UK travel adventure: Brighton.

In May I spent a wonderful weekend in the UK, mainly in London. However, I have been in England’s capital a few times before, and nostalgia lead me back to another beautiful place that I have visited before: Brighton.

Brighton is located on the south coast of England in East Sussex and has a population of around 285,000 people. It is very easy and fast to reach from London – only a short 1h train ride gets you there quite easily and also affordable if you book a bit in advance, or if you travel during off-peak hours. Actually, ‘Brighton’ is only a short version of the town’s full name: ‘Brighton and Hove’. Both Hove and Brighton joined into unitary authority back in 1997, hence the name. Around 8 million people visit the town in the south every year, and 6.5 mio of them are day trippers.

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The town is home to the oldest in continuous use cinema in Britain (Duke of York’s Picture House opened in 1910) and home to many actors, musicians and other figures of public interest such as Nick Cave, Paul McCartney, Cate Blanchett, or Noel Gallagher. It is also considered to be the second most haunted town after York. Back in 1974 Brighton was the place where Abba launched their career – with their victory in the Eurovision Song Contest with their song ‘Waterloo’. Good to know, right? ;) What I really liked this time about my visit was stumbling over a road where all the buildings were covered in street art – it fit perfectly to the street art tour that we did in London the day before.

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Apparently Brighton has the nickname ‘London by Sea’, it first became fashionable in the late 1700s when Kind George IV became a regular visitor. He was also the one responsible for the beautiful Indian and Oriental inspired Royal Pavilion which was built between 1787-1823 and screams of extravaganza (especially from the inside – at least what I have read).

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An absolute must in Brighton is walking through the Lanes. It is the city’s historic quarter, resembling a maze of twisting alleyways that offer a paradise for those who look for small independent shops, boutiques and antique shops. The collection of narrow lanes are great for strolling around aimlessly and having a look into whichever shop one finds interesting. Keep in mind though that most shops are only open til 6pm!

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Brighton has more restaurants than any other city in the UK, with a ratio of 1 restaurant to every 250 people, and one of the highest concentrations of vegetarian restaurants. We actually went into one of the most peculiar cafés that we could find: Choccywoccydoodah. Located in the South Lanes of Brighton (but also with a store in London!) this is a place where you ‘step into a world of decadent self indulgence’. They offer handmade chocolates, house style and bespoke cakes, lollies, and bars on the ground floor shop. Upstairs there is a cake garden, a Bar du Chocolate cafe, and various other peculiar rooms. There are no savoury options available, only a sweet menu. We spoilt ourselves with a peanut butter, banana, chocolate ice cream milkshake (big regret – way too much for us – we should have shared this one as well) and were wise enough to share a slice of chocolate cake. Very decadent indeed!

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Brighton used to have 3 piers. The Chain Pier only stood between 1823 – 1896 and was the first pier structure that was built in the town. The famous Palace Pier (also called Brighton Pier) – a pleasure pier with funfairs, restaurants and an arcade – opened in 1899 and is still going strong. On Brighton Pier there are apparently 60,000 light bulbs! Its former rival, the West Pier, opened in 1866 but was closed in 1975 and destroyed by storm damage and arson attacks. Now you can only see the iron structure of the burnt out wreck that is still a fascination to some visitors.

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the West Pier

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Brighton is still one of my favourite cities of the UK and I am always happy to go there and spend a few hours on the pebble beach. Walking through the Lanes makes me happy, and just the general feeling that I get in the city is a thing that I really like. So if you ever have a day to spare in London, or you want to explore another city in the UK that is easy to reach – go down to Brighton for a day!

What to do in winter: ice skating!

Do you remember the time when you first stood on ice skates? Mine was when I was very young. Growing up on the countryside with a lot of space around the house we had our own small ice skating rink. I assume it was thanks to my brother and my dad; and yes, rink is too fancy a word. We (they?) just poured some water on an empty spot next to the house. Not big and far from perfect – it even had a small gap because of a mortar joint or something like that where we had to be really careful not to fall. Even ‘owning’ our own skating ground did not mean I was any good at it, but I enjoyed it at that time. Still, in my teens I hardly ever went on the ice, only when our gym teacher made us go. And only once during my student time in Vienna did I manage to go on the beautiful Eistraum in front of the city hall.

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Christmas feeling in Moscow.

Christmas and especially the advent season has become my favourite time of the year. So I was really looking forward to experiencing this in Moscow.

Russians do not celebrate Christmas on the 24th or 25th of December but on January 6th and 7th. This is due to their Orthodox religion and the Julian calendar. Religious people start a fasting period 40 days before Christmas in which they don’t consume any animal products such as meat, eggs or dairy products.

