Kiev Kiev, what a beautiful city!

April 22, 2009

Kiev – Capital of Ukraine, land of the Orange Revolution, land where Ukrainians and Russians still dont see eye to eye and where debates on whether gogol is a russian or ukrainian author still goes on

and ukraine has been headline news for quite some time, due to its close to bankrupt economy and its political chaos between Yuschenko, Yanyukovich and my darling Tymoshenko

so i expected to find Ukraine in a mess, and judging from the treatment i got from the consulate, i imagined Ukraine to be not so nice..

but im glad im mistaken because its such a nice, beautiful place with interesting architecture! more importantly, its already Spring in Ukraine, hovering 16 – 17 degrees, seeing greenery everywhere in the city and flowers booming. its like botanical gardens and orchard road combined together. Mesmirizing.

so enjoy the photos!

Ukraine from up and above! see the sunlight??

Ukraine from up and above! see the sunlight??

St Sophia Cathedral. landmark of Kiev and Kievan Rus. Built in 1037

St Sophia Cathedral. landmark of Kiev and Kievan Rus. Built in 1037

St Sophia, different angle

St Sophia, different angle

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ukraine!

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ukraine!

Me and my Ukrainian teacher Helen! shes kinda my 1st russian tutor back in Singapore and its been really great meeting her in HER country! its been 2 years and shes still great as ever! thanks Helen for the Kiev city trip!

Me and my Ukrainian teacher Helen! shes kinda my 1st russian tutor back in Singapore and its been really great meeting her in HER country! its been 2 years and shes still great as ever! thanks Helen for the Kiev city trip!

Bulgarkov Museum. i think, so far, this has to be one of the coolest museums ever. small groups with a passionate guide, rooms with different colored lamps to give you the atmosphere of this amazing writer Bulgarkov, what can be better than that!

Bulgarkov Museum. i think, so far, this has to be one of the coolest museums ever. small groups with a passionate guide, rooms with different colored lamps to give you the atmosphere of this amazing writer Bulgarkov, what can be better than that!

Vladimir the Great Statue, overlooking the Dniper River. Seems like the Ukrainian version of the one in Brazil!

Vladimir the Great Statue, overlooking the Dniper River. Seems like the Ukrainian version of the one in Brazil!

and for my guy friends, this is the stadium for DYNAMO KIEV. a few days after i left they had a match between Dynamo Kiev and PSG if im not wrong...such a waste!

and for my guy friends, this is the stadium for DYNAMO KIEV. a few days after i left they had a match between Dynamo Kiev and PSG if im not wrong...such a waste!

and Lavra, the ancient site where many old old monastries and cathedrals are located. very serene place. but if u look closer, at the right side, there seems to be some status popping out...

and Lavra, the ancient site where many old old monastries and cathedrals are located. very serene place. but if u look closer, at the right side, there seems to be some weird statue popping out...

But why of course! its the Mother Motherland Statue built to commerate Ukraine’s war efforts in the Great War

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i loved the statue and the intense and strong gaze. however Helen and my Russian teacher in St Petersburg hated the statue, they felt it spoiled the serene and holy atmosphere in Lavra and they hope it will be removed soon.

i loved the statue and the intense and strong gaze. however Helen and my Russian teacher in St Petersburg hated the statue, they felt it spoiled the serene and holy atmosphere in Lavra and they hope it will be removed soon.

this tells you that you cannot never run away from the Soviet Legacy. it will always haunt you

this tells you that you cannot never run away from the Soviet Legacy. it will always haunt you

went to a small sleepy city called Kerch in Crimea after Kiev, hopefully i will have time to post it in the next post!

had a great time in Kiev, so please do come to Kiev! its much better than what you think!

Russian Parties!

April 5, 2009

3 of my friends had their birthdays on consecutive days so they decided to have a joint birthday party celebrating their 75 combined years of age!

Zakuvski. Russian appetizers! great with drinks and alcohol!

Zakuvski. Russian appetizers! great with drinks and alcohol!

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me and my russian friend who really looks like Vera in the russian movie Little Vera

me and my russian friend who really looks like Vera in the russian movie Little Vera

Shisha in the bathroom

Shisha in the bathroom

mini club in the house!

mini club in the house!

and the best way to end your day in Russia....to kiss Mr Putin! it will solve all your financial woes!

and the best way to end your day in Russia....to kiss Mr Putin! it will solve all your financial woes!

so while im having fun at this russian party in Russia, my russian tutor in singapore celebrated her 1 year anniversay of her website and company, russian.sg !

