carting for kids, water slides and other attractions. Both kids and adults enjoy a ride on the big Ferris Wheel that is perched on the edge of the hill for spectacular views over Tbilisi and to the Caucasus Mountains.


Tavisuplebis Moedani once Lenin Square is now Freedom Square. Here is a busy traffic hub. The highlight is the golden St. George spearing a dragon which was a gift to the city from Georgian-Russian painter, sculptor and architect Zurab Tsereteli.


St. George and Dragon Monument is a golden statue of Georgia’s patron saint, St. George. He is standing on a pedestal in the middle of heavy traffic spearing a dragon.


Rustaveli Avenue begins at Freedom Square in the center of the city. Here you can see many government, cultural and business facilities. As you stroll down the avenue you can observe daily life in the city, take a look in the shops which sell both international and local brands and have a bite to eat.


Armenian Cathedral of St. George is a large cathedral just above the Meidan and was founded in 1251. The present building dates from the 18th century. The interior has colorful frescoes. King Erekle II’s famed Armenian court poet Sayar Nove was killed here during the Persian invasion of 1795 and his tomb is just outside the main door.


The most recognized bridge was named after the part of the river that dried Dry Bridge. It is about 160 years old and was built according to the project of the Italian Giovanni Scudieri. Today it is a popular place because of the flea market.


Dry Bridge is home to a well-known flea market where you can find art exhibitions and antique items for sale. You can find Soviet memorabilia, handmade jewelry and even personal keepsakes. It is open daily in good weather.


Agmashenebeli Avenue is one of the longest and most beautiful avenues in the city. Here you can stroll and see gorgeous historic buildings, painted entryways and distinctive architectural ornaments.



Tsminda Sameba Cathedral was consecrated om 2004 after a decade spent building. This is a massive and lavish expression of traditional Georgian architectural forms in concrete, brick, granite and marble. The cathedral rises 84m to the top of the gold covered cross above the gold covered central dome. Inside you can see richly decorated icons. The cathedral has five aisles.

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Posted by: Rasma R | January 18, 2017

Minsk, Belarus


Minsk is the capital of the landlocked country of Belarus in Eastern Europe. This is a most interesting city with Stalinist architecture, impressive fortifications and primeval forests.


The Church of Saints Simon and Helen is also known as the Red Church. This is a neo- Romanesque church that was designed by Polish architects Tomasz Pajzderski and Wladyslaw Czestochowa. The church was named and consecrated to the memory of the children, Szymon and Helena of prominent Belarusian civic activist Edward Woynittowicz. During Soviet occupation the church was used as a cinema called the Soviet Belarus. It became once again a Catholic church in 1990 and has become a center for the revived Belarusian Greek Catholic Church.


The Museum of the Great Patriotic War offers exhibits that detail the suffering and heroism of Belarus during the Nazi occupation. You’ll find English explanations here, atmospheric dioramas and real tanks, airplanes and artillery from WW II. English-language tours should be booked in advance.


The Belarusian State Art Museum is an excellent state museum that now includes a light-bathed extension out back, featuring local art from the 1940s to the 1970s. One of the highlights is Valentin Volkov’s socialist realist Minsk on July 3, 1944, depicting the Red Army arrival in the ruined city. You’ll also find an impressive collection of icons and some great realist depictions of late 19th century life in the Russian Empire.


The Church of St. Aleksandr Nevsky is a red-brick church built in 1898. It goes with a story that during WW II a bomb crashed through the roof and landed right in front of the altar but didn’t detonate. On the grounds of the church there is a cemetery.


KGB Headquarters an entire block of central pr Nezalezhnastsi is occupied by this yellow neo-Classical building with a temple-like Corinthian portal.


On the opposite side of the street stands a bust of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the predecessor of the KGB, the Cheka.


Town Hall

PI Svabody is a charming square right in the heart of the Old Town. Overlooking the square is the white medieval Ratusha or Town Hall.


Northeast of the square is the Baroque, twin-towered Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, built in 1642. This cathedral was once part of a Polish Bernardine convent. The former Bernardine Church stands next door and houses the city archives.


PI Nezalezhnastsi or Independence Square which is also known as pl. Lenina, is dominated by the Belarusian Government Building, standing behind the iconic Lenin Statue.

Sts. Simeon and Elena roman catholic churchHere you’ll also find the red-brick Catholic Church of Saints Simon & Elena, built in 1910. The church has a tall, gabled bell tower and impressive detailing. Beneath the square is the Stolitsa Shopping Center.


The National Library of Belarus is an unusual building that is shaped like a giant rhombicuboctahedron. A passport is needed to enter the main building. You’ll find a viewing platform  and a cafe on the 23rd floor. The view from the top is breathtaking.

The library has a media center with over 20,000 vinyl records. There are art galleries and a book museum that includes a few editions of the Bible printed in Belarusian by Francysk Skaryna in the early 16th century. You can arrange to have a tour of the library in English.


Trinity Hill is a lovely re-creation of the pre-war buildings of Minsk. It sits on a beautiful bend of the river just north of the center. Here you can find some little cafes, restaurants and shops. A walking bridge will take you to the Island of Courage & Sorrow.


The Island of Courage & Sorrow is a small island connected to the Old Town by a walking bridge. This is an Afghan war memorial known colloquially as the Island of Tears by locals. It was built as a tiny church with four entrances and is surrounded by towering gaunt statues of the sorrowful mothers and sisters of Belarusian solders, who perished in the war between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan.


Saints Peter & Paul Church is an attractive 17th century church that has been restored and is the city’s oldest church. It was built in 1612, looted by the Cossaks in 1707 and restored in 1871. The interior is well worth a look at.

Pr Nezalezhnastsi is the main thoroughfare in Minsk. It runs the length of the city starting with the Belarusian Government Building and Lenin Statue.