Novy God (Новый Год) – New Year – is the New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day celebration, which represents the start of their Christmas celebrations. January 1st involves a lot of joyous entertainment, fireworks, large meals and other festivities. It combines secular traditions with the Christian Orthodox Christmastide customs. Russians usually take the week between New Year and Christmas off – which they call the Новогодние каникулы “New Year’s holidays”.

Grandfather Frost – Дед Мороз / Ded Moroz – is their version of Santa; he brings the presents to children on New Year’s morning. He is accompanied by Snegurochka (Снегурочка), who is his granddaughter and helper. As opposed to wearing robes in red, they wear blue and silver. As a result of the Russian Revolution, Christmas traditions were discouraged due to being ‘bourgeois and religious’. Even Ded Moroz was considered to be evil. Regardless of that, Ded Moroz took his form during the Soviet era and became the main symbol of the New Year’s holiday which replaced Christmas.

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Even though Christmas is celebrated later and not in December, Moscow started to look very Christmassy very early on. Especially the shopping centres were full of decorations. Everything was very pompous and full of Christmas knick-knack. The early fall of snow at the end of October was the icing on the cake. It made everything look like a winter wonderland and was perfect for the season. I am not used to having this much snow so early and for such a long time (we had snow almost throughout November and December).

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Red Square Christmas market during the day

The most beautiful and most christmassy place in Moscow was definitely the Red Square. In mid-November they started setting up the market and a small ice rink. The market offered the usual touristy stuff such as matryoshkas, but they also had food such as blinys and mulled wine there. Oh and they also had a few other attractions such as a merry-go-round. My sister and I insisted on going on one during the day, and together with Madlene I tried another one in the evening. Very exciting!

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Saying goodbye in the evening

As I wasn’t spending Christmas in Moscow my friends and I decided to go to the Red Square shortly before I left the country. Even though I had the flu we spent a few hours enjoying the beautiful lights and Christmas decorations.

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Bliny in the making

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In the north of Russia: Murmansk.

A few months ago I was thinking about which places I could go visit while staying in Russia. One of the first cities that came to my mind was Murmansk. I can’t even give a reason for that but I have always had the urge to go there. My travel partners from Nizhny Novgorod were (more or less) easily convinced and the flights to Murmansk from Moscow were relatively cheap as well. So Madlene, Marcel, Frederik & I spent an adventurous weekend in the city far up north without doing much research beforehand.

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The City Murmansk

Murmansk is located in the northwest part of Russia on the Kola Bay, which is an inlet of the Barents Sea on the northern shore of the Kola Peninsula. The city is located on an extreme-northern latitude just 2° north of the Arctic Circle. It is very close to Norway and Finland – it is possible to reach both countries within a short time. The city’s name is derived from ‘Murman Coast’, and Murman is an old Russian term for Norwegians. With a population of around 307,000 Murmansk is by far the biggest Arctic city (followed by Norilsk in Russia with 175,000 and Tromsø in Norway with 71,590).

Despite being located in such an extreme Northern part, the city/region enjoys some benefits that other northern cities for example in Siberia lack. The Murmansk region has highway and railway access to the rest of Europe, as well as the northernmost trolleybus system on Earth. Comparatively warm Gulf Stream waters keep the city’s port ice-free even in winter.

Murmansk was the last city that was founded in the Russian Empire in 1916. Due to the outbreak of WWI Russia was in need of military supplies so Russia extended the railway system in order to reach the ice-free location on the Murman coast. In WW II Murmansk served as a port for arctic convoys, and afterwards it became the most important submarine base of the Soviet Union.

The climate of the region is subarctic with long & cold winters, and short but mild summers. The mean monthly sunshine hours of November are 6 and in December 0. As we were travelling at the end of November, we had around 3 – 4 hours of daylight and temperatures around -10° C.

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sunrise or sunset?!


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at the airport


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Anatoly Bredov monument

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Bandy, a sport similar to ice hockey where a ball is used instead of the puck, is very popular in Murmansk. We came across the city’s home arena which apparently has an audience capacity of 5,000. Only three places have representation in the female Bandy league, and Murmansk is one of them.

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Bandy arena ‘Stadium Stroitel’

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Murmansk railway station

Port of Murmansk

It was a must for us to go see the docks as the port is the raison d’être of the city.

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Lenin Icebreaker

In the port of Murmansk is the Soviet nuclear-powered icebreaker Lenin (Ленин) which was launched in 1957. It was the world’s first nuclear-powered surface ship. After the decommission in 1989 the ship was converted into a museum.

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Alyosha and the view over the city

From the city centre we could see a huge monument on a hill a bit outside of the city centre. It is the second of the two main attractions of Murmansk so we had to go there and see it with our own eyes. Also, we thought that we might be able to have a great view over the city, which was true. Off we went with a taxi to go there as it would have taken us forever to go there by foot.