Our Malinki(small) Cooking Club

April 5, 2009

me and my classmates have been meeting up quite often to cook together!

last week: Indian Curry + Naan

Indian curry!

Indian curry!

and on friday, we made Borscht!

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Members of the cooking club! the only girl is from Germany and shes the head chef!

the only girl is from Germany and shes the head chef!

Medvedev wallpaper. cost 20 roubles, which is around SGD 1 dollar. will definitely buy one back!

Medvedev wallpaper. cost 20 roubles, which is around SGD 1 dollar. will definitely buy one back!

April’s Fool Day

April 5, 2009

time flies really fast and its already april! sad that i am going to leave this place really soon…

the weather in St Petersburg is getting pretty erratic, sometimes really hot (now the temperature is hovering around 6-7 degrees) and sometimes it can still get pretty cold!

Sunny day, Neva River

Sunny day, Neva River

and on April the 1st, two events happened simultaneously

first it was the 200 years anniversay celebration for famous Russian/ukrainian author Nikolai Gogol. A mini celebration was held at the Gogol statue near Nevsky Prospect

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this was pretty fresh for me. i didnt know what the hell it was but it sure was fun and novel!

this was pretty fresh for me. i didnt know what the hell it was but it sure was fun and novel!

So the Gogol celebration was great, but it fell short of this April Fool’s festivity…

so someone just had to…for the fun of it…blast the Lenin’s Statue in front of the Finland Station in St Petersburg

a hole in Lenin's Statue

a hole in Lenin's Statue

which has turned into this…

the Lenin Statue which is currently on MC

the Lenin Statue which is currently on MC

 for those who know their history, the Finland Station is very significant because that was the station where Lenin arrived back to Russia in the crucial periods after the Feb. Revolution 1917. He then formulated the famous April Theses and after that led the October Revolution which brought the Bolsheviks into power.

Little Chinatown in Pushkin

March 17, 2009

Went to Pushkin to take a look at the Tsarskoye Selo (Royal Village) on Saturday! Pushkin is this small little town in St Petersburg which was named after the famous Russian Poet, Alexander Pushkin.

and my, my, Pushkin was worlds apart from the St Petersburg that i know! really small, quiet little town, with really good natural sights and fantastic parks!

Lenin statue, with the House of the Soviets right at the back

Lenin statue, with the House of the Soviets right at the back

 

Pushkin!

Pushkin!

picture of the Tsarskoye Selo. This was where the Tsars used to reside at

picture of the Tsarskoye Selo. This was where the Tsars used to reside at

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some guy playing the flute outside of the Tsarskoye Selo. how romantic man!

some guy playing the flute outside of the Tsarskoye Selo. how romantic man!

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chinese theatre or something in the Catherine’s Park! interesting adaptation of chinese architecture. they look much rounder than the ones we see in sg i think.

 

i liked this one the best

i liked this one the best

its so interesting to see how the russians have tried to adopt and reinvent chinese architecture in Russia where the climate and surrounding conditions are so much different from that of China. Hopefully i can go to Helongjiang in China and do the opposite, to see how chinese have adopted or built russian architecture

and before the day ended, went to my friends place and we made Khachipuri! this georgian cheesebread thingy, FANTASTIC

1st attempt at Khachipuri! it tasted as good as it looks! but please dont ask me to make this when i come back, i just watched my friends do it and did my part by eating

1st attempt at Khachipuri! it tasted as good as it looks! but please dont ask me to make this when i come back, i just watched my friends do it and did my part by eating

Moscow Moscow!

March 15, 2009

okay more pictures of Moscow!

Mayakovsky Museum

Mayakovsky Museum

 

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Cathedrals inside the Kremlin

Cathedrals inside the Kremlin

Victory Hall at the Victory Park WWII Museum. my jaw literally dropped when i saw this sight

Victory Hall at the Victory Park WWII Museum. my jaw literally dropped when i saw this sight

Moscow State University. One of the Stalin's Seven Sisters buildings

Moscow State University. One of the Stalin's Seven Sisters buildings

 

View from the Sparrow's Hill. the dom thing at the center, i think, was the sports stadium which held the opening ceremony of the Moscow Olympics 1980

View from the Sparrow's Hill. the dom thing at the center, i think, was the sports stadium which held the opening ceremony of the Moscow Olympics 1980

okay thats Moscow for now i guess!

Moscow Never Sleeps

March 12, 2009

so before embarking on the moscow trip, i have talked to many of my classmates, both russian and international students, on the Moscow and almost all of them said that Moscow and St Petersburg are poles apart, extremely different. Of course everyone had their own opinions and preferences, and so my trip to Moscow was on one hand to uncover this russian enigma, and on the other hand, to see the Red Square, St Basils and  to meet my russian classmate(a singaporean whos doing an exchange in Lithuania) and tutor my russian tutor, whos a moscovite and lives in singapore) !

