Archive for the 'Cosmos Jewels of the Baltic Tour' Category

Cosmos: Prague Vienna Budapest – Hungarian Viagra

Friday, December 26th, 2014

Hungarian paprika, served often as a paprika cream to add to food as we might add ketchup, is considered Hungarian viagra. Why? Because after you eat it, it keeps you up all night. Since you can’t sleep, you have to do……something.

Sweden Bank – Cosmos Tour

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

Sweden has the oldest central bank in the world. It is twenty years older than the Bank of England. The bank building is located in Stockholm.

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Smart Shopping in St. Petersburg – Cosmos Tour

Friday, June 24th, 2011

In the 1760’s Catherine the Great opened the first and largest department store, Gostinyi Dvor, in St.Petersburg (A lady after my own heart). Nowadays the words Gostinyi Dvor are considered the historic Russian term for an indoor market or shopping center.

The block long store is on top of Gostiny Dvor (Saint Petersburg Metro), a station on the Nevsko-Vasileostrovskaya line (which went right to the Cosmos Tour hotel).

When Catherine the Great died, there were 15,000 dresses in her chambers. Do you think she bought them there?

Russian Nesting Dolls – Cosmos Tour

Friday, June 24th, 2011

Russian nesting dolls are called matryoshka dolls (North Americans have incorrectly adopted the word babushka, but that just means grandmother in Russian). In 1890, the first one to carve a set was Vasily Zvyozdochkin from a design by Sergey Malyutin, who was a folk crafts painter in Abramtsevo.

Matryoshka dolls are a set of wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside the other. The set separates, top from bottom, revealing a smaller figure painted the same way inside, which has, in turn, another figure inside of it, and so on. The number of nested figures is traditionally at least five, but with expert craftsmanship (they are constructed from one block of wood) can sometimes be up to several dozen.

A block of wood is cut in half and then a chunk of wood is carved out of the top and bottom pieces. The chunks are formed into an oval shape and matching pieces are put together and then painted. The smallest, innermost doll is typically a baby lathed from a single piece of wood. The figures inside may be of either gender but are mostly female.

Over the years, the dolls were painted in a traditional colorful style as a woman, dressed in a sarafan, a long and shapeless Russian peasant jumper dress. Nowadays they are painted with any kind of theme from Russian leaders to Walt Disney characters to an observant Jewish family.  The most common amount of nestings is five though his original one had eight.

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Stalin’s Death – Cosmos Tour

Friday, June 24th, 2011

By the age of 21, Iosif Dzhugashvili (Stalin) was a revolutionary and proved adept at raising funds through robbery, as well as smuggling guns and explosives. In 1902 he was arrested for the first time and later exiled, beginning a cycle of arrest, exile, escape, revolutionary activity and arrest again which would continue til the 1917 revolution. In 1913 he chose the name Stalin as it meant, ‘man of steel’, and became editor of party newspaper Pravda.

He was a very astute man within bureaucracy so by the late 1920’s he wound up a feared dictator of Russia. He started the process of collective ownership and also the process of not allowing people to speak their minds – they were sent to the Gulag if they did. Conservative estimates of population he had killed is from 10- 20 million people.

Stalin was so feared that when he suffered a stroke in 1953, everyone was afraid to go to him. As usual at night, he had given order not to be disturbed, so they didn’t go in fearing they would be “purged” if he recovered – or  – were accused of killing him. The best doctors who had been treating him were now in prison as he had purged them.

So Stalin was left rolling on the floor in his urine, partially paralyzed, breathing with difficulty and vomiting blood. He lay there for 5 days until he died on March 5th.

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Dinner in Tallinn – Cosmos Tour

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

The Cosmos dinner in Tallinn rates some stars as it was  scrumptious. It began with what we presumed was borscht (this being the Baltics after all) as it was red and seemed to have bits of cabbage floating, but it was more of a flavorful minestrone with a bit of a kick. There was a slab of crusty bread sitting in the middle with some soft cheese and olives on top.

The main course had slices of beef (with some beef gravy) and thinly sliced mixed vegetables sitting on a rich version of Lyonnaise potatoes.

Dessert was presented in a parfait glass which was filled with a good vanilla ice cream, raspberry sherbet, a dollop of caramel sauce and a tuile rising out of the top – simple, pretty and a perfect ending.

Estonian Beer – Cosmos Tour

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Saku BeerBrewing at  Saku Brewery was first documented in October 1820. It was owned by count Karl Friedrich Rehbinder who built a distillery and a brewery on his estate.  Saku still is among the  most popular beers  in Estonia. Beer was already known in present-day Estonia between 500 and 1000 A.D.

Renting Tallinn Bikes – Cosmos Tour

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

To rent a bike in Tallinn, Estonia after you have located a bike stand, you call a phone number, give them you credit card number, and then they give you a code to release that bike. When done, you call them again and they charge you for time used.

Recycling Cannons – Cosmos Tour

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Even way back when, when cannons were the preferred weapon of destruction, there came a time when they were no longer useful to fire. So in Riga, Latvia, the Baltic States, Finland, you will find cannons that were stood up on their edge to protect corners of buildings. When horse drawn carriages made their way down narrow streets, they often bumped into the corners of buildings and damaged them. This way the cannons took the hit and the buildings were saved.

First Newspaper In Estonia – Cosmos Tour

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Johann Voldemar Jannsen was an Estonian journalist and poet who wrote the words of the Estonian national anthem, Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm, (My Fatherland). In 1864, Jannsen also managed to persuade the Imperial censors to allow him to publish the first national Estonian language newspaper Postimees (The Courier) which is still published today in an online version.

As the leader of the choral society which organized the first nationwide Song Festival in Tartu in 1869, Jannsen played a crucial role in the Estonian National Awakening (every festival closed with his song, My Fatherland. Look for the blog called “Estonia Sings for Freedom” about this.)

Jannsen was the father of the poet Lydia Emilie Florentine Jannsen, who had to use the pen name of Lydia Koidula. Lydia wrote for her father’s newspapers, but had to use a different name because in the mid nineteenth century (in Estonia and in Europe) it was not considered suitable for a lady to be a writer.