The Defenders of the Soviet Arctic during the Great Patriotic War is the official name of the monument, but it is commonly called Alyosha (‘Алёша’). The statue was erected in 1974, is 33.5 metres tall, which makes it the second tallest statue of Russia. Alyosha is dedicated to Soviet soldiers, sailors, and airmen of World War II.

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Hunting the Northern Lights

Murmansk is supposedly a prime spot for watching the Northern Lights. Not Murmansk directly, as a city is hardly ever the best place for spotting them, but the region around the city. Of course we had to try as well but unfortunately we picked the wrong weekend for doing so. Nevertheless, we were still able to see parts of the Murmansk area, we got to listen to very interesting stories about the city and Russia in general, plus we went on a hike at 4 in the morning in order to have a great view over the city. Who else can say that?! Oh, and we played around with Light Painting.

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The world’s…

… northernmost McDonalds in the world. 

On our first day we wanted to bridge the annoying time between lunch and dinner (we missed lunch as we were on the plane at that time) and decided to still our hunger with a quick snack. At that time we weren’t even aware of the fact that we were sitting and eating at the northernmost McDonalds in the world (even though they had a sign for that).

…northernmost trolleybus route in the world. 

According to several sources, Murmansk has the northernmost trolleybus route of the world. Frederik and I decided to stay in bed instead (and not get up earlier before going to the airport) so we did not travel with one of them, but Madlene and Marcel did. Good for them.

… tallest building above the Artic Circle.

The Hotel Arctic which is known as Azimut Hotel Murmansk is the tallest building above the Artic Circle. It was opened in 1984. We’ve been there every day as we had to ask a few questions at their reception, ate in the restaurant Arktika once, and cleaned our shoes with their shoeshine machine.

…first nuclear-powered surface ship

We couldn’t help ourselves but we just had to go inside the ship even though we had to wait for an hour to make the tour which was of course held in Russian.

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agree to disagree on that one…

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Murmansk is probably the most northern part of the world that I will ever travel to (even though I still kinda want to go to Svalbard). Seeing another interesting part of Russia that is so different from the parts that I have already seen was a great experience that I wouldn’t want to miss. We’ve spent some great 2-3 days there, we enjoyed meals in exclusive restaurants (we didn’t do that on purpose…) that were still cheap in comparison to our home countries. We were even lucky enough to see the sun on all three days. The weather was perfect during the day. Even during the night it was warmer than I’d expected it to be (still cold though!). The best thing about the city though is that it is full of beautiful huskies!! ❤️

First real Russian travel adventure: Nizhny Novgorod.

After finally getting my passport back from the international office I was able to travel within Russia. I seized the chance immediately and together with three friends we went to the nearest ‘megacity’ of Moscow: Ни́жний Но́вгород (Nizhny Novgorod).

Nizhny Novgorod is a 1.2 million city (5h biggest in Russia), located 400 km east of Moscow (around 3-4 hour train ride), in the Nizhny Novgorod Oblast of Russia. The city’s name used to be Gorky (Горький) from 1932 til 1990, as the writer Maxim Gorky was born there. The city is located where the Oka river empties into the Volga. The main center is the Kremlin, which is home to the main government agencies of the city and the Volga Federal District. The Kremlin has never been captured, and during the Time of Troubles (Polish invasion in Russia, early 17th century), Nizhny Novgorod ‘saved’ Moscow and Russia.

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We took a train and arrived on a Saturday afternoon. Exiting the train station we were already greeted by a totally different feeling than the one in Moscow. It was still busy on the streets, especially near the station, where there were shopping centres and such. However, one of the first buildings that we noticed was a skyscraper that looked a bit shady…

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Our river accommodation

Due to the spontaneity and the problems we had when trying to buy train tickets online (impossible to do that) we booked a place to stay very last minute without having a proper look at it. The deciding factors were that it should be close to the train station, have a good price, and fairly good reviews. Found one, booked it. Upon arrival we realised that we had booked a room on a houseboat. The hostel was on the river. In hindsight I should have comprehended solely by translating the name of the hostel into English. My ‘mistake’. It was a great experience nevertheless – it was super super cheap, the location was great, the rooms were clean, and we had a room to ourselves as there were hardly any other guests. The staff didn’t speak English to (but we managed) and it took them quite some time to have us checked in though.

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Pedestrian street

On our first day in the city we decided just to take a walk along the Rozhdestvenskaya Ulitsa, where many cafes, stores and clubs are located.

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Monument of Minin

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Monument of Chkalov, a famous Soviet pilot

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Panorama of the Volga & the Chkalov Stairs

For dinner we went to a place called Moloko (Milk) which is also located near the main pedestrian street. The interior is very stylish, with sofas and aged wooden panelling. Afterwards we went for beer that did not taste like beer in a beer brewery thing, and later to a British Pub.

