Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Try these new adventures in Grand Junction, Colorado


Among Grand Junction's spectacular red cliffs and winding canyons are the 11,000-foot Grand Mesa and the breathtaking 7,000-foot Colorado National Monument. Surrounded by an abundance of public lands – in fact, over 70 percent of the county is public land, Grand Junction is also a mecca for hunting, fishing, dirt bike and ATV riding.

You can expand on this stunning scenery with other attractions including three national scenic byways, rafting, boating, golfing skiing, extensive public art displays, museums, 23 nearby wineries, and a vibrant downtown featuring creative culinary options and shopping.

If you’re thinking of a summer visit to Grand Junction, Visit Grand Junction has announced many things to do in Colorado’s Grand Valley for 2018.  New mountain biking trails, water sport activities, summer events, and a sports shooting facility expand on outdoor recreation activities for which the Grand Valley is known.

Trails:

Opening this spring is a new segment of the One Riverfront Trail. Mountain bikers, hikers, equestrians and trail runners can start their journey on the nearly 30-mile-long Riverfront Trail in Palisade, travel through Grand Junction and now connect in Fruita to the Kokopelli Trail, which extends to Moab, UT.

Powderhorn Mountain Resort’s lift-assisted, downhill mountain biking attraction features a new 5-mile green trail – a smooth, all-level ride called the “Mutton Buster.”

Water Sports:

Colorado’s first cable wakeboarding park, Imondi Wake Zone, will open in summer 2018 on a 30-acre lake in Fruita. Imondi’s five-tower cable system will pull up to seven wakeboarders in a counterclockwise circuit featuring obstacles and ride rails. New learners can access a separate two-tower system.

Jet Boat Colorado offers “the most exciting boat tour on the Colorado River” with fishtails, speed runs and “cowboy spins” on the custom New Zealand-style jet boats. Additionally, a scenic option lets riders slow down and take in the beauty of the mountain scenery.

Summer Events

The Museums of Western Colorado’s Dinosaur Journey in Fruita will unveil a new exhibit, “Horns & Frills”, May 18 to Sept. 16; this exhibit will tell the secrets of dinosaurs’ combat and courtship and features new specimens, skulls and skeletons.

Dinosaur Journey will also offer “Dino Digs” from May 22 to Aug. 15. Guests can join professional paleontologists on half-, full- or four-day excursions and help discover ancient life-forms.

Music is part of the summer landscape as well. Two Rivers Winery in Grand Junction will present “Music in the Grapevines” at its outdoor pavilion one Tuesday a month from May to September. In Palisade,Garfield Estates Vineyard and Winery will offer a music series, “Wines, Vines & Harmony,” two Saturdays each month from July to September. Outdoor concerts are also planned at the Las Colonias Amphitheater in Grand Junction throughout the summer.

The Mountain Bike and Ultra Marathon/Relay Kokopelli 100 & 140 will take place September 7 and 8 on the entire 144-mile trail from Fruita to Moab.

Sports Shooting Facility:

The new Cameo Shooting and Education Complex will feature world-class shooting facilities, safety education and law enforcement training as well as competitions. The complex broke ground in March and will be partially open to the public this summer.

Grand Junction, the largest city in Western Colorado, is located at the junction of the Gunnison and Colorado Rivers, between Salt Lake City and Denver on Interstate 70.

Information and photos courtesy of Gaylene Ore, Ore Communications, Visit Grand Junction, www.visitgrandjunction.com)

 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

InvisaWear jewelry is your best safety device


Do you ever travel alone, either across the world or around your own city or town?
Especially if you’re a woman, you may have fears about roaming solo both in daytime and after dark. If you have those legitimate concerns, check out a new product on the market that can accelerate obtaining assistance in an emergency.

InvisaWear is a modern-age way to connect to the nearest 911 dispatcher, providing them and emergency contacts with the user’s exact location. Even better, this state of the art technology is imbedded in an attractive and discreet piece of jewelry that you can enjoy wearing while knowing you’re just an instant away from help.
Life threatening situations can develop in the most innocuous of circumstances—an Uber ride, a car that breaks down, hiking in a greenbelt or park, or traveling to unfamiliar places. With InvisaWear, your cell phone becomes the link between you and help.

Here’s how it works: The InvisaWear component uses a Bluetooth connection with a paired smartphone that is within 30 feet. First you download the free app. Then select and install up to five friends and family that you wish to be notified (These can be changed at any time through the companion app).
The component is encased by a beautiful 14K gold or silver plated charm that snaps together to hold the crucial components. Inside is a long-lasting coin cell battery, good for one year or longer depending on usage. The rear cover of the charm is equipped with advanced pressure detection to send a silent and immediate distress signal.