Walking northeast you’ll see the iconic Minsk Hotel and the KGB Headquarters.


Farther on you’ll come to the city’s main square known by its Russian name, Oktaybrskaya Ploshchad or October Square. In Belarusian it’s known as pl. Kastrychnitskaya.


Here are some impressive buildings the Palace of the Republic, a concert hall and on the square is the multi-columned Trade Unions Culture Palace.


You’ll see a dark-gray building known as Dom Oftiserov or Officer’s Building with a tank memorial in the front, devoted to the soldiers who freed Minsk from the Nazis on Tsentralny Square. Not too far is the highly guarded presidential residence.


As pr. Nezalezhnastsi crosses the Svislach River it passes by two of the city’s main parks – Park Yanki Kupaly opposite the circus and Hookah Central Children’s Park with rides, attractions and fast-food kiosks.


Just across the bridge is the Museum of the First Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party in a green, wooden house on the banks of the river.


Diagonally opposite the museum is the former residence of Lee Harvey Oswald.


Toward the northeast is pl. Peramohi marked by a giant Victory Obelisk and its eternal flame.


Gorky Park is located near the Belarusian State Circus on the bank of the Svislach River. During the warm weather you can find rides and attractions here including the Observation Wheel offering great views of the city.


Woman On a Bench

Mikhailovsky Garden is a public garden located near the Railway Station. It is famous for the artwork by Belarusian sculptor Vladimir Zhbanov which have become landmarks like Woman on a Bench, Girl Under an Umbrella and Man Lighting Up a Cigarette.

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Posted by: Rasma R | January 14, 2017

Moscow on the Moskva River


The capital of Russia, Moscow is located on the Moskva River. The historic core of this cosmopolitan capital is the Kremlin. The well-known Red Square is Russia’s symbolic center.

Russia, Rossiya , Moskovskaya Oblast', Moscow, Moskva, St Basil's Cathedral and Spassky Tower, Red Square

The Kremlin is the apex of Russian political power and was once the center of the Orthodox Church. This is the place from which Russia has been ruled by autocratic tsars, communist dictators and in the modern age – presidents.


The Kremlin sits prominently on Borovitsky Hill on the north bank of the Moskva River. It is surrounded by high walls 2.25 km long. Outside its east wall is the Red Square. Before you can enter the complex you most leave your bags at the left-luggage office, beneath the Kutafya Tower. You’ll find the main ticket office in the Alexandrovsky Garden.


The Gallery of European & American Art of the 19th & 20th Centuries is a branch of the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. This art gallery displays the collection of two well-known Moscow art patrons, Sergei Shchukin and Ivan Morozov. Among the art works you’ll fine paintings by Degas, Manet, Renoir and Pisarro. There is an entire room dedicated to the art work of Monet.


There are sculptures by Rodin including pieces from the Gates of Hell and the Monument to the Townspeople of Calais. There are also paintings by Miro, Kandinsky and Chagall and several by Van Gogh among them Red Vineyards and Prison Courtyard, painted in the last year of the artist’s life. An entire room dedicated to the work of Gauguin, representing his prime period.


Park Pobedy or Victory Park on Poklonnaya Hill is a huge memorial complex that commemorates the sacrifice and celebrates the triumph of WWII or The Great Patriotic War as it is known in Russia. It was opened on the 50th anniversary of the victory and includes many lovely fountains and monuments as well as a memorial church, synagogue and mosque.


The Moscow Planetarium incorporates all types of high-tech gadgetry, interactive exhibits and educational programs. The centerpiece is the Large Star Hall which is the largest in Europe with a 25m silver dome roof. The planetarium has two observatories, of which the larger one known as The Big Observatory includes Moscow’s largest telescope.

There is also an interactive exhibit known as the Lunarium, where visitors can do experiments and can be witness to the laws of nature in action.


The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts is Moscow’s premier foreign-art museum that has been divided up in more than three branches. It offers a wide selection of European art work including the masterpieces from ancient civilizations, Italian Renaissance and Dutch Golden Age. Art work is displayed by artists like Botticelli, Tiepolo and Veronese. The highlight is the Age of Dutch art with paintings by Rembrandt such as his Portrait of an Old Woman. The Ancient Civilizations exhibit includes a collection of Egyptian weaponry, jewelry, ritual items and tombstones. There are two mummies as well.


Cathedral of Christ the Saviour is a huge cathedral that was completed in 1997 in time for Moscow’s 850th birthday. The cathedral sits on the same site as another church that was built in the 19th century to commemorate Russia’s victory over Napoleon. The central altar is dedicated to the Nativity and the two side altars to Sts. Nicholas and Alexander Nevsky. In the main gallery frescoes depict scenes from the War of 1812.

The cathedral has been constructed on a wide base that contains the smaller Church of the Transfiguration. Here you can see the icon Christ Not Painted by Hand by Sorokin, miraculously saved from the original cathedral.


St. Basil’s Cathedral stands at the southern end of Red Square. It was built in a style that is unique to Russian architecture. There are nine main chapels. The tall, tent-roofed tower in the center is home to the Church of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God.

The four octagonal-towered chapels are the Church of Sts Cyprian & Justina, the Church of the Holy Trinity, the Church of the Icon of St. Nicholas the Miracle Worker and the Church of the Entry of the Lord and these have the four biggest domes. The four smaller chapels in between were consecrated in honor of an event or battle in the struggle against Kazan (the capital and largest city of the Republic of Tatarstan).


Lenin’s Mausoleum where the embalmed figure of Vladimir Ilych lies in state at the foot of the Kremlin Wall. Photography is not allowed and all visitors must be silent and respectful. Take the time to inspect the Kremlin Wall where other Communist leaders are buried among them Joseph Stalin and Leonid Brezhnev and many others.


