A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: pensfan30157

Russia

St. Petersburg and Moscow

July 2017 had me visiting the great cities of St. Petersburg and Moscow in Russia. Both have a wealth of history and are very popular destinations in Europe. St. Petersburg was ranked as the best European travel destination for the second year in a row this year. I traveled to St. Petersburg as my first stop and had a long list of things I wanted to see. Unfortunately the weather was not the best as it was very overcast, windy and raining off and on the entire trip. The first day had me doing the normal city walk tour that I always do to get my bearings straight and see the major highlights right away. It started in the Palace Square which is a main tourist area that has the Alexander Column which celebrates Russia's victory over Napoleon and is also the location of the Winter Palace which now houses the famous Hermitage Museum. The Winter Palace was the official residence of the Russian monarchs until 1917.
Alexander Column

Alexander Column


Base of Alexander Column

Base of Alexander Column


Winter Palace

Winter Palace


Another building in Alexander Square

Another building in Alexander Square

Our journey continued along the Neva river as the weather proceeded to go completely downhill with a huge downpour of rain and high winds.
Along the Neva river we saw the Peter and Paul Fortress as well as some ships along the river, when the rain allowed us that is.
Peter and Paul Fortress across the Neva river thru the rain

Peter and Paul Fortress across the Neva river thru the rain


Ship anchored across the river

Ship anchored across the river

Our next stop was St. Isaacs Cathedral which is Russian Orthodox and is the worlds fourth largest cathedral in the world.
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Another cathedral on our route was the Kazan Cathedral.
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A very famous landmark in St. Petersburg is the Singer building. It was the headquarters for the american sewing machine maker Singer. The globe on top of the building shines a different color light every night according to the owners mood for that day.
Singer building

Singer building

One of the main sites in St. Petersburg is The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. This church was built on the site where Emperor Alexander II was fatally wounded in March 1881.

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The weather began to get better and I ventured out more and more to explore and see what I could find on my own.
Interesting building near the Hermitage, which by the way has a staff of 50 paid cats on its staff.  They remove the "unwanted guests" sort to speak

Interesting building near the Hermitage, which by the way has a staff of 50 paid cats on its staff. They remove the "unwanted guests" sort to speak


One of the many canals I crossed during my ventures

One of the many canals I crossed during my ventures


A cat cafe.  Cats are very popular in St. Petersburg

A cat cafe. Cats are very popular in St. Petersburg


The Bronze Horseman is an equestrian statue of Peter the Great beside the Neva river

The Bronze Horseman is an equestrian statue of Peter the Great beside the Neva river

One of the biggest reasons for my travels to St. Petersburg was my interest in the World War II history that it was involved in especially during what was called the Siege of Leningrad. During WWII, St. Petersburg was known as Leningrad, not St. Petersburg due to the fact that St. Petersburg sounded way too German and it was the Germans that were the enemy! When Hitler invaded Russia he decided that in September 1941 he would encircle and starve out the entire city of Leningrad. The plan ultimately failed but the siege lasted almost 900 days and cost the lives of at LEAST 1 million civilians. I visited several museums that dealt with this event as well as Victory Square which is a large outdoor monument to all those involved in the siege and to remember the great cost of lives involved. It is still one of the greatest Russian triumphs to this day and is very important to those that still live in the area. It was very impressive and very important for me to visit it and see how they remembered the event. There is actually a law that states if you fly into the airport and are going to the city center of St. Petersburg, the public transportation must take the route that goes directly thru Victory Square. It is pretty much not enforced, but luckily I did see it on my taxi ride to the city center when I arrived that night and I made a special trip to see it during the day time which allowed me to utilize the Metro system which was pretty awesome and super easy to use. The signs were in both Russian and English as were the recorded announcements that ran while you were on the cars riding to your locations.
One view of Victory Square

One view of Victory Square


Opposite view of Victory Square

Opposite view of Victory Square


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large_DSC_0229.jpglarge_DSC_0228.jpgDSC_0227.jpginside the square

inside the square


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Celebrating the end of the 900 day siege

Celebrating the end of the 900 day siege

The end of the week saw my time in St. Petersburg over and I was getting ready to head to Moscow, but I was able to revisit a few of the previous sites again but this time the weather was much better! Here are a few of those pics...........
Peter and Paul Fortress

Peter and Paul Fortress

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Moscow greeted me with better weather and I was pretty happy when leaving the airport in Moscow for the taxi as this time I had my luggage....this is going to be fun!! Red Square, here I come.........

