Gagarin’s glory

If you can read Cyrillic, you will already have noticed that the town's name is Gagarin, in honour of the first human to journey into outer space: Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin or simply Yuri Gagarin. The Soviet cosmonaut was born on March 9th, 1934, in the nearby village of Klushino and after his death in 1968 (when the MiG-15 training jet he was piloting crashed) the city was renamed in his honour (and I suspect, but that's just my speculation, also because the former name of Gzhatsk - Гжатск - was all but unpronounceable!).

De-icing at Domodedovo

When temperatures plummet below zero Celsius (32 Fahrenheit) a very time consuming (but absolutely critical) operation that planes have to go through before departure is that of de-icing.

A brief history of Russian America

Did you know that less than a century before being admitted to the USA as the 49th State Alaska was part of Russia and it was called Russian America? Alaska was actually discovered by Russia and it was part of the Russian empire until the emperor Alexander II sold 586,412 square miles (1,518,800 km2) of land to the United States on March 30, 1867 for $7.2 million.

The entrance to Paveletskaya

Paveletskaya was built to a design by Alexey Dushkin as a temporary deep (33.5 meters underground) pylon station of London type - with two side platforms, but without a central hall. Work on converting Paveletskaya to a fully functional station commenced in 1950; the station was reopened February 21, 1953, only 12 days before Stalin's death. We can, therefore, say that this station is one of the very last examples of Soviet architecture built under Stalin.

Low flying Tupolev in Smolensk

The monument is actually not a replica, but a real retired Tu-16 from the the 46 VA VGK (SN) heavy bomber unit that was based in Smolensk. If you are a bit of an airplane fanatic (like me) and you visit Smolensk, then you just have to go and see the Tupolev Tu-16 monument just a few hundred meters (about a quarter mile) due West from the center of town, at the southern "vertex" of a small triangular shaped park.

Where Berlioz lost his head – The Bulgakov museum in Moscow

The Bulgakov House is situated on the ground floor of Bolshaya Sadovaya ulitsa no. 10 in Moscow, in the building where the Soviet writer used to live, and in which some major scenes of his masterpiece are set. In the novel, though, Bulgakov didn't situate the building at number 10, using instead the number 302-bis, to denounce the complexity of the Soviet administration in his time.

Pizza with figs in Murmansk – Gordon Ramsay approves!

Pizza with figs in Murmansk - Gordon Ramsay approves. As mentioned in the title, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay explicitly approves figs on a pizza, as this tweet from last October clearly demonstrates. I doubt, on the other hand, that he would approve the underlying pizza, with semi-melted mozzarella(?) shreds and some sad, sad looking salad leaves in the middle!

The house that moved and grew

Moscow's Tverskaya Street existed as early as the 12th century. Its importance for the medieval city was immense, as it connected Moscow with its superior, and later chief rival, Tver. At that time, the thoroughfare crossed the Neglinnaya River. The first stone bridge across the Neglinnaya was set up in 1595. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Tverskaya Street was renowned as the centre of Moscow's social life. The nobility considered it fashionable to settle in this district. Among the Palladian mansions dating from the reign of Catherine the Great are the residence of the mayor of Moscow (originally built in 1778–82 by architect Matvey Kazakov for the Governor-General of Moscow).

Crime and Punishment in the Moscow Metro

The Dostoyevskaya station on Moscow Metro line 10 has a very interesting story. The construction of the station started in the 1990s though soon it was halted due to insufficient funding. Building resumed only in 2007 when money flow resumed and right and left rail tunnels were built, but then in April 2009 the lack of funds forced the Moscow Metro authorities to delay the station's opening to May 2010 and then again to June 2010.

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