We rolled into Vilnius, Lithuania just before 10 pm last night after a four-hour long bus ride. It was pouring rain, which is typical for here (apparently the weather is awful in one way or another at least 60% of the time), and late, so we grabbed dinner at a vegetarian bar and crashed out at the hotel. Today, it was supposed to pour--our cab driver assured us that this time, the entire city would be flooded--but our luck held and we were able to do a walking tour of the Old Town and the Republic of Užupis.

Vilnius has a messy, dilapidated charm. I think, perhaps, my lack of bonding with Riga was due to the fact that it's kept in such good repair; letting a city crumble a bit is much more aesthetically pleasing. It's slightly less Westernized--people here speak Russian as much as they do English, though mainly Lithuanian--and just, well, weirder.

photos )
sabotabby: (doom doom doom)
([personal profile] sabotabby Jul. 25th, 2017 04:41 pm)
Here are a few last glimpses of Riga before we hop a bus to Vilnius. We went to the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, the Art Nouveau district, and I shot a few more pictures of the hotel.

under here )
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([personal profile] sabotabby Jul. 24th, 2017 10:12 pm)
I don't have a ton of spoons left over tonight for a long post, so have some photos around and about Riga.

After the aesthetic exuberance of Odessa, Riga seems much more restrained, even dour. It's impressively old (founded in 1201, and there were settlements well before that) and lovely, but also more orderly, less lively, less organic. And, of course, much more expensive: welcome back to Western Europe.

This said, it's gorgeous and fun. Everyone speaks English here, which is relaxing. I don't mean this in a chauvinist way; mainly that I don't need to bother Anya to translate everything. Actually, where we're staying in the old town, it doesn't seem like anyone other than people working here are from here; it's pretty heavily touristy.

Which also means that it's incredibly easy to find vegan food. Including an entire vegan restaurant. I was like, "GIVE ME ALL THE PROTEIN."

The most important story I learned today was this: There were two powerful guilds in Riga. One was for skilled craftsmen, and admitted every eligible craftsman who applied to join. The other was for merchants, and only admitted Germans. A wealthy merchant from Riga applied to join and was rejected on the basis of his nationality. Accordingly, he built himself a giant fuck-off house across the street from the guild building and put black cats on the roof with their asses facing the building, as if shitting. The guild immediately sued to have the cats removed, but because lawsuits take time, WWI broke out, and no one gave a shit about cats' asses. The cats were mysteriously removed anyway in the 1920s, and replaced just as mysteriously in the 1950s, this time facing towards the guild, as it is now the home of the Riga Philharmonic, and no one has any quarrel with them.



photodump )
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([personal profile] sabotabby Jul. 24th, 2017 12:47 pm)
Just arrived in Riga, Latvia. Thought, hey, this hotel is teh cute!

Anya is like, "This hotel is familiar."

I realize that this is of interest to probably no one else reading this (sadly it would be if I were cross posting to LJ, where there is a teeny community for such things), but I'm staying in the hotel where they shot Seventeen Moments of Spring (as well as parts of the Soviet Sherlock Holmes.) And if you think I'm not geeking out like mad over this, you don't know me at all.

Fortunately, Anya is the person who introduced me to the series so she is also geeking out and is equally pleased that Stirlitz is watching over the beds in our room, judging whether or not we have adequately sacrificed and fought for the cause of anti-fascism:


Here's the view out the window:



(If you have no idea what I'm talking about, here is my screenshot recap of Seventeen Moments after I watched it and decided that everyone needed to see it. Minus the image hosting, unfortunately; I'll need to fix that at some point.)
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([personal profile] sabotabby Jul. 23rd, 2017 09:07 pm)
So the performance sucked so hard we walked out. Like, possibly the worst thing either of us have ever seen, which is saying an awful lot. The tickets were suspiciously cheap, but tbh most things in the Ukraine are suspiciously cheap. But in this case I think it was because they knew it was terrible. We'd actually gone in to see if we could get a tour or just wander around the opera house, but the lady said that there was a show that night, so we decided to give it a shot.

She described the show as a sequel to The Nutcracker but also a crossover with War and Peace, and a musical. A "wonderful spectacle," in fact. I have to admit that we were basically morbidly curious, and it would get us inside those gorgeously ornate doors.

