Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sunday, December 8, 2013

One Less Lenin Statue

Ever since Ukrainian President Viktor Yankukovich's decision to not sign trade agreements with the European Union, most of Ukraine has been in a state of continual political protest. I say most of Ukraine because the city that Laura and I lived in, Kharkiv, has not had many protests at all and the famous Freedom Square [which I've written about many, many times] near where we lived has been blocked off so potential protesters can't get to it to hold their rallies. That's what happens when you are just 40 kilometers from the Russian border. [This blog has some photos of the barricades around Freedom Square.]

The largest rallies have been taking place in Kiev in Independence Square.  Whenever Laura and I would stay in Kiev we would try to find an apartment or hostel around the Square [which I also wrote about many, many times] so we would have been in the thick of it.  Here is an amazing video of the protest taken by someone who climbed up the huge Christmas tree that is in the Square [the embedded video sometimes does not work but you can always see it here]:

In a surprising turn, last night the Lenin statue in Kiev was destroyed by protesters.  The statue itself was the focus of one of m favorite winter photos from our year abroad.  To me it looks like Lenin is smuggling some snowballs or as one of my friends said, he might be holding a snow white kitten.  I'm glad I got to see it before it was gone for good.

Here a photo of the statue on the ground that may come to symbolize the protests in Kiev:

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Riga Apartment Singing

While we were living in Riga, Latvia we shared our apartment with an opera singer and in the afternoons we could sometimes hear her practicing.  Here's a sample of what we enjoy throughout the summer.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Iowa Cornfields and Windmills

Iowa Cornfields and Windmills
Recorded: September 20th, 2013

Here is a little video I made on our drive from Lawrence to Minneapolis back in September.  Much of this was recorded between Des Monies, IA and Albert Lea, MN.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Other Sights From The British Museum

Other Sights From The British Museum
Photographed: May 20th, 2013

Besides seeing some of the Acropolis at the British Museum here are a few of my favorite artifacts we saw during our visit.

In the Great Court of the Museum you can find some of the largest pieces on display.  Two of my favorites are these totem polls which were made by the Haida people who are native to Canada. As you would expect their age is a little bit of a mystery but they are thought to date back to the 1850s.

This view from the second floor give you a better idea of how huge these poles are and how impressive it is that they were somehow transported from the Pacific Northwest to London and are still in one piece.

My favorite single piece from the British Museum was an Easter Island statue called a moai. I did my best moai impression while a crowd was gathered around the statue.  

Another group of famous pieces that any former member of a high school chess club would appreciate are the Lewis Chessmen.  These were discovered on the Isle of Lewis in the northwest part of Scotland.

They are thought to have been made in Norway somewhere between 1150-1200 AD and they are made of walrus ivory.  From one tusk the artist could make about four full size pieces and two smaller pieces.  And after visiting the gift shop I was even able to take home a replica version of the knight piece.  

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Little Rough Trade

A Little Rough Trade
Photographed: May 18th, 2013

On the Saturday that we were in England, Laura and I braved Portobello Road which was made famous again most recently in Notting Hill.

The plan to go on a Saturday might not have been the best idea as it was incredibly busy but in the end the visit turned out well worth it for me.

Looking down one of the side streets I noticed a Rough Trade record store and it turned out it was THE Rough Trade record store.  

Rough Trade is a series of record stores stared in the 1970s that also became a record label and helped produce some of my favorite albums and groups. Here are a few Rough Trade artists that have forever shaped my love of British rock music.  

If there is one band I wish I could bring back and have them be a stable "going concern" it would be The Libertines.  This is my favorite song from their debut album and it talks about how we need to appreciate the times we have now because THESE are "The Good Old Days." It also has possibly my favorite lyric ever which is "if you've lost your faith in love and music/oh, the end won't be long."  

The Libertines -- "The Good Old Days"

Antony and the Johnsons -- "Fistful of Love"

A group that I started listening to on a lark, this song has become one of my all time favorite unrequited love songs...and that is the late Lou Reed speaking the lines at the beginning of the track.

The Smiths -- "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out"

Rough Trade is the label that brought the world The Smiths and that's pretty much all I need to say. My "favorite" Smiths song changes over time but "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" certainly is the song that I come back to most often.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Visiting Abbey Road

Crossing Abbey Road
Photographed: May 17th, 2013

If you find yourself in London just head down a few blocks from the Lord's Cricket Grounds...

...and you'll come to a particular intersection that seems much busier than it should normally be.

Where people walk across the street and strike odd poses...

...and stop suddenly in the middle of the street as traffic screams to a halt and the drivers lay on their horns.  

What inspired this behavior?  They are attempting to recreate The Beatles' iconic cover of the Abbey Road album.  The album was recorded at the Abbey Road Studios just down the street from this photograph and you can watch a camera feed pointed at the intersection on the studio's webpage.  

Although I wasn't sure at the time, it looks like I'm doing a pretty good Ringo during my time crossing the street..and I didn't think my life was in danger either.

Friday, November 8, 2013

An Update On Our Lock On the Love Bridge

Although I'm now home in America, I'm going to keep posting as if we recently had these adventures around Europe. I'll post the dates we actually visited these locations at the start of each posts in an attempt to keep things straight.

An Update On Our Lock On the Love Bridge 
Photographed: August 30th, 2013

Before we left Kharkiv in April we placed a padlock on the so-called "Love Bridge" with the hope to visit Kharkiv again in a few years and finding our lock still there.  Plans changed a little bit as Laura was able to do some more interviews around Ukraine at the end of the summer and so she made a return trip to the bridge to see how things were going.  