If you feel threatened, press on the back of the charm, and your emergency contacts will receive a text message letting them know you initiated an emergency alert and your current location. If you can’t speak, just double click the back of your device to send your location immediately to your contacts. Then, if you’re in the U.S., they can speak to 911 on your behalf.  
As long as your phone can make overseas calls, the device will work in more than 250 countries. That can give parents of traveling millenials (or children of traveling retirees) peace of mind no matter where they roam. InvisaWear only tracks your location when an emergency alert is activated, so no need to worry about having your whereabouts known during okay travel.

The InvisaWear charm is a fashionable and stylish device that can be worn as a bracelet, necklace, or placed on a keychain or backpack. Having it with you every day is the best way to be prepared for unforeseen emergencies.
Smartphones running Android version 4.4+ or iPhone models running IOS 9.0+ are compatible with InvisaWear. Once purchased there are no additional fees. When the battery is low, you can order replacement components at a discount from the company.

Order at www.invisawear.com/collections/all

Photos and information courtesy of InvisaWear

Friday, May 11, 2018

When several generations vacation together


Multi-generational travel—often to celebrate a special anniversary or family reunion-- is one of the fastest growing segments of the vacation industry. But if cruising on a mega-ship or visiting large theme parks with thousands of other people doesn’t meet your idea of quality togetherness, there are other options.

You can quickly replace technological connectivity with personal connectivity when family members bond over shared experiences—and everyone benefits. While travel companies have developed new offerings to appeal to multiple generations traveling together, you can also plan your own fun vacation around excursions such as these:

SPLASH AROUND
Cumberland Lake is the houseboating capital of the U.S.
 Love water activities—but hate sticky saltwater at the beach?  Rent a houseboat on Cumberland Lake in southeastern Kentucky.  Cruise on your private resort, and park in a secluded cove.  Large, luxurious houseboats can easily sleep 12, and several boats can be moored together to accommodate larger groups.

With a little instruction, driving a house boat is easy to learn.
Surprisingly simple to operate, rented boats come with hands-on learning time and two-way radios for help if you have questions.  With fully equipped kitchens, TVs, back-end slides, and gas grills, houseboats offer ready-made entertainment literally right outside the door.  Kids, parents, and grandparents enjoy whiling away the hours with swimming, fishing, and relaxing—then cooking up the day’s catch.

Advantages include only unpacking once (bedrooms have more storage than a typical cruise ship cabin), water and sunshine all day, and clear, star-lit skies at night.  Beautiful scenery is unspoiled by development, since land surrounding Cumberland Lake is owned by the U. S.  Corps of Engineers.  There is no better place to build or maintain family relationships than in your own aquatic paradise.

TREK THE WOODS
Llamas follow a lead without threatening
hikers and carry supplies.

If you love the outdoors but not water wings, try a llama trek. Learn how to lead a llama and how not to invades his personal space. One of the oldest domesticated animals on the planet, llamas are more docile and compliant than horses and make wonderful pack animals.  They are agile, social, and non-threatening for inexperienced trekkers, including children.

Llama treks in Carson National Forest near Red River and throughout northern New Mexico are a terrific multi-generational adventure, with half-day to multi-day excursions (including gourmet organic meals) designed according to weather conditions and needs of the hikers. Enjoy the sights and sounds and feel the peacefulness of the woods while gaining affinity for llamas, knowledge about ecology and the environment, and an appreciation for nature to apply later at home.

GO DUTCH

Holland, Michigan is a town for all seasons and all reasons, especially if windmills, wooden shoes, and Dutch treats are on the agenda.  An unmistakable Dutch influence permeates the town, and Main Street has a decidedly European flavor even though it’s near the shore of Lake Michigan.
Sure, there are windmills in Holland, MI.

Named an All American City, Holland makes a delightful weekend getaway or vacation destination.  Whether you’re looking for beaches and parks in summer, fun festivals and special events such as the weeklong Tulip Festival in spring, farmer’s markets overflowing with produce and flowers in fall, or cross-country skiing in the winter, Holland has it all.  Abundant biking and hiking trails, an active arts community, museums, and shopping in the revitalized downtown area (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) are some of the activities appealing to various family members. 

