Countries Visited (not including Turnarounds): Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Great Britain, Greece, Iceland, India, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Libya, Lithuania, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Monaco, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, North Korea, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United States, Vatican City
London | Perth | Sydney | Melbourne
Seatguru - Most Comfy Seats On Any Airline
pprune.org - Pilot's rumour network
Kangaroo with a Sweet Tooth
Kronicles of Kris
The Adventures of Alle Malice
Joel's trek across Asia/Europe in a Hilux
Phil's Wine Site
I Can Has Cheezburger
The Flying Pinto
Girl on Raw
Things Bogans Like
Bobby at Up, Up and a Gay
Straight Guy in the Queer Skies
Skin by Falter
Saturday, January 14, 2012I mentioned in my previous post on Vilnius that I wanted to separate the photos from the KGB museum from the other shots taken on the trip. Aside from the other post being very photo-heavy, I think the subject matter warrants a post on its own. Much of the photography is very dark, and I tried to lighten them up where possible, but I wanted to keep the photos true to the experience as much as possible. If you see one place in Vilnius, this should be it.
So after arriving and settling into my room, and seeing as though I was so close, I decided to first visit the Museum of the Genocide Victims, also informally known as the KGB Museum. The first and second floor are worth a look, and are in fact what is recommended by the museum to visit first - they contained a plethora of memorabilia, letters, prayer books, handicrafts, uniforms, badges, bullet casings and photos amongst its vast collection.
But it's once you enter the basement floor that the museum really becomes poignant. Chilling. Disturbing. What I saw at the basement of the museum still enters my thoughts, had done so every single day during my visit to Vilnius. The basement contains the cells that victims were imprisioned in, some done up to focus on one particular group that was marginalized (such as the Jewish memorial in cell no. 3) but many were set up to recreate the exact conditions of the cell during Soviet occupation.
A cell with some shredded documents. Probably a recreation, but there was noting I saw written saying it was. For all I knew it could have had sensitive KGB information in those bags.
From the top, a 4 person shared cell and a 2 person shared cell.
The majority of the cells were in either the 2 person or the 4 person configuration, but there were other cells that they saved for those convicted of more serious offenses, such as espionage.
The interrogation cell. I think my photography here is a little misleading as the cell was only about 2m x 2m, not very large at all.
The water cell. The guards filled the cell with water until it was about 10cm off the ground. Those who occupied this cell had no choice but to either stand in the water or to stand on that tiny island. Considering how cold it can get during the winter in Vilnius this was, essentially, torture
Onto the most chilling room in the entire museum. That black thing in the middle is actually a straight jacket, and this cell is completely padded. Reserved for those prisoners that were, or had become, mentally insane. The padding was interesting to look at - it didn't look particularly soft, there wasn't a lot of 'give' when you pushed with your finger. I think the padding was more to stop whatever screaming and shouting from the prisoner becoming too loud rather than to prevent the prisoner from seriously injuring themselves.
Under Stalin, the prisoners were permitted 15 minutes outdoors every day, which increased to 1 hour of exercise time when he was no longer the one in power. The walls of the exercise yard was no larger than one of the 4 prisoner cells, so it was only really 15 minutes of fresh air that they were getting. As you can see there wasn't a whole lot of sunlight.
This was the room where all the executions happened - the plexiglass you can see in the photo is protecting the bullet holes from corroding further. The TV is playing on loop a movie that had some scenes shot in the room about the occupation in Lithuania. The transparent floor showcases some more memorabilia, some of them items left behind by the executed prisoners. The room also has this smell to it that is very strange, not in a putrid sense - it isn't yak-inducing, but in addition to the history of the room the smell really sends a chill down your spine. I wish I knew how to describe it.
Stock photo taken from here.
Labels: Holidays5 comments
Saturday, January 07, 2012I love my Paris trips. If I'm not catching up with Ben, then I'm either shopping at Galleries Lafayette, having a browse at Collete to see what the hipsters of Paris are into, or just taking a short stroll around the Tulleries for some fresh air. It's one of these layovers that, unless the city is closed down for, say, Christmas, then I always make the epic journey from the hotel to the city for a few hours. It's worth the money. I can't mentally cope well trying to save on allowance eating pot noodles in my room when I'm in Paris.
One of the downsides to having a layover in a renowned 'world city' is that the traffic can be unreliable, and so the airline has us stay in a hotel at the airport, rather than where the action is. Well not *at* the airport, we're housed in a hotel in a village called Roissy, about 5 minutes from the airport, and it seems this is a specific hotel village, as there are some 30 hotels alone staying in Roissy. Not many stand alone restaurants in walking distance, but lots of warehouses and single storey office buildings. Horrible to go running as there is no clear footpath.
To get to the city we have a few options. The hotel has a shuttle bus service where you pay 5 Euros each way to go to the city and back. Which would be nice if the timing was better - the trip from the city back to the hotel has us arrive after our wake up call - so that isn't an option. There's a shuttle bus from the hotel to the airport, after which you can either take the Roissybus to the city, or take the RER train and then the metro to the city. I usually take the last option (RER & metro), as you very rarely wait more than 8 minutes for a RER train, and you rarely wait more than 4 minutes for the next train to appear on the Metro line. I like to have complete control over when I arrive and when I leave Paris, particularly when it can mean the difference to getting a few hours of sleep before pick up, and not even making it to your pick up on time.
So just the other day I had my Paris layover. Got to catch up with Ben. Got to do a little bit of sightseeing. Even managed to do a bit of shopping. When it came to making the trek back to the hotel from the Bourse I was well and truly shattered. I didn't really pay much attention to where I was standing or seated, once I got on the RER Blue line I was in my own little world.
So at one point (at Aulnay-sous-Bois I think) I looked above me to figure out how far there was to go on the journey, and saw this...
The metro map, with seemingly fresh blood stains. Was I shocked? Just a little. Was I surprised? Not at all. Most of the Parisian crew that we fly with are more than willing to tell you that both the RER Blue and the RER Green lines are some of the most unsafe lines you can possibly take in the city. Most of them take either a taxi or get family and friends to transport them around the city during their layover. The rest of us are left with the dodgy RER train. It made me wonder, especially since it was so high in the carriage, what on earth happened? Nothing that I could see around me was stained, so it had been cleaned since I had boarded. Was someone punched? Stabbed? Shot? Suffering from a projectile nose bleed?
I think I might take the Roissybus from now on... 7 comments