Friday, July 26, 2013

Meeting Chili the Retriever

I'm back in America and enjoying all the things I missed while living abroad. Among them, going to summer picnics with brats on the grill, potato salad, family, and making some new friends:

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Balaklava, It's Not Just A Ski Mask Anymore

During our trip to the Crimea we stopped at the tiny little city of Balaklava which is located on the Black Sea.  During the Cold War the city was closed to foreigners because under this hillside in the port was located a Soviet nuclear submarine base.  

Today fisherman fish on the dock across from the entrance to the base.

Today the base is open to the public and it is definitely a place you should see if you ever get a chance to come to Ukraine.  We were the first visitors of the day as we didn't have too much time in the city and so as we walked along the hallways we were the only ones around.

When Anthony Bourdain visited Ukraine for No Reservations he also took time to visit the base commenting on how haunting it is to walk around it today.

As you walked along the hallway you would come across the odd torpedo now and again.

You could easily loose your way while walking around so they have these lights around the base to direct you where to go.

When it wasn't a torpedo on display they had many models of the submarines and ships that were a part of the Soviet navy.

I liked this anchor symbol on a tiny door that was padlocked shut.  I think the setting of a great horror movie could be located behind that door.

More torpedoes.

One of the more creepy hallways.  Again, no one else in sight.

Here's a great photo of what you would face if the base was ever locked down: doors that were several feet thick.

Towards the end of the tour we met on of the security guards who was very happy to give us a personal tour in English.  He was very proud of his English skills and was even more proud of the base's museums.

He showed us the command consoles that would have been used to launch a nuclear missle.

A radiation suit.

At the end of the tour you come out in the long entry way in which ships could enter and be fixed in the dry dock.  

Yet another creepy moment.  

After walking down that hall and around the corner we came back out into the sunlight and was greeted with the sight of a pile of old torpedoes.  Just another day in Ukraine!

As we continued down the road from the base we found the entrance to the naturally made port that only had one tiny entry point.

And it was obvious why this city was chosen to be the home of the secret base.

We also met a little friend who looks like he's had a long tough life in Balaklava.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Getting To Celebrate the 4th of July On U.S. Soil

On the weekend before the 4th of July, the U.S. Embassy offices in Riga held a celebration in which Americans and their family could come and take part in some events to celebrate Independence Day and enjoy some free American goodies.

They had pizza, deserts, salads, and even McDonald's there handing out complimentary cheeseburgers and chicken McNuggets.  Here's the line waiting for the McNuggets.  

They also had free hot dogs which had a distinctive European feel.  The bun was a baguette that had been hollowed out and the condiments were shot into the hole and then the hot dog was jammed in afterward.  It was an interesting attempt nonetheless.

They also had some vintage cars on display from the local American car club.  When the day's events were completed they had a little impromptu parade of the cars as they left.

We didn't get to shoot off any fireworks but it was nice to technically celebrate the holiday on U.S. soil.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Random Picture Collection: London Signs

Roughly every month I collect the photos that didn't quite get their own post and bring them together in a single post. Past collection can be found here.

Today's collection highlights some of the signs I came upon around London.  Some I doubt I will ever see anything similar again...or at least until my next visit to England.  

A Doctor Who parking sign?

Seeing Pieces Of The Parthenon Across Three Countries

While visiting The Parthenon and its companion, The Acropolis Museum, we saw many of the marble sculptures that once adorned the inside of the temple to Athena.  

But famously many of the sculptures that were in the best condition were taken from Greece by the Earl of Elgin and transported back to England.  The sculptures eventually made their way in the British Museum collection and are on display in London.  

The Acropolis Museum did not allow photographs to be taken of the exhibits so this was the first chance that I had to take some snaps of theses great works.

Not surprisingly the pieces that were taken from Athens were the most complete and in the best condition of the sculptures that were remaining.

You might be able to notice by the tiny numbering under the pieces there is a gap in the pieces between #53 and #67.  Those pieces can be found at the Acropolis Museum as well as in France [more on that in a minute.]

The Greek government has for years attempted to get all the taken pieces returned home to Ahtens and I can't help but feel the same way after seeing them in London.  

I'll have a more complete post on our visit to the the British Museum at a later date but it's clear that the very existence of the collection is based on an abusive mercantile system that plundered many of their "conquered lands."    

To complete our Parthenon sculptures odyssey our next step was France.  While visiting The Louvre we tracked down the single Parthenon marble that is on display there.  

The museum has posted an information sheet next to the sculpture explaining that their claim on the piece occurred after the British pieces were taken from Greece.  They also argue that their claim on the piece is more legitimate than the British Museum's claim.  Who really knows for sure?  My opinion is that they should all be returned to Greece.