Take in unique Dutch attractions such as Windmill Island, where you can climb up the last authentic windmill to leave the Netherlands—a working structure built in 1625.  Visit the Dutch Village Theme Park, and listen to the beautifully carved street organ play melodies derived from authentic brown punched paper.  

Houses proudly reflect the Dutch influence in Holland, Michigan.
Watch wooden shoe carving or purchase a traditional blue and white souvenir at DeKlomp Wooden Shoe and Delft Factory.  Then head to Lake Michigan’s shoreline to see Big Red, Michigan’s most photographed lighthouse, and stop to savor bayside cuisine and a harbor view at nearby Piper Restaurant.

PARK IT HERE

Great Smoky Mountains National Park provides many family activities
and beautiful scenery 
Another destination full of family fun is Gatlinburg,Tennessee, a gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Waterfalls are abundant, with some right on the highway’s edge for easy viewing and others a leisurely walk away. Summer programs and camps provide hands-on discovery activities for all ages.

Check out the aquarium in Gatlinburg, TN.
Scenic drives throughout the region, nearby white water rafting in summer and zip lining year round, old fashioned hay rides and harvest festivals in fall, and celebrations marking the extensive arts and crafts community throughout the year (especially around Christmas) mean there’s something for everyone. 

Gatlinburg is also known as the nation’s wedding capital after Las Vegas, so there’s another reason to bring the family together.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Don't jinx your cruise vacation

Cruising can be one of the most relaxing and fun vacations. But a bad experience can jinx your time away, especially if you’re a newbie to cruising. Here are some easily avoidable mistakes that even experienced cruisers sometimes make.
Some itineraries are made for relaxing.
Choose the right type of cruise: Some itineraries make port stops almost every day. If you’re the active type, this might be ideal. Do you prefer historical or cultural lectures, bridge lessons or dance lessons, partying late at karaoke or the disco, or solitary time to read, knit, or rest? Talk with your travel agent about which ships and itineraries best match your vacation desires.

Different cruise lines appeal to different demographics, so think about the age groups that usually choose a particular ship. Consider timing of your cruise and availability of children’s programs if you’re taking a family or multigenerational trip. If not, avoid ships that cater to young families and choose a cruise of longer duration during typical school months.
Cruise South America during our winter, their summer.
Consider weather: The Caribbean is a wonderful place to cruise—warm days, blue water, and golden beaches.  But remember that June 1 to November 1 is hurricane season. Be sure to buy travel insurance if you book a cruise then.

It's best to cruise Alaska during warmer months.

Prices for Alaska cruises are lower in May and September, but you might experience cold weather, even snow, and most likely rain. Fares to Europe may be lower in winter, but unpleasant weather can curtail some of the activities you have planned.
Pack carefully: I’ve never been on a cruise where I wore everything in my suitcase. When cruising you tend to wear clothes more than once, so less is needed. Longer cruises have self-service laundries, so it’s easy to keep a clean wardrobe. And be sure to leave room in your suitcase for souvenirs to bring home. Just be sure to carry passport, prescription medicine, eyeglasses or contacts, and seasickness patches or bands, if necessary, with you.

 Avoid same-day flights: If your embarkation port requires an airplane ride, you’re rolling the dice to book a flight that arrives there same day prior to sailing. Sure, you might save a few dollars, or you might miss your cruise or checked luggage that doesn't arrive when you do.
Once, after aarriving at the airport, we learned that the incoming flight was canceled due to bad weather at the origination point. Fortunately, we were able—after much angst and several phone calls—to get seats on another airline. Since we had booked flights that time with the cruise line, they expedited travel from the airport to cruise dock, and we set foot on the ship minutes before it left.

A better way—what we usually do—is arrive at the embarkation port a day or two prior and spend some time sightseeing. Then we have plenty of time to get to the pier, board the ship, and relax a bit before it leaves.
Seeing penguins on the Falkland Islands is best done on a
pre-booked excursion  with the cruise line.
Pre-book shore excursions: Most cruise lines allow you to pre-book shore excursions online before the scheduled departure date. If excursions are included in your plan, book as early as allowed to get the best selections. Ship sponsored excursions may be crowded and involve bus rides, but if the excursion is long or travels a good distance away from port, you have safety in knowing that the ship will not leave without you should there be a delay. We have been on ships that waited six hours for a tour to arrive and passengers to re-board.

