Monday, December 22, 2014

Spotting Ronald Reagan in Warsaw

In Warsaw and looking for adventure, I headed out from my hostel near the Copernicus statue into the drizzle in search of Ronald Reagan. And sure enough, at the edge of a small park across from the U.S. Embassy is a monument honoring our 40th president.

Cast in bronze, the statue of Ronald Reagan captures him in 1987 at the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, when he challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to Tear down this wall! The statue project was initiated by Polish business community, funded by private donations and sculpted by a national artist.

Without the support of Ronald Reagan, we wouldn't have a free Poland, said Lech Walesa, November 2011, as he unveiled the statue. Lech Walesa was co-founder of Poland's Solidarity movement in 1980 and, ten years later, the first popularly elected president of Poland.

Along with flowers and candles, an official bouquet complete with Polish flags and streamers emblazoned Solidarity grace the site.

The statue faces the U.S. Embassy, Warsaw. 

The November, 2011 dedication ceremony included a statement from U.S. President Barak Obama and a message from Nancy Reagan.

Photos of Chicago grace the fence of the U.S. Embassy, Warsaw. The security guard, a Polish fellow, gave me permission to photograph them but only from across the street. Security issues, you know. ;)

When and where did I last see this magnificent flag? Probably right here, on a previous trip to Poland.

A salute to Ronald Reagan for encouraging other countries in their quest for freedom. What a wise leader he was. President Reagan said the right words at the right time, nudging Central and Eastern Europe toward freedom. And what an impact!

How about you, dear blog reader, have you been overseas and happened upon a statue of an American leader? Please do share. . .

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Thanksgiving with Frankfurters

Did I hear you say Happy Thanksgiving? Well, let me wish you the same. I had completely forgotten that today was Thanksgiving.
I had just started into breakfast at a little hotel in Frankfurt, Germany. The statuesque blond I'd noticed earlier was talking to me. Minutes earlier, I had considered joining her but she was busy with paperwork.

The easiest transfer ever: Exit the Frankfurt railway station, head straight ahead onto Kaiserstrasse Street and there's Quality Inn on the left.

But now, she had come over to my table and was wishing me a Happy Thanksgiving with that unmistakable German accent. How did she know I was American? I try to blend in with the locals, keep my voice low, so how did she know?

Her suit tailored from royal blue tweed caught my eye when I first entered the room. Her blond hair was swept into a classic up-do. Such style hinted at an interesting person. She continued.

Being from Germany, she said, I thought nothing could be better than Christmas. But there really is. America's Thanksgiving is such a simple holiday, just to be thankful. It's not commercialized at all.
Oh, I understood what she was saying about Christmas in Germany. In fact, I was in Frankfurt for an extra day to catch opening night of Christmas Market, having wrapped up four days at the Euro-American Family Retreat in Rothenburg. several hours south by train.

In fact, wandering through Frankfurt's Christmas market the evening before, here's what I saw. . .

Cookies:Baked with intricate designs.

Cookies: With decorative icing piped on. Oh, and candy too.

Cakey confections of some sort. One of each please. Or not. . . Oh, they're busy strategizing. It's opening night, after all.

The pretzel man. Let's call him Prince of Pretzels, pleased with his chocolate-covered treat. I'll take one of those too.

Back at breakfast, Miss Statuesque shared that she's originally from Germany, teaches law at in California and was in Frankfurt for a conference. We talked at length, no worries that eggs and sausages were getting cold.

Finally I asked, How did you know I'm from the US? Seems she had overheard me wishing the dining room attendant a Happy Thanksgiving and giving her the historical scoop about the day.

Our breakfast room conversation that Thanksgiving morning was a delightful gift. Imagine the chances of being in Germany that morning, crossing paths with someone who also cherishes such a special holiday, so uniquely American, a day set apart to give thanks.

* * *

Say, care to join me for a look around Frankfurt?

Frankfurt: Center of baking for western Europe. There's the Euro sign: and yes, we can imagine it flipped horizontally.

