“Moscow is the city where if Marilyn Monroe should walk down the street with nothing in but shoes, people would stare at her feet first.” John Gunther
I am walking down the Red square admiring the beautiful mixture of Sovietic arhitecture and new era design and even if is not my first time in Moscow I am still stunned by the greatness which surrounds me at every step.
Surprisingly, even if its the end of september the weather is still warm and I decide to leave behind the winter clothes that I brought with me “preventive”, replacing it with something more “fashionable”, trying to keep up the rythm with the elegant russian ladies wandering the streets of the Capital city.
Most of my colleagues are in Moscow for the first time and I tear up with regret my long list of museums, decided to be their guide outside of the Kremlin walls.
Saint Basil’s cathedral
We start our short visit with the famous, colorful landmark situated right in the heart of the city: the cathedral of Vasily the blessed commonly known as Saint Basil’s cathedral. The unique construction was finished in 1561 and incorporates 10 side churches, the last one covering the grave of the venerated Saint Vasily.
While some “critics” would say the cathedral reseamble a bonfire pointing the infinite sky I did find a more creative description: a giant ice cream with rainbow flavor. If in my previous visits I tried to behave the best way possible, right now the child inside me is ready to taste the havenly cup even if it means crushing some religious boundaries.
While the moscovits are throwing me a surprised look, (“how am I capable of such blasphemy?”) I set up a new trend and just couple of minutes later few other rebels following my sinful behavior start “licking” the domes of the holy church.
Its time to stop our silly photoshoot trying not to disturb the eternal sleep of Vladimir Lenin who is resting peacefully just few steps away from us.
The body of the imposing sovietic leader had been on public display shortly after his death (1924), russian authorities making great effort to keep his appearance intact over the time. The mausolem is visted daily by a huge crowed who is subject of high security measures at the entrance and is required to pay great respect to the dead leader once they are inside: hats, hands in pocket, talking and photography are strictly forbiden.
Moscow always feels like home
Moscow always made me feel like home giving me that feeling of similarity, of belonging and everything seems just right: the grey comunist buildings outside of the Red square, the countless churches whispering their prayers towards the sky, the candles lited inside of the cathedral with their believers kneeled in front of the holy icons, the people struggling to convert strong communist concepts into modern beliefs, the “babuska” (old lady) who won’t refrain from judging with loud voice two teenagers kissing on the street, locals still struggling with the english, reluctant to the foreign tourists visiting their country.
We step inside of one of the most proeminant church in the Red square, the Kazan cathedral, some of us for a brief prayer while others curious to discover what is hidden under the roof of an ortodox worship place.
Soon after, we are about to be kicked out by an angry christian who feels insulted by a colleague attempt of taking a picture inside of the holy church. Russians pay great respect to their religion like any other believers in the world, fact which should be known by everybody, especially when a big sign with “photography prohibited” is hanging on the outside door.
Outside of Kremlin walls
We leave behind the majestic Red square,passing through the Ressurection gate where a bronze plaque is marking the kilometer zero of russian highway system.
Here, hundred tourists and locals on both sides are gathering around the plaque, waiting impatient their turn to make a wish. The legend says that throwing a coin over the shoulder will bring you great fortune but only if the coin will land in the bronze circle. I tried my luck…
You can never force your faith but you can definitely add a “shot” of hapiness to your life…and meanwhile in Russia the good mood is not measured in glasses but in barells of…vodka: “Nostrovia”
We continue our walk outside of the Kremlin wall towards the Alexander’s gardens where million blossomed flowers are spreading their fragrance in the air but the only smell that we are interested in right now its the one of baked bread coming from the restaurants situated alongside the bridge.
The sun is about to settle down and we decide to end up the evening with a traditional dinner in a pleasant location. Once inside, we step back into the past where everything around reminds of sweet years of childhood: vintage furniture, black and white tv, creepy dolls and the unforgettable flavors of mulled wine and grandmas food.
Surprisingly russian food is not very similar with my country’s food (Romania) even though our past is so close connected. I open the pages of the “slavic magazine” which serves as menu card and I choose a soup and a main course based on the pictures displayed.
Russian food is definitely not on my preference list but I totally enjoy the atmosphere and the two glasses of aromatic mulled wine responsible with my red nose and the big smile on my face.
Moscow by night
Outside everything changed completely, the majestic empress is now ready to shine in its ceremonial clothing.
Moscow by night is full of magic, its fascinating and enigmatic. Beside that, now its the time when the locals start gathering inside of the fashionable shopping malls situated not only across the square but also bellow it (underground).
Facing the Red square is GUM department, a building with a fascinating history like everything else in Russia, built in 1893 and unique for that time due to its glass ceiling, functioning in present as a shopping mall.
Its time to end our visit and while my colleagues try to avoid the terrific traffic of Moscow walking towards the hotel, I prefer to wait for the shuttle bus, paying a visit to the famous Bolshoi theatre on my way.