If you prefer to plan your own excursions, still research each port, know what you want to do, and book your activities before departure. Find private guides online ahead of time, so you can contract with a reputable company with which you feel comfortable. Message boards like Trip Advisor can help you get a group together to lower costs on excursions.
If children are traveling choose a cruise with plenty of active
events and opportunities. Check out kids' clubs.
Stick to your budget: You know what the cruise costs, but once you’re onboard, there are myriad ways to spend more money: alcoholic drinks, specialty restaurants, spa treatments, certain exercise classes, shopping, and many other services and activities that you might not have planned for. It may be hard but look, don’t buy, if you have a limited budget.

And, speaking of budgets, include the cost of travel insurance when planning your vacation. Some people think insurance is a waste of money, but it only takes one incident to pay for insurance purchased for a lot of trips. No one wants to be in a foreign country with a health issue, but even healthy folks can have accidents, legal problems, miss a connection, or lose luggage.
However, remember that you may have to pay expenses and then file a claim after returning home, so be sure you have a credit card or other means of covering unexpected expenses.

Leave work at home:  A cruise should be a vacation, a time to put electronic devices away. Yes, you can get online on the ship, but look at this as a time to free your mind, relax, and enjoy your traveling companions. You’re in the middle of the ocean—admire the sunset!
Photos by Beverly Burmeier and from free sources.
 

 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

In Argentina, you gotta tango

One of the best ways to get a feel for local life when traveling is by sampling popular passions.  In Buenos Aires, Argentina, that means learning to tango.  That’s why I ended up in a tango class, trying to contort my gringo body into Carmen-style sultriness.

The passion inherent in the tango has inspired an entire culture in this romantic South American city—a culture with all the charms of Europe but without the high price tags.  Buenos Aires is a bargain for travelers, whether the city is a port on a cruise or your primary destination.

Our first night in Buenos Aires my husband Larry and I put on our dancing shoes for an evening tour that included group lessons on basic tango steps followed by a professional performance and traditional steak and wine dinner. Classes are offered at local tango clubs or private dance studios, but the idea of a reward—dinner and a show—was too appealing to pass up. 


We arrived at Complejo Tango for our introduction to this famous form of art and entertainment. Listening to the music’s beat, we mimicked our instructor’s slinky walking steps and quick kicks.  We learned to shuffle our feet to the music, moving our bodies somewhere between graceful and gawky, but nowhere near the agile, athletic moves we later saw in a professional performance.  Twirls, spins, and dips (best left to the experts) are performed with only the lower body moving, a challenge from the start. 
Learning tango steps


We never got past the so-called Tourist Tango—strolling to the music--but that’s all we expected from our introductory class.  Still, we learned that tango is an intricate, precise partner dance, and the need for connectivity explains the saying “It takes two to tango.”

Birth of a national dance

As one of the richest countries in the world during the early 1900s, Argentina attracted immigrants from many nations and became a melting pot of cultures. Music united people from different heritages, and tango reflected a blending of rhythms brought from Africa and Europe.

Rooted in tenements populated by transplants, the tango was originally performed by men and was once considered scandalous.  Shunned by polite society in Buenos Aires, the dance was transported to Europe when wealthy parents sent children across the ocean to become educated and cultured.  Tango was the first couple dance seen in Europe and became quite popular, creating a craze of new fashions and social events in cities like London and Paris.

Eventually the passionate and flamboyant style of tango was welcomed back to Argentina. From the mid-1930s on, practically everyone in Buenos Aires danced the tango—and it’s still embraced by various socio-economic groups. Over time, it has evolved into the glamorous choreographed dances presented today by women in slit sequined skirts and men in tight pants and fedoras. 

Shows are available nightly in hotels, clubs, and ballrooms.  Most feature dances that highlight the history of tango through movement. Live music accompanies svelte dancers clad in glittering costumes and floaty feathers as they twist and turn their nimble bodies, quickly changing directions in moves that we could only dream of emulating. 

A dance for everyone

Although graceful and glamorous dancing entertains visitors, tango isn’t just for show. It’s a popular dance with portenos (local residents), who twirl around in milongas (dance halls) in a social version as different from the professional performance as ballet is from the Texas two-step.

More than 70 milongas located all over the city are available every week for locals and visitors to sample. Unwritten rules dictate that men and women sit separately, and a nod of the head is an invitation to dance. Improvisation, close embrace, and small steps characterize the best tango dancers.  The elegance of finely danced tango is a joy to watch, even from amateurs.

Tourists can step out on the floor of milongas—if they’re brave or skillful enough (you gotta have those lessons) and willing to stay up late.  Local dances don’t really get swinging until 11 p.m. and last until wee hours of morning.

