Category Archives: Travel Tales

Aside
We’ve just returned from a holiday in Russia which, yes, was wonderful. And a bonus I was not expecting, although I should have since it was summer—the midnight sun or ‘white lights’ as they call it in St Petersburg. This resulted in many late nights out celebrating life with our friends as it always seemed too early for bed.There are a few cultural aspects of Russia that would be known to most people, I would think. For example, Tchaikovsky, one of the greatest composers of all time, was Russian. He composed the music for the Russian ballet, Swan Lake, which may well be the only ballet storyline known to many of us. Likewise, Tchaikovsky’s score is easily recognizable even if you do not know him as the composer or the origins of the music, especially since Black Swan.

Some of the world’s greatest names in ballet are Russian, for example, Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Anna Pavlova. Again, they are known the world over even by those who know nothing at all about ballet (although I remember Baryshnikov primarily because of his defection to Canada in 1974).

Australia’s national dessert, the Pavlova, was created and named after Anna Pavlova in the 1920s following her tour of the antipodes. The Kiwis (New Zealanders) try to call it their own, but it’s as Australian as vegemite and lamingtons. Sometimes we’ll add Kiwi Fruit to the top of our pavlovas to keep the New Zealanders happy.

I had previously seen Swan Lake in Sydney some years ago but it was a parody by The Trocaderos, “The Trocks” or long title, Les Ballets Trockadero De Monte Carlo, a company of professional male dancers who make ballet humorous by exaggerating the fundamentals and seriousness of it to the point of comedy. The dying swan scene is memorable and I worried that I would never be able to enjoy the ‘real’ Swan Lake after The Trocks. Here’s the ‘real’ dying swan scene, which is beautifully poignant, and The Trocks’ version. Incidentally, the dying swan was considered the signature dance of Anna Pavlova.

It was only fitting that while in St Petersburg, we attended a production of Swan Lake at the Grand Palace Theatre. There are several possible endings to Swan Lake including the crowd-pleasing happy ending where Siegfried and Odette’s true love defeats Von Rothbart, and Odette is restored to human form. One of the more tragic endings is reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet ie Odette commits suicide, the Prince discovers her lifeless body and does so as well but Odette isn’t actually dead. We were lucky enough to enjoy the happy ending in St Petersburg which gave further cause for an evening of celebration, as if one was needed.

Regards
Leigh

Contact Leigh at:

Website: http://www.leighkcunningham.com

Email: leigh @ leighkcunningham.com

Twitter: @leighcunningham

Facebook: Leigh K Cunningham

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The swans of St Petersburg

The land of the rising sun

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At the last minute in February, we decided to spend 10 days touring Japan in March. If we’d planned for it, we would have booked a tour in the cherry blossom season (April) but as good fortune would have it, the cherry trees bloomed early this year—the second earliest blooming in history. There’s probably a message in that to not try and control everything in life—just go with the flow and wonderful things can and will happen.

Japan is a delight in so many ways. Firstly, the people would have to be the most considerate, respectful, helpful, gracious people in the world, at least based on our travels so far. They’re an example for all of us. Secondly, it is spotlessly clean everywhere. After a few days, I was intent on finding some rubbish on a street somewhere or a dirty footpath that hadn’t been washed clean that morning. It was not until Tokyo did I find a single piece of rubbish on a footpath. That’s quite incredible for a small island country with 127.5 million people and there are no public rubbish bins, anywhere! There are a couple of reasons for this: (1) the Japanese don’t eat and walk at the same time so they do not produce the usual meal time garbage, (2) the Japanese are dedicated recyclers so they take their rubbish home to recycle it correctly, and their process is far more advanced than ours in the west. They have separate see-through bags for paper, plastic, polystyrene, glass, metal, cans and bottles. Each has its own collection system and collectors won’t take bags that aren’t correctly sorted so everyone knows when you get it wrong—much shame to your household.

Our visit to the Peace Memorial Park and museum in Hiroshima was a sobering day, and more so as there is a Peace Watch clock in the foyer which shows the number of days since the first dropping of A-bombs in 1945: 24,702 days, and a second timer for the number of days since the last nuclear test: 40 days (North Korea, January 2013). So basically, after seeing mortifying images and reading unforgettable stories about the first A-bomb, we’re left with a reminder that this can happen again any time. A monument in the Peace Memorial Park says it “expresses the spirit of Hiroshima—enduring grief, transcending hatred, pursuing harmony and prosperity for all, and a yearning for genuine, lasting world peace.”

Regards
Leigh

Contact Leigh at:

Website: http://www.leighkcunningham.com

Email: leigh @ leighkcunningham.com

Twitter: @leighcunningham

Facebook: Leigh K Cunningham

 

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