19 July 2019

Russia 2019 (18) - Cosmonaut Life

Well, I posted this blog entry yesterday, but I need to mention today July 20, 2019 is a big day in USA space history.  Fifty years ago today Apollo 11 took our astronauts to the moon. There, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first humans to step on the moon's surface. Armstrong's quote that day was "One small step for (a) man; one giant leap for mankind." (Photos from NASA archives.)

Seeing the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics was near the top of our list of fun things to do in Moscow. Having both retired from the airline industry, we like all things "air!!"

After we arrived, we had a disappointment though. We found you could take photos with your smart phone for free, but there was a charge of about $2.50 USD to take photos with your camera. Unfortunately I had left my purse on the bus which contained my phone and money. There was not time to go back, so I was unable to take photos here. Luckily our niece Teshia visited this museum recently and she sent us a few photos. I'll try to incorporate them with notes I took.

I did get some outside and entrance shots though. This was the fence that surrounds the property. It is engraved with a Sputnik One symbol. Its 3-month orbit launched the space age and revealed remarkable scientific discoveries. From there through competition to cooperation the then Soviet Union / now Russian Federation and the USA embarked on a stunning space journey over the next 60 years.
The front grounds were colorful flowers planted to incorporate celestial designs. Here is a star and skies.
The building is huge at 8,000 square meters (80,000+ square feet). Stairs lead up to Cosmonaut Alley. More on this later.
View from the lobby into the museum. My guess is this statue represents the myth of Icarus, who flew too close to the sun. His wings of feathers and wax melted and he fell to the sea and drowned. Not a happy ending, but a salute to early space exploration.
The rest of the photos are from our niecey. Beautiful celestial ceiling in the first of five exhibit rooms. 
Featured front and center are taxidermied female dogs Belka (right) and Strelka, first earth animals to orbit the earth and return safely in 1960.
... and handsome and charming Yuri Gagarin, first human to journey into outer space with one orbit around the earth on April 12, 1961. He has one big Hollywood smile.
The Russians are very proud of their "firsts." Others are first satellite in space (Sputnik One in 1957), first non-human probe on the moon (Luna II in 1959), first woman and civilian in space (Valentina Tereshkova in 1963), first space walk (Alexei Leonov in 1965), and first remote-controlled rover on a celestial body...the moon (Lunokhov I in 1970). All very impressive in my book!

Displayed in the museum are 3,500+ items related to Russian space history from freeze-dried food packages to rockets and live-aboard pods. To see them there is a gradual winding "trail" through five rooms and three levels. There are no stairs involved, so those with wheelchairs or having trouble walking can see the entire museum with ease.

Here are some other things we saw, but my identification is sketchy. This displays orbital patterns of satellite communications on earth and in space. These satellites make possible practical tools for use in our everyday lives. Imagine our world without smart phones, the Internet, or GPS. Yikes!!
Model of the descent vehicle of the interplanetary station Mars-3. This scientific walking device evaluated and transferred valuable information (soil composition, atmosphere, temperature, terrain) from the surface Mars to Earth for the first time.
I think this is a re-entry pod.
Well, I know I got this one right...a space suit.
Lord knows what this is!
Another whatzit.
Rockets from the 1930s. Far right is a GIRD-09. It is the first Soviet experimental liquid hybrid fuel rocket (liquid oxygen and condensed gasoline.) Center bottom is a Rocket-212. It is a long-range missile with a liquid-fueled engine. Was launched from a rail truck to be used against remote targets. Don't know about the others. I really wonder about the one in the middle though. A work of art!
Orbital space house.
Model of the Soviet MIR space station (1987).
Model MIR space station interior which accommodated seven space men. This is a very popular exhibit because you can walk through the model and see bedrooms, dining room, work area, and bathrooms (looked pretty normal).

Model demonstrating a space walk repair on a space station.

Other things I remember are:
- Exercise equipment to get cosmonauts in shape for a trip to space, includes spinners, rise-and-drop machines, weightlessness sphere, and more.
- Dehydrated foods like tea, sauces, sour cream (I think Russians have it with every meal), mustard, oatmeal, spices, stroganoff, vegetables, and gum. Also, samples of can openers, silverware, and napkins...how civilized!
- A variety of things they grew in space like orchids, onions, and tomatoes in hanging baskets.
- Displays on minor medical training they had in case of an emergency in space, like minor dental surgery.
- Lunar-landers and moon-rovers.
- Tool kits, including a Makita drill (hey, Mike gave me one of those for Christmas years ago to use on theatre set-builds!!)
- Crew manuals.
- Meteors,which you could touch, and moon rocks.
- Emergency kits used while waiting for landing rescue (gun, medicine, dry fuel, whistle).
- Models and full-size space modules and rockets.
- Space poster art.
- Yuri Gagarin's cardiogram 24 hours before take-off. He was pretty cool, calm, and collected.
- Wall of fame, photos of pioneering astronauts.
- Back in the lobby there was a gift shop with some great photo books, but nothing in English.