Russian Breakfast

As none of us has already had a typical Russian breakfast yet, we wanted to try one in Nizhny. We read about a Russian place, Bezukhov, which was supposedly known for good breakfasts. It is a literary cafe with antique furnishing and a stucco ceiling. However, we were disappointed as they did not have Kasha (more or less porridge). Nevertheless, the scrambled eggs, Syrniki, and freshly pressed juices were still very delicious and nicely presented.

Exploring the city

After having breakfast we actually wanted to take a tram, namely the oldest Russian tram. However, we failed doing so as there was no start or end or station. Or at least we could not find any. So we just decided to walk along the road, which was also fine. It was another big ‘broadway’, the Bolshaya Pokrovskaya ulitsa, which is full of old merchant mansions, theatres and statues. Also, the building of the State Bank can be found there.

Of course there also had to be another ‘Памятник Минину и Пожарскому‘ – monument dedicated to Minin and Pozharsky. It is the same monument that is in front of the St. Basil’s church on the red square.

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A monument dedicated to the heroes of the Volga fleet

The Church of the Nativity of Our Lady can also be found on this street. The coloured onion domes resemble those of the St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow.

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We thought it would be nice to climb a steep 400-meter hill – the Fedorovsky Embankment. Even though the stairs were not safe and it was kind of slippery,  it was definitely worth it. From up there we had a breathtaking view of the city and the river.

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Another cool thing that we stumbled upon was a monument dedicated to Jules Verne, a writer that I happen to like. The bronze-painted plastic sculpture measures around 10 metres in height and was unveiled only in 2015.

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Успенская церковь – Dormition Church

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Kremlin

The kremlin (fortress) of Nizhny Novgorod was built between 1508 and 1515. The city used to be a guard city, where troops were gathered for the war against the Khanate of Kazan. After the fall of Kazan, the Kremlin in Nizhny Novgorod lost its (military) importance. Now, it is home to city and provincial authorities.

Along the Kremlin wall thirteen towers survived. The Tower of Demetrius is the main entrance to the fortress. The only church that survived the passing of time is the Michael the Archangel Cathedral located in the centre of the Kremlin. It is also the oldest building in the Kremlin, as it was erected in the 16th century. In the Archangel Cathedral there is the tomb of Kuzma Minin, who together with the Prince Pozharsky became a national hero after the Polish invasion the the 17th century. Nizhny Novgorod citizens who died in WW II are honored in a memorial site.

 

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A red deer is part of the city’s Coat of Arms

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Archangel Cathedral

Coffee Break

Some of our group were not well equipped for such a cold weather, so we had to take a coffee and cake break. And yes, it was me. As we were fairly close to the pedestrian streets, we just walked and decided for one of the coffee shops. However, as we were unsure how to enter it, a friendly Russian gave us the recommendation to go to another (better) coffee place, so we ended up going to Mishka (teddy bear). Good choice! We even found a photo booth next to it, so we couldn’t just walk past it, could we?

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Cable Car Adventures

Nizhny Novgorod has its own cable car that opened in 2012 which stretches over the Volga river for more than 3.5 kilometres, connecting Nizhny Novgorod with the small city Bor. Before arriving in the city I already knew that taking the cable car across the Volga river was on top of my agenda. The crew was quickly persuaded to do so. We took it already on our first day in the evening, but we also wanted to take a ride during daylight and further explore Bor on the other side of the river.

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Cable car selfie

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BOR

Бор has a population of around 78,000 people. It was founded in the 14th century. The most prominent local industries are shipbuilding and glass-making. Bor can be reached (from Nizhny Novgorod) via car over a bridge, ferry, or the cable car!!

Near the exit/entrance of the cable car station in Bor, there is a Площадь Победы – a victory square. It is in remembrance of the fallen soldiers from WWII, and depicts heroes of the Soviet Union.

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Train adventures

The train ride back was another adventurous part of our trip. The persons responsible for buying our train tickets (not me, hah!) bought the ‘wrong’ tickets by accident so we ended up taking a very long train (6+ hours) back home plus it was a sleeper. Very interesting experience, and not too bad after all :D

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The city trip to Nizhny Novgorod was a great experience (I guess for all of us?). This city is what you’d expect from Russia. Not the polished Saint Petersburg or grand Moscow. We finally experienced a true Russian city, at least that’s what we felt like.

 


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The second Kremlin of Moscow.

 

A ‘Kremlin’ is not only the Moscow Kremlin, but it is actually just the word for a major fortified central complex that is found in historic Russian cities (but also in some others such as Kiev). Within this citadel-like area there used to be important buildings such as the armoury, churches, and administration. Kremlins were mainly built on hills near rivers, and around the kremlin the ‘посад’ (posad) emerged – more or less a suburb for craftsmen. The first Russian kremlins were wooden, and due to fires, wars and destruction in general, none of them survived until today. Only some later kremlins that were built of stone survived the passing of time.