P.S: the photos were taken during 3 different visits in Moscow, some of them in 2017 while others in 2014 but all the places mentioned above can be visit in just few hours, being located extremly close to each other.
Spasiba mother Russia!
Our ferry its about to make its final stop in Thira, Santorini and hundred passengers are waiting inpatient to reach the main port of the beautiful island. The crowed stacked in pairs and holding hands in front of the huge iron gate takes me back in the past to the Noah’s legend and his ark where million species saved from the devastating fload are brought safe to the shore. Among them its also us, the happy survivors of 3 days in Mykonos, the island where the party never stops.
Oia the pearl of Santorini
The road to Oia is quite long and we are trying to kill the time “admiring” the view out of the bus window: narrow streets, arid earth and fragil enviroment…nothing of the beauty displayed on the pages of touristic magazines. I can read a trace of disappointment on Abdulla’s face and even if my heart is shrouded in fear I am trying to raise his morale “come on babe its gonna be alright”.
After more than one hour, the driver stops us in front of a white pedestrian street pointing in the direction of our hotel “Kima villas suite”. I cant see it just yet being stolen by the beautiful scenery of white and blue constructions “carved” meticulously above the sea.
Hypnotized by the divine canvas depicted in shades azure, levitating on the stairs below me, I am woken up by a stranger voice…”Kalimera (good morning!), welcome to Santorini”.
A bottle of chilled champagne and fresh grapes placed in front of our door are responsible for our good mood and the tiredness is immediately replaced by a state of excitement, having no doubt that we are going to enjoy our short stay.
The hotel location is so perfect that we could have spend the rest of the day stucked in bed or relaxing in the tiny pool, dreaming about the lost Atlantis or mythological stories meant to describe the mysterious charm of the volcanic paradise.
The legend of the lost Atlantis
While nowadays geologists studies confirmes that Santorini is the result of a natural volcanic eruption, the ancient Greeks used to give a more meaningful explanation for a phenomen inexplicable to humans at that time. According to them, Santorini was created out of a miracle when Euphemus (son of Poseidon) coming back from an expedition by the sea, dreamed of making love to a nymph, the daughter of Triton (the sea God). The nymph got pregnant and advised Euphmus that throwing a clod of earth in the open sea would create a safe place for giving birth, far away from her infuriated father. The island was named Calliste meaning “the most beautiful” while their son was named Theras (from where the place got its name later on as Thera).
The island gained even more popularity after being related to the most mysterious and well known myth, the lost Atlantis. Atlantis was first mentioned in a book by the greek philosopher, Plato, being said that God punished the Atlantians for their arrogance, vanishing their island in one night leaving behind only masses of mud.
The best sunset in the world
Another story claims that Santorini has the best sunset in the world and determined to find its veracity we join the hundred other curious tourists spread all around the cliffs, waiting for the perfect shot. The inevitable happens and I lose Abdulla in the crowed, too focused on chasing the orange sun which is about to settle behind the volcanic rocks.
After a long search I return to the hotel alone, asking the receptionist for a second key, admitting with shame to have lost my boyfriend in what was supose to be a romantic evening. Abdulla is relieved to find me safe in the hotel room and we celebrate our encounter with a late dinner and a bottle of greek wine.
Food in Greece didn’t impress me much and after trying a large variety of local food in the authentic tavernas, I got stuck with the same choice every day: greek salad and grilled fish, always shared with the fluffy guests around the table.
Second day: Abdulla experinced food poisoning
Next day in the morning we are supposed to go on a boat trip around the island but our plans are canceled when Abdulla experience severe stomach ache.
Georgia, the hotel receptionist is preparing a delicious breakfast for us and even if my baby is scared to touch any food, he cant say “no” to the delicious home made croissants and muffins. Every morning, Georgia is baking different cookies and breads and sets up the outside table for a memorable culinary experience with a paradisiac view.
In great pain and with no energy, my baby doesn’t want to ruin our stay in one of the most beautiful places in the world being ready to endure the heat from outside to accomplish my wish: the famous donkey ride on the Santorini hills.
We stop time to time on the way, admiring the surroundings and trying to immortalize the ireal beauty on our photo camera. White buildings with blue cupolas and tiny windows are attached together on the vulcanic hills as giant pieces of a colorful puzzle.
Eternal love in Santorini
Santorini is one of the most picturesque place in the world, reason why countless brides and grooms are climbing the white roofs everyday in search of a perfect wedding picture.
This is definitely the perfect place for honeymooners or couples in general and visiting the beautiful island alone or with a group of friends might be quite depressing.
Another legend says that couples who visit Santorni will either get married or will break up… the volcano fault probably which is responsible with the level of energy and emotions.
While weddings in Santorini might be something common, the ballet is definitely not. A beautiful balerina moving her body in the elegant rythm of the ballet dance is catching the eyes of the tourists who stops for a moment to admire the two greatest creations: women and nature.