If that’s too late for you, there are dancing opportunities in afternoon milongas.  Where you go for social tango depends on factors such as your age, dance style, formality desired, and time of day or night.  My preference?  People watching while sipping a refreshing drink.

Making the most of your visit

Steaks are especially delicious.
Buenos Aires is often called the Paris of South America because it has the cosmopolitan look and feel of Europe.  Food and drink are especially good and reasonably priced. You’ll want to sample the uncommonly flavorful Argentinean beef and wines for which this region is famous --red Malbecs and white Torrontes.  Buenos Aires is a very walkable city, with plenty of historic sites and modern shopping opportunities.  If you’re adventurous, rent bicycles to extend your explorations.

Photos from free sources and by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

 

 

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Which airports do you love (or hate)?


Is there an airport you love? Or hate? What airports do you try to book flights to whenever possible—or avoid at all costs?
Playing the waiting game in airport terminal
We know that airports are typically busy. (Lounge access, if you have it, makes hanging out in an airport tolerable) Most travelers just want to get on a plane and get out of the airport, so the easiest thing to do is just use whatever airport is closest to our destination and then deal with any inconveniences.

Most passengers just want to get on their way.
But some airports do try to please travelers. Skytrax has surveyed millions of flyers to determine the best and worst airports in the world—and also rankings in the United States. Ratings are based on check-in, arrivals, transfers, shopping, security, immigration, and departures. Of course, not all of these criteria are important to everyone or every trip.
For 2018, Singapore Changi Airport has received honors as the best airport in the world. If you haven’t been there, perhaps a trip to Asia including this airport, which could be a destination itself,  should be planned.

Ease of collecting luggage is one criteria for airports.
Other notable airports include Incheon International (Seoul), Tokyo International (Haneda), Hong Kong International Airport, Doha Hamad international Airport, Munich Airport, and Chubu Centrair Nagoya. Did you notice that many of these are Asian airports? And that none of them are in the U.S.
Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson is very busy, but it still
scored better than most U.S. airports.
It’s true--no U.S. airports made the top 10. The highest ranking is Denver, which is number 29 on the list. Others in the top 100 include Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky (34), Houston George Bush (48), Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta (50), San Francisco (51) Dallas/Ft. Worth (56), Seattle-Tacoma (62), Los Angeles (72), and Minneapolis-St. Paul (79).

I’ve traveled through all of those airports except one, but rarely do more there than what the facility is built for—check in and board an airplane—so I can’t say one stands out in my memory over another. Since Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta (one I use frequently) is the world’s busiest airport, ranking #50 deserves kudos.
Local restaurants have a presence in the Austin airport.
Personally, I love Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (my home airport) because of its clearly local flavor. You won’t find chain restaurants or stores, only local favorites in this airport. You can get great barbeque and Mexican food from the original eateries in Austin. Music, including live music on weekends and holidays, entertains as you walk through the corridors. Since it’s a medium-sized airport, it’s easy to navigate and reasonably quick to enter or exit.

Amy's ice creams are an Austin tradition.
.
What are your favorite airports? Which airports do you actively try to avoid?
Photos by Beverly Burmeier and free sources.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Norwegian Airline's new service from Austin and Chicago


If you live in Chicago or Austin, you now have a reasonable way to get to Europe without spending a fortune. Forget about air fares in the thousands and think in terms of hundreds (dollars, that is).
New guy in town

Named the World's Best Low-Cost Long-Haul Airline and Value Airline of the Year 2018, Norwegian recently launched two new routes from Chicago and Austin to London. These flights began March 25 and March 27 respectively. Norwegian is the first low-cost airline to offer transatlantic service from both cities.
“When we initially announced our new Chicago service back in July 2017, we did so with four weekly flights. However, due to high demand, we increased our offering to daily service. In Austin, we're only the second airline to offer year-round transatlantic service, and our goal is to increase frequency in the near future. Both of these cities have great growth opportunities,” said Thomas Ramdahl, Norwegian's Chief Commercial Officer.

Low prices
One-way economy fares from Austin and Chicago start as low as $194.90 and $159.50, respectively, and include all taxes. The lowest one-way fares in Norwegian's Premium Cabin to London from Austin and Chicago start at $689.90 and $579.90, respectively, including taxes. Premium service includes dedicated check-in, additional luggage allowance, fast track security, lounge access where available, priority boarding, wide recliner seats, all meals and drinks.