Now outside, this architectural feature is on the roof of the museum. It is titled Monument to the Conquerors of Space. This 107 meter (351 feet) obelisk has a 70 degree incline and is made of titanium. It was erected in 1964 to celebrate Russia's achievements in space exploration. The design portrays the exhaust plume of the rocket located on its tip. A statue of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, pioneer of the astronautic theory, stands at its base.
Up the stairs behind the museum is Cosmonaut Alley, a park-like pedestrian avenue which connects the museum with VDNKh subway station. There you will find a collection of busts of Russian cosmonauts. Currently there are 13 busts including Yuri here with a memorial decoration.
I must say, if you have the opportunity, don't pass this one up. But have some Russian rubles on hand or your smart phone.

I'll leave you with this quote: "Earth is the cradle of humanity, but mankind cannot stay in the cradle forever." Thus sayth Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (Russian scientist).

06 July 2019

Russia 2019 (17) - Life in Moscow

Hope I have this reasonably correct...

This info comes from various tour guides, including Anna (below).
Moscow is a city of 15 million people with maybe 3 million more undocumented. Sheer space is why everyone lives in concentrated high-rise apartments. Apartments are sold by 1 or 2 or whatever "rooms." That does not include the kitchen, but indicates the number of bedrooms (which also might serve as a living room). So a 1-room apartment has a kitchen and one bedroom.

At one point apartments were all State-owned, but in 1991 (after the break-up of the USSR), they were privatized. If you lived in one, you filled out a little paperwork and paid a nominal fee and it was then yours to own. At that point, you could sell or buy or leave to your kids. Mortgages are a new industry in Russia and rates depend on various factors, including government status. They run up to 20% with an average of 10%.

Anna was in a fortunate situation as her grandfather and father were dignitaries in the Communist Party. They were ambassadors to several European countries--Spain, Italy, and others. So the grandfather's very nice apartment was inherited by her father, and now inherited by Anna. There are "condo fees" involved for general maintenance, but no mortgage. I'm not sure which building was Anna's, but one of these that overlooks the Moscow River. On the opposite bank is Gorky Park, so a lovely location.

No neighborhoods in Moscow like we are used to in the US. Very, very few individual houses at all. Some people own dachas in the country. These are summer or weekend homes. It could be a cottage or even a primitive shack, which must feel like a castle outside of the city high-rises.

Anna said she does not pay mortgage or rent, but she does pay tuition. Primary and basic general education is compulsory for age 6-15. At that time students are tested and their grades determine how much of their 2-3 year higher education will be provided for, on a sliding scale. One of Anna's daughters did very well, but the other not so well. In order for this one to continue her studies, Anna must pay a high tuition rate. Several folks we talked to on this journey said it was time for testing and they hoped their kids would do well. Literacy rate is a stunning 98%.

I wondered how do people grocery shop as I did not see any local stores. Or maybe I just could not decipher "grocery" in Russian on the signs. Our guides assured us shopping is easy. They stated there are markets, supermarkets, hypermarkets (big shopping malls), and even discount markets. They pointed out a few of the hypermarts wish seemed more on the edge of the city. They looked more like huge factories from the outside. Here is some interesting info on grocery shopping:

Cars, cars, cars! An unbelievable number of high end cars--BMW, Mercedes, even Maybachs (we saw a number of these like the one below). And black seems to be the color of choice. One of our guides said there were more luxury cars in Moscow than in all of Europe combined!! Who knows.

Roads within Moscow and Saint Petersburg were in excellent condition. On a few of our trips outside the cities there were potholes, but minimal. Guides said the state highways were always in excellent condition.

Freeways were interesting in design. Rainy here, but this shows the lighting system with arches reaching up like tentacles. Most freeways were constructed overhead from city street level.

Lots of road signage.
I liked the crosswalk signage. Not really sure what this one meant. Bike crossing?
In many locations there was a countdown for getting ready to stop and getting ready to go. This one shows there are 28 more seconds til the light turns green.
I'm going to attempt to compare gas prices prices for 92 octane. They use liters instead of gallons and money is Russian rubles. One gallon equals about 3.8 liters. So 3.8 liters times 42.10 rubles equals 159.98 total rubles for a gallon. Exchange rate today brings that to about $2.53 USD per gallon, a little less than we pay in Michigan. Are you with me?
Here is rent-a-scooter.
There was some graffiti, but not much. Don't know what this means. Hope it isn't offensive.
And, yay, they recycle!

04 July 2019

Russia 2019 (16) - Tretyakov Museum

Merchant and philanthropist Paval Tretyakov (1832-1897) is arguably the greatest collector of Russian art. He started collecting at age 22 and set a personal goal to create a Russian National Gallery. He succeeded. In 1892, he presented his collection of 2,000 works--1362 paintings, 526 drawings, and 9 sculptures--to the State.

Per the Viking Daily News, the focus in this State-owned repository is strictly Russian artists and art. Exhibits display classical art from the 11-20th centuries, iconography, and portraits of famous poets, authors, musicians, and composers. There are four areas of specialty.