The celebrated Red Square lies right outside of the Kremlin’s northeastern wall. This 400m by 140m cobblestone square is at the very heart of Moscow. On its southeastern side rises St. Basil’s Cathedral. It is interesting to note that in Russian this square is Krasnaya Ploshchad. Krasny now meaning red but in Old Russian meant beautiful. The square is often closed for celebrations.


The Armoury was founded under Vasily III to manufacture and store weapons, imperial arms and regalia for the royal court. It dates back to 1511. Later on the armoury also produced jewelry, icon frames and embroidery. There are lots of treasure to see and this remains one of the highlights when visiting the Kremlin.

The tour begins upstairs where the first two room display gold and silver objects from the 12th to the 17th centuries. You can see the renowned Easter eggs made by jeweler Faberge in room 2. Among these the most famous is the Grand Siberian Railway egg, with gold train, platinum locomotive and ruby headlamp that was created to commemorate the Moscow-Vladivostok line.

Other rooms display armor and weapons. Downstairs you can see coronation dresses of the 18th century. There is also the joint coronation throne of boy tsars Peter the Great and his half-brother Ivan V and the 800-diamond throne of Tsar Alexey, Peter’s father. Many other items to delight in like  the sleigh Elizabeth rode from St. Petersburg to Moscow for her coronation, pulled by 23 horses at a time – about 800 in all for the trip. A one-hour audio guide is available.


Built in 1967 the Ostankino TV Tower was the tallest free-standing structure in the world at that time. The observation deck stands at 337m from where visitors can get 360-degree views over the city. Tours take place on the hour and must be booked in advance.


The Ascension Church stands overlooking Moskva River. It was built between 1530 and 1532 for Grand Prince Vasily III. It was the first brick church with a tent-shaped roof and represents an important development in Russian architecture.


The Moscow Museum of Modern Art was the project of Zurab Tsereteli, a classical 18th century merchant and housed in his home. This is an impressive collection of 20th century paintings, sculptures and graphics by both Russian and foreign artists. The highlight is the avant-garde art collection with art work by Chagall, Kandinsky and Malevich.

There is also art work by “nonconformist” artists from the 1950s and 1960s. The gallery also hosts temporary exhibits. There is an interesting sculpture garden in the courtyard.


Hermitage Gardens is a small, charming garden where art, food and craft festivals and concerts are held weekly, especially during the summer. There are lovely lawns and benches to relax upon. You’ll find a large playground for children, a summer cinema and some food and craft kiosks.  This is the place to come and unwind from the everyday city life.


The Tolstoy Literary Museum is considered to be the oldest literary memorial museum in the world, founded in 1911. There is an excellent reference library and the museum contains exhibits of manuscripts, letters and art work which all focus on Leo Tolstoy, one of the greatest Russian writers. There are also family photos, personal correspondence and other items that all give an insight into the life of the author and his work. The museum also has the largest collection of portraits of the great Russian novelist and entire exhibits dedicated to his major novels like Anna Karenina and War and Peace.


The Pushkin Literary Museum is housed in a lovely empire-style mansion dating back to 1816. The museum is devoted to  the life and work of celebrated Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. Here you can look into the life of this poet with exhibits showing his personal effects, family portraits, reproductions of notes and handwritten poetry. One of the most interesting exhibits is “Pushkin & His Time”, putting the poet in a historical context, demonstrating the influence of the Napoleonic Wars, the Decembrists’ revolt and other historic events.


The Chekhov House Museum – Anton Chekhov, Russian playwright and short story writer wrote of his house on the Garden Ring, “the color of the house is liberal, ie. red”. The museum is housed in the house where he lived from 1886 to 1890. Today visitors can see the bedrooms, drawing room and study all intact. Several times a week in the late afternoons musical performances are given.

The walls are decorated with paintings that were given to Chekhov by the painter Levitan and art-nouveau architect Shekhtel. Both were frequent visitors. Photographs show the playwright with other literary greats like Leo Tolstoy and Maxim Gorky. One room is dedicated to Chekhov’s life at his country estate, Melikhovo. There are manuscripts and photos.


The Archangel Cathedral is located at the southeastern corner of Sobornaya ploshchad and for centuries was the place for the coronations, weddings and burials of tsars. It was built by Ivan Kalita in 1333 to commemorate the end of the great famine and was dedicated to Archangel Michael, the guardian of the Moscow princes. It was rebuilt by Italian architect Alevisio Novi between 1505 and 1508. It is in the Byzantine-Russian style and has five domes. The exterior also has many Venetian Renaissance features.


Beside the Ivan the Great Bell Tower stands the world’s biggest bell at 202-tonnes and has never been rung. On the sides are bas-reliefs of Empress Anna and Tsar Alexey. It sits on a pedestal.


The Moscow Zoo was renovated in 2014 in honor of its 150th anniversary. Today it is a large scientific, educational and conservation institution. It was founded by the All-Russian Emperor Society for Acclimation of Plants and Animals in the middle of the 19th century. The zoo was opened to the public in 1964 and consists of two areas – the old and the new connected by a footbridge.


The Moscow Zoo is divided into many sections:

Big Pond, Flamingo, Tropical Cats, the Cat String, Cheetahs, Spectacled Bears, The Giraffe House, White-tailed Gnus and Tapirs, Dogs and Relatives, Ungulates, Pinnipeds, Delphinarium, House of Birds, Cranes, Elephant House, Peccaries and Bush Pigs, Musk Oxen and Mountain Goats, Pony Ring, Rock of Birds of Prey, Animals of Russia, Nocturnal World, South America, Australia Fauna, Crossover Bridge, Pond of the New Territory, Coatis and Otters, Polar world, Mountain Ungulates, Pelicans and Cormorants, Fauna of Indonesia, Insecttopia, Deer, Przewalski Horses, Camels, The Animal Island, Exotarium, African Ungulates, Horses, Primates, The Reptile House and Children Zoo.