Moscow right outside of the railway station. the building further away, if im not wrong, is one of the 7 tall buildings built during Stalin's Era (i.e. called the 'Seven Sisters')

Moscow right outside of the railway station. the building further away, if im not wrong, is one of the 7 tall buildings built during Stalin's Era (i.e. called the 'Seven Sisters')

a car parked nearby the hostel which i stayed at. its interesting to watch the progress of the snow piling on top of the car as the day goes by

a car parked nearby the hostel which i stayed at. its interesting to watch the progress of the snow piling on top of the car as the day goes by

the night view of the city. and there, smacked right in the center of it all, is the statue of my Soviet poet, Mayakovsky. its so coincidental that in st petersburg, i stay next to Mayakovskaya street and my nearest metro is the Mayakovsky metro and even in moscow, the nearest metro is the mayakovsky metro station. and i also finally went to his museum! but thats for another post!

the night view of the city. Bright lights big city. and there, smacked right in the center of it all, is the statue of my Soviet poet, Mayakovsky. its so coincidental that in st petersburg, i stay next to Mayakovskaya street and my nearest metro is the Mayakovsky metro and even in moscow, the nearest metro is the mayakovsky metro station. and i also finally went to his museum! but thats for another post!

THE RED SQUARE AT LAST. the view was orgasmic. and it didnt help that i have dreamed of this moment for such a long, long, long time...

THE RED SQUARE AT LAST. the view was orgasmic. and it didnt help that i have dreamed of this moment for such a long, long, long time...

me and my russian class classmate. (she studied russian with me in singapore). for me and her, it was such a surreal experience. Under Katya(our tutor), we have studied Russian for quite some time and of course having the dream of being able to speak russian in russia. so to be here on the red sqaure, the kremlin, and with my classmate was just unbelievable. it was just so surreal. A Russian dream that finally came true...

me and my russian class classmate. (she studied russian with me in singapore). for me and her, it was such a surreal experience. Under Katya(our tutor), we have studied Russian for quite some time and of course having the dream of being able to speak russian in russia. so to be here on the red sqaure, the kremlin, and with my classmate was just unbelievable. it was just so surreal. A Russian dream that finally came true...

the view outside of the kremlin

the view outside of the kremlin

small kid playing with this huge pile of snow. fearless boy conquering General Winter!

small kid playing with this huge pile of snow. fearless boy conquering General Winter!

dinner at a Stolovaya, or i.e restaraunt/bistro ala Soviet Style. you have to queue up, like small kids, with trays and then take what ever you want from the salad/main course/soups/deserts counters. so me and my friends all ordered different stuff and we dined in our typical chinese communal style, share everything, and take whatever you want. thats pretty communist too!

dinner at a Stolovaya, or i.e restaraunt/bistro ala Soviet Style. you have to queue up, like small kids, with trays and then take what ever you want from the salad/main course/soups/deserts counters. so me and my friends all ordered different stuff and we dined in our typical chinese communal style, share everything, and take whatever you want. thats pretty communist too!

the red square at night. the building on the right is GUM, this super atas to the max shopping mall, right opp Lenin's tomb, and St Basil's right at the center

the red square at night. the building on the right is GUM, this super atas to the max shopping mall, right opp Lenin's tomb, and St Basil's right at the center

and did i mention that the Lenin’s Masoleum was closed?!!?!?!?!?! i was so disappointed!!!!! i have to make my way back to moscow to fulfill this objective! Long live Lenin!

Lenin and Brezhnev (i think..) imposters. but they dont even look like the people whom theyre trying to pretend to be! i dont have any idea as to who the guy on the left wants to be and hence given that hes fat, with military outfit and no moustauche, i kind of guessed its brezhnev. but im not so sure. disappointing imposters man!

Lenin and Brezhnev (i think..) imposters. but they dont even look like the people whom theyre trying to pretend to be! i dont have any idea as to who the guy on the left wants to be and hence given that hes fat, with military outfit and no moustauche, i kind of guessed its brezhnev. but im not so sure. disappointing imposters man!

 

managed to catch a glimpse of the change of guards parade! the marching's pretty cool and elegant

managed to catch a glimpse of the change of guards parade! the marching's pretty cool and elegant

The State Duma. all my efforts in studying russian politics have not gone to waste. I have finally seen the legislative body of Russia!