Anyway, we made it two songs in. The thing was in Ukrainian so we don't know what it was about but I don't think it would have made a lot of sense even if we did understand the language. It was kind of embarrassing to listen to.

But! It meant that we got to sneak out and take unobstructed photos of the glory that is the Odessa Opera House, and that was worth the ticket price alone. I hope you appreciate how hard it was to narrow these down. They don't half capture the actual, real spectacle that is this building, but I've given it my best.

pretty! )
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([personal profile] sabotabby Jul. 23rd, 2017 01:17 pm)
We went to the Odessa Opera House, one of the most famous and beautiful opera houses in the world.

behold! )
sabotabby: (coffee)
([personal profile] sabotabby Jul. 21st, 2017 11:09 pm)
I feel like this needs to be a separate post from the OMG ODESSA IS SO PRETTY post. For one thing, these were taken on my shitty cell camera and not my iPad. But also they're pictures I've taken when I've seen something hella weird and immediately need to inform social media.

Let's just say there are some, uh, cultural differences between Ukraine and everywhere else I've ever been that take a bit of getting used to. FOR EXAMPLE:


What is this, some kinky sex thing? Maybe in that masochist bar that we didn't get into because your kink is okay but not my kink?


No! It is the café in the Lviv airport. Why do they have chairs like this? No one knows. But to answer a few questions:

1) Yes, we sat in them.
2) Yes, they are actually quite comfortable.
3) No, no one else seemed to think they were out of the ordinary in any way.

To answer a question no one asked:

1) Yes, the Americanos in that café are quite good, especially by airport standards, would totally recommend. Though, granted, it was like 5 am and I would have drank lighter fluid if it would have woken me up.



Our hotel in Lviv, while cute, had no elevator--a problem, since our room was on the 5th floor. (I may be an obsessive step-counter who never goes on an escalator when there's the option of a staircase, but at the end of the day when you've been walking/carrying bags? Less fun.) We were relieved to see that this hotel does have one. In fact, it has all of the regular floors you would expect to see in a building, such as 1, 2, 3, 4, and crab.

1) Yes, I know what's on the crab floor.
2) No, you'll have to wait and see until tomorrow if it's any good.
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([personal profile] sabotabby Jul. 21st, 2017 10:33 pm)
Sorry-not-sorry, but you will be getting a load of pictures of Odessa because it is fucking magical. My intention at the moment is to retire, sell my house, buy one of the dilapidated old buildings and restore it to its former glory, learn Russian (it's another city where most people speak Russian, not Ukrainian, much to our joy), and wander around the glorious streets at night in a fashionable dress, drinking an open bottle of champagne.

Life goals, amirite?

In all seriousness, though, not for nothing is Odessa called Paris on the Black Sea. It has all the architectural splendour and literary tradition you could hope for, it is cosmopolitan and fashionable, and it is lit. I have never been to Paris, granted, but from what I understand Odessa is much cheaper and not as crowded. In Kiev and Lviv, people are pretty much the same as anywhere else, except with a penchant for wearing poorly translated English t-shirts bearing inspirational but nonsensical slogans, expressions of general hatred towards anyone viewing the shirt, or just vague weirdness (my favourite so far was a picture of a cat made out of ramen noodles sitting in a bowl with the caption "Pet Food").

Here, though, everyone looks like a model. The women are all tall and thin and wear flowing striped dresses, and the children prance around in tutus at all hours of the night. The streets are alive with music and performers and what I'm pretty sure is a unicorn (i.e., incentive to look at the pictures under the cut).

plz appreciate how much I had to narrow these down )
sabotabby: (lolmarx)
([personal profile] sabotabby Jul. 21st, 2017 01:58 pm)
We're in Odessa, about a 10 min walk from the !!!!!!!! Potemkin Steps.

Expect incoming photos for every day I'm here.

