Thursday, June 28, 2012

Girls weekend out in Budapest

Chain Bridge

A weekend in a vibrant European city with girlfriends has now become a tradition. This time we've put our minds to Budapest. I have never been here before, but always wanted to visit it.
Budapest seemed to be an ideal city. It's a compact city, full of culture and a interesting nightlife. Perfect for us. In a short time we could get acquainted with the city, see much and enjoy. I must say that I've somewhat underestimated this capital. Budapest is much larger and offers more than expected in all fronts. And it's actually quite positive. Because there is a reason to go back and I'm sure I will see a lot of other places.

We arrived on Friday evening. We took public transportation to our lovely apartment which we found pretty quickly (gone wrong just once). After a quick refreshment, we went to a nice place to eat. Not far away and within walking distance of our apartment we found a cafe with a patio in the middle of a residential district: Pótkulcs
The presence of the big screen with football didn’t spoil the fun. The dinner was good and the drinks even better.
Back in the apartment we toast with the local specialty palinka and do not go to bed too late.

View from our apartment

The weather here is fantastic, so much better than home. For the first time this summer, we dress according to the season. We started our walk towards the chain bridge but first we go to lunch. In the beginning we pass the island of Sziget and then we walked by the impressive Parliament building. It's hard to see the building from this side, but it is still very recognizable.

On the posh Oktober street we stop for a long but nice lunch. And before we cross Danube we stay in the Pest area for some shopping. When we're finally ready to view the opposite of Budapest, we were interrupted by a kind of international parade. Several nations were walking along the river, they stop to show their dance and make room for the following performances. It felt stupid to stand here along with other photographing tourists. But we were genuinely intrigued.

Azerbaijan dancing

At last we reached the chain bridge, crossed the river and took a drink break in a cozy cafe with jazz music on.
From there we took the cable tram to the hills of Buda. The view above is exactly as stunning as I expected.

We understood that near here is the oldest pastry shop of the town: Ruszwurm. We have had no local delicacies yet, so we hurry to the famous patisserie. It's not difficult to find this shop. The street opposite the Matthias church is where our delicious pastries were awaiting. We tasted strudels with poppy seed and cottage cheese filling while drinking champagne. The atmosphere was good, we were enjoying but we wanted to see more of Buda than just pastries. We strolled along the fisherman's bastion, took some pictures of each other and even danced a bit to the music of restaurant musicians. We wanted to return to the Pest area, but make a little circle around the museum first.
It was a long day, but not over yet. With tired feet, we travel by foot and subway to our apartment, where we gather our forces to go out. The plans were to visit one of the ruin bars. Unfortunately it was too late for the subway, so we went to the nearest rock pub. It was not a very special place, but we laughed and danced a lot.
On our way back we find a wallet with money and passes. Once we were back in the apartment we tried to trace the owner via the social media.

Saturday night out - I' wearing a vintage dress and Prada heels

The owner of the wallet had a facebook. We have tried to contact this way, but he has not yet responded. We continued on with our own plans. Sunday was even warmer than the day before. We wanted to swim in one of the baths of Budapest. It was hard to pick one. Eventually we preferred Gellert, the one in the Art Nouveau style.
But first we go to the terrace of the cafe Alibi for a lunch and drinks on the Egyetem square.

Szabadság bridge

Gellert bath is across the river. This time we take the beautiful green Szabadsag bridge. The large building of Gellert is immediately visible. In the same building there is also a hotel. The rooms must be really beautiful!


The entrance alone is very impressive. If you come inside the building, you are in a huge hall with high ceilings, sculptures and fountains. The way to the dressing room is kind of a labyrinth. But we manage to find everything. First we see a large outdoor pool with loungers in the sun everywhere. But we begin with the bath inside. Immediately after we jumped in the first pool a female lifeguard with a dissatisfied face whistled at us. We wore no cap. Instead of picking up one we jumped in another bath with very warm water. The head cover was not required here. We soaked and chatted here for a while.

