The Tsar’s Village

To all the Russian history and literature buffs out there, the Tsar’s Village (Tsarskoe Selo) is a well-known spot. In this village outside St. Petersburg, Alexander Pushkin, the father of Russian literature, made his name. It was here that the author of Eugene Onegin studied and wrote himself into stardom.

I had the chance to see the school Pushkin attended. Not the inside. Just the outside. You know why? Because I had no idea what the building was. Look at this picture. Do you see that small yellow chapel and the building next to it? Yep. That’s it. I’m an idiot.

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To be fair, directly across from the school was Catherine’s Palace. I got a little distracted. Can you blame me?

On the inside, Catherine’s Palace was even more gorgeous. Some say there is beauty in subtlety. The Russian tsars have never said this. The ball room was covered in gold and glass. You could imagine so many lords and ladies dancing there and staring at their beautiful, wealthy selves in the many mirrors.

There were several other lovely rooms with tiled ovens, colored walls, and excessive amounts of adornment. My personal favorite was the dining room with the arrangement of fake fruit. With the fruit comes a story. Peter the Great, who stayed in the palace at one point, had a great affinity for dentistry. By that, I mean he liked to pull people’s teeth out. So, Peter’s hope was that his guests would bite the fake fruit and break their teeth because then he had an excuse to pull out their teeth. Isn’t history wonderful?

In the back of the palace was a large garden on a pond. The silence and solitude of the gardens were a well-appreciated break from the clamor of the city. As much as I love the excitement of an urban area, there’s something about an open expanse of nature that sets me at ease, as if up until then, I’ve been holding my breath.

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400 For Novel 4

I’ve been working hard on getting a fourth novel out as soon as I can. For my dedicated readers out there, I know it’s been a long wait. I can’t remember how long I’ve teased with you a fantasy novel, but today I reached an exciting landmark: 400 pages. That’s about 100,000 words.

Quality is my main focus, not quantity. However, the more pages there are, the more I can flush out the details of my fantasy world. And don’t you worry, there are more details than you could imagine. I’ve created geography, history, legends, gossip, family lineage, and back stories about characters that you may never even hear about. I probably need to trim it down, but all the nitty-gritty will come later.

Also, remember guys, Mind Trip is out on Amazon. Take a look inside the warped brain of a hallucinatory painter. It’s a short read and only $3. So, show your appreciation and get yourself a copy. Thank you!

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Budapest

My time in Budapest was bittersweet, mostly sweet, but also bitter. It was my last stop on a trip through Bratislava and Vienna. Everyone bragged to me about Budapest’s beauty and fun vibe. I had to enjoy it because I knew it was my last hoorah…and oh, I would.

My friends and I arrived later in the day, so obviously one of my first stops was a bar. A long day always demands a glass of wine to relax. Not too far from the hostel I stayed in (Maverick City Lodge; classy and cheap; check it out) was a ruin bar. A ruin bar is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a ruined building that was once bombed to smithereens. Instead of reconstruction, people took advantage of the unique aesthetic and built a bar. Well, it seemed like a collection of bars interlaced with dim lights and quirky, urban decorations. There was a beer bar, a wine bar, a hookah bar, and lots of space to socialize. I’ve heard there are many different ruin bars, so you should try at least one of them

The next morning we headed out to St. Stephen’s Basilica. I thought Christians were supposed to be humble and give to the poor. Well, the architects of this luxurious church must’ve lost their faith for a few years. This place is phenomenal. And as everyone knows, luxury would not be complete without the decaying hand of a saint. Personally, I find that creepy and absurd, but to each his own. Amen to that.

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Next on our tour of Budapest was the Budapest Opera House. I hate opera so forgive me for not going inside or actually seeing an opera. I leave that to you. But here’s a look at the architecture. Oh and a cool sculpture of a man and a skeleton not far from the opera house.

For those of you who know anything about Budapest, you know what the real attraction is; not some opera house or even a fancy church with a shriveled-up hand. The real attraction is the Hungarian Parliament Building. Just imagine going to work here every day, what, with the gardens of bright lavender and fragrant flowers, and the wonderful view on the Danube. Needless to say, I milked as much out of the view as I possibly could.

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From there, my friends and I took a walk along the river. We came across a line of metal shoes. It’s a memorial for the Jewish children who were killed and thrown into the river during World War II. Then we went across the Chain Bridge and up the funicular to Buda Castle.

Inside the castle was a collection of art featuring works by Picasso, but for time’s sake, I merely walked around the castle to enjoy its architecture, a creepy section of ruins, and superb views of the city. While I walked around, I met a friend. Who knew ravens were so friendly?

Chief among the wonderful views was a spot next to a statue, high up on the hill, without a fence to keep you from tumbling down to your death. I felt atop the world, but I still had a mountain to climb.

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But before that mountain, we came to the Matthias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion. The latter of which reminded me of a brilliant sand castle left out until it petrified. It was whimsical and grand and I had no idea why a fisherman needs it.

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I left, pondering this question, and headed for the largest lookout point in Budapest. There it is.

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That hill all the way over there. Sadly, you have to start from the bottom

Yes, it was as exhausting as it looks. I climbed steep paths and stairs that twisted around the mountain, offering only a few spots to rest. Just before my stubby legs gave out, we made it to the top. We were all so tired that we just wanted to sit and eat. Thankfully, some genius thought to put a food vendor at the top. As the rain started to come down, I enjoyed a hearty Hungarian goulash in a bread bowl. Mmmmm…

After the meal we checked out the statues at the very top, took some pictures of the city, and headed back down to rest in our hostel.

Perhaps an hour or so later, my friends and I headed back out to see Heroes’ Square and the Varosliget City Park. Inside the park, other than a calm, forested atmosphere and the set of some Bollywood movie, was the Vajdahunyad Castle and the Szechenyi Bath House. After an exhausting day, I would’ve loved a hot bath, even if it did require stripping down in public. Sadly, the baths were closed. I’d missed my chance. All I could do was go back to the hostel, enjoy a few glasses of wine, and sleep before an early journey back to Russia.

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