Guided tours are offered for all age groups including kindergarten children.

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Posted by: Rasma R | January 7, 2017

The Crimea Peninsula


Along with many other changes that occur in this world the Ukrainian territory of Crimea was annexed by the Russian Federation on March 18, 2014. Crimea is a diamond-shaped peninsula with a subtropical climate. If you choose to travel to lovely Crimea then you have to have a Russian visa. The mountains here are the heartland of Crimean Tartars. This is a wonderful place to explore with many things to delight the eye including ancient cave cities. You can go trekking and cycling and enjoy the beautiful nature all around.


Khan’s Palace is an impressive mosque that was erected in the 16th century under the direction of Persian, Ottoman and Italian architects. In the west wing is the dimly lit Divan Hall, once the seat of government. Through the hall you see the inner courtyard with two lovely fountains – the Golden Fountain from 1733 and the Fountain of Tears from 1764, which was made famous by Alexander Pushkin, a Russian poet, playwright and novelist. It’s tradition to place two roses on the fountain – a red one for love and a yellow one for chagrin. Pushkin was the first to do this. Across the yard you can see the Falcon Tower. Beside the mosque is the Khan’s Cemetery and on the grounds in the southeast corner the mausoleum of Dilara Bikez.


Chufut-Kale is a long, bluff plateau rising 200m, housing a honeycomb of caves and structures where people took refuge for centuries. The burial chambers and casemates with large open “windows” are fascinating to explore. There is a breathtaking view of the valley below.

You enter through the 14th century main South Gate and come upon many carved-out rooms and steps. There are two locked prayer houses in a walled courtyard. You can take a look at the Kariate cultural center and relax in the cafe there. You’ll see burial chambers along a grassy track that will take you to the locked East Gate from where you make your way back to the main gate.


Take the time to explore the Uspensky Monastery. This gold-domed church was built into the limestone rock of the surrounding hill most likely by Byzantine monks in the 8th or 9th century. You can see whitewashed monks’ cells, a “healing” fountain and tiled mosaics.


Taurida Central Museum is Crimea’s largest museum with three main sections. The first is a collection of golden artifacts that were produced by Hellenized Alano-Goths in the princedom of Feodoro, today Mangup-Kale. This can only be accessed with a guide. On the upper floor is a conventional history exhibit with signs in Russian. There is a separate large hall that offers an exhibition dedicated to the Romanovs and their last happy summers in Crimea.


Mikhaylovskaya Battery is a massive fortification that can be seen across the bay from central Sevastopol. This served as a hospital during the Crimean War. Recently it has been made into a museum dedicated to Sevastopol’s military history with an emphasis on the Crimean War. On display are original uniforms, weapons, photos and lots of different memorabilia. You can listen to old military marches and speeches by historic figures. There are tours available in English.

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Primorsky Boulevard is a pleasant boulevard to walk along and in the hot weather to find shade under the trees.


The boulevard begins at Grafskaya Pristan or Count’s Jetty – Sevastopol’s official gateway marked by a colonnaded arch. Here you can take a ride on a bay cruise.


In the square you can see the monument dedicated to Admiral Nakhimov, the man who led the city’s defense during the Crimean War.

Eagle Column

Walking along the seafront you can see the Eagle Column, set atop a rock in the sea from 1904. It commemorates Russian ships deliberately scuppered at the mouth of the harbor in 1854 so that enemy ships could not pass. The boulevard ends at Artbukhta or Artillery Quay where you can enjoy the city’s nightlife.



The Naval Museum has impressively huge nuclear-blast-proof doors. You can wander through some of the 600m former repair docks, mess rooms and empty arsenal on a one-hour guided tour. It is located in Sevastopol and is an underground submarine base. In 2007 when MTV was launched in the Ukraine this was where the party was held.


Built in 1522 Dzhuma-Dzhami Mosque is the landmark mosque attributed to Mimar Sinan, the same architect who built Istanbul’s famous Blue Mosque. Located in Yevpatoriya this was the main mosque during Ottoman rule.



Visitors enjoy exploring the ruins of Khersones, an ancient Greek city that was founded in 422 BC. It is located at the southwestern part of the Crimea peninsula where Volodymyr the Great was famously baptized into Christianity in 988AD, launching what would become the Russian Orthodox Church. Here the best preserved structure is the ancient theater.


You’ll also enjoy seeing the restored Vladimirsky Cathedral and an interesting museum which displays items excavated on the site. You can see the stone arch with the bell from a Crimean War cannon. It is lovely here in May when the red poppies bloom.


One of Yalta’s attractions is the Chekhov House-Museum. This was where Anton Chekhov wrote his classic play “The Cherry Orchard”. Being a tuberculosis sufferer the great Russian dramatist spent much of his last five years in Yalta. He designed the white dacha and garden himself. He entertained such famous guests here as Russian singer Feodor Chaliapin, composer Rachmaninoff and writers Maxim Gorky and Leo Tolstoy. There are nine rooms left as they were when Chekhov departed from Yalta for Germany in May 1904. There are explanation sheets available in several languages.


The Swallow’s Nest is a decorative castle located in Gaspra. It is the favorite object of Crimean postcards. The castle sits perched on the cheer cliff of Cape Ay-Todor, 10km west of Yalta. It has quite a dizzying affect when visitors realize that the castle actually overhangs the cliff. It was built in 1912 for German oil magnate Baron Steingel, as a present to his mistress. You can head on up the walkway or take the most spectacular approach by ferry. Today it is home to an Italian restaurant.


Massandra Palace is a hunting lodge in Yalta that was built to look-like a French chateau. It was completed by Tsar Alexander III in 1889 but is most famous for being Stalin’s summer dacha. Inside you can see antique furnishings and paintings. Outside on the grounds is lovely parkland with sphinxes with female heads guarding a pond with water lilies and an Art Nouveau power-station building.


