Archive | November, 2010
November 30, 2010

POTD: Soldiers from the Korean People’s Army (KPA) at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace


A group of North Korean soldiers visiting the Kumsusan Memorial Palace (Kim Il-Sung’s mausoleum) in September 2009.

November 29, 2010

POTD: The Reichstag in Berlin

soviet soldier on Reichstag

Currently home to the German Bundestag, the Reichstag building has played a major role in Germany’s tumultuous 20th-century history. Construction of the building was completed in 1894 and it housed Germany’s parliament until 1933, when it caught fire. The fire was blamed on Communists, and Hitler used the fire as an excuse to suspend civil liberties in Germany and imprison thousands of Communists. The building was further damaged by Allied bombing raids during World War II and was one of the primary targets of Soviet artillery during the Battle of Berlin.

soviet soldier on Reichstag

A victorious Soviet soldier waves the Soviet flag atop the Reichstag following the Battle of Berlin.

The Reichstag was rarely used during the Cold War, as the the West German parliament assembled in the the capital city of Bonn, away from West Berlin, in accordance with the Quadripartite Agreement on Berlin. Following German Reunification in 1990, it was decided that the capital of reunited Germany would be Berlin and the parliament would once again assemble in the Reichstag. Reconstruction of the building was completed in April 1999.

On a lighter note, the Reichstag also has a cafe/restaurant on its roof (Käfer Restaurant) which featured excellent panoramic views and a breakfast which I believe should be served everywhere: Weisswurstfrühstück. This particular breakfast consists of white sausage (veal and bacon), pretzels with various sauces, and wheat beer. Beer, sausage, and pretzels for breakfast? I’m going to start looking for flights to Berlin (OK, or Bavaria, where this breakfast hails from) just for that!

November 28, 2010

POTD: Nikolskaya Tower at the Kremlin in Moscow

Nikolskaya tower at the Kremlin

Nikolskaya tower at the Kremlin

This is the Nikolskaya Tower (Russian: Никольская башня) which is situated on the eastern wall of the Moscow Kremlin. It was originally built in in 1491, rebuilt in 1806, and restored in 1816 after the top of the tower was blown up by the retreating French army in 1812. The towers were originally topped by gilded two-headed eagles that symbolized Tsarist Russia, however these were replaced by red stars representing the Soviet Union in 1935.

Russia, unfortunately, is not a country that you can jet off to for last minute holidays. Trips there require advance notice, as you must acquire a visa from your nearest Russian embassy or consulate. A trip to Russia is well worth the time and money, however, and remains one of my favorite places that I have visited in my eight years of international travels.

November 27, 2010

POTD: Lobby of the Yanggakdo Hotel in Pyongyang

Yanggakdo Hotel

Yanggakdo Hotel

This is the lobby of the Yanggakdo Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea. I stayed here in September 2009 while on a group tour of the country. Granted, it’s not quite the Atlantis Dubai, but the rooms were decent, the draft beer was great, there was a bowling alley and karaoke bar in the basement, and you could even send packages via DHL (that was totally unexpected). Just don’t plan on straying very far – the hotel is located on an island, with guards posted at the bridges to ensure you don’t wander off into Pyongyang by yourself.

November 26, 2010

POTD: The Temple of Heaven

temple of heaven

temple of heaven

Located in Beijing, this is a Taoist temple built from 1406 to 1420 during the reign of the Yongle Emperor, who was also responsible for the construction of the Forbidden City. The circular building is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests where the Emperor prayed for good harvests.

The Temple of Heaven was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998 and was described as “a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design which simply and graphically illustrates a cosmogony of great importance for the evolution of one of the world’s great civilizations…” as the ‘symbolic layout and design of the Temple of Heaven had a profound influence on architecture and planning in the Far East over many centuries.'”

Decently priced flights to Beijing seem easy enough to come by, lodging is quite inexpensive, and meals are a bargain, so definitely put this city on your list of places to visit!

November 25, 2010

POTD: Home, sweet home

palm desert

palm desert

If all goes as planned, I’ll be on a 6am flight to Dallas and then hopping a plane to Palm Springs, arriving by late morning (while cheap flights to Los Angeles and Ontario abound, this is one of the occasions where I actually have to get into Palm Springs on time!) so that I can sit down to a lovely Thanksgiving meal with friends and family. The above photo, taken during an early morning hike several years ago, is of Palm Desert and the Coachella Valley, where I grew up and lived until 2000.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American readers!

November 24, 2010

POTD: Old Town Bridge Tower in Prague

old town bridge

old town bridge

This is the Old Town Bridge Tower that sits at one end of the Charles Bridge in Prague. This Late Gothic Tower was built between 1370 and 1391 and served as a gateway to Prague’s city center as well as a watchtower. This photo was taken in July 2005, when my friend and I took advantage of the numerous bargain holidays that were on sale at the student travel agency. Cheap beer and dumplings – what could be better?

November 23, 2010

POTD: Checkpoint Charlie Sign

checkpoint charlie

checkpoint charlie

This is a copy of the famous sign that once stood at Checkpoint Charlie, a border crossing between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. The checkpoint remained in use until October 1990, when Germany was reunified. Checkpoint Charlie remains a major tourist destination, however, and a replica of the Allied checkpoint guardhouse was erected at the original site.

I visited Berlin for the first time in December 2009 and would highly recommend a trip there if you are interested in Cold War history. Despite the cold weather, I loved visiting during the winter. Flights to Berlin are relatively cheap at that time, and you can always warm up with some glühwein or jagertee.

November 21, 2010

POTD: Great place for a beer in Dubrovnik

This is Cafe Buza, a small bar built on the rocks outside Dubrovnik’s city walls. Since we visited Dubrovnik in the off-season, we had the entire place to ourselves. We stumbled upon it our first day in Dubrovnik, when we literally spotted a hole in the wall, with a “cold drinks” sign above it. We followed the sign and were greeted with this bar and an incredible view of the Adriatic.

November 20, 2010

POTD: Sculpture of Soviet soldiers in Kiev

Sculpture of Soviet World War II soldiers near the Rodina Mat monument in Kiev.