Then we took a tour along all areas to get a good impression of Gellert. Once outside we found two free loungers. It was already late afternoon and still quite crowded. For many people in Budapest this is an ideal getaway from the hot weather in the city. We were also very pleased with this opportunity.
After having enjoyed swimming, we took the same route back into town. Not far from where we have had our lunch earlier in the day, we took a drink break first. And then finally we went in search of the ruin bars.

A strange thing happened on our way, which totally confused us. One of the streets was decorated with Russian theme. Suddenly there were Russian shops, cafes and street signs everywhere. Well, my Russian is fluent, but when the street names do not match with the map, finding the way is less easy. We asked a guy the way and what was going on here. Apparently they were here to film the movie Die Hard.

Szimpla Kert

Eventually we found the right way and the ruin bar too. It was not the intention to stay very long, because we had to fly home early next day. But it was such an enjoyable evening with cocktails and lots of nice people from different countries. It was a memorable evening and we laugh about it all the way back to home.
To leave Budapest was heavy. We have barely slept and still wanted to stay here a little longer.
It was a great weekend in an amazing city full of sunshine and laughter. Coming home was really contrasting and not easy to adjust to reality.
But as always there are great plans for the future again. 

First day outfit - H&M dress and Burberry sandals
Second day outfit - Zara Tunic and vintage shades

Monday, June 11, 2012

A week in Moscow

Quite recently I have visited one of my most favorite city: Moscow. I had some things to do like family visit and kind of work for something that will happen in the near future. But the most important thing is that I was accompanied by my mother. It's been a long time ago since I traveled together with my mom. She was very curious to see Moscow after almost 20 years. So I devised a program which would show her the (in my opinion) the most beautiful places of Moscow. I had more places in mind, but because we only had one week and didn't want to follow my program too strictly, we omitted some things to have a more relaxed and spontaneous time.

Gorky's House (Ryabushinski mansion)
The first place we visited was the Ryabushinski mansion or better known as the house of Gorky. The house was built around 1900 by a popular architect Shechtel in the assignment of an art collector Ryabushinski. During the revolution the owner had to leave the country and his beautiful house which later was partly ruined. Ironically, the proletarian hero Gorky obtained this exotic house and lived there till his death in the 30's.
This place is worth visiting for it's rich art nouveau interior. It's absolutely never crowded and the entrance is free.

Closed on monday, tuesday and last thursday of the month.
Open till 17.30
Free entrance
Nearest metro is Pushkinskaya. If you are on the Pushkin Square, cross the road towards McDonald's, pass the fast food restaurant and keep walk straight ahead on the Bolshaya Bronnaya street until you are on the Malaya Nikitskaya street. On your right you will recognize the villa. Walk in the garden and enter.

The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts
My mother really wanted to go to the Pushkin Museum next. I've been there only once before for a temporary exhibition of Modigliani. So it was definitely interesting to view the permanent collection now as well.
It's a small version of the Hermitage museum where also foreign art is shown. Yet the collection is quite extensive: Greek antiquities, Byzantine icons, Italian -, German -, Dutch art and French impressionists. The names you may encounter are Pieter Brueghel, Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt, Nicolas Poussin, Monet and much more.
As I said it's not a huge museum, but big enough to spend a half day inside.

Nearest metro is Kropotkinskaya. Follow the directions on the street. Be alert and move toward Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts instead of Pushkin Museum. If you're passing the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour (big church, can't miss) then you're on the right path.

It was a summer day in the weekend. Many Muscovites tried to escape the busy city, but many of them went to the center. We chose the first option. To escape the crowds and traffic is not difficult in Moscow. Only a few metro stops from the center and you're in a green park full of history. Two very special parks are located near each other on the green metro line: Kolomenskoye and Tsarisyno. We chose park Kolomenskoye. I love this park, it has nature, culture, history, water, churches, view, bars. It's just an ideal place.
The history of Kolomenskoye begins in the 13th century. First the refugees from Kolomna had founded a village here, which was later destroyed by the Mongols. In the 16th century Kolomenskoye became a royal summer retreat where Ivan the Terrible stayed as a child and with his first wife. I have been here couple of times before and each time I thought of the little Ivan who has walked the same paths as I just have.
On an elevated terrace along the river the Church of the Ascension has once provided the background for Eisenstein's movie about Ivan the Terrible.