On a rather cold and windy Sunday afternoon a few friends and I decided to take the metro and pay a visit to the ‘second’ Kremlin of Moscow. We were actually lucky as during our stay there the sun came out and it turned out to be the perfect day for spending some time outside. It was still a bit cold, though. ;)

The (rather fake) Kremlin in Izmailovo

This ‘kremlin’ – Кремль в Измайлово – is a cultural complex that was actually founded and established in the early 2000s and is a place for entertainment and culture. So yes, it is not a real Kremlin (in my eyes), especially when you compare it to the (real) Moscow Kremlin. The mission of the cultural complex is to revive Russian family traditions. Open craft workshops are held there for both children and adults, several museums can be found within the complex (eg. Vodka museum?!, bread museum, chocolate museum, Russian toy museum). There is much space for celebrations, there are a few cozy coffee places, and there is even something like a wedding chapel there. Also on the grounds of the Kremlin the famous ‘Izamilovo Vernissage’ was formed – a market for art, antiques, books, traditional Russian crafts, and of course souvenirs.

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When you go there (by metro) you actually enter the vernissage first and reach the Kremlin later, but it is also possible to walk around and enter it via a bridge with a beautiful view at the complex.

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A church dedicated to St. Nicholas of Myra, the patron of crafts and trade, was erected in the center of the kremlin.

An interesting story – there was a fire at the Kremlin in Izmailovo in 2005, and both the kremlin and the adjacent ‘vernissage’ suffered enormous damage, but the fire more or less stopped before reaching the church, not daring to encroach the ‘sacred’ building.

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Izmailovo Vernissage 

This ‘Vernissage’ is a huge exhibition-fair of products and objects of art and craft that opened 25 years ago. It developed into a multi-purpose complex which purpose it is to maintain and develop Russian culture, crafts, and traditions.

Part of it resembles more like a flea market, whereas others are just dedicated to selling tourist stuff such as матрёшка (Matryoshka dolls). The vendors of the tourist section can ‘speak’ many common languages such as English, German or Spanish, and it is even possible to haggle over the prices. Some of the tourist things are really cheap in comparison to the ones that you find in the city centre.

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Entrance to the market (vernissage)

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Cold War chess set

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At one point of the market (between the tourist area and the flea maket) we found a staircase that we just climbed. We were pretty sure that we weren’t supposed to do this, but no one stopped us or said anything to us, so we could actually have a good view over the market and the surroundings of the area. In general I had the feeling that this area wasn’t the nicest one, and even though that the market/kremlin was more or less newly built, the surroundings were either still under construction, or just ignored.

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Some of the things they sell werde really strange – we saw so many license plates from ‘around the world’, and other random crap. But that’s just the charm of a good flea market!

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Even though the place screamed ‘tourist trap’ and the in my opinion the Kremlin in Izmailovo is not a real real Kremlin, it was still very very beautiful to look at. Especially walking through the (flea) market was super interesting. I would have bought a few interesting things if I didn’t have the problem of a suitcase weight limit…

 

A look into Lenin’s life.

One beautiful Saturday afternoon two friends and I decided to make the best out of the sunny and warm weather. Limited by the fact that we hadn’t gotten our passports back (which you need for travelling in Russia) we had to pick a place that was easy to reach (=no trains) and not too far away from Moscow. After doing some research we decided to visit Gorki Leninskiye.

Gorki Leninskiye is an ‘urban locality’ with around 3.5K inhabitants, which is located 10 kilometres south of Moscow city limits. The place is ‘famous’ for being Lenin’s home where he spent his last years.

After a rather adventurous bus trip which lead us into the seemingly nowhere – the bus stop wasn’t even a real stop but the driver just let us off on a rather busy road – we finally arrived at the estate and its beautiful park. We had to pay a small entrance fee (200 Rubles for students) because we also wanted to have a look at the museums there.

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Before Lenin’s takeover the estate of Gorki belonged to various Moscovite noblemen from the 18th century. A wealthy widow purchased it in 1909 and had the mansion remodeled in the Neoclassical style. She turned the estate into the grand building that it is now, added luxurious furniture and paintings. After the October Revolution the estate was nationalized by the Bolsheviks. After an assassination attempt  followed by a decline in health, Lenin was advised to find a place where he could rest. The estate was chosen due to its proximity to Moscow and and existing telephone in the house, so it was turned into Lenin’s dacha (a seasonal or year-round second home, very typical for Russia). The estate became his permanent home in 1923 until he died on January 21 in 1924. Straight after Lenin’s death people started to go on a pilgrimage to his estate, which lead to the decision to turn the estate into a museum in 1938 (which actually only opened in 1949). The estate was renamed into ‘Gorki Leninskiye‘ (previous Wyschnije Gorki). Additional museums such as the ‘Cabinet and apartment of Lenin in the Kremlin’ have been added since.