Russia icons: Andrei Rublev's 15th-century Holy Trinity (acknowledged as the country's greatest icon) and the like are displayed.

Realist: Includes Perov's Troika, a moving and chilling depiction of child labor in the 19th-century Russia.

Revivalist: Fantastical figures and fairy tales of artists such as Victor Vasnetsov, including his Bogatyrs (heros, knights).

Contemporary: The New Tretyakov building (photo up top) displays Soviet propaganda poster art and Russian avant-garde artists like Kandinsky, Chagall (yes, he was born in Russia), and Lyubov Popova (a rare female).

As we walked from bus to museum, we saw this sculpture titled Fountain of the Arts or Inspiration (2006). It is a 3-D vision of paintings hanging in the museum. We would see this one later.
This is the entrance to the original building, completed in 1904 in a fairy tale style. Over time, several other buildings were added to the complex and the collection expanded to over 180,000 objects.
The statue above of Tretyakov by Alexander Kibalnikov (1980) greets you at the door. Inside the museum is his bust by Sergei Volnukhin (1899). Often photos show him pondering with arms crossed upon his chest as both these pieces depict.
One of first things that caught my eye was this lovely chandelier made of amethyst "chips." I have never seen anything like it. The darker areas in the photo, in actuality, are the same lovely lavender/purple as the upper petals.
Keep in mind up to the 17th century only religious paintings were generally accepted in Russia, so little secular to be found during that time. Russia did not participate in the Renaissance era. Here's a small sample of some of the works we admired. I'll do my best with titles, artists, and dates.
Empress Anna Ioannovna by Louis Caravaque (1730)
Portraits were, of course, popular for the rich and famous.
 Tsar Michael I (first tsar of the Romanovs) by Johann Wedekind (1636)
 Catherine the Great in the Temple of Justice by Dimitry Levitsky (circa 1782)
The Rider by Karl Bryullov (1832)
Girl in a Poppy Garland by Orest Kiprensky (1819)
White marble bust of Peter the Great. Handsome Dude!
View of the Colosseum from the Palatine Hill Rome by Fedor Matveev (1816)
During Peter the Great's era academic (or "under the European influence") painting came into vogue. 

Castel Sant'Angelo by Sylvester Shchedrin (1824)
Italy's Tiber River with Saint Peter's Cathedral in the background and the Castel to the right.
Sword Dance or Dance Among the Daggers by Henryk Siemiradzki (1881)
(daggers pointing up from pavement)
"Salon paintings" like these were paintings of beauty and leisure.

In the Artist's Studio or The Little Thief  by Konstantin Makovsky (1881)
War - Siege of Pskov by Karl Brulloff (1843)

Peril and hope - The Rainbow by Ivan Aivazovsky (1873)

Fairy tales - Morning in the Pine Forest by Ivan Shishkin (1889)

Ivan Zarevitch on the Grey Wolf  by Viktor Mikhailovich Vasnetsov (1889)

The Birch Grove by Arkhip Kuindzhi (1879)
This is the painting that was mimicked in the fountain sculpture (above) on the walk to the museum.
Religious art and icons - Annunciation of Ustyug by Veliky Novgorod (circa 1120)
Saint Demetrius of Thessaloniki (12th century mosaic)
The Holy Face by RasMarley (1170)
Found in Yaroslavl where we will visit and
thought to be the earliest image of the Holy Face found to date.
Found on Flickr: According to undocumented info, Prince Avgar, the ruler of Edessa in Syria, had leprosy. He heard of Christ, who could heal every pain and sickness. He sent a portrait painter to Palestine with a letter, in which he begged Christ to come to Edessa to heal him. Christ could not come, but he wiped his face with a napkin, leaving a perfect reproduction of His face on it. That image healed Avgar and protected the town from Edessa.
St. Basil's in Red Square by Fedor Yakovlevich (1801)
Artistic documentation because no photos back in those days.

Winter scenes - The Rooks Have Come by Alexei Savrasov (1871)

I love the next two. So reminiscent of Russia life in my mind.

Wedding Train in the 17th century by Andrei Rjabushkin (1901)
This was turned into a Russia postage stamp in 1986
and shows a sleigh carriage like we would soon see at the Hermitage.

The Family by Sergey Ivanov (1907)

Of course you can't see everything. We missed the famous Evard Munch's The Scream and Ilya Repin's Ivan the Terrible Killing His Son (grieving Ivan the T holding his son in his arms after mortally wounding him in a rage). We did see Vasily Vereshchagin's Apotheosis of War (a large pile of skulls in the desert with lurking blackbirds), but it was so chilling I could not take a photo.

An Aside: Friend Jerolyn's artist friend's name is Vladimir Vereschagin. Close spelling. Wonder if they are related? Years ago he visited our condo building when it was an art gallery and we bought two of his whimsical sketches and love them.

And, of course, we ended at the gift shop. Need another baseball cap? I resisted.