Nikitsky Botanic Gardens in Yalta has a wind range of flora from all around the world. There are 3sq km of hillside, and seaside grounds. It was founded in 1812 and designed by British gardener Christian Stephen. Fondly named “Nikita”, the gardens have around 28,000 species including olive trees and roses, cacti, ancient yews and pistachios. You can relax at the cafe surrounded by all the beauty. This is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world. On the premises is also a scientific research institute, a center of production of exclusive saplings and seeds and a famous park complex of relict forests and man-made natural exhibitions.


Genovese Fortress in Sudak sits perched on a massive seaside cliff. It was built during the 14th and 15th centuries. Today ten original towers remain. These bear the grand-sounding names of Genovese nobles who ruled the city. Visitors can visit the sea-facing Consul’s Tower and 13th century temple. Originally the fortress was a mosque. Every summer it plays host to the medieval festival Genovese Helmet, held on set between mid-July and the end of August. Visitors can see actors dressed as knights in sword-play and storming the fortress on horseback. Stalls offer blacksmithing, crafts from the Middle Ages and AK-47 shooting.


Livadia Palace was the site of the 1945 Yalta Conference. In the White Hall you can see the most famous Yalta photograph of Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin. Originally this Italian Renaissance-style building was designed as a summer residence for Russian Tsar Nicholas II in 1911. He and his family spent four seasons here before being arrested by the Bolshevik troops in 1917 and executed in Yekaterinburg the following year. You can see photos and mementos of the Romanovs in their private apartments. There is a row of souvenir shops at the entrance.

MISHOR, CRIMEA, UKRAINE - MAY 12. People travel

In Miskhor, on the coastal road you’ll find some market stalls and a cable car that will take you up the cliff of Mt Ay-Petri. The ride up is spectacular and the views are fantastic of the coast and the sea. There are also some nice Tatar eateries.


Visitors enjoy viewing the Massandra Winery which was once the imperial court’s winery. The Russian-language tour takes you into the tsar’s wine cellars, containing more than a million dust-covered bottles including a 1775 Spanish Jerez de la Frontera that is supposedly the oldest preserved wine in the world. A shop sells wine bottles for collection at modest prices.


Voloshin’s House sits by the bay in Koktebel beneath the Kara-Dag Mountains. This is the home of Poet Maximilian Voloshin, who lived here even as the Civil War was raging in Crimea. Today it is a museum.


Ayvazovsky Gallery displays the paintings of Ivan Ayvazovsky who was the official painter of the Russian Navy. He was mesmerized by the sea and created thousands of paintings.


Gurzuf Park is a large coastal estate with a vast subtropical park and palatial buildings. You can take tours of the estate and the Pushkin in Crimea museum here. Pushkin the exiled Russian poet enjoyed trekking in the mountains.


Cape Fiolent at the southernmost tip of Sevastopol offers visitors great beauty and an 800-step descent from the cliff-top Georgievsky Monastery to the city’s most scenic beach – Yashmovy.

The Demerdzhi Mount, Ghost Valley tourism destinations

You’ll discover some amazing rock formations that have been created by wind erosion of sandstone under Mt Demerdzhi in the Valley of the Ghosts. There are strange pillars and lodging can be booked at the nearby village Luchistoye with impressive views of the coast. At the Dolina Privideny Lodge you can arrange to go trekking in the mountains.


432 steps will take you up Mithridates Hill in Kerch. The view from the summit is spectacular and you can see the ruins of the ancient city of Panticapaeum revealed by an archaeological dig.


Take the time to visit the candy-striped Church of St. John the Baptist, dating back to 717.

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Posted by: Rasma R | January 3, 2017

St. Petersburg on the Baltic Sea


St. Petersburg is a port city on the Baltic Sea in Russia. For two centuries it was the imperial capital, founded in 1703 by Peter the Great, who is the subject of the city’s iconic “Bronze Horseman” statue. The city is Russia’s cultural center and offer visitors many impressive castles and palaces to admire.


Guided tours of the Hermitage Storage Facility are available. This storage facility is made with golden yellow glass and decorated with shapes that were inspired by petroglyphs. The highlight here is the lovely wool and silk embroidered Turkish ceremonial tent which was once presented to Catherine the Great by the Sultan Selim III in 1793. Next to it you can see a most impressive diplomatic gift – a massive wood carving of the mythical Garuda bird, given to the city by Indonesia for its 300th anniversary. Other items on display are ancient Russian icons and frescoes and a collection of 3500 canvases by Russian artists and so much more.


Hermitage Vyborg is a small museum housed in an impressive building that was designed by Finnish architect Uno Ulberg in 1930. This museum hosts themed exhibitions that have been curated from Hermitage’s huge collection and change every six months. This building is shared by Vyborg’s art school which also has a gallery with changing exhibitions.


Vyborg Castle sits on an islet in Vyborg Bay. It was built by the Swedes in 1293. Most of the castle today consists of 16th century alterations. There are a couple of exhibition halls among them a small museum on local history.


The main attraction is the climb up the steps of whitewashed St. Olaf’s Tower for fantastic views of the city.


Yusupov Palace is a fantastic palace on the Moyka River. The last owner was eccentric Prince Felix Ysupov, who at one time was the richest man in Russia. This is the palace where Grigory Rasputin was murdered in 1916. It occurred in the basement and you can visit the place as part of a guided tour. This palace was built by Vallin de la Mothe in the 1770s. The interiors are grandly decorated and many halls are painted in different styles and decorated with gilded chandeliers, frescoes, tapestries and impressive furniture.