To get there is easy. Go by metro to Kolomenskoye station. Take the exit near the front of the train, turn left in the underpass and then right at the end to surface. From there it's a short walk of about 10 minutes to the entrance of the park.

Kremlin and around
The most impressive and popular tourist spot in Moscow is of course the middle point where Kremlin and Red Square are. I've been here often. I still can't get enough of this place. Whenever I am in Moscow I circle around it or I end my day somewhere in the neighborhood.
Despite the crowds, it is nice here. There are many interesting sights. If it's your first time in Moscow you have to visit Kremlin. We skipped that part, yet we have used the same entrance for the Diamond Fond. I am so fortunate because every time I am in Moscow I get an invitation. I believe that the tickets are very limited, per day only a certain number of people may visit this extraordinary exposition.
Diamond Fond contains the most valuable gems in Russia such as the crown of Catherine the Great and dozens of jeweled necklaces and earrings.
Next to the Diamond Fond is the Armoury Palace. Several things are exhibited here: dresses, weapons, Faberge eggs, crowns and everything else what belongs to the Russian history. Unfortunately I have never been here yet, but I will definitely go to the very next time I'm in Moscow.

Info: Both Kremlin as these two museums are on the same territory. Tickets are best purchased at the ticket office in the Alexandrovsky garden. The entrance is at the Borovitsky gate at the end of the garden.

Speaking about the Alexandrovsky garden: If the weather is nice you can relax here without having to leave the city. It's a good place to enjoy the weather and environment. There is a large shopping center nearby with pubs. So you only need to take a drink, than sit on the grass or a bench and start people watching after the active day of sightseeing.

Another must is the Lenin Mausoleum. It is located on the Red Square. It's open on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday between 10:00 and 13:00. Be on time, you need to join the queue.

Opposite of the Mausoleum is the most famous and posh shopping center : GUM. Here you'll find numerous high end clothing shops like Moschino, Manolo Blahnik, Armani, you name it. If you have too much money, you can shop here. And otherwise you just can have a nice walk inside and view the beauty of this magnificent building.

Only a few steps further is the Bolshoi Theater. Unfortunately I never had a chance to witness a performance inside. It must be wonderful though.

Many well known sites are very close to each other and can possibly be done in one day.

Eliseevskiy Store
Also this store is near the Red Square and worth visiting. It was the first grocery store in Moscow with a big variety of products. This building has an interesting history. Originally Eliseevskiy suppose to be a palace. But instead of that it became a salon where famous artists would meet each other. Eventually at the end of the 19th century the building was owned by Eliseev, a tradesman from St. Petersburg. And since than it is known as the posh supermarket.
Surprisingly, this shop was also open during the Soviet area. But behind the beautiful counters a dark, dangerous and unfair business took place.

Tverskaya Street 14. The nearest metro is Tverskaya and or Pushkinskaya.
This store is within walking distance of Red Square. But if you're not in the neighborhood than it's more convenient to travel to Tverskaya or Punshkinskaya metro and walk from there. Walking along Tverskaya street is not that pleasant, it's dusty and noisy.

Novodevichy Convent and Cemetery
This is another lovely place just outside the bustle of downtown. And I love spending time here. My mother had never been here so I was very excited to show it to her.
The monastery is still in use. Since 1524 Novodevichy convent was home to many high-born nuns who often played a role in politics. Even Irina Godunova, the sister of the Tsar, retired here after the death of her husband. Also the first and unwanted wife of Peter the Great was confined here.
Officially the convent is also a museum. Visitors can simply go inside and stroll through the territory.

The entrance is free. To get here is easy. Take the metro to Sportivnaya (red line), exit at the rear of the train, turn right outside the station. Keep walking until you see the golden domes.

