Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Back To Gruto Parkas, Part Two

Continuing an encore tour, more highlights from Gruto Parkas.

Busy Brezhnev.

Witnesses to a revolution, famous and obscure, all preserved.

Looming Stalin.

Empty officer. Rallying the youth troops.

Communist Easter Island.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Back To Gruto Parkas, Part One

We can't get enough of Soviet sculpture and propaganda. Lucky for us, a Lithuanian businessman felt the same way and created a communist Disneyland. You remember seeing the highlights here and here? Don't forget the special Lenin edition here.

Like we said, we can't get enough of the stuff (And people visit. And we take them). What else is there to see? So glad you inquired.

Fantastic socialist murals. Is that Trotsky getting a little country time in to count the wheat crop?

Freaky pioneer doll hiding in a library. Menacing Marx.

Stalin, glamorous in lights.

Pigs are big for rallying the people, sculpture or mural.

Big Lenin paperweight.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Hanging Out In Vilnius With Trump, Putin and Tony Soprano

Larger than life characters have descended on Vilnius. The usual mix of art and politics.

By the train station, it's Tony Soprano. He's been in Vilnius for a while.

More recently on the scene, political titans, tyrants. Let's collectively call them TrumPutin. Maybe you recognize the pose? An homage to a famous mural from the Berlin Wall. Its appearance went viral and Vilnius was suddenly a famous city for a day. Maybe now more than a handful of people will know where we've called home the past two years. We couldn't ask for better publicity.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Mulling Medininkai Castle In Lithuania

It's not hard to go all medieval in Lithuania. A half hour from Vilnius toward Belarus you reach the small town of Medininkai and its looming castle.

Not so looming, all that remains is a lone tower at the corner of a walled compound. The castle dates to the late 13th century. By the 17th century, the place had survived a fire and was adapted for farm use.

Views from the tower, not much changing over the centuries.

Inside the tower, a nice museum filled with a grab-bag of semi-appropriate artifacts. A bear? Sure.

More wildlife. Hey, it was a floor filled with hunting trophies. One of the sportsmen? He gets a portrait, not a taxidermy bust?

There's a floor devoted to photo-realistic paintings of most of the castles found in Lithuania. Captured  at moments of extreme Game of Throne-ness.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Remnants Of May 9 Victory Day In Riga, Latvia

Latvia has a large Russian minority population and it still comes out to commemorate Victory Day, May 9, the day the Russians defeated the Nazis in WWII. Of course, like Lithuania, Estonia and other Eastern Europe countries, it also marks the beginning of Soviet occupation that lasted 45+ years. It's a touchy subject.

Riga has a Victory Park, dominated by Soviet Socialist sculptures. A natural place for remembrance.

Solemn details, a sea of flowers, images of lost family members, military hardware.

Flowers in front of the other sculpture.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Spring Finally Arrives In Lithuania

Good things come to those who wait, and wait, and wait in Northern Europe. For us, spring is a fickle guest, showing up late and briefly. A week or so into May, skies cleared, temps rose and nature woke up.

Flowering fields.

And cherry trees. Sunlight reaching into the forest.

Even sad sites like Paneriai still see the greening of the season.

Animals emerge. OK, sometimes animals are just a gas station bathroom mural.

Bright blooms, drifting clouds and flying bugs, signs of a changed season.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Kyrgyzstan Rural Cemetery Architecture

Behold the humble architecture of rural cemeteries in Kyrgyzstan. The patina is impressive, plots filled with fencing, monuments, miniature versions of mosques.

Nice setting.

Plots are frequently fenced. Body under a giant mound. Intricate grave marking, with image.

Elements of Muslim iconic architecture.

Standing the test of time, giving in to the elements.

Another marking, dying young.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Offseason At Lake Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan

A lakeside resort in Kyrgyzstan? Sure! The country isn't called the Switzerland of the 'stans for nothing.  Southeast a few hours from the country's capital, Bishkek, sits the pristine lake Issyk-Kul. It's big, only second in the world to the Caspian Sea in saline lake size. Whatever that means.

One thing is certain, it's beautiful and, in the summer, packed with locals, Russians and Kazakh oligarchs looking for a swim and a tan.

Typical beachside resort.

The water, inviting. And shallow for a bit. There are elaborate docks extending hundreds of feet to take advantage of access. Room to party.

Offseason, the cabanas looking a little like a Blue Velvet neighborhood.

Facilities. Playground, BBQ.

Multiple language Sweet Dreams.