The visit of this incredible palace begins on the 2nd floor where you can see the ballroom or the White Column Room, banquet hall, Green Drawing Room and the Rococo private theater. The tour continues on the ground floor with the impressive Turkish Study, the Prince’s Study and the Moorish Drawing Room among other rooms. Tours are in Russian but along with the admission price is an audio tour in English.


Built in 1859 The Mariinsky Theater has played a pivotal role in Russian ballet. This theater remains as one of Russia’s most loved and respected cultural institutions. Visitors enjoy seeing the attractive green-and-white main building with one of the world’s greatest ballet and opera stages.


There is a brand-new second stage, the Mariinsky II, a state-of-the-art opera house.


The Alexander Nevsky Monastery was named for the patron saint of St. Petersburg and is the city’s most ancient and eminent monastery. In 1797 it became a lavra, the most senior grade of Russian Orthodox monasteries.


Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art is located on Vasilyevsky Island. This museum is divided into two parts and spreads over five floors. On the left-hand side is the permanent collection that includes about 2000 works of Russian art created between the 1950s and the present day. On the right-hand side are temporary exhibits and commercial galleries with artwork on display and for sale.


Dominating St. Petersburg’s skyline is the golden dome of St. Isaac’s Cathedral. The lavish interior is open as a museum. Services are still held here on major religious holidays. Visitors also enjoy climbing the 262 steps to the colonnade around the drum of the dome for awesome views.

The cathedral was designed in 1818 by French designer Auguste de Montferrand. It took until 1858 to complete. Over 100kg of gold leaf were used to cover the 21.8m-high dome.


Catherine Palace is the centerpiece of Tsarskoe Selo which is part of Pushkin Town. It was created between 1744 and 1796 in the Baroque style, designed by Rastrelli and named for the second wife of Peter the Great. Visitors can see the palace between noon and 2PM and 4 and 4.45PM. The rest of the time it is reserved for pre-booked tour groups.


Among the highlights here are the Great Hall, the Arabesque Hall, the White State Dining Room and many others. There is also the world-famous Amber Room.


Around the palace is the beautiful Catherine Park. The park stretches around the ornamental Great Pond and includes many interesting buildings, follies and pavilions.

There is the Cameron Gallery with rotating exhibitions.


In the summertime from the park you can take a ferry to the little island and visit the Chesme Colume. Beside the pond, the blue Baroque Grotto Pavilion offers temporary exhibitions in the summer. You can also see the Turkish Bath with its minaret-style tower, the Marble Bridge, the Chinese Pavilion and a Concert Hall, that holds concerts every Saturday at 5 PM.

The State Hermitage Museum is located in the magnificent Winter Palace and adjoining buildings. This includes an enormous collection with  more than three million items of which a fraction are on display in 360 rooms. It offers a comprehensive history of Western European art.

The State Hermitage consists of five linked buildings along riverside Dvortsovaya nab.

From west to east they are:


The Winter Palace in stunning mint-green with white and gold columns, windows, recesses and its roof is topped by rows of classical statues.


The Small Hermitage built as a retreat for Catherine the Great and now houses an art collection that was started by Peter the Great.


Old Hermitage at the river end of the Small Hermitage. 

New Hermitage was built for Nicholas II and holds a continually growing art collection.


The State Hermitage Theatre was built in the 1780s by classicist Giacomo Quarenghi. Concerts and ballets are performed here.


The Russian Museum has found its home in Mikhailovsky Palace and has the country’s biggest collection of Russian art. Behind the palace you’ll find a lovely garden.  Here you’ll find permanent and temporary exhibitions.


The Peter and Paul Fortress houses a cathedral where the Romanovs are buried. This once was a prison and the large defensive fortress in located on Zavachy Island. St. Petersburg started from this island and grew into the city it has become today. There are panoramic views from the top of the fortress walls and at the foot you’ll find a lovely, sandy riverside beach that is great for sunbathing.


Ioannovsky Bridge

Individual tickets are needed for each of the fortress’s attractions but a combination ticket can be bought for the Peter and Paul Cathedral and the Turbetskoy Bastion. The main entrance is across the Ioannovsky Bridge and there is also access by way of the Kronwerk Bridge.


Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood is an elaborate five-domed church with a classic Russian Orthodox exterior and an interior that is decorated with about 7000 sq.m. of mosaics. This church was once officially called the Church of the Resurrection of Christ. It incorporates elements of 18th century Russian architecture and took 24 years to build.


St. Petersburg’s first palace was the two-story Summer Palace which was built for Peter the Great from 1710 to 1714. It has little reliefs around the walls that depict Russian naval victories. Inside you can see early 18th century furnishings.



Strelka is among the oldest parts of Vasilyevsky Island. This eastern tip was where Peter the great wanted his new city’s administrative and intellectural center to be. The Strelka became the focus of the city’s maritime trade and is symbolized by the colonnaded Customs House now known as the Pushkin House.


The two Rostral Columns, are landmarks and are studded with ship’s prows and four seated sculptures that represent the four great rivers of Russia – the Neva, the Volga, the Dnieper and the Volkhov. These were once oil-fired navigation beacons in the 1800s and their gas torches get lit up on some holidays. The Strelka offers one of the best views in the city.


The Bell Tower of Vladimirskiy Cathedral is the city’s second tallest structure after the TV tower at 122.5m-high. At the base is a small exhibition about the renovation of the tower in 1997. From the top you can get a 360-degree panorama.

St. Petersburg, water way.

Water Avenue is a canal that is criss-crossed by bridges.


The culmination here is the impressive Grand Cascade, a symphony of over 140 fountains.

Samson statue

The central statue depicts Samson tearing open the jaws of a lion. This statue celebrates Peter the Great’s victory over the Swedes at Poltava.


Oranienbaum is both a museum and public park with lovely pathways, ornamental lakes and pavilions to enjoy.