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Unfortunately we were only able to enter the museums by taking part in a guided tour which was held in Russian. My Russian is nowhere near as good as being able to understand a fast talking Russian lady telling stories about Lenin and the history of the estate so I only understood bits and pieces of it. However, my friend Monika is Bulgarian and she studied Russian for some time so she understood quite a bit and tried to translate the most important things that were talked about.

Before Lenin moved into the estate he gave orders not to change anything in there as he did not see his stay there as a permanent but only a temporary one.

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casual selfie…

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Lenin’s Rolls-Royce

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The second museum that we visited was the ‘Cabinet and the apartment Lenin in the Kremlin‘. This exhibition (this house more or less) used to be in Moscow but was transferred to Gorki Leninskiye in 1994. It shows almost the entire complex of buildings associated with the activity of Lenin – the office, an extensive library, conference room etc. The exhibition tries to recreate the atmosphere in which some of Russia’s major political figures have lived and worked.

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Stalin’s and Lenin’s seats

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Monument of the death of Lenin

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The estate and the surrounding park were beautiful, and the museums were really interesting to look at (especially when you’re interested in Russian history). Even though we did not really get all what the women were telling us about, we still enjoyed it there. The stroll in the autumnally park with the sunset was definitely worth the longish busride :)

Travelling through Austria: Klagenfurt.

My boyfriend’s grandparents live in Kärnten (Carinthia), one of Austria’s nine provinces, so it was the perfect opportunity for me/us to pay a visit to the capital of the region and have ‘locals’ with us who could tell us stories about basically everything. Kärnten is the southernmost province of Austria, and most famous for its mountains and lakes. The city has a population of around 99,100 and is the 6th largest city in Austria (= not very big). It was my first time in Klagenfurt. Technically not the first time though as I have been to the train station a couple of times now, but train stations don’t really count, do they?!

In order to get from my parent’s home to Klagenfurt, you need to take a train (or three to be precise). The most beautiful way to travel is to take the train that goes through the alps. Admittedly, a train takes forever and it stops at almost every station, but you also get to see the beautiful mountains and nature.

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Benedictine Market

After arriving in Klagenfurt we drove straight to the city centre. Our first stop was at the Benedictine Market, a place where you can buy local food twice a week. On Monday there’s no market, but as there are two small market halls where you can go shopping as well, we had a look at it and opted for delicious fresh-made juices at a fruit & veggie stand.

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Neuer Platz with Lindwurm fountain

The Neuer Platz is the place where you can find the city’s famous landmark – the Lindwurm – and the Maria Theresia Monument. I’ve always wanted to see the Lindwurm and I must say I was not disappointed at all.

The Lindworm statue was erected in 1593, the fountain was added to it in 1624, the statue of Hercules in 1636. A legend says that there used to live a lindworm – a wingless dragon – in the swamps of Carinthia in the early 13th century. In order to be able to use the land for villages etc, a duke offered whomever killed the worm a high prize. A bunch of menials put a bull with a barbed hook near the worm, who devoured the bull along with the hook. The worm was unable to flee, the menials could then kill the Lindworm and win the duke’s prize.

As there is some truth behind every saga, there actually existed a duke who erected a village (which is now Klagenfurt) in the 13th century, which used to be a moor landscape full of ‘dangerous’ creatures such as boars and wolves. They also found a huge skull who was believed to belong to a lindworm. In the 19th century however it was pointed out that the skull was of a woolly rhinoceros :D

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Pedestrian zone Kramergasse

Our next ‘station’ was Austrian’s first pedestrian zone (since 1961) and oldest street of Klagenfurt. A special shop on this street was the bookstore Heyn, home of two black cats that stroll around in the bookstore and look at you with big yellow eyes. So cute!

Wörthersee Mandl
The Wörthersee Mandl – a small fountain with a gnome – is located on the Kramergasse. It was created in 1962 by the artist and sculptor Heinz Goll.

The gnome and the fountain represent the saga of how the Wörthersee came into existence: There used to be a big, rich city where the Wörthersee is now. The wealth didn’t agree with the residents and they became careless and wanton. On one festive occasion there appeared a gnome who called for reflection, but the residents didn’t want to listen. The gnome returned with a small barrel, from which an endless stream of water started to flow, drowning the city with all its inhabitants. That’s how the Wörthersee came into existence.

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Alter Platz

The Alter Platz is surrounded by houses and city Palais, which were built in the 16th and 17th century, making it one of the oldest sections of downtown Klagenfurt. On the west side of the place is the oldest chronicled building of the city – the house ‘Zur Goldenen Gans’, built in 1489. The facade is not very spectacular, but a golden goose thrones above the entranceway.