The State Duma. all my efforts in studying russian politics have not gone to waste. I have finally seen the legislative body of Russia!

okay, thats Moscow….for now

ive got work to do and i shall post the other stuff on some other posts, on installment basis.

as with regards to whether what ive heard was true or not, i would most definitely agree that Moscow and St Petersburg are poles apart. I would say that if i were young, single and daring, i would stay in Moscow because, like the famous Russian Pop Singer, Dima Bilan’s song “Moscow never sleeps”, it really doesnt. its a big city with many many people and its a fast paced bustling city. However i were to have a family, with kids etc, St Petersburg would most definitely be a better option.

and as for which is more russian than the other, i guess the comparisons of Moscow, St Petersburg and Murmansk have shown that there is no one single fixed Russia, but many Russias, all of which, forms the Russia. This is because one cannot forget about Russia before Peter the Great’s attempts at westernizing Russia and also not forget about the Soviet socialist experiements, all of which contribute to the collective identity of what constitutes as a Russian. Will post more pictures of the other sights in Moscow soon!

Circus Circus!

February 28, 2009
went to the st petersburg circus today! felt like a child again

initially i didnt clap and laugh, but closing to the end, i just couldnt help it but cheer along! it was really fun and interesting

i kinda wanted to compare it with the russian circus back in Hanoi and this one was beyond comparable. even though the hanoi one was fantastic and super worth every penny, the st petersburg one was so much better. there was quite a huge and active crowd, the performers are smiling always and enthused.(the vietnamese performers did fantastic stunts, but even though they were always smiling, u cant help but feel some sense of loss..in the sense that the crowd was so little and the setting was quite budget, so you kinda feel that behind their smiles, theyre kinda know that this circus cant last long, so in that sense, it was quite sad)

also, the russian have a better grasp of humor than the vietnamese and that clown acts were really very funny. it was surprisingly good even for an adult like me to get amused.

okay, less talk, more pictures

the circus. wasted that they dont have the circus tents. maybe moscow circus has!

the circus. wasted that they dont have the circus tents. maybe moscow circus has!

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peacocks, snakes, iguanas, crocodiles, and girlsthese

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seals/walruses are HUGE. i almost died when i saw them. HUGE and FAT.

after this, i feel so inspired to watch the famous Moscow Circus when im in Moscow and compare

yea, i feel so like a kid again, feels quite good actually!

Murmansk Again!

February 27, 2009

my friend took photos at Murmansk too

his pictures are nicer so i shall post his pictures here!

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me in my shapka! russian fur hat

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for those who didnt believe how cold it was..

for those who didnt believe how cold it was..

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Unbelievable, a picture of Singapore in the Museum of the Northern Fleet at Murmansk!!!! that is just crazy. its titled crew of the "Варяга" (which is a boat or ship i presume) in singapore, 17 July 1916. This is just so surreal to see something on Singapore! my professor said that im most probably the 1st Singaporean in Murmansk and im glad to find this singapore connection!

Unbelievable, a picture of Singapore in the Museum of the Northern Fleet at Murmansk!!!! that is just crazy. its titled crew of the "Варяга" (which is a boat or ship i presume) in singapore, 17 July 1916. This is just so surreal to see something on Singapore! my professor said that im most probably the 1st Singaporean in Murmansk and im glad to find this singapore connection!

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the sun setting at Murmansk. guess its a nice farewell shot!

Journey To The Other Russia: MURMANSK

February 25, 2009
The decision to go to Murmansk was pretty much spontaneous.

We were going to have a long weekend (Monday was Defenders’ Day) 

Eric randomly popped out the idea of going to Murmansk for the long weekend after class and asked who wanted to join him

the next day, 6 of us bought tickets to Murmansk, without having much clue as to what Murmansk was and what it had to offer, except that it was pretty far away (27 hrs train journey)

So where is Murmansk? Murmansk is located at the northern part of Russia, the largest city north of the Artic Circle. its located in the Kola Peninsula which is an area made up of tundra, forest, lakes, bogs and low mountains. During Nov to Jan, the sun hardly appears. the temperature in Murmansk is usually -20 to -30 (!)

Team Murmansk at the train station! 5 of them plus me!

Team Murmansk at the train station! 5 of them plus me!

