What seems tranquil that wasn’t

Will you travel to a gulag? Don’t know what that is? There was a really dark period of history in the story of Russia and its legacy remains till this day. Though from the onset one might not get the feeling that a lot of bad things happened here.

The location itself is definitely exotic enough.

This story from the Daily Mail covered it all (link). And the pictures that you will see in the link may suggest Solovetsky is a beautiful place to visit, albeit a little on the difficult to reach since it is ~100 miles from the arctic circle. Remember our post about this dream cruise (here)?

But the point is – some places appear so peaceful today when one strolls through it, but back in the day, there could have been carnage or immense suffering and destruction that took place. Well ‘Solovi’ has all the trappings of it all. One might bump into a monk, but the places were meditation and prayers take place today was once home to a brutal regime of torture.

Dark tourism some call it. Though there are also natural wonders such as the many arctic terns that nest in the islands as alternative sights of interests.

So here is one more of the exotic locales we wrote about in the vastness of the Russian federation (previous ones here). Will this inspire you to make the journey there?

Did you know Poland was once all powerful?

Yes it may sound puzzling to imagine. But students of medieval European history will be able to articulate how Poland was once a mighty nation, holding dominion over a large swathe of eastern Europe. In fact, it took a Polish King to lead his forces and beat the Ottomans back from the gates of Vienna…


Today we want to reminisce about our journey to this wonderful country. The last 300 years had not been kind to Poland. As its institutions weakened due to internal strife, strong neighbours took advantage of the situation to slice the country apart. And for almost 200 years Poland did not exist as an independent country.

But today that has all changed. Since embracing the fall of communism in 1989, the country has steadily developed. And we were there in 2001 to see some of the early fruits of the change during a sojourn that took us from Poznan through to Warsaw and finally Krakow.

In Poznan and Warsaw we saw how the city has rebuilt, recreating brick for brick what existed prior to the devastation of WWII. While in Krakow we explored a city with preserved classical medieval structures that were unscathed by the conflict.

We know that there are many other places in Poland to touch and this was an excellent introductory journey. Have you been to Poland? What do you think are the recommended sights? Tell us what you think after reading our essay here.

Grow like a champion grow!

We are absolutely sure that none of you dear readers will understand the context under which we are writing about Denmark. What’s the title of the post has to do with this country you gently ask.


You see, when we were growing up there was this brand of milk powder that was frequently advertised on television. And its tagline was the title of this post. Guess what? The producer and owner of the brand is Danish. So now you know why when we think of this brand when Denmark is mentioned… imprinting. Get them while they are young. That’s why there are legislations these days to prohibit advertising targeted at kids.

Before and during our time living in Amsterdam, we transit via Copenhagen airport quite often. Hence no prizes for guessing we took time out of the airport to visit the city.

As you can imagine, while most folks would make a beeline for the mermaid, we casually strolled along the stroget to our favourite fish restaurant. Nothing beats the wonderful feeling of a romantic walk along this pedestrian shopping street on a warmer day.

But there is more than the capital, for we also made it out of the city whose street (according to Hans Christian Andersen’s story) is paved with gold. Remember this story Find out what’s more you can expect here.

Where in Denmark have you touched?


Visiting and relaxing in a sanitorium

Heheh… the word sanitorium in the modern context might suggest to you that one’s gone bonkers… Or that one had contracted a virulent form of TB. But did you know that sanitoriums were not all built for the purposes of taking in such afflicted persons?

If this post is true, then the good folks of the soviet era did have a little more joy than we are told. Though it would only be for two weeks, the vouchers or subsidized holidays would be a respite from the daily grind. Did you read the post? They sure have some strange ways to relax!

You might recall, outside of the soviet system in supposedly capitalist countries we also get the two weeks of paid vacation (some places much more), but we have pay for our own relaxation… hmmm… the irony. Is it really so much better to have to slog your way and yet be “worse” off? Do you think you are worse off today then before or will things only look up?

The world is in flux these days. Income inequality is rising. Technologies are disrupting the way businesses and how their processes are being run. New ways of doing things are emerging that will subsume existing ones in a disruptive creation. It’s no surprise that many folks who are caught up in these changes on the wrong side of the road are beginning to resist the tide.

Many might wish for a return to the past when life was predictable. At least the soviets had a way for workers to relax. Will you travel to a Soviet era sanitorium?

Happy 53rd Birthday!

In our little red dot, getting close to being 55 years of age was considered to be a very important milestone. For those who are not aware (our dear non red dotter audience that is), being 55 entitles a red dotter to pull money out of his/her retirement account. Whatever is left in there after a whole life of paying for the mortgage and who knows what else. Plus some restrictions here and there… not the scope of this post though.

We’ve heard many stories though not necessarily representative, of folks who plan extensively on how they will “manage” the monies they can get out of the retirement account. Some dream of stopping work and traveling the world. Others want to use the money to help their kids… you get the picture no?

So now that the country itself is close to 55, are the same symptoms manifesting themselves albeit at the national level? Are there folks out there who eye the national reserves for use? Remember, someone said (ancient Greek we think) democracies start to fail when the electorate vote for themselves monies from state coffers.

Heheh… but today is a national day of celebrations, so let’s not ‘pour cold water’ – local expression for dampening the mood. As our little island looks back over these last 5+ decades, there is much more to thank than to complain. Nothing’s ever perfect and having lived in a few other countries helped us adjust to that reality.

Remember to put on your red and white today and wear it proud!

Set amidst the Eurasian meeting point

The grainy picture as the feature is intended. For you see, to us Istanbul is a city of contrasts. It straddles two continents we are told, though the start and end of each one is not really that clear in any case. Hence the blurry photo. By the way that was the underground cistern, where the old Byzantine state drew water for the city’s inhabitants.

Yeah, byzantine indeed. For even as the word suggests complication, full of contradictions between the young and old, the have and have nots. Is it still secular? Or is it drifting away from that? But we digress.

For the last 500+ years, the city has been embellished by its Ottoman rulers. Palaces and historical landmarks aplenty to awe one. But it has also embraced modernity like any other European city. Walk in any of its central streets and you might not even notice the difference.

So here we were. Twice actually.

We came by sea and we came by air. We came, we saw and we left part of our heart there. Rhymes huh? There is so much to see and do. But being part of a tour group had its advantages, being whisked into sites on “priority”… saves time from queuing to buy and getting in line for the entry. Wanna know what WE did in Istanbul? Read all about it here.

Have you visited Istanbul?