If you love history and art, Topkapi Palace is the place to visit. Photography is forbidden in the treasure rooms, but some of that stuff is crazy and worth seeing. Make sure you pay extra to check out the Harem, which has gorgeous rooms.
If I absolutely had to be buried in a cemetery*, it would be without a doubt Hamburg’s Ohlsdorf Cemetery. The second largest cemetery in the world after Long Island’s Calverton National Cemetery, the non-denominational Ohlsdorf Cemetery “has an area of 391 hectares (966 acres) with 12 chapels, over 1.5 million burials in more than 280,000 burial sites and streets with a length of 17 km (11 mi). There are 4 entrances for vehicles and public transport is provided with 25 bus stops.” This is a cemetery on steroids. N and I spent a quiet afternoon driving and walking through the memorials for the war dead and the beautiful civilian burial sites.
We woke up to rapid knocking on our door. Vladimir stood outside. “Moskva.”, he said gruffly and I looked at the time. 4:30am. What in the…? We had an hour and a half before we were scheduled to pull into the city. Our sheets were pulled out from under us as Natasha and Vladimir rushed to get as much cleaning done as possible. They couldn’t even wait until the passengers were off the train. Thanks for the first class service, guys.
Moscow: One of the biggest cities in the world – boasting a population of 12 million – and the wealthiest city in Russia. Compared to Tokyo and New York City, the people are spread out a bit more, but it is still a fast-paced and money-driven city. As many others have said before, Moscow is the most “Russian” big city in Russia. The people are stoic, there is a heavy police and military presence everywhere you go, and the all-business, ever-symmetrical Soviet-era buildings add to the tense ambiance.
We braved the Moscow subway system to get to our hotel, and the subway is what this post will be about. Seriously, there is nothing else that really interested me about the city besides the unexpected beauty of the Moscow subway stations. The Red Square. Different, but it kind of sucked because there was a huge Euro Pop concert being set up while we were there, and euro dance music being blasted in our ears really spoiled the mood.
Sadly, Nara lives in the large shadow of its big sister Kyoto. Few people know that Nara was briefly once the capital of Japan for about 75 years, before it was moved to Kyoto (for over 1000 years) and finally to Tokyo in the mid 1800s. During its brief stint as the capital, Nara’s imperial family pushed for the spread of Buddhism into Japanese culture.
The impressive Todaiji Temple with its daibutsu (big Buddha) and Kofukuji Temple with its famous Ashura statue (among others) is a testament to just how hard the artisans and builders worked to create something awe-inspiring to attract potential worshippers. Todaiji is one of the very few temples we’ve come across that allows photography of their religious statues so don’t forget your camera!
Food in Tokyo is pretty damn good, but we were pleasantly surprised to find that there are great meals to be had in Kyoto besides the traditional Japanese food it’s known for. These are the top five food spots we liked best. We only wish we had a better camera. Please excuse our sub-par photos.
1. Italian at Colori Caffe
A friend of a friend in NYC heard we had plans to visit Kyoto and introduced us to Yossi, Italian restaurant owner and chef extraordinaire. From the moment we met, I knew we were going to be friends. I could go on and on about how awesome she is, but I’ll save that for another day. This girl does everything by herself, from the buying of the food to the cooking to the serving to the cleaning. Crazy, right? But she does everything so flawlessly and seamlessly that we were able to really enjoy the food.
My grandfather, having had a passion for photography, started a camera shop after the war. I stumbled across some relics from the past in my grandparents’ old home.