Train station

Train station

our living quarters for the next 27 hrs. armed with food

our living quarters for the next 27 hrs. armed with food

We talked to some of the Russians in the train, and when they found out that we were going to Murmansk, they all gave us a unanimous action, they laughed their heads off. every single one of them! they just found the idea of tourists, going to Murmansk for a holiday, unbelievable! and this joke can entertain them for several hours…. it was unbeliavable

the view outside the train. it revolves around snow, trees, snow, trees, sometimes a lake, and more snow, and trees and sometimes a lake

the view outside the train. it revolves around snow, trees, snow, trees, sometimes a lake, and more snow, and more trees and ....

and...a NUCLEAR PLANT! woah, this was shocking. it turned out that there were heavy industries located in Murmansk, including nuclear energy, metal, iron industries etc, making Murmansk a rather well off state. (the average income in Murmansk is slightly more than the national average)

and...a NUCLEAR PLANT! woah, this was shocking. it turned out that there were heavy industries located in Murmansk, including nuclear energy, metal, iron industries etc, making Murmansk a rather well off state. (the average income in Murmansk is slightly more than the national average)

and after the 27 hr ordeal in the train, being bombarded by the repetitive images outside the train, squeezed in a small compartment, eating junk food all the way, and being laughed at by the same kind of jokes, we finally arrived …..

Behold, the sight of Murmansk!

a dead town. this was a Friday night. This was the sight right outside of the railway station. one of the largest hotels in Murmansk, Hotel Artika, closed down. on the streets, no one.

a dead town. this was a Friday night. This was the sight right outside of the railway station. one of the largest hotels in Murmansk, Hotel Artika, closed down. on the streets, no one.

Okay, so maybe now we understand why they were laughing at us..

The next morning, we trooped down to the sole attraction at Murmansk, Aloysha

people skiing

people skiing

Playground and Soviet styled apartment flats in the backdrop

Playground and Soviet styled apartment flats at the backdrop Soviet era apartments littered around the city

Bizzare Oceanrium. they have seal lion or sea seals performances 3 times a day. but who the hell watches that in winter, let alone in Murmansk?!

Oceanrium. they have seal lion or sea seals performances 3 times a day. this is totally bizzare

 and we finally catch a glimpse of Alyosha!

Team Murmansk trooping up the slope. the wind was really very strong. it was so cold. I could actually hear the wind howling. it was scary

Team Murmansk trooping up the slope. the wind was really very strong. it was so cold. I could actually hear the wind howling. it was scary

and finally, we met up with Alyosha! Alyosha is a 42m tall statue built to commerate the valiant soldiers during the WWII. this trip coincides with Defenders' day on Monday which is also known as Men's' day, or during USSR times, Red Army Day

and finally, we met up with Alyosha! Alyosha is a 42m tall statue built to commerate the valiant soldiers during the WWII. this trip coincides with Defenders' day on Monday which is also known as Men's' day, or during USSR times, Red Army Day

the sea view from Alyosha's feet. amazing

the sea view from Alyosha's feet. amazing

the rest of the time was spent visiting the museums, one of which, the Museum of the Northern fleet, was fantastic. they had stuff of the russian navy since the Tsarist times to the cold war era and even recent stuff on the russian navy! the aunties at the museum were also very cute, they took photos with us and gave us a free tour (even though we were supposed to pay for that) and were very delighted by our international background. they were also very bemused as to why we came to Murmansk. Attempted to try skiing and snowmobile on one of the days but it was just too cold and the area in which you can ski or snowmobile was just too small hence not justifying the cost.

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On our way back to St Petersburg, we had an interesting conversation which lasted more than 3 hours with a pastor and an ex-convict (jailed for 10 years). when we told this to our professor when we got back , (our professor whos an expert in the mafia and organized crime) he deduced that that guy most probably participated in some murder. all of us got a shock when we heard this!

My professor then elaborated that Murmansk used to be a ‘closed’ town in the sense that entry to Murmansk was very restricted, even for Russian nationals because it was a military base and that the peninsula was very strategic. Not to forget, Murmansk was home to home port to Atomflot, the world’s only fleet of nuclear-powered ice breakers!

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Although Murmansk might seem uneventful, less vibrant as compared to St Petersburg or Moscow, i guess this humble city provides an alternative view on our perception of Russia. it shows us a different side of Russia, a Russia which is less busy and urbane, reflecting a harsher side of Rusia, Russia in its raw form. Yet despite these conditions, the people in Murmansk were always ready to help us ( in the trolley bus when we asked for directions, the lady conductor actually led a bus disucssion with the commuters, to help us find out the way to the museum. Also, the ex-convict guy bought for all of us beer and even gave us a share of his pork sandwich!), that all of us were very grateful for.

 not to forget the great company I had, Team Murmansk!, it was a TBTL-like (team bonding team learning) session and made me know my classmates even better!

So i guess sometimes, decisions made spontaneously, can indeed lead to adventures with pleasant unexpected results!


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