Frankfurt Central Station and Yours Truly. Don't you know that site has seen some history.

Thanksgiving Day in Frankfurt: Hard to beat a quick hop-a-bus tour. . .

Friendly Aussies on the bus tour, mother and son. Once upon a time, perhaps a lifetime ago, I lived and worked in Sydney area. They filled me in on all things Australian since. . . since 1978.

Frankfurt on the Main is the city's official name, Oh I get it, just like my Rostov-on-Don, is on the Don River. Here's the view from the bus.

Frankfurt Trade Fair: The worlds largest book fair held here. Stay on the bus, Stay.on.the.bus.

Frankfurt Cathedral dominates the skyline. Amazing that it survived the war.

Wonderful gift, that day in Frankfurt after the conference. Oh, but here's some back story. Worst case baggage woes that turned out splendidly.

* * *

When I arrived in Frankfurt, my luggage was nowhere to be found. I'd flown Lufthansa from Rostov-on-Don directly to Frankfurt but the luggage had gone directly to Moscow. Oh yippee. I started to panic, needing to catch a train, then another, then another south to Rothenburg, wondering how Lufthansa baggage folks would ever find me there. But I left the airport to head south.

On the plus side, now I had only my carry-on bag to wrangle, a good thing indeed since this trip was November 2009, before my hip replacement surgery, back when each step was painful. Later that evening, during the opening session of the conference, I was quite pleased to be called to the hotel front desk because, tada, Lufthansa luggage folks had just delivered my luggage. What a relief to have my pjs, my toothbrush, my clothes for the next day. Perfect ending.

After the conference, found that I was already a bit spoiled, already accustomed to this personal baggage delivery. I was less than enthused about dragging my bag back on and off trains north to Frankfurt. The biggest challenge getting luggage up the steps at train stations, as per the Eastern European set-up. But another happy surprise awaited.

The gift of German engineering: A escalator for the luggage.

Thanksgiving in Germany: Off-hand, I don't remember lunch there in Frankfurt but I'm pretty sure it wasn't frankfurters. Dinner would have been airplane food. But I arrived back in Rostov-on-Don with all luggage and a long list of thankfulnesses for an extra day in Frankfurt.

Friday, October 31, 2014

"Falling Back" in Russia: A Government Decision I Heartily Endorse

Thank you, dear Russia for joining most of Europe last weekend and falling back an hour. We're now on standard time permanently, never again to change our clocks. At least for now.

Then again, in 2011 when Russia went onto summer time, as daylight savings time is called here, lawmakers announced it was the last time we would be changing clocks. That decision has been reversed, obviously, and I'm thrilled. This early morning sunlight suits me just Fine.

Freida Sergeyovna, Nina Vladimirovna and I meet weekly to pray. Our Saturday meeting was extra relaxed, knowing it was a 25-hour day.

That notion of staying on daylight savings time through the long, Russian winter was hardly enchanting, the sunrise as late as 9:00 here in southern Russia, as late as 11:00 in St Petersburg, in the far north. Personally, I'd had quite enough of that year-round so-called summer time.

And so, over the #clocksgoback weekend, as dubbed by Twitter, with the luxury of an extra hour, Saturday evening was the perfect time to get zucchini-pineapple muffins in the oven for Sunday tea-drinking after worship. Later, as I was working through that pile of dishes, I asked myself, Are you sure this is how you wanted to use this extra hour? The answer would come Sunday.

Time change weekend has special significance for the clock-tending team who cares for Big Ben in London, three time zones west. Known as the Palace of Westminster Clockmakers, twice a year when they change between British Summer Time and Greenwich Mean Time, the group's routine starts at 9:05 p.m. and continues through 2:00 a.m.. Besides changing the hour, the clockmakers also perform scheduled maintenance on what those Britishers consider the world's most famous clock.

Of course the most famous clock across Russia is the Kremlin Clock which overlooks Moscow's Red Square. We can imagine a Kremlin clock team was quite pleased to change the clock after a three year break. Here's hoping they get lots of experience in the years ahead.

