Visiting Aquarium with my Girls

Better later than never:). We visited the Shedd with Anna and Nadia when they were last time in town, on September 21. And back then I said: I need to write a thank you letter to the Aquarium! And I meant to write a blog post, but never did. So here is it.

Shedd is one of my most favorite places, but out of all my children, only Anna shares my love. And when we were deciding where to go with Nadia, we both voted for this destination. 

I used to have a family membership to Shedd when I had kids at home, but now I have an individual one. Still, they gave me a free guest pass, including the show. 

We were all wondering, how Nadia will react to her first Aquarium visit (she saw the whales in the ocean when they were in Australia), and belugas and whales indeed enchanted her. 

The thing I wanted to mention is how much more toddler-friendly Aquarium has become since my kids were kids. The whole Polar Play Zone is designed just for kid’s play and exploration. And we were extremely grateful for the cafe staff. When we picked our food, we were asked multiple times whether we know that this kids’ dish is cold. When Nadia spilled her milk, four people rushed to our table, all reassuring that everything is alright, one mopping the floor, another wiping the table, yet another putting the “wet floor” sign, and another staff bringing a new mild carton (we thanked, but didn’t take:)) And while cleaning they were asking how are we enjoying the visit, aside of this spilled milk :). I thought it was so-so nice of them!

Labor Day in Pullman

I have four hours on the Wolverine train to Ann Arbor, MI. I have a comfy seat, an electric plug, and the internet available, so it’s a good time to catch up with everything :). I returned from Wisconsin on Saturday of the Labor Day weekend, so I still had two full days and a little bit for myself. Usually, on Labor Day, I try to do something meaningful, something related to the holiday. And most of the time it means visiting Pullman.

Igor talked me into visiting it for the first time in 2014. I didn’t know anything about its amazing history back then and readily absorbed all the information. At that time, everybody was talking about getting Pullman the status of National Park, and in 2015 this happened.

This year I thought there is no way I can spend almost the whole day on this trip. But then I made some calculations, and due to the new Metra weekend schedule, it all appeared to look doable. So the decision was made, and I told Igor that I am coming.

We were hoping that the new status would escalate the restoration efforts, but the Florence Hotel is still closed to the public, and the factory restoration is still in process.

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Being A Tourist In My Own City

I love Chicago. I love this city at any time of the year, but especially in summer. It is a challenging task to talk me into going somewhere in summer. I like being here, and I do not mind the heat at all. There are so many things that only happen in summer, and summer is so short!

One of the reasons why I like summer in Chicago so much is that I can blend with the crowd of tourists from all over the world, and to take pictures of the same buildings for one hundredth and first time.

For example, to take pictures of mounted police

On Friday I took a half-day off, Boris came to the city by 12-30, and we headed to a quick lunch in the Pret, and then to the Art Institute.

This year the Nichols Bridgeway was closed way too often, for all sorts of events, like Pokemon Go! (I am trying very hard not to comment on the worth of these events, did you notice?!) This Friday it was opened, and so we’ve entered the Art Institute that way.

The city view from the Bridgeway
I am being a tourist
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The Rest Of Amsterdam

To be done with my Holland vacations – the last bits and pieces of my stay there.


There was one more museum which we visited – the Rembrandt House. There are not that many Rembrandt’ paintings there, but to see the place where he lived and created his art was exciting. That was one of many times when I thought about me as a 14-year old studying Rembrandt in the Hermitage museum in then Leningrad. He is one of my most favorite artists, and I was thinking, that back then, forty-two years ago I won’t believe if anybody would tell me I will be walking these rooms.

The kitchen
The room where Rembrandt would meet with his patrons
The workshop
A part of Rembrandt’s art collection

A couple of words about the conference: the venue was the old Amsterdam stock exchange, and I can’t recall ever being present at the scientific conference in the building that old!

I didn’t even plan to go there, but then came this early breakfast problem and the fact that I didn’t want to deprive Boris of his morning meetings. So I’ve accompanied Boris there on Sunday morning. And a couple of people said hi, and I replied – I am actually not here! And Boris said something to the effect whether I could stop explaining everybody, that I am not participating.

Then I went to a couple of keynotes – I was already there anyway! And then I saw C. Mohan, and for those who know him, it’s not a surprise that I’ve got a picture with him!

And then I’ve asked a couple of questions to the speakers. And I talked to several people. Later I thought that giving all my this year’s circumstances and the fact that I am unlikely to go to any other conferences till the end of the year, I could very well register and leave not on the 3rd, but on the 4th of July… whatever 🙂

Here are my last Amsterdam pictures – a beautiful afternoon in a beautiful city.

Next the morning I took a train to the airport, and before that, we had the nicest breakfast ever!

Resistance Museum Without Pictures

This post will have no pictures. I didn’t take any pictures in this museum, mostly because we were short on time. We wanted to visit this museum very much – we’ve read a lot about the Dutch Resistance. Even when we were visiting other museums in Amsterdam, such as Stedelijk, there were multiple mentions of how people, artists, and curators, in particular, felt compelled to aid the Resistance, and how vital the Resistance was for cultural and national preservation.

