Archive for the 'Russia' Category

Cosmos Tour: Prague Vienna Budapest – 20th Century Czechoslovakia

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

After WWI, in 1918, the victors carved up a new map of Europe. Creating something that they called Czechoslovakia, they sewed together parts of countries. The people who now spoke four different languages did not share a common background.

After WWII, it became part of the Soviet Bloc. In 1968, there was a brief period of liberalization called the “Prague Spring”. The underground movement against their government  was not successful and Soviet tanks rolled in.

However by 1989, the Velvet Revolution (during the fall of communism), it finally became free and democratic again. Finally in 1993, the country peacefully split apart to become the Czech Republic with about 5 million people and Prague as its capital. The other part, Slovak Republic, has about 10 million people, and its capital is Bratislava .

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Worldwide Pop-up Restaurant Day August 17

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

An international idea celebrated in 50 countries, Restaurant Day is a food carnival created by food-loving people setting up one-day restaurants. The idea of the day is to have fun, share new food experiences and meet others in our community. People offer their family cuisine, favorite recipes, desserts or whatever in their backyard or a park.  Prices are very inexpensive.RestaurantDay

Check the maps to see if there is one in your city.

Date: Sunday, August 17

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

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.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,