Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Anniversary 2.0


Here we are, two years together and believe it or not, still love each other. For our anniversary we went to Cornwall, south west part of UK. Not only that, but I was driving (on the other side of the road)! Before I go on, I have to say that driving on the left side of the road is not the most difficult thing, but having gear box on your left side and change gears using your left arm... that was tricky.
We planned to make our base in Plymouth and to take short trips to locations around. On the first day, we drove past pile of stones better known as Stonehenge. We also managed to drive past Salisbury cathedral on a way to Plymouth.
On the second day, we drove to St. Michael's Mount, Marazion and Land's End (where the land actually ends). St Michael's Mount (Cornish name: Carrack Looz en Cooz) situated in Penwith in west Cornwall and united with Marazion by a natural causeway cast up by the sea and passable only at low tide. Since there was no low tide, we had to catch a ride on a boat to get there.
Land's End, is the most western location in UK. Just before you hit the point, there is put which called "The Last Pub in England". I don't believe the world is riding on four giant turtles, but this place does have a feeling of "End". It is really hard to describe the place in words...
On the last day, after we checked out from our lovely hotel (Novotel Plymouth) and drove back to London through Bristol. When you compare it to London, you can't fail to notice that people, even when in rush, are slower and more relaxed. It gives certain quality to the city which I really liked...

You can find our photo album at http://picasaweb.google.com/alla.markh/DestinationLandSEnd.

Enjoy,
John

Monday, October 22, 2007

Rugby World Cup Final 2007


What a great game!
Although England lost the game, this was amazing match.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Copenhagen


Straight from vacation in Riga (you can find a photo album here: http://picasaweb.google.com/alla.markh/RigaOctober2007), I was sent to a project (thanks god, just a short one) in Copenhagen (KĂžbenhavn).
Unfortunately, I didn't have enough time to explore the city (yeah... I had to work as well) and to go to a local Tuborg brewery, but you can find some photos at http://picasaweb.google.com/john.markh/20071011Copenhagen.

Enjoy,
John.
P.S.: CZA (Czech Airlines) are the best!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Trip to Russia

Finally, back to reality…
I have just returned after ten days in Russia, after 17 years of absence. We (me, mom and sister) went to visit grandma, grandpa and uncle, who came from Moscow, in Urusu.
So first of all, couple of words about Urusu. It is a small village in Tatarstan, about 800km from Moscow, 600km from Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, and the same distance from Samara, and about 300km from Ufa, the capital of neighbour Bashkiria. According to taxi driver, there are approximately 14,000 people live in Urusu.
Get the picture?
To get there, I had to fly to Moscow, wait 12 hours for connection flight to Ufa, then 6 hours by train to nearby major city Oktabrsk and finally 20-30 minutes by bus which goes once in a while. Did I mention dogs ride and walking in the fields for about an hour? We cheated a bit and took taxi from Ufa directly to Urusu which cost us about £25 (more then average monthly salary in Russia).
Although people in Russia (at least in Urusu) are friendly and will try to help you (even when most of them doesn’t know a word in English), the border control was as unfriendly as it gets. My passport was examined by the officer for more then 30 minutes and I was body searched. Probably too many European and US (a.k.a. enemies) stamps in my passports…
Mom and sister been there couple of years ago, but I haven’t seen grandma and grandpa (and Urusu) for more then 17 years, since I was 8 or 9. The city undergo drastic change (more about it later), but the grandma and grandpa look the same. Grandma sees a bit worse and grandpa hears a bit less (OK, so he barely hears at all), but they are as active as I remember them. Everyday, they were awake much earlier that we were and worked with us in the fields as hard as all.
For a week that we have been there, we worked in the field from early morning till evening: rooting weed, preparing ground for winter, cleaning and paining pipes, cutting branches and trees, and about everything else need to be done before the winter. After working for more then 4-5 years in the office, this was a ‘nice’ change. At first, my body ached like hell, but after couple of days I enjoyed physical work, fresh air (something you don’t get in London) and plain but tasty country food which was potatoes (fried or boiled), fresh milk, dark (brown) bread and a lot of fresh vegetables (some of them straight from the field).
The city (still registered as village) celebrated 60 years just before we arrived, so many buildings were freshly pained and streets repaved and cleaned. There were many new shops opened during 17 years, but the biggest surprise was the amount of young people in there. I was expecting to have dying city on the outskirts of Russia, with mostly old and retired people, but it is alive and kicking. There are couple of coffee places, bowling and dance clubs, and… musk. Apparently, after fall of Soviet Union, Tatar people remembered that they are originally Muslims. But, although of progress and modernism of the city, there are still goats, chickens, dogs and ducks roaming the outskirts…
OK, I don’t work for “Lost Guide to Russia”, so enough of that. Check out the photo album at http://picasaweb.google.com/john.markh/20070930TripToRussia

Enjoy,
John.

P.S.: You do understand that I would appreciate your comments, don’t you?