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.