We take a last refreshment break, in a terrace located above the mesmerizing blue sea. I must admit that I never loved mathematics but the Alpha seems to be my new favorite “equation” while in Greece.
Riding a donkey on Santorini hills
The donkeys are close by (I can say by the smell) and we are descending the stairs careful not to step in their poo which is spread careless everywhere.
Not surprisingly the price for the ride is fixed like everywhere in Europe (5 euro) and we don’t need to worry about being ripped off or having to bargain to obtain a decent price. However, I am about to regret the ride even before starting it when I realize that the poor animals are doing a huge effort carrying on their back silly tourists (like us). The caretaker is right behind, slapping the animals whenever they are stopping in order to regain their breath. I shout at him, forbidding to touch my donkey “dont even try”.
I am saying goodbye to my beautiful friend after a tough ride ready to go back to the hotel but not before of discovering more misteries well hidden on the tiny streets of Oia.
White and blue
Although Santorini is a rather small island it is overrun with religious monuments such as chapels, churches and monasteries depicted in white and blue. The two colors seems to have a highly importance for the greeks representing not only the national flag but also the sky and purity associated with the christianity.
Like everything in Greece, the myths and stories behind the two colors are countless but the more realistic explanation is that being built by using dark, volcanic stones the heat was unbearable and whitewashing was the perfect solution to keep the inside cool while the blue was cheap and available everywhere (a common agent used for washing clothes that most household will have in hand). The government found the idea quite patriotic and mandated that all buildings must be painted in white and blue if they weren’t already.
Sailing around the volcano
We decided to extend our stay in Santorini with one more day, time allocated to discover the hidden beauty of the volcano and its unique beaches by boat.
First stop, the hot springs interesting when watched from the comfort of the boat, far away from the shallow waters with dangerous levels of sulf and rocky bottom. The currents are quite high as well making the swimming almost impossible while the sulf is leaving a permanent mark on your favorite bath suite.
White & red beach
The boat stops in few more location, including the white and red beach, where I decide to refresh myself jumping in the cold waters while the lunch is being prepared by the crew. The two beaches are relatively close to each other and both of them can be easly described as original and spectacular. The volcanic lava red rocks, pebbles and red sand that surround crystal clear waters, create an amazing scenery that you won’t find anywhere in the world.
Right after the lunch i start feeling dizzy and sleepy and my health is visible damaged once I reach the hotel and I am not being able to walk without my baby’s support. The beautiful dream si replaced by the nightmare of a cruel food poisoning which keeps us awake the whole night and drain the last drop of energy from my body. Dehydrated and more dead than alive I manage to board two different aircrafts and continue my convalescence under the safe roof of my home. Now I keep wondering either we didn’t like the greek food or the greek food didn’t like us, eighter way I don’t think I am going to search for the answer too soon.
I used to believe that “waiting” its a matter of choice. Why shall I wait for someone or something to happen when I am fully in charge with my time?
The real life though, seems to disapprove my theory completely. What would you do if waiting would be your only hope?
February 2017…I landed at Ivato International Airport with big hopes, ready to discover one of the biggest island in the world: Madagascar. The reality hit me hard once I passed the immigration counter, realizing in the moment that life is not an animated cartoon where the characters happily share the same Paradise but more a jungle where the battle for survival is daily and …crucial.
Waiting for food…
Its very common for malagasy people to sell their goodies next by a main road or in special open markets. However beside the vegetables and fruits, perishable items are out for sale in the heat and surronded by curious flies and mosquitos. Proper supermarkets are only visited by “rich” people and the bunch of kids begging outside of the doors are the only “mortals” which, time to time receive a sweet treat from the tourists.
Me, on the other side I am just waiting for the departure day, with more than 6 kilos lost in the 5 days adventure on malagasy land where cup noodles and bread were replacing my breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Waiting to grow up…
It must be difficult to be an adult but its impossible to be a kid without a childhood.
Since they are very young, malagasy kids are learning their parents crafts waiting for the day when they will be able to earn their own money.
You would think that poverty made them heartless but on the contrary, the little souls share their goods with everyone around, even with their less human friends.
Waiting for the school…
Wearing clean, celebration clothes the scholars are ready to start their daily classes. The road to school is not easy but they are decided to overcome any obstacole, hoping for a better future.
Waiting to be clean…
Its weekend and the locals are celebrating their days off with ….more work.
Fresh cleaned linens are hanged everywhere around the house and next by the rivers hundred ladies are waiting for their clothes to be dried by the sun.
Waiting for a ride…
In the era of technology and development there is a place in the world where “slavery” is considered to be a job. The main way of transportation in Madagascar is the rischaw, which allows to the wealthy to be carried by the less fortunate in exchange of few coins so vital for survival.
Some of the drivers upgrated their vehicle in order to obtain costumers satisfaction: less effort, more speed.
On the other side of the road, vintage cars are waiting to start their rusty engines.
A fascinating story about my adventure in Madagascar is waiting for you here…
Madagascar, between hell and heaven – Gone with the wind