After dropping off my luggage at my hotel, I walked just around the corner and began to check out the area right at the Kremilin and Red Square.
The first site I come across is a statue to Prince Vladimir, which I though was pretty cool and seemed to be pretty popular by others as well.

Prince Vladimir

Prince Vladimir


background of statue

background of statue

background of statue

background of statue

I continue walking closer to the Kremlin complex and run across another statue of some sort but I have no idea what it references due to everything being in Russian. Notice the red wall of the Kremlin just behind it.
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The Kremlin is a huge complex that houses many structures including several churches, museums and of course governmental buildings including the building the Russian leader Putin works in. He was on site in the Kremlin while I was in the Kremlin according to the "official" status indicator they use of the Russian Federation Flag flying over top the governmental building.
Building Russian President Putin works in within the Kremlin complex. <br /> The flag on top of the building is raised anytime he is in the building.  It is raised in this picture but hard to see as the wind is not blowing

Building Russian President Putin works in within the Kremlin complex.
The flag on top of the building is raised anytime he is in the building. It is raised in this picture but hard to see as the wind is not blowing


Cathedral of the Annunication.  Built for the Czars for ceremonies.

Cathedral of the Annunication. Built for the Czars for ceremonies.


Czar Cannon.  Huge but never used

Czar Cannon. Huge but never used


Different sizes of cannons that are mounted all over the Kremlin complex for protection

Different sizes of cannons that are mounted all over the Kremlin complex for protection

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Spasskaya Tower at the Kremlin.  Famous for the large clock and a main focal point for Red Square and the Kremlin

Spasskaya Tower at the Kremlin. Famous for the large clock and a main focal point for Red Square and the Kremlin


Another tower of the Kremlin

Another tower of the Kremlin

Directly beside the Kremlin is Red Square which is a large open space that contains Lenin's Mausoleum, St. Basil's Cathedral and GUM, which is a famous Shopping mall with a long history. This was without a doubt the most popular tourist area and has a long and storied history connecting all these sites to Russia both in the past and in today's world. Very impressive and absolutely breath taking.
State Historical Museum front side with statue of Sergei Zukhov in front.  He was a hero of Russia during World War II and was the only man that Stalin was reported to be afraid of.

State Historical Museum front side with statue of Sergei Zukhov in front. He was a hero of Russia during World War II and was the only man that Stalin was reported to be afraid of.


State Historical Museum from middle of Red Square

State Historical Museum from middle of Red Square


GUM shopping mall.  Notice the Russian lettering on sign on top of mall in their alphabet.  GUM translates to Government Department store.  It was just a shopping mall and a definite tourist trap

GUM shopping mall. Notice the Russian lettering on sign on top of mall in their alphabet. GUM translates to Government Department store. It was just a shopping mall and a definite tourist trap

Probably the most famous landmark in Red Square is St. Basil's Cathedral. It was built from 1555–61 on orders from Ivan the Terrible and commemorates the capture of Kazan and Astrakhan.

St. Basil's Cathedral

St. Basil's Cathedral

I did get to see Lenin's body in the Lenin Mausoleum after a 2 hour wait in line. Lenin has been displayed here in state since 1924. No pictures allowed inside the mausoleum but I did get a picture of the outside of the mausoleum which is located right in Red Square. Another very popular tourist attraction.
Lenin's Mausoleum

Lenin's Mausoleum


Close to the Mausoleum is where other important Russian/Soviet leaders are buried. Here is where Stalin is buried.........

Stalin's grave site close to Lenin's Mausoleum

Stalin's grave site close to Lenin's Mausoleum

Just outside of the Kremlin and Red Square is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Here every hour they do a changing of the guard which was another pretty popular activity and was pretty cool.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier


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The remainder of my time in Moscow allowed me to do a little exploring on my own. I ventured out on some rather long walks and ended up seeing Gorky Park, Park Pebody, the monument to Peter the Great, the former KGB building and some of the Moscow high rise buildings known as the 7 sisters of Stalin. Here are a few final pictures of my time in Moscow as my trip comes to an end.

Former KGB building

Former KGB building

No idea what building this is but thought it was pretty cool

No idea what building this is but thought it was pretty cool

Christ our Savior Cathedral.  There are a ton of Cathedrals here!

Christ our Savior Cathedral. There are a ton of Cathedrals here!