Our lock was still's the red one towards the middle of the photo.

It looks like the last four months have been a little rough on our poor lock.  It looks like they have painted the bridge and so our lock as a nice coat of gray paint on it and most of the printing I added to the lock has been covered or worn off.  We shall see what another few years will do to it.  

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Graffiti #19: Kharkiv Skyline

Although I'm now home in America, I'm going to keep posting as if we recently had these adventures around Europe. I'll post the dates we actually visited these locations at the start of each posts in an attempt to keep things straight.

Graffiti #19: Ukrainian Skyline
Photographed: April 14th, 2013

Behind Kharkiv's famous Mirror Stream fountain you'll find a little park with a beautiful mosaic communist war memorial. And if you walk behind that you'll find a back wall filled with many large graffiti pieces.

This first one looks to be a Ukrainian pysanky egg with a smiley face.

And who doesn't love a little triangle based art.

 Lastly there is this great piece that is a stencil of buildings around Kharkiv's Freedom Square.

My favorite part is the middle section which highlights the Derzhprom Building.  It was built in 1928 and became the tallest building in Europe at it's completion.  

And on one of our last days in Kharkiv Laura and I walked around our neighborhood taking photos and I took a couple photos of Derzprom which is still a pretty impressive building 85 years later. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Marvel With A Mango: Taking A Chance On Ukrainian Sushi

Although I'm now home in America, I'm going to keep posting as if we recently had these adventures around Europe. I'll post the dates we actually visited these locations at the start of each posts in an attempt to keep things straight.

Marvel With A Mango: Taking A Chance On Ukrainian Sushi
Photographed: April 14th, 2013

If you ever visit a major city in Ukraine you will undoubtedly see one of these restaurants...Kharkiv has several of these and Kiev has even more locations. The restaurant's name is Russian for "sushi" and the chain is one of many, many sushi restaurants that are trying to cash in on the latest culinary craze in Ukraine.  

The idea of eating sushi in Ukraine where health standards are few and far between seemed like a risk we might not want to take.  We had talked about taking the plunge many times but we only got around to it until our last week in the country.  

In the end, what were we thinking???  This was some of the most delicious sushi I've ever had.  I went with a spicy sesame roll...

...and here's a closer look.

Laura went with a simple California roll with crab inside and she really enjoyed it as well.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Treasures of the Kharkiv Art Museum

Although I'm now home in America, I'm going to keep posting as if we recently had these adventures around Europe. I'll post the dates we actually visited these locations at the start of each posts in an attempt to keep things straight.

The Treasures of the Kharkiv Art Museum
Photographed: April 14th, 2013

The last time I wrote about the Kharkiv Art Museum I featured the ladies guarding the museum and this time around we will take a look at some of the pieces in the museum.  This first photo is of the stained glass window that was at the top of the main set of the stairs to the second floor.

The museum's main claim to fame is a second version of Ilya Repin famous painting "Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Sultan Mehmed IV of the Ottoman Empire."  This was an additional version of the painting that Repin began but never completed and it was his hopes to create a more historically accurate version of the original [which you can see in the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg].

Here are a few paintings and sculptures that caught my eye during our visit.     

Ukrainian showers are still basically the same temperature today!

This last one shows the fields and rivers that would eventually be the city of Kharkiv.  

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Marvel With A Mango: Finally Eating At McFoxy!

Although I'm now home in America, I'm going to keep posting as if we recently had these adventures around Europe. I'll post the dates we actually visited these locations at the start of each posts in an attempt to keep things straight. 

Finally Eating At McFoxy!
Photographed: Februrary 12th, 2013

I wrote about the Ukrainian McDonald's ripoff restaurant McFoxy! back in February and before I left Ukraine we did actually get a chance to have lunch there. Here is our plate which doesn't look too different from what you would get at McDonald's...but then we tried it.

We ordered a sample of the menu hopes of sharing our new culinary discoveries.  We started off with a fish sandwich which didn't look too bad although those cheese slices aren't very melted.

Opening it we see that we are actually getting more pickles then fish but what can you do?  

And we also tried some chicken nugget type thing which was probably more mystery meat than chicken bits. 

I took a chance on a chicken sandwich which was looks better than it tastes.

And while we were dividing up our meals, we noticed the advertisement on the paper place mat under our food. That guy is clearly too happy to be eating that sandwich and he had certainly not taken a bit yet.

So I had to recreate the expression as best I could before I took a bite of my chicken sandwich.  

Here's a side-by-side, I think I got the expression right but need to position myself a little better.  

In the end without a doubt the best thing we had there were the french fries.  It's pretty hard to screw those up!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Purchased In Athens, Assembled in Lawrence

While in one of the museum gift shops in Greece I purchased this...for lack of a better word....paper doll set of the Greek God Poseidon. These can be found in pretty much all of the key museum shops and they have sets for all the main deities.  I never got around to putting mine together and had sort of forgotten about it until I was unpacking our stuff from moving back down to Lawrence.

So let's unpack this!  Here is the God of the Sea in only two dimensions. 

The square head of the Poseidon. There were no instructions included but it was nearly idiot proof. 

Thank goodness I waited to put this together because I can only imagine the headaches it would have given me in getting it back to America.  I would probably have just found a good home for it in Latvia!