Friday, September 20, 2013

Warsaw's Sorrow

Preserved caterpillar track from the German "Goliath" remote controlled tracked mine that tore down part of the cathedral walls in August 1944 during the Warsaw Uprising.  85% of the city was destroyed by the Germans.

Between 1939 and 1945 six million Poles died under the occupation of Germany and Russia.  20% of the population.

Meticulous reproductions of the 13 to 20 Century buildings destroyed in 1944. It is said the period bricks use to recreate the old buildings were obtained by destroying old buildings outside of Warsaw.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Warsaw Shopping Center

Downtown Warsaw is a new shopping center, with a wonderful home designer store with its own coffee bar and WiFi, to allow one to to linger and contemplate.

Biological Gears

Discovered by Malcolm Barrows and Gregory Sutton, the nymph version of the insect Issus coleoptratus has interlocking teeth that act as gears to synchronize jumping.  The adult grows to 4 mm and does not have these teeth.  Issus can jump to one meter, I guess so they are not eaten.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Stebuklas - The miracle tile in Vilius

In 1989, two years before the Soviet Union collapsed and the Baltic states become independent again, there was a mass peaceful protest.  Up to two million of the eight million citizens of the three countries created a human chain from here, outside the Vilnius Cathedral, to Tallin. 600 kms away.

Google Maps Link

Vegetarians in the Texas countryside, off the bell curve

So I was serving food again at the annual Volunteer Fireman's fund raise.  Food was $9 for as much as you could get on a plate.  People could have some or all of the following:
  • Mutton
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Sauce
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Beans
  • Pickles
  • Onions
  • White bread
The meat was served first. This time I was serving potatoes, mashed with lots of butter. After serving about 70 plates already weighed down with meat, there was an empty plate in front of me. "You must be a vegetarian," I said. "Yes," she admitted. And maybe 20 plates later there was another one with an empty plate, but she said she was no longer a vegetarian.

A highly inaccurate survey, but maybe 2% of people living in the Texas countryside are vegetarians.....

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Ethnographic Museums

Just outside the Riga city limits is a large open air living history museum of over 100 old buildings collected from all areas of Latvia. The location is almost perfect, a forested landscape with an undulating terrain and waterfront.

The museum was started in 1924, in Soviet times, and is a very early example.

One of the best living history museums is Plimoth Plantation, Massachusetts, which is a very realistic 1627 English Village set in a valley away from signs of modern civilization.  The staff speak with the correct accent and do not understand modern idioms. The livestock and plants are correct to the location and time. No plant is allow to grow older 6 years, as that reflects the real history.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Art Nouveau in Riga

Riga was a prosperous Russian port city in the 1800s .   The center of Riga is a UNESCO world heritage site.  From the UNESCO description:

"The bourgeoisie of Riga used their wealth to build imposing private residences and apartment blocks in the expanding suburbs, where an earlier ordinance forbidding the use of stone for building was rescinded. Latvian and Russian architects adopted the European movements enthusiastically, and in particular Art Nouveau, which came from Finland. This developed its own characteristics in Riga, where a national style was created by graduates of the Riga Polytechnic."

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Boris Yeltsin's visit to Estonia in 1991 - three days in history

1991 August 18

In Moscow the coup to overthrow Gorbachev starts, the day Boris Yeltsin, the president of Russia, stood on the tank.  The coup was led by a group of eight high level Party and KGB members; Mikhail Gorbachev was under house arrest in the Crimea.  

1991 August 19

USSR tanks advance on the Estonian Parliament. The picture shows one of the roads leading up to the Parliament. The rock, is one used to block the road to stop the tanks.

While the tanks were advancing, Boris Yeltsin arrives via helicopter to the Estonian Parliament.

1991 August 20

The coup in Moscow failed, and the Congress of Estonia adopts the decision to become an independent nation.

The Estonian's have a soft spot for Boris; they managed a bloodless independence with his help.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Tallinn Krishners

Local Estonians under the doctrine of Hare Krishna, crazy, but it beats Communism any day.  
The women trail behind the men, no surprise, and the kid in the the skull T-shirt and the guy in blue did not get the message about appropriate dress. I wonder what they wear in winter? It snows seven months of the year. 
In the Tallinn square, where these pictures were taken, there are a multitude of people dressed in the 21st century version of medieval garb, trying to to get you to eat their food and buy their stuff, who know they are play acting.

The Krishners are the real thing, at least in their own minds. 

Back to School in Vilnius

Students gathering outside St. Casimir's Church, on the first day of school.  This is a Jesuit school, and many of the students are carrying a flower for the teacher.

The pink and orange church has led an interesting life.

Built in 1635, but burnt down 20 years later by the Russians, rebuilt and destroyed by fire in 1707 and 1749.

In 1812 the French turned it into a grain silo
In 1915 the Germans turned it into a Lutheran church for the army
In 1949 the Soviets used it for a grain silo
In 1963 it became the Museum of Atheism (whatever that is)
In 1991 the Jesuits took back possession