Srsly, I didn't even like Battleship Potemkin but I don't think a movie needs to be enjoyable to be arguably the most important movie ever made, with which we would not have our current cinematic vocabulary. I mean. I teach film. So naturally the first thing I had to do (well, after we had lunch and coffee because we were up at 4 am to catch the flight from Lviv) was brave the 30°C weather to bring you the following:





Don't mind me, I'll be over here geeking out hard/memorizing the angles in the scene so that I can do horrible imitations of them amongst all the tourists.
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([personal profile] ashkitty Jul. 21st, 2017 10:18 am)
I don't think I've kept updated here very well, so the short points:

I'm moving back to the US this week. The movers arrive tomorrow morning to retrieve half a dozen boxes of books and such, while I spend the week at a conference in Germany. Then I have one farewell day in London, an overnight in Iceland, and then I'll be back in the PacNW.

I'm obviously sad and frustrated, because I have been living a life and stuff and now it just all goes away because the country decided to wake up and be racist one day last summer.

But on the other hand, my mom's ill and about to start chemotherapy, so as timing goes, I should probably be there anyway.

I'll try to update better later and fill in the blanks - I'm still packing right now, and apparently going to just make up my conference paper as I go along on Monday.

Back to putting stuff into boxes!
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([personal profile] sabotabby Jul. 19th, 2017 05:23 pm)
Today we were incredibly productive. We hiked up to High Castle, which technically is neither a castle nor very high, but I am still proud of us, dammit. It's quite a view. Some of the original castle remains, but it's not particularly impressive compared to the sight of all of Lviv.

there are cats and other things )
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([personal profile] sabotabby Jul. 18th, 2017 07:13 pm)
This is a gorgeous city, maybe even more than Kiev. It's also very much a City Of Coffee, and I highly approve. There's a café where, if you go into the basement, you can "mine" for coffee in the walls, but besides that, when we asked the hotel guy where to get good coffee, he looked at us weirdly and said, "it's ALL good coffee." A random selection would suggest he's right.

We did a walking tour, saw various churches, the Catholic Quarter, the Jewish Quarter, the Armenian Quarter, all of which seem very close together by contemporary standards. Lviv has changed hands over its history, and the references to Galicia made me do a Google and feel like an idiot because Lviv was in the heart of what had been Galicia, and that's where my grandfather was from.

Anyway, here is the new friend we made:



more pictures )
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([personal profile] sabotabby Jul. 18th, 2017 09:03 am)
We took the overnight train and got in at 6 am. Our hotel booking isn't until 2 pm, so we've just been wandering around and taking pictures of all the pretty architecture.

click to embiggen )
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([personal profile] sabotabby Jul. 17th, 2017 07:02 pm)
Our last day in Kiev until the end of our trip. Here's a few quick glimpses of things we've seen, as we walked and walked. This is going to be a bunch of tiny pictures 'cause I'm writing from a café before we get on a night train for Lviv.

click for larger versions )
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([personal profile] sabotabby Jul. 16th, 2017 04:37 pm)
Viktor Yanyukovitch was president of the Ukraine from 2010-2014, until he was fairly dramatically deposed and fled to Russia as he is currently wanted for treason here. By all accounts, he was incredibly corrupt, and acquired the massive Mezhyhirya estate with public funds. As wealth and corruption is no guarantee of taste, when asked which architectural style he wanted to build his massive palaces in, he must have replied, "fuckin' all of them," because when protestors walked in and took over the place in 2014, they were appalled not just at the excesses (which included a car museum, a zoo, a golf course, several tennis courts, and orchards), but at his alarming taste in decor.

It now belongs to the people and is a destination for Ukrainians to have weddings, bike around, and generally point and laugh. Also there are gigantic thrones and Greco-Roman ruins for no apparent reason.

pictures! )
sabotabby: (gaudeamus)
([personal profile] sabotabby Jul. 16th, 2017 06:49 am)
I admittedly did little but eating and sleeping, as everyone is exhausted. We're staying right behind Maidan Nezalezhnosti, though, and even the laziest traveller could not fail to be moved by its beauty.



Post-2014 demonstrations, it is plastered with photos and memorials to the dead. No one goes out in Kiev this time of year except at night, when the fountains explode like fireworks and street musicians busk and young couples laugh and dance in the streets.











We grabbed dinner at an adorable café that, shock of all shocks, had food I could eat: mushroom kasha and vareniki stuffed with sour cherry, and sour cherry infused vodka.







Then exhaustion got the better of us and I probably slept more than I have in months. Awake bright and early now to do proper exploring.

P.S. Sorry for the size and quality of the images; DW's image hosting + being on my iPad makes for an unfortunate combination.







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