In the centre of the square is the Column of Trinity, also known as Plague Column, which was erected as a plague column somewhere else in the city in 1689, after the victory over the Turks a half-moon and a cross were added and relocated to the Alter Platz.

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Kärntner Landhaus

The Kärntner Landhaus was built between 1574 and 1594, with a Renaissance facade, is home of the Heraldic Hall with 665 crests of Carinthian nobility, governors and administrators. It is also home of the Carinthian ‘Landtag’ (the seat of the State Assembly).

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Patios

Another beautiful aspect of the provincial capital Klagenfurt is that there are many lovely patios that are open to the public. You can walk through them, sometimes you find a cute little café in there, sometimes there are just trees, benches and birds to be found there.

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Wörthersee

Last but definitely not least – the Wörthersee (Lake Wörth). 17 kilometres long and 1.5 km wide, and apparently the warmest of the large Alpine lakes. The lake is situated within the Klagenfurt Basin, flanked by the Gurktal Alps and the Karawanks. Along the shoreline of the lake, there is everything that one desires – from many gourmet restaurants to traditional wine taverns. Due to this and the Mediterranean climate and the clean warm waters, thousands of tourists come here every year to enjoy the beautiful lake.

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The day in Klagenfurt was well spent – we saw many beautiful spots and enjoyed a delicious meal at a restaurant next to the Wörthersee. We also visited the Minimundus miniature land, but I will talk about it and other things that I did while staying in Carinthia in (a) future blog post(s). So stay tuned! ;)

Catching up: June Edition.

June was a month full of university related stuff due to final hand-ins and oral exams. It was also the month of my sister’s wedding and a week without proper Internet.

June in terms of: Travelling.

In my last blogpost I already wrote about that I had to take one final trip up north to Copenhagen due to my final exams. I couldn’t take a direct flight from Vienna so I had to travel to Munich via car-train-bus and then take a plane to CPH. So exhausting! Unfortunately, I had to do the same when travelling back – but this time instead of driving to my parent’s home I stayed on the train even longer to go to Vienna and visit my bf & friends. 14+ hours travelling was so exhausting… But at least I got to enjoy breakfast with Carina at Munich airport and we drove past Chiemsee in Germany.

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June in terms of: University.

Right at the beginning of the month my group members and I had to finish our last written paper (about Lego and Airbnb, in case you are wondering). Also, we had to prepare ourselves for the oral exams that were based on our written projects. Unfortunately, there was so much confusion until the very end regarding what would be asked and what not. However, both exams turned out to be okay-ish, the examiners were not too bad and we got good pieces of advice for our master thesis. A good end of the semester/year.

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June in terms of: Food.

At the beginning of June I attended a food festival in Vienna. The location was beautiful as it was in the courtyard the town hall of Vienna. I tried a burger from Die Burgermacher, a Burrito from Wrapstars and a famous portuguese Pastel de Nata from Nata Lisboa.

Another food highlight of June was that one time that I cooked vegan for half of my family. They got to enjoy a cucumber-apple soup and a burrito bowl, and they liked it (:

June was also the month where I got to try my own home-grown cress for the first time. I haven’t had cress in years and we kids used to eat it quite a lot when we were younger. So it was a little throwback to my childhood :D

My love for Pizza is not unknown, and due to all the free time on my hands I decided to make some from scratch myself (together with my bf). Delicious, of course ;)

Last but not least, I also need to mention the delicious Pad Thai that I had at Wagamama and the strawberry muffins at Shaneel’s, if you remember my last post.

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June in terms of: Life.

Definitely the most memorable life event of June was my Sister’s Wedding. After 10 years of dating and 1 year of being engaged, she got married to (I suppose :P) love of her life. I wish them all the best (:

This June was the first time ever that I swam in the Danube. Crazy, even though that I grew up so close by it, and it is pretty common in Vienna to take a refreshing swim in the river on a hot summer day. I just never got around to it and I have to admit that I’d rather stay inside in a cool house than broil in the hot sun. But taking a refreshing swim isn’t too bad, I have to admit… :D

At the end of June there’s always a (music) festival in Vienna that millions of people have been enjoying for quite some time now. As it’s at the end of June I have only been there once (or twice?) before as it was usually the week right before finals at uni. No time for fun, eh?! As my exams were over mid-June, I finally got to enjoy the Donauinselfest guilt-free, yay. Gudrun von Laxenburg was definitely my favourite act, Samy Deluxe and Frittenbude were pretty cool too. Also, I got to watch and more or less hear (terrible sound engineering) a few songs of Sean Paul. AND EVERYTHING FREE OF CHARGE.