Beyond the lovely lake is the Palace of Peter III that is also known as Peterstadt. It is a small palace with rich interiors. The entrance is through the Gate of Honor which is all that remains of a small-scale fortress.


Take the time to see Catherine’s Chinese Palace that has been fully restored and was designed by Antonio Rinaldi. It is Rococo on the inside and Baroque on the outside. There are painted ceilings and inlaid-wood floors and walls.


Park Monrepo is a most tranquil place to get away for a few hours. This park faces Zashchitnaya Bay. It is laid out in classical style with pavilions, curved bridges, arbors and sculptures.


Monplaisir is a lovely wood-paneled villa facing the sea. It was the favorite retreat of Peter the Great. This complex also includes the Catherine Building, built by Rastrelli between 1747 and 1755. At one time Catherine the Great lived here with her husband Peter III. the interior includes the bedroom and study of Alexander I, as well as the huge Yellow Hall.


Visit the beautiful Park Alexandria which was built for Tsar Nicholas I.


See the Gothic Chapel that was completed in 1834 as the private chapel of Nicholas I.


There is also the restored Farmer’s Palace built in 1831 as a pavilion in the park and designed to inspire pastoral fantasies of rural life for the royal family.


The Botanical Gardens are found on Apothecary Island and were once gardens of medicinal plants. They were founded by Peter the Great in 1714 who also named the island. It is a wonderful place to visit and stroll about.

The highlight here is the tsaritsa nochi (Selenicereus pteranthus), a flowering cactus that blossoms only one night a year usually in mid-June. On this particular night the gardens stay open until morning so visitor can see this miracle and sip some champagne.


The heart and soul of St. Petersburg is Nevsky Prospekt which runs right through the city center and links two of the city’s most important landmarks – the Admiralty and the Alexander Nevsky Monastery. There are many notable buildings lining the street. French author Alexander Dumas described this street as “la rue du tolerance” – “the street of tolerance”.


You’ll find many churches here among them the impressive Lutheran Church of St. Peter.


Starting from the mid-18th century there are also many luxurious Baroque palaces to see such as the Anchikov Palace.


Along the street run electric trams and at the beginning of the 20th century such Art Noveau masterpieces were built as the Singer Building now known as Dom Knigi.

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Posted by: Rasma R | December 29, 2016

Yekaterinburg, Russia


Yekaterinburg is the fourth-largest city in Russia and the administrative center of Sverdlovsk Oblast. It is located in the middle of the Eurasian continent, on the border of Europe and Asia. The city is alternatively romanised as Ekaterinburg.


The Church Upon the Blood is a huge Byzantine-style church, dominating the site where Tsar Nicholas II, his wife and children were murdered by Bolshevisks on the night of July 16, 1918. Nearby is the wooden chapel honoring the Imperial family’s great-aunt and faithful friend.


The lovely wooden Chapel of the Revered Martyr Gran Dutchess Yelizaveta Fyodorovna pays honor to the Imperial family’s great-aunt. She was a pious nun who after her relatives were murdered was thrown down a mineshaft, poisoned with gas and buried.


Rastorguev-Kharitonov is located across the road from the Church of Upon the Blood. This mansion dates from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. There is a lovely park behind it.


Vysotsky is a business center that offers panoramic views of the city. There is an open observation deck on the 52nd floor. The building rises up to a height of 186 meters and opens up for a view of impressive architecture, historical buildings, motorways and parks. Couples looking for some romance can reserve one of four comfortable cabins for a most romantic evening.


Visit the exclusive Vertikal Restaurant which opened in 2013. It is located on the 51st floor  of the Vyotsky business center. This restaurant offers European cuisine and fine wine. This is elegant dining with a wonderful view of the city’s skyline.


The highlight of the Museum of Fine Arts is the


elaborate Kasli Iron Pavilion, that won prizes in the 1900 Paris Expo. The museum offers visitors a good collection of icons, paintings and decorative art.


The oldest church in Yekaterinburg is the restored late 18th century Ascension Church. It is located by some parkland that is a great place to take a stroll.

ark-water-tower-iskotchery-sver The loveliest and most lively square in the city is Istorichesky Skver. People enjoy spending time at this landscaped park especially in the summertime.


Here you’ll also find the beautiful City Pond. This is the spot where Yekaterinburg began back in 1723.


The Monument to the Founders of Yekaterinburg stands on one side of this square and depicts the founders Vasily Tatishchev and George Wilhelm de Gennin. The Old Water Tower pictured above is one of the city’s oldest structures.


The Literary Quarter is located just north of skver Popova. Here you can enjoy viewing wooden houses, some of which are now museums about celebrated local writers like Dmitry Mamina-Sibiryak and Pavel Bazhov.

ark red line.jpg

Take the Red Line Walking Tour. This is a pedestrian tourist route in the historic center of Yekaterinburg. It is designated by a special red marking on the asphalt. The route stretches for six and a half kilometers and is circular so you return back to the place where you started out. Along the way are 35 interesting sites, marked by specific numbers. You’ll see monuments, merchant estates, interesting streets and squares. Red Line Tour is a national project that began in 2011.


The Cinema Theater Kolizey is housed in a building dating back to 1845 and became the first municipal theater. It was restored in 2002 and its grand opening became known as the Day of Russian Cinema. The Coliseum Theater has two cinemas both with 291 seats. The host different film festivals, including a cartoon festival for families. On the second floor you’ll find a free library. The walls are decorated with artwork by local artists and the cinema bar in the lobby offers great popcorn and refreshing drinks.


Victory Park is a forested park right in the center of Yekaterinburg. The park features little gazebos so people can gather together with friends. You can pick up the keys to your own private gazebo and you’ll be given rubbish bags and disposable white tablecloths. The park is clean and well-taken care of. There is an artificial pond in the middle of the park where for a fee you can do some fishing. The park has benches for relaxing and BBQ spots. During the summertime people can rent bikes, play mini golf or beach volley ball. In the winter people can rent skis.


