Sunday, May 8, 2016

Holiday Season

It's holiday season in The Netherlands.  No, not the Christmas Holiday season.  This is the time of year when The Netherlands has all of their bank holidays in the span of about four weeks.  We start with King's Day on April 27 where we celebrate King Willem-Alexander's birthday.  Other than providing a day off of work the most notable thing about King's Day this year was that the temperature was colder than it was at Christmas.  

The next week was a two-for-one situation.  The official bank holiday was Ascension Day.  But this year it coincided with Rememberance Day, when we honor those who lost their life during the Nazi occupation.  

This War Memorial in Wassenaar.  

Just outside of Den Haag is a memorial honoring over 250 members of the Dutch resistance who were executed and buried there.

The bell is rung for three hours during the Rememberance Day Service.  

The pictures above and below this text don't have anything to do with holidays except that they are from my bike ride to Den Haag to visit the memorial.  The photo above is the bike path in Wassenaar.  The shot below is an area known as the Dunes, a park that runs along the Dutch coast that is loaded with trails, bike paths and beaches.  It's a great recreation area with very little commercial activity.

In keeping with the WWII theme, Grant and his friend, David, and I went the Overloon WWII Museum in eastern Holland.  The museum is situated at the site of the largest tank battle fought on Dutch soil.  The Allieds were trying to move north to Arnhem.  The Nazis wanted to stop them.  The battle lasted several days and the end result was that the village was leveled.  Completely.  It took them 10 years after the war to rebuild it.

David and Grant can tell you the name of this (and every other) tank in the museum.  

This is the vehicle that spirited the Queen and her family away to safety when the Nazi's invaded.  They left the palace in Den Haag, drove three hours to a waiting British destroyer and sailed to England.

This may look like a lot of shells.  There were 8 more display cases just like this one.  All from one man's collection.  

Near this plane was a large red push button.  No signage.  No instructions.  So after several minutes of debate by the three of us, I pushed it.  It activated a sound track of planes dropping bombs, machine gun fire and other war noises.  All at fairly high volume.  It was great.

The English War Cemetery outside of town.  

This week it's back to work for a full five days.  Then next week we enjoy our final holiday -- Whit Monday, or Pentecost.  Then that's it.  No more holidays until Christmas.  

Sunday, May 1, 2016


Grant & I traveled to Russian over Easter Break to spend three days each in Moscow and St. Petersburg.  First stop was the Kremlin.  The word Kreml means "fortress" and there has been a fortress on this site since the 11th century.  It covers quite a large area and includes at least 5 cathedrals, the armory and the State Kremlin Palace.  

Annunciation Cathedral in the Kremlin.  Private Chapel of the royal family.  

Cathedral of the Archangel in the Kremlin.  Designed by an Italian architect.  Ivan the Terrible is buried here.  

Armory Palace, the best museum in the Kremlin. The Faberge' Eggs were incredibly detailed.  

"Onion" domes.  Their origin continues to be debated.  Most people believe they symbolize candles.  Note the Orthodox Crosses on top.  

The Tsar's Bell.  Cracked in the mold in 1730's and was never rung.  

Tsar's Cannon, largest in the world.  And like the Bell, it has never been fired.  

State Kremlin Palace.  The only governmental looking building in the entire Kremlin.  It was built in the 60's for Communist Party meetings.  Now all the government offices are elsewhere in Moscow; this building is used for concerts.  

The Kremlin Walls

Soldiers on their way for the Changing of the Guard Ceremony.  

Adjacent to the Kremlin is Red Square.  The huge square is surrounded by Lenin's Tomb, St. Basil's Cathedral, the GUM Department Store and the National Historical Museum.  The area has been called Red Square since the 1700's -- the "Red" has nothing to do with Communism.  

State Historical Museum

St. Basil's Cathedral

Lenin's Tomb on the left, GUM on the right.  

Similar photo at night.  

A close up of Lenin's Tomb.  Visiting hours are quite limited so we did not go in.  

Inside GUM the ice cream store was doing a thriving business.  The ice cream was pre-scooped into balls and stored on trays.  When someone ordered a cone, the lady just put a ball of ice cream on a cone and you're ready to go.  

In case you don't read the Cyrillic Alphabet, it's a Krispy Kreme donut store.  We went there every night for dessert and then walked around Red Square eating donuts.  Capitalism at its best.   

The deal was "buy seven, get five free".  We succumbed one night.  That was a lot of donuts.  
The Bolshoi Theater.  

Not far from Red Square is the former KGB Headquarters.  
One day we visited The Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War, commonly known as the WWII Museum.  It was very well done with lots of diorama's.  A military school was having their graduation ceremony there.

Grant and his friend Vladimir.  

The graduating class.  

It was interesting how they handled Stalin.  They told of his leadership in the War, but they also mentioned the "troubles" that followed.  Killing millions of your own citizens certainly qualifies as troubles.  

One of the diorama's.  The Russian capture of the Reichstag in Berlin was displayed several times.  

Outside there was a display of about 50 tanks, artillery guns and even some boats.  

The Moscow subway system, or Metro was incredible.  First, it was very deep.  The escalator ride down lasted almost 2 minutes -- and not because it was slow.  It takes you a long way down.  Second, the stations are nicely decorated.  The Metro was built in the 30's as public palaces.  There are sculptures, mosaics, chandeliers and lots of marble.  And finally, the stations are spotless.  No litter anyplace.  

The escalator ride down.  

A mosaic on the ceiling of Lenin 

We had to count station stops to know where to get off, because we weren't able to read the names in Russian.   We never missed a stop.  

One of the seven gothic sisters.  Stalin built seven sky scrapers in 1947 as a display of Soviet strength after WWII.  

On our last day we took a train to the nearby town of Sergiev Posad to see the Troitse-Sergieva Lavra, or Orthodox Monastery.  The Lavra's collection of churches was beautiful, especially the ornately decorated interiors.

The view of the churches in the Lavra.  

We caught the 7:30 a.m. high-speed train to St. Petersburg.  The four hour ride was much better than trying to navigate the domestic terminal at the Moscow Airport.