June 2016 is also more or less equivalent to Euro2016. I am not a huge soccer fan but I like watching the ‘bigger’ games, especially with other people around. Naturally, I had to watch at least one game with the Austrian national team in a public viewing place. Sadly, ‘we’ lost and this was the end for our team for Euro2016. But I never expected them to be any good, so I am ‘officially’ rooting for Iceland and France now. Go either one of them!

The end of June did not mean well with me as everywhere I travelled to in Austria there was a problem with the wifi connection. What was there to do with all my free time when everybody around me in Vienna was studying and it was just too hot outside? And at home – when I needed the internet for scholarship/uni stuff and my blog? Stupid UPC and stupid thunderstorms that damage modems -.- Thankfully, this torment is over now and I am back online. :D

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June in terms of: Home.

After months of studying, travelling and more or less living in two countries (at least for the past two months), I finally (more or less) settled in Austria again (at least until the end of August). However, I’ve already made future travel plans, and big things are planned for the time after August, so there’s a lot going on at the moment. Still, it is good to recharge batteries at home. Enjoy the nature, enjoy the pets, enjoy the family. All the things that I never/hardly ever have in my beloved cities.

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This happens when you try to take a selfie with your dog…

Last time in Copenhagen for this year.

I took one last trip up north to Copenhagen. The last one for this year. I’ve got other big plans coming up which I haven’t told you about, so stay tuned ;) But here’s my last blogpost about the final week of my summer semester.

The reason why I had to be in CPH for another 6-7 days was that I had my two oral exams scheduled this and last week (Thursday and Monday). So last week, I took a car, a train, a bus and a flight to Copenhagen. It was a very exhausting trip but unfortunately the only cheap option available on such short notice (they handed out the dates for the exams two weeks prior…), where I wouldn’t spend hundreds of euros just on travelling .

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My friend Shaneel and her husband Fahad were so kind and offered to be my and Carina’s host during our stay, so we stayed with them for a few days before staying at an Airbnb for another few days. We had such a lovely time with them, even though we had to prepare ourselves for the exams. Shaneel even baked strawberry muffins (just for us)!!

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Strawberry-banana smoothie

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something healthy for a change… :D

But studying and eating wasn’t the only thing that we did while staying at their place. To Shaneel’s dismay, we (Carina, Fahad and I) also watched a few games of the European Championship.

But because we did not want to force too much soccer upon Shaneel, one evening we decided to watch a movie instead. It took us forever to choose one: no horror movies for me, no animation for Carina and no sad endings for Shaneel – which meant no Titanic :O :( Fahad was more or less fine with everything. So we went for The Fly. Scie-Fi / Horror / Romance / Thriller from 1986. It was so much fun and even though I never watch horror movies, I really ‘enjoyed’ it. It was so bizarre and fun to watch,  I’d even recommend it (with a winking eye of course).

I also went to Strøget one last time for one last shopping spree. I didn’t buy that much as I only went to a few shops that we don’t have here in Austria. I also bought a few gifts for friends & family.

Stroget

After moving into our Airbnb and even though we had a lot of readings on our schedule, Carina and I spent a whole afternoon and evening in front of the TV. The Airbnb had German TV and there was a baking show on, so why not watch baking stuff? Then there was ‘Shopping Queen’, and we couldn’t resist. haha. Afterwards there was the Austrian soccer match, so we couldn’t just turn off the TV and start studying, could we?! Especially when Ronaldo was missing every time and ‘our’ goalie was keeping everything (or just lucky…). Fun to watch indeed!

Sunday was full of reading and preparing, even though after the exam I thought to myself – why did I even care to read the articles that we were supposed to read?! haha :D

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After the exam Carina, Shaneel and I decided to have one final lunch/dinner together –  a post-exam ‘celebration’. We went to Wagamama. I’ve never been there before but I’ve heard so much about it and I’ve wanted to try it for a long time now, but I never got around to it. It’s a restaurant that offers oriental cuisine of noodle and vegetarian dishes. We ordered Gyoza as a ‘starter’ (turned out to be more like a side dish as the main dishes were served immediately after they brought the gyoza). I opted for my favourite thai dish – Pad Thai. It was really good but too much cilantro (I just put most bits to the side though). I also have to admit that I’ve had better gyoza and Pad Thai before, but still very good at Wagamama! One other special thing about this place is that you get FREE GREEN TEA. And not just any green tea, but served in a beautiful mug (which I really wanted to take home with me…) and it was so refreshing and delicious!

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On our final day Carina and I had to get up at around 4.30 and we even had to order a Uber to take us to the metro as there was no bus driving at that time. So, one Uber, one metro, one plane, one bus, one train and one metro later I finally arrived at my bf’s place in Vienna, after being on the road for 14+ hours. So exhausting. :(

All in all the exams went fine, I’m glad that they are over and that I passed all my exams of the year. I can’t believe that my first year of the master is already over. Time flew by so quickly, unbelievable!