The House of Kirillov once belonged to a self-taught blacksmith named Sergei Kirillov. It is located near Yekaterinburg in the small village of Kunara. It is like a fairy-tale house and for over 15 years Kirillov worked on his house. There are patterned paintings and traditional ornaments and the design is done using Orthodox symbols, flowers and stars of the Soviet Union. Today tourists from all over the world come to see this house.

Ekaterinburg State Opera and Ballet Theatre

The Yekaterinburg State Academical Opera and Ballet Theater is one of the main cultural attractions in the city and is one of the oldest opera houses in Russia. It is located on the main avenue, Lenin Avenue and its facade is lit up at night. It was built in the style of the classical theater found in Vienna and Odessa. The Opera Theater offers many well-known productions among them The Marriage of Figaro.


Yekaterinburg Zoo is a most pleasant place to visit. You can find friendly raccoons ready to shake your hand.


Visitors enjoy the polar bears like snow-white Umka who loves to play with water streams in the swimming pool and enjoys seeing visitors.


You can see wolves roaming about their space. Otters enjoy playing and resting at their pool. There is an elephant that enjoys humming to itself and dancing.

There are martens going about their day and squirrels running about while lynx lazily watch them from a distance.


You’ll see rare white tigers, hippopotamus and other animals. The hippopotamus usually get annoyed by birds flying about.

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Posted by: Rasma R | December 26, 2016

Arkhangelsk on the Dvina River


Now that we have finished our armchair travels in Japan it is so simple to hop over to any other country. I figured as long as we were still on this side of the world that we could take a look at Russia. I know there are people who might not think of visiting Russia but since these are armchair travels you can take a look at some of the cities and wonderful places that Russia has to offer and decide if you want to put this huge country on your travel list. After all Russia is the world’s largest nation, bordering European and Asian countries as well as the Pacific and Arctic Oceans so this country has lots to offer. So get comfortable and sit back and off we go.


Our first stop is Arkhangelsk which in English is also known as Archangel. It is a city and the administrative center of Arkhangelsk Oblast, in the north of European Russia. The city lies on both banks of the Northern Dvina River near its exit into the White Sea. There is a cosmopolitan charm to this city and has lovely parks and a waterfront promenade. It offers a lively jazz scene. Arkhangelsk is close to another area attraction the Solovetsky Islands.


EK Plotnikova House-Museum is a historical building that houses an impressive collection of Russian art from the 18th to the 20th centuries. Among the highlights here are wintry landscapes.


Regional Studies Museum here you can learn the history of the development of the harsh north including the settlement by dispossessed and exiled peasantry in the 1930s and the Gulag camps. The extensive nature section displays the taxidermied  wildlife of the land that was shaped by retreating ice.


The Northern Naval Museum offers wonderful nautical exhibits which are centered around the highlight – the prow of a ship – in the light-filled main hall. You can see whaling and fishing tools, maps of northern seas and models of icebreakers. Upstairs you can learn about the amazing rescue of the passengers of the naval ship Cheliuskinets, who lived for three weeks on ice when their ship was crushed.


Gostiny Dvor is a merchant’s yard that was the heart and soul of Arkhangelsk in the 17th and 18th centuries. An impressive, turreted brick trading center built between 1668 and 1684 stands like a huge fortress and has been restored. Today it has exhibition rooms displaying contemporary photography and landscape paintings by regional artists to literary displays which honor Tove Jansson, the creator of the Moomins.


The Fine Arts Museum is Arkhangelsk’s most compelling art gallery which has regularly changing exhibitions, ranging from modern reflections on Soviet propaganda to nude studies. There are also displays of impressive icons, bone carvings and decorative art displays.


The War Victory Monument 1941 – 1945 honors the fallen of the Great Patriotic War. It has statues of servicemen and is lit by an eternal flame.


Peter I Statue faces the Arkhangelsk port and is depicted on the front of a 500-ruble banknote, dated 1977. Peter the Great is shown in full length, leaning on a cane with his right hand and holding a spyglass in his left hand. The 5 meter high four-sided pedestal of the monument is made of grey granite block by masters of the Solovetsky Monastery. On the side of the base you can find an inscription “To Peter the Great” and four dates – 1911 – the year the competition was held for best base of the monument and 1693, 1694, 1702 – the years when Peter the Great visited Arkhangelsk.


Prospekt Chumbarova – Luchinskogo is the city’s charming pedestrian street, lined with some surviving traditional timber houses which are being restored. You can see some interesting statues that people passing by rub for good luck.


When the weather starts to turn toward summer residents emerge to stroll along the broad promenade known as Naberezhnaya Severnoy Dviny. During the season you can find beer and shashlyk tents here. Shashlyk is a dish of skewered and grilled meat cubes popular in Eastern and Central Europe, the Baltic region in Northern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Monument to the peasant riding on burbot in Arkhangelsk

The Arkhangelsk Man Sculpture was named after Stepan Pisakhov’s fairytale hero Senya Malina who is supposed to come from among Arkhangelsk men. The artist is Sergey Sukhin who designed this artwork. You can see a man with a wide-open coat, a hat with earflaps, felt boots and is riding a fish known as an eelpout.


There is also a sculpture devoted to Russian Wives – Patronesses of Family Hearth. You can see three figures – a woman, a child and a cat. The center of the arrangement is a “mistress-woman”. Such women were responsible for the household while men worked in the fields. The Russian woman doesn’t complain but instead maintains her dignity and always waits for her man. She holds a Gospel on her knees, spinning and praying for God’s help for her man to overcome all difficulties and come home safe and sound. A distaff and a spindle in her hands symbolize continuity of family traditions and the cat symbolizes skillful housekeeping.

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