The site of monastery is not very large. After you saw it be sure not to skip the cemetery, it lies beyond the south wall of the convent.
The fascinating thing about this cemetery is that a lot of great Russian artists, writers, musicians and politicians are buried here. Only burial in the Kremlin Wall is more prestigious. It's like Père Lachaise, but Russian.

You can come across the graves of Nikolai Gogol, Anton Chekhov, Konstantin Stanislavsky, Mikhail Bulgakov, Dmitri Shostakovitch, Vladimir Mayakovski, Sergei Eisenstein, Fyodor Shaliapin, Sergei Prokofiev, Nikita Khrushchev, Raisa Gorbacheva and Boris Yeltsin.
Walking here is lovely. It's very clean, green and the atmosphere is tranquil.
At the entrance is a map that indicates who is buried where. It's not always easy to find all graves you want to see though.

The Tretyakov Gallery
My last favorite place to visit in Moscow is not one but both sections of the Tretyakov Gallery. Here you will find the collection of many masters of Russian art. The paintings tell a lot about the developments of the art history and also the general history of Russia and her rulers.
We began with the modern department which can be found on the street Krymsky Val in between the metro stations Park Kultury and Oktyabrskaya. It is better to take the Oktyabrskaya metro, from there is less far to walk. Cross the street at Gorky Park and walk to the big white building.
Many people are still not familiar with this museum. Yet the art here is worth seeing. There is an enormous collection of Russian art from the 20th century: Avant-garde, Black Square of Malevich, totalitarian art and also the contemporary art. The rooms are very spacious and some offer view of the Moskva River and the not so beloved Peter the Great monument.

The other gallery is a walk away from here. Otherwise you can take the metro to Tretyakovskaya. We walked along the river to the Lavrushinsky Pereulok where former house of the financier and the art collector Tretyakov is.
What you can expect here is a room with icons from the Middle Ages. A big part of the museum consists portraits of the court from the 18th century. 19th century was a rich period in Russian art history. Here we see portraits of writers and composers made by influential artists. Realism of Surikov, Repin and Aivazovsky takes us to the historical events and landscapes. While wanderers Victor Vasnetsov and Vrubel let us enjoy the beautiful fairy tales.

If you find the paintings of Vasnetsov as fabulous as I do, you should also visit the house of the painter in the north of the center.

Our stay in Moscow was very pleasant. The weather was summery, so people were able to enjoy all outdoor activities. May is when the city becomes green after a long and cold winter.
Half of our wonderful getaways was in the open air. We enjoyed every moment of our temporary 'La Dole Via' in Moscow.
We closed our cultural days on the Kamergersky Pereulok, which is not far from the Red Square. The Chekhov Theater is also on the same street. The great thing about this street is a wide range of pavement cafes with different price category. Here you can relax, drink, eat and watch nicely dressed people pass. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Paper Wedding in London

This year my husband and I went to London to celebrate our second wedding anniversary. It is an incredible fact, but I've never been in London before. Deliberately we haven't made too many plans because our stay lasted only three days.

First day we have been walking along the Thames and Oxford Street. It was May 9, a Russian day of victory. Even here in London Russians came together to celebrate this great day. 

Art lovers will know that there is a Damien Hirst exhibition at the Tate museum. Everyone who loves modern art and is in the neighborhood, should certainly take a look. It is an interesting, versatile and eccentric exhibition. 

Our spontaneous stroll through the city led us to a red carpet, the premiere of film The Dictator. We knew a good place to get and watched the stars pass.

Delicious food in London is easy to find, relatively inexpensive and international. Soho is an ideal place for this and so is Camden. 
In Soho, we ate delicious Indian and Thai. In Camden we found a unique place for lunch: My Village Cafe.

London is a fantastic city! Despite the terrible weather we have had an awesome time.

I was wearing:
Coat - Alain Manoukian
Jeans - Ungaro
Bag - Longchamp
Lips - L'oreal Impulsive Fuchsia

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