The location of the Resistance Museum is not a very central one, so it required some planning, especially because the conference had started already, but we made it. By that time, after being in Amsterdam for a couple of days, we’ve already realized how useful their museum audioguides are. They are way more convenient than the ones we have in the States, at least here in Chicago.

When we visited Brussels several years ago, we ended up being very disappointed in the Magritte Museum – there were not that many of his paintings there (then-recent Art Institute exhibit had more!) and we could not read any of his letters and diaries, which were on display in abundance. We were a little bit concerned that something like this will happen in the Resistance Museum, but the audioguides helped a lot!

That’s another reason I didn’t take any pictures inside this museum – obviously, all explanations are in Dutch, and the exhibit is mostly useless without them. I’ve learned a lot about how life in the Netherlands was unfolding during WWII. It turned out I didn’t know a lot, including brutal hunger towards the end of the war.

That won’t be the first time that I am realizing how little did I know about WWII before I came to the US. My knowledge about the events of WWII was very obscure. The way World War II history was taught at school would give you the impression that even though there was something else going on, the most significant part of it was the Great Patriotic War. When I first rented a set of DVDs about WWII in our local library was the first time I’ve realized that WWII was a WORLD war and that so many countries have participated. It was a shock for me that the USSR was mentioned on less than half of these DVDs.

Since that time the more I travel the world, the more I learn about different countries’ history, this realization becomes deeper. In this sense, the Resistance Museum was a great history lesson, and also an outstanding ethical experience. The museum is organized in such a way, that the visitors are presented with the questions the war-time Dutch citizen had to answer: should I cooperate or disobey? Should I fly or stay? Should I hide or should I protest? I could not even imagine one could build the whole museum based on these ethical choices.

And one more thought. I agree with my friend, who was saying that the visit to this museum and her subsequent research made her realize that the Soviet Union was the only country under German occupation which did not have a resistance movement. The “partisans” were organized and controlled by the communist party, or the communist party would acquire a leadership over a spontaneously organized group. Also, the focus of the “partisans” activity was on blowing bridges and military echelons, not on saving people, as it was with the Resistance in other countries. Sadly, I have to admit, that by the time the war broke out, the idea of resisting any authorities was wiped entirely off people’s minds and was not considered even a remote possibility.

Amsterdam Day 2 – More Museums

Previous (and the only time) I’ve been to Amsterdam, I’ve only been to the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, and the Holland Pass listed several dozen. Since I didn’t know much about either of them, I left it to the app to choose. In the end, we did everything, except for one – the Anne Frank House.

For this latter one when I’ve started to explore my options about three weeks before our vacation, I’ve found out that it’s already too late to book advanced tickets, and my only option is to catch the “same day” tickets at 9 AM whatever day is it. We tried to stay in the virtual line on Saturday morning (our Day Two), but when it was our turn, the available times were only late in the afternoon, and we already had a trip to Delft booked for that time. I’ve tried one more time on Sunday morning and reached my turn quite fast, but whenever I was trying to book tickets for available slots, it would tell me – sorry, there are no more tickets … I could not continue these experiments, as for the next two days Boris was already at the conference, at least for a part of the day, so there was no Anne Frank for us this time.

We’ve been to Van Loon House Museum, and this was quite interesting. Willem Van Loom was a co-founder of Dutch East India Company at the very beginning of the seventeenth century, and since then the history of the family was closely intertwined with the history of Amsterdam.

The house was built in 1672, but the interior was completely redone in the middle of the 18th century in a more popular Loui XV style.

This was the first house we saw on this trip, and later we saw the similar features in the other homes. Many of them look very much like the palaces in Saint Petersburg, where we both are from. No wonder, since Holland was a model for life transformation in the18th century Russia. But what I really liked in all of these museums was the fact that the living spaces on exhibit were not separated from the visitors by ropes, you could actually walk around each and single room and take a close look at all of the objects on display.

The Staircase
The Hallway
The Dining Room
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Amsterdam Day 1 – Museums

We both arrived on Friday, on two different planes, 30 min apart. And we managed to meet at the Airport train station, though it was not easy:). I’ve picked up our Holland passes and the train tickets. It’s only 20 mins to the Amsterdam central railway station from the airport, and as I’ve already said, the apartment is not more than 10 minutes walk.

We were given a code to open the front door, and when we got to the fifth floor, the key to our apartment was right there in a keyhole, waiting for us.

This time once again, I’ve used VisitACity App to plan our trip, and the app decided that it will be best to do the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum on the first day. I tried to play with an app and move the things around, but it would insist :), and I obliged.
I’ve been to both museums “in depth” during my previous visit to Amsterdam, so this time, my goal was mostly to show both of them to Boris.

But first, there was lunch. Retrospectively I think that lunch in the museum was a good idea, it was quality food at a reasonable price. The asparagus soup with mackerel sounded like something similar to the Finnish salmon soup, turned to be a pale variation of the latter, but still decent.

I’ve got some ginger tea with “Rembrandt selfie” macaroon.

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