Sunday morning when folks were enjoying these muffins with tea, my Saturday evening efforts were amply rewarded. The gift of time is truly a gift. Muffin-making gobbles up considerably more than an hour's effort, but I figure that's a good use of time, say, once a month for our Sunday tea-drinking. And just FYI, in case there's a turn-clocks-forward weekend in the Russian spring, chances are slim any muffins will be produced in my kitchen.

Zucchini-pineapple muffins are always a hit. On the rare occasion when I spot zucchini here in Russia, I snatch it up immediately for this wonderful recipe.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Communist All-stars Reign at Statue Park, Budapest

October 23, 1989, Hungary became an independent republic after 33 years of Soviet rule. Ironically, Soviet troops saw themselves as liberators in 1945 when they marched in, freeing Hungary from Nazi domination. Therein lies one of the great ironies of history: A country being freed from one totalitarian regime by another such regime.

When a regime falls, so do its monuments, notes Rick Steves, leading authority on European travel.

In the decades since Communism crumbled, Hungarians have resisted the impulse to demolish the statuary white elephants from the Soviets, collecting them instead  in Momento Park, an outdoor museum on the outskirts of Budapest.

I managed to visit Momento Park one recent spring. Care to join me for a look around? First, here's Rick Steves and The Communist All-Stars of Statue Park.

Vladimir Lenin, founder of the Soviet Union and Prime Minister.

The German philosophers, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels co-authored The Manifesto of the Communist Party.

 The Soviet commander who liberated Budapest, February 1945, ordered a massive Liberation Monument of which this Soviet soldier was part.

Hungarian-Soviet Friendship Memorial: Ah yes, we get the body-language.

Vladimir Lenin: The man does get around.

Workers' Movement Memorial: Dedicated in 1976, as a symbol of the social and political results of the last three decades. 

Monument to Hungarian fighters in the Spanish International Brigades. Umm, okay. . .

The dutiful worker is honored here with the Republic of Councils Statue.
Since then, it has been dubbed The Cloak-room Attendant, shouting, Madam, you've forgotten something!

Happy Birthday! For his 70th birthday 1949, Hungarians gave Stalin the grandest statue of all. . himself up on a pedestal.

Sadly, to some at least, the Stalin statue was short-lived. The Hungarians revolted in 1956, demolishing the statue, a rather bold gesture but likely a response to the changing winds of politics in Moscow. It was Soviet leader Nikita Kruzhchev who began de-Stalinization after Stalin's death in 1953, first with his anti-Stalin speech to communist leaders in February, 1956. Later that year, the Hungarians revolted.

The Stalin monument was blown up in October, 1956 and only the boots remained. Here's the Momento Park replica of those boots.

Monument to the Martyrs of the Counter-Revolution, referring to the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, a dark chapter in national history.

How wonderful that the grandchildren of those who witnessed the Communist era in Hungary can now visit Momento Park and catch a glimpse of their political heritage.

Monday, March 03, 2014

And Zee Winners are. . .!

Oh, before I name the winners, here's dear Janelle, an honest-to-goodness Olympic volunteer who's been here in Rostov over the weekend. Notice the official apparel!  All too soon, Janelle will be catching the train back to Sochi to help with the Paralympics. Besides volunteering at the games, Janelle volunteered to help me draw the winners of this contest. But you, dear friends, made that ever so easy ~ we had four prizes and four eligible contestants. Easy, peasy!
Janelle worked the bobsled run in Sochi and coordinated the press conference with the Canadian Hockey team.
Click here to follow Janelle's blog, I dream of Sochi. Here's a video interview with Janelle from CTV news, broadcast across Canada.

Thanks to Janelle for suggestions on my blog and on this contest. And here are zee vinners: Angela, Karen, Sonya and Michelle! I'll be getting in touch with each of you. And thanks so much to each of you for entering! May all your Olympic dreams come true!