Peter the Great.  Probably one of my favorite statues of all time.  It is huge

Peter the Great. Probably one of my favorite statues of all time. It is huge

This is known as the Russian White House.  There was a revolt held here years ago when government policies where ruled from here but now all official government business is contained within the Kremlin

This is known as the Russian White House. There was a revolt held here years ago when government policies where ruled from here but now all official government business is contained within the Kremlin

GUM shopping mall at night in Red Square

GUM shopping mall at night in Red Square

Evening along one of the river banks

Evening along one of the river banks

One of the Metro stations in Moscow.  They all had marble, granite, gold and chandiliers.  St. Petersburg Metro was very similiar

One of the Metro stations in Moscow. They all had marble, granite, gold and chandiliers. St. Petersburg Metro was very similiar


Kremlin at night from my hotel room

Kremlin at night from my hotel room


St. Basil's Cathedral at night.  It never got totally dark at night time while I was there.  By 3 am it was completely daylight again.

St. Basil's Cathedral at night. It never got totally dark at night time while I was there. By 3 am it was completely daylight again.

Red Square at night with Kremlin on the left and St. Basil's Cathedral on the right

Red Square at night with Kremlin on the left and St. Basil's Cathedral on the right

Stay tuned as the first 10 days in September have me going to Italy and Austria for the next adventure..........

Posted by pensfan30157 07:50 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

Upcoming 2017 Trips

Latest update on my travels....

Italy and Vienna - September 2017 Rome, Naples, Pompeii, Vienna. Italy tour with a final stop in Vienna Austria.

Posted by pensfan30157 20:01 Comments (0)

Nov 5 2016 - Western National Parks including Grand Canyon

sunny 70 °F

My final trip for a busy travel year is a tour of some of the Western National Parks including the Grand Canyon, Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park and a few other sites that are in the same area. 2016 was the National Parks 100th birthday so I thought this would be a great final trip and allow me to help support the National Parks. I purchased a National Parks Pass that allows unlimited visits to all National Parks for an entire year and costs $85. Since each National Park entrance fee averaged $25 I knew I would more then make up the cost of the pass due to all the National Parks I visited in 2016. In all I visited 7 National Parks in 2016 and have several more scheduled for 2017.

My gateway to the west was Phoenix Arizona. I would fly in and out of there and use Phoenix as my "base camp" which really just meant spending the day there on my arrival day and the day prior to my flight back home. My list of sites I wanted to visit was as usual pretty aggressive and would entail driving close to 2,000 miles by the time I was finished.

My first stop was the North Rim of the Grand Canyon which was approx 350 miles away and would take me thru Phoenix into Flagstaff and then continue north towards Utah. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is much more deserted and certainly much less visited then the South Rim of the Grand Canyon due to its limited routes that people can take. I had been to the South rim before several times so I decided it was time to see what all the fuss was about with the North Rim. My schedule made it that it was "off season" for the North rim which really just meant that none of Visitor stations or Park Lodges in the North Rim would be open. I did not mind this one bit as it would mean I would pretty much have the park to myself and that was indeed the result. I ran onto no traffic at all and once I was at the North Rim there were times I did not see another single person for long periods of time. The weather was gorgeous which meant the main road into the park would be open and traffic could enter the park without any closed roads.

During my drive towards the North Rim I saw quite a bit of different scenery which included wide open fields, rivers, rock formations and mountain ranges that just appeared out of nowhere.
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change in scenery while driving

change in scenery while driving

Once I arrived at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon I saw why it was the rim that was not viewed nearly as much as the South rim. The area that had good and "safe" viewing areas was pretty small and somewhat rough to navigate due to the drop offs and lack of barriers to keep you from falling off the "perches". Once you were able to find a good safe viewing spot, it did leave you speechless though I must admit.
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North Rim looking towards South Rim

North Rim looking towards South Rim

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idea of terrain at the rim edge.  North Rim Lodge at top right

idea of terrain at the rim edge. North Rim Lodge at top right

My next stop would be Page Arizona which is where I spend the night. I had to back track thru some of the same scenery but I would also run across some new scenery which was also very eye opening.
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Colorado River

Colorado River


Rafters going down the Colorado river towards the North Rim

Rafters going down the Colorado river towards the North Rim

At Page there is a very popular spot for pictures known as the Horseshoe. This is where the Colorado river forms a "Horseshoe" turn towards the North Rim. The best way to photograph this spot is with a wide angle lens, a tripod and the right time of day to catch the sun in just the right spot.
I pretty much just did the best I could with the equipment I had but it was still pretty cool. This picture is taken about 8:00 am and the place was already packed with people taking photos.
Horseshoe

Horseshoe

The Glen Canyon Dam is also located at Page and is used to regulate the water flow of the Colorado River thru the Horseshoe turn.
Glen Canyon Dam

Glen Canyon Dam


Looking down the Colorado River just past the Dam towards the North Rim

Looking down the Colorado River just past the Dam towards the North Rim

After seeing the Dam my journey continues north east thru Arizona and crossing into lower Utah thru Monument Valley. This is landscape made famous in all the old cowboy movies and the famous scene in the movie Forest Gump where Forest finally decides to stop running across the country. I was really looking forward to seeing this first hand as I had seen pictures and knew that pictures probably would not do it justice.
Approaching Monument Valley

Approaching Monument Valley

To see Monument Valley you could view it from the road on the way to your destination or you could actually enter the Indian reservation and drive thru the reservation for much closer views via your car on a 17 mile dirt road. The road hardly deserved the ranking of "dirt" as it was probably the worst kept road I have ever even attempted to drive on. I knew from research what the road condition was like and that was why I rented a new Ford Explorer 4x4 to ensure I could traverse the roads and get as close as possible to the sites within the Monument Valley park.
on the reservation

on the reservation


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wild horses located all over Monument Valley

wild horses located all over Monument Valley

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One of the "mittens"

One of the "mittens"


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My favorite of Monument Valley.

My favorite of Monument Valley.

After my safe return from the 17 mile "dirt road" thru monument Valley I got back on the main road and headed further north to my next stop for the night in Bluff Utah. When I arrived in Bluff I saw a road sign for a historic fort and decided to check it out as I was not aware of any forts at that location. I stopped at the fort and learned its history and how it came to be. The fort was not a military fort but more of a civilian fort built at the time that Bluff was originally settled. The people that settled this area were from Colorado and other parts of the country and had to traverse some of the most difficult terrain ever seen. They had to cross the Colorado river and there was only one way to do this at that time and that was thru a small crevice they opened up and forged a makeshift path thru on the banks of the Colorado river. The fort was formed to protect the settlers from the various Indian tribes that were in the area and where not too happy with their new neighbors.
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Fort Bluff

The next morning I took a short drive to Gooseneck State Park just outside Bluff to see another site that you can view the Colorado river and how it winds its way thru the valleys using sharp "horseshoe" or "gooseneck" turns. Very similar to the Horseshoe view back in Page Arizona and again its the Colorado River. Once again you really need a wide angled lens to capture the full effect but I did the best I could.
Gooseneck State Park and view of Colorado River

Gooseneck State Park and view of Colorado River

My next stop was Arches National Park located just outside of Moab Utah. The park is known for the rock formations shaped in the form of "arches". Those western settlers sure were sharp with their names of things!! Alot of the scenery and formations were very similar to what I had already seen, but there were some that were totally different.

This was named Standing Rock.

This was named Standing Rock.


The most famous Arch in the park.  It is named Delicate Arch.  Picture taken from about 1 mile away.  To get to the arch you had to walk 3 miles.

The most famous Arch in the park. It is named Delicate Arch. Picture taken from about 1 mile away. To get to the arch you had to walk 3 miles.


Landscape Arch

Landscape Arch

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After Arches National Park and located very close by is the next National Park I visited. Canyonlands National Park. My National Parks pass is getting a workout for sure this trip.

Scenic overlook

Scenic overlook


One of the dirt roads you could take if you have a 4x4.  My rental was a 4x4........

One of the dirt roads you could take if you have a 4x4. My rental was a 4x4........

Undercover Park Ranger....You cant fool me!

Undercover Park Ranger....You cant fool me!

Green River Overlook.  Wonder what river that is that runs through it?

Green River Overlook. Wonder what river that is that runs through it?


Green River Overlook in opposite direction

Green River Overlook in opposite direction

My final National Park was Petrified Forest/Painted Desert National Park located back in Arizona right on historic route 66. Located in the park is much of the same rock formations and structures I had already seen, but there was also alot of petrified wood that has been there for thousands of years dating back before the Dinosaurs. This area of the country had a large population of Dinosaurs and there were lots of markers and signs pointing to their tracks and places they were found and removed for investigating. They seemed to be a huge highway side attraction also as I passed quite a few of them trying to get tourists to stop and go thru their shops. I looked really hard the entire time I was in the park but I did not see a single Dinosaur myself. Apparently they are not fans of Funyuns like other creatures I have run into in the past in the national parks.

There is almost nothing left of historic route 66 due to the completion of the countries Interstate Highway system.

There is almost nothing left of historic route 66 due to the completion of the countries Interstate Highway system.

petrified wood

petrified wood

I finished up Petrified National Park and began my journey back to Phoenix via Holbrook and Winslow Arizona which travels right beside the old route 66 route. I was hoping to see a few of the old sites that still exist from back in the hay day of route 66.

My first site I found was the WigWam Motel where you can actually sleep in a Teepee.

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Located before Winslow Arizona is the old Jack Rabbitt Trading Post that was very popular and famous when route 66 was used years ago.
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My final day on the trip had my staying in Phoenix and not doing too much but I did hear what I thought was propeller driven aircraft outside and when I went out and looked up I saw a formation of WWII fighter planes very low and looked like they were coming in for a landing right beside my hotel. I looked on Google Maps and noticed there was indeed a small municipal airport 2 miles away. I did a quick search online and found that there was a World War II aircraft museum located at the airport. I grabbed my camera and drove to the airport to check it out. Sure enough, there was a huge museum located right beside the runways at the airport that was dedicated to World War II aircraft. I decided to take the tour and ended up spending 3 hours there and did not see everything there was to see. They had a huge hangar that was full of different aircraft ranging from World War I all the way thru the Vietnam era.
P51 Mustang

P51 Mustang


large__DSC5361.jpgPlanes on Tarmac beside the runway

Planes on Tarmac beside the runway

Maid in the Shade B17.  This is the plane that the museum is dedicated to.  It was completely refurbished and is in flying shape.  You may take flights on it if you are willing to pay the $500 for 20 mins in the air.

Maid in the Shade B17. This is the plane that the museum is dedicated to. It was completely refurbished and is in flying shape. You may take flights on it if you are willing to pay the $500 for 20 mins in the air.


Maid in the Shade

Maid in the Shade

The 2016 travel year for me finishes up with the completion of this trip. I saw everything on my wish list and was able to add a few extras along the way. 2017 is right around the corner and I already have plans for a few possibilities including Russia, Alaska and possibly the Oregon coast line.
Stay tuned as I am excited to add more journeys to my completion list and who knows what will eventually find itself in the 2017 line up.

Posted by pensfan30157 07:59 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Rocky Mountain & Badlands National Parks and Mount Rushmore

sunny 70 °F

Between October 21 thru October 24 I went on a quick impromptu trip to Denver Colorado to see Rocky Mountain National Park and then head north to South Dakota to see the Badlands National Park and Mount Rushmore. This year is the National Park Services 100th birthday and unknown to me until right before this trip it is also Mount Rushmore's 75th birthday, so I guess this is a little birthday trip to see a couple more sites on my wish list.
Once I have completed this trip, I will have driven over 1,250 miles to see all the sites I wanted to accomplish on my quick "road trip".

My first stop after landing in Denver was Rocky Mountain National Park which is located approx 70 miles northwest of Denver. During planning for the trip I was aware that due to the timing of this trip there was a very good possibility that there would be some sites I would not be able to see due to road closures that accompany the early snow storms that happen in Rocky Mountain National Park. Once I arrived at the park, this was indeed the case and would actually cut the amount of the park that was accessible by more than half, but I was aware of this during planning and knew there was plenty of other things to see so I was not deterred.

Approach to Rocky Mountain National Park

Approach to Rocky Mountain National Park

Entering the park you can get much better views of the mountains and see some of the snow that has already fallen on them.

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As I travel thru the park the roads wind up and around the mountains which give you great views both up towards the peaks and down towards the lower valleys from which you have begun your travels.

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After driving for a while I decided to pull off the road and take a short hike on one of the trails. While I was taking a break from being in the car I could hear a bird of some sort making all kinds of noise and realized that it was trying to persuade me to share my Funyuns with him, which of course is a HUGE "I dont think so" mister bird.....not really because of the "No feeding wildlife" park rule, but because I DO NOT share my Funyuns with anyone...human or other life form. He was not amused and I had to hear about it for the next 30 mins..........

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Due to the road closures in the park from the snow, the areas that were accessible were overloaded with people which was the exact opposite of what I was looking for so since I had so many other sites to see, I decided it was time to hit the road and head to Cheyenne Wyoming for the night on my way to Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

View of mountains on my way out of Rocky Mountain National Park

View of mountains on my way out of Rocky Mountain National Park

Saturday morning has me driving from Cheyenne Wyoming to Badlands National Park in South Dakota. Its about 300 miles to the Park and I will travel thru Wyoming, Nebraska and South Dakota on mostly rural non-interstate highways that will take me thru the heart of all 3 states.
GPS navigation....check, road music....check, and last but not least, lots of Funyuns.....CHECK!!!

After completing the final 10 miles of the drive to the park on a dirt road (yes....it was the main road too!) I arrived at Badlands National Park and everything I read about it was true. It was some of the most bizarre landscape I had ever seen. Think of the surface of the moon meets the Grand Canyon maybe??
Only pictures can do it justice and I am not about to even try to describe what it looked like because I don't know any words that would do that.

The name Badlands came from the Lakota people and refers to the extreme temps, exposed rugged terrain and the lack of water. I think they over reacted if you ask me.......

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Luckily, there are a few forms of wildlife that do survive and actually thrive in the badlands. The most common are Bison, Bighorn Sheep and the ones I had a blast watching the most, Prairie Dogs!

Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn Sheep

Bison Herd

Bison Herd

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Zoom lens used on this big fellow but he was still pretty close to the car and I ended up moving out of his way, NOT the other way around!

Zoom lens used on this big fellow but he was still pretty close to the car and I ended up moving out of his way, NOT the other way around!

The park is well known for its super large population of Prairie Dogs. There were thousands of them all over the park and there is even a place in the park named for them....hence the name Prairie Dog Town. I stopped here and got out of the car and just watched them for a while. They were everywhere and they would come right up to you and make all kinds of noises and then take off like a rocket. They would chase each other around, tackle each other and follow each other down one of the holes in the ground and pop up a different hole a few feet away. If you were to walk out of the parking lot into the actual grounds, you would step on way more Prairie Dogs then grass, and no, I am not exaggerating one bit!

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another fan of Funyuns!

another fan of Funyuns!


Something tells me these 2 know each other

Something tells me these 2 know each other

Just a small Funyun.....I wont tell if you wont!

Just a small Funyun.....I wont tell if you wont!

No way this fellow is single.......

No way this fellow is single.......

While researching Badlands National Park I found that located just a few miles away is the Minuteman Missile Museum Complex. This includes a free museum, a free missile silo complex that displays a Minuteman Nuclear ICBM in its missile Silo and a Minuteman Missile Launch Control Facility that you can tour underground. Of course I am going to see that!!!

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20161023_100853.jpg morale boosters for those working in the underground launch control facility

morale boosters for those working in the underground launch control facility

8 ton blast door to enter the underground launch facility

8 ton blast door to enter the underground launch facility

If you purchased in advance a ticket for $6, you could take a guided tour of a actual underground Launch Control Facility for a Delta Minuteman ICBM. The guide for my tour actually worked in the same facility for 20 years and was a wealth of information and made you feel like you were actually there on a normal working day during their "watch".

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Equipment in the underground launch control facility.  I tried several of the buttons but nothing happened?

Equipment in the underground launch control facility. I tried several of the buttons but nothing happened?

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The final portion of the Minuteman Missile Tour was a stop off the Interstate to the Missile Silo that contained an actual non-working (so they say) Minuteman ICBM. The facility is the exact setup of any of the current "Live" minuteman silos that still exist today in North and South Dakota.

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Minuteman ICBM in silo ready for launch

Minuteman ICBM in silo ready for launch

Back on the highway and enroute to Mount Rushmore about 90 mins away..........

Approach to Mount Rushmore

Approach to Mount Rushmore

View from amphitheater

View from amphitheater

_DSC5080.jpg_DSC5081.jpgLincoln, Washington, Roosevelt close ups

Lincoln, Washington, Roosevelt close ups

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Final picture before heading 400 miles back to Denver

Final picture before heading 400 miles back to Denver

My final day in Denver took me to Pikes Peak about 70 miles south of Denver. Pikes Peak is 14,100 feet above sea level and you can actually drive all the way up to the summit so I decided that would be my final stop for this trip.

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The drive up to the summit is approx 18 miles and you know you are in for a ride when they tell you at the entrance that you MUST use your lowest gear and NO air conditioning on the way up or your car will most likely overheat. The drive started out easy enough, but as you drove towards the summit you started hitting the tight curves and switchbacks as you progress up the mountain. There were many