Norwegian now offers nonstop flights to London from 11 U.S. cities. Flights from both Austin and Chicago also connect well with Norwegian's flights to Denmark, Finland, Norway, Spain and Sweden. Norwegian operates one of the world's youngest fleets, and flights from Austin and Chicago will be operated by brand-new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft.
All flights are now available for sale at Norwegian.com/us. Additionally, the website's low fare calendar displays the lowest available fares to all of Norwegian's destinations. Passengers on all of Norwegian's routes are eligible to join Norwegian Reward, the airline's loyalty program and can earn CashPoints every time they fly, stay at a hotel or rent a car.

Additional 2018 European launches from the U.S. include: Denver to Paris (April 9); Oakland/San Francisco to Paris (April 10), Boston to Paris (May 2); New York/JFK to Amsterdam (May 7); Los Angeles to Milan (June 17); Los Angeles to Madrid (July 15); and New York/JFK to Madrid (July 18).
About Norwegian

Norwegian is the world's sixth largest low-cost airline and carried around 33 million passengers in 2017. The airline offers 40 nonstop routes from the U.S. to London, Paris, Scandinavia and the Caribbean. 
Norwegian was named the Most Fuel-Efficient Airline on Transatlantic Routes by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), and it has been voted 'Europe's best low-cost carrier' by passengers for five consecutive years at SkyTrax World Airline Awards. Find out more at www.norwegian.com.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Cathedrals tell history of St. Petersburg


After taking the high-speed train to Moscow for a long day of touring there, we returned to St. Petersburg, Russia. For the next day’s tour we visited three cathedrals which gave us a rich introduction to the city’s culture, architecture, and history.
Spilled Blood

The Church of Spilled Blood is one of the most beautiful in St. Petersburg.
Church of Spilled Blood is actually the Church of Resurrection of Our Savior. The blood referred to is Alexander’s—he was assassinated at that spot in 1881. The cathedral was built as a monument to freedom, since he abolished slavery and allowed people to practice Christianity undisturbed. Modeled after a cathedral in Moscow, it is a filled with color. The exterior features nine onion-dome cupolas covered in gold, enamel, and some of the most incredible mosaics anywhere.
Gilded walls and beautiful mosaics decorate the cathedral.
During the oppression of Stalin’s rule, many churches were torn down. Scheduled for demolition in 1941, Stalin claimed the Cathedral of Spilled Blood was too colorful and its fancy domes stood out from the dull, drab style common in St. Petersburg at the time. Instead treasures were put there for safekeeping in World War II, and it was protected from any aircraft damage.

Thank goodness this gorgeous
building and its domes were not
destroyed as planned.
Khruschev decided to restore it as a beautiful museum rather than a church in 1957. Restoration to its previous glorious state took 24 years. Today Sunday services are held there amid tiers of Russian icons that tell stories of Bible characters. While this is a positive return to the religion represented by the church, Russian Orthodox churches do not have pews, so people are obligated to stand throughout the hours-long services.
St. Issac’s

St. Issac Square in the center of the city is dominated by magnificent St. Isaac Cathedral, built between 1818 and 1858. The cathedral is named after a monk of Dalmatian descent whose Saint’s Day is the same as Peter the Great’s birthday (May 20). Its gorgeous conical gold dome makes the cathedral the fourth highest in the world.
St. Isaac's Cathedral is decorated
with 14 colored marbles and 43
types of semiprecious stones.
Peter married Catherine I at this cathedral. Originally made of wood, Catherine wanted it rebuilt in granite and marble, but her son Paul took the marble and used it for another palace. So the cathedral  is built in a classical style of brick—not as impressive as Catherine had intended.

Granite intended for ancient cathedral
was used for another palace. 
Still, it is filled with hundreds of impressive 19th century works of art. White marble with gilding and mosaic icons decorate the cathedral. There’s a glimmering sculpture of Christ of Glory, and many pieces where the stones were laid out so smoothly that mosaics appear as paintings. 
Kazan

Corinthian columns of Kazan Cathedral were inspired by St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome.
Named for a city in Russia in the 16th century, Kazan Cathedral is known for its elegant dome, marble mosaic floor, and 56 granite monolithic columns inspired by St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. Its unique bronze sculptures and doors were compared by Michelangelo to Heaven’s doors.
Another view of the cathedral
Kazan Cathedral was built as a monument of joy after the victory over Napoleon in 1812 and became a pantheon of Russian glory.

Its iconic feature is a famous, ornate, “miracle-making” representation of Our Lady of Kazan. People still line up to make requests of Our Lady of Kazan. I don’t doubt that many miracles have happened because of these supplications.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier