Friday, June 27, 2008

Beautiful Kiev

The sightseeing around Kiev has been fascinating. We started with the caves at an old monastery...which is one of the most important places for Eastern Orthodox Christianity. The caves are actually small passages, lined with mummified saints and church hierachy from centuries ago. There is little light, so you buy a candle to light your way. Most people stopped at each body to say a prayer. We then made our way to Rodina Mat (previously blogged) and the WWII museum, located in her pedestal.

Today, we visited two churches. St. Sophia was one of the most interesting orthodox churches I've seen. Built in the 11th century, the original structure is possible to see, including pieces of the original mosaic floor. The adjacent belfry offered a stunning view of Kiev and plenty of photo ops. St. Michael's (pictured above) was completely re-construcuted; Stalin bombed the original. We then made our way down to Podil (the lower city) where we visited two museums. The first, the One Street Museum, was a fascinating collection of letters, books, clothing, pictures, etc reflecting the pre-Soviet lives of Kievians. We also visits the Chernobyl museum; appropriately stark and depressing.

Last night, I had dinner with some of Rob's friends (Fulbright fellows), then made it to a bar to watch the intense Russia-Spain Eurocup semi-final. The bar crowd was mixed between their support of Russia, which seems appropriate given the mixed sentiment of Ukranians.

Also interesting was a huge EU flag (maybe 60 ft) on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building. Despite their desire, Ukraine is nowhere close to being part of the EU, but a tentative WTO deal, talks with NATO, and the presumptuous flag seems to unequivocally state the capitalistic, democratic direction of Ukraine.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hey Mom, I met someone in Ukraine

Her name is Rodina Mat. She's 190 feet tall, made of titanium, and
commemorates the Soviet victory in WWII. Her name literally means
"mother of the motherland." She's a little quiet, but has a lot of

In Ukraine

My arrival to Kiev went as planned. Rob picked me up, and we made our
way to the city center of of Kiev. The weather is perfect here. I'm
staying at the Hotel Ukraina (pictured above) which sits above
Independence Square (where the Orange Revolution in 2004 took place).

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Leaving St. Petersburg

Sadly, my time in Russia has come to an end. I'm in the airport now,
heading to Kiev, where I will spend four days with a friend.

My last day was great. After sleeping in for the first time in weeks,
I headed to Peterhof with Masha. We took the hydro-foil up the Neva
River and across the Gulf of Finland. Peterhof was pretty amazing,
and the fountains (pictured above) were spectacular... easily the most
impressive fountains I have ever seen - I took a few (hundred)
photos. Inside the palace, I saw a number of pieces created by the
Fabergé workshop, including one of the infamous Fabergé eggs...
exquisite (Aunt Jan, I thought of you!). Masha had to leave Peterhof
early to catch her train back to Moscow, so I spent a couple relaxing
hours walking around the beautiful gardens.

St. Petersburg definitely met my expectations as one of the most
beautiful cities in the world. The architecture and interiors of the
various palaces were inspired by the best of Western Europe (marble
columns, gilded everything, enormous frescoes, sprawling gardens,
etc), .... but retained their own luxurious Tsarist flare. The
Hermitage museum is second only to the Louvre (there were rooms of
Matisse, Picaso, Rodin, Monet, etc). The city life itself is vibrant,
as exhibited by the spontaneous, jubilant street celebrations after
Russia won the Eurocup semi-finals. The metro was fantastic -
extremely efficient, clean, easy to get around (if you can read a
little Cyrillic), and deep (supposedly the deepest in the world... on
some escalators, you couldn't see one end from one end to the other).
Despite the lifeless (yet customary) stares on the metro, most people
I met were nice and helpful.

Monday, June 23, 2008


Jesse and Masha enjoying flaming B-52's on the last night in St.

All about presentation

Jesse ordered the Lobster Sashimi appetizer... and it came out with a
mini fish tank (those are live fish).... absolutely insane.

White Nights... St. Petersburg

We are sitting now at Aquarel. Nga, Jesse and I are enjoying the
"home-made lemonade" on this floating open-air restaurant on the Neva
river. Hydro-foils are going by every 10 minutes, shuffling tourists
to Peterhof. We've had an awesome few days in St. Petersburg: good
food, late nights, amazing palaces, beautiful churches, fascinating
metros, and lots of photos.

Friday, June 20, 2008

So far so good

Just landed in St. Petersburg, and luggage made it. I'm taking a cab
ride to the hotel. It's dusk... but almost 1 AM - White Nights is
upon us. First impressions of St. P is that it is more clean and
Western than Moscow, yet absolutely Russian. Wow, just drove past a
30 ft statue of Lenin (which I guess you don't see too often in the
West, unless you visit Rob).

Sent from my iPhone


Currently 4:15 am on a winding road, on Costierra Amalfitana. We had
a great last night. After an incredible cliff side dinner, we enjoyed
a midnight swim in the sea after a bonfire on the beach, after playing
games. It has been an incredible trip inwe Italy, and sadly it has
come to an end. Deena, Mike, Tanya and I are sharing a cab to the
Napoli airport. Next stop... St. Petersburg!
Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Amalfi Coast

We arrived yesterday on the Amalfi coast, after first having lunch at
classmate's villa in Cassino. We made it to Positano for sunset and
dinner, where we watched the Italy vs France soccer game (initial
round of the Euro cup.... you could feel the entire country hold their
breath as Italy faced elimination if they lost). Today, we visited
the towns of Amalfi and Ravello (above photo) - both incredibly
picturesque with the dramatic cliffs of the Amalfi Coast I'm the
background. Tomorrow, we head by boat to Capri island for the day.
Every view is incredible here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Elba Island

We've spent the last couple nights on Elba Island, which had been
great. The warm weather complements the sleepy beach towns that we
have visited. Yesterday, we took a boat around the island, stopping
at a coves along the way for a couple short swims. We saw a school of
dolphins along the way. It was completely relaxing to stare at the
sea for a few hours, and let my mind wander. Above is the view of our
pool, where we had a fancy, multi-course dinner the first night.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


On our trip from Milano to Elba Island, we stopped by the Lamborghini
factory and museum. It was absolutely incredible. On the factory
tour we walked through a parking lot of 40-50 Lamborghinis....
absolutely insane. Retail price starts at 250,000 Euros for the
current model, Lamborghini Murcielago. Only 2,000 are made each year,
and there's a one-year waiting list. Every detail on the car can be
customized, and every car is customized (each is made to order). One
of the crazier customizations was all-crocodile seats. The cars were
beautiful and impressive. The current model uses a V-12, 640
horsepower engine, and can go zero to 60 in 3.2 seconds. The assembly
line was rather simple - almost nothing mechanized-these cars are
really hand made.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Our first day in Italy, the HBS crew converged on Milan. We had a
pleasant walking tour of the city, then a nice aperitivo, followed by
an incredible dinner. In the late evening, we wandered by a few
cafes, enjoyed a couple more bottles of wine, then made it back to the
hotel. The above photo is of the impressive Galleria.

Monday, June 09, 2008

June adventures

With graduation behind me... I am about to embark on another round of
travels for three weeks. I will start with an 11-day trek in Italy,
organized by my Italian classmates, which should be incredible. I
then head to Russia for 5 days to enjoy the White Nights festival in
St. Petersburg, which should be amazing. I'll end the June travels in
Ukraine, where I'll rendevous with my friend Rob. Then back to SF to
get moved into to my new place. I hope to continue posting blog
updates throughout my travels.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Photo time!

I finally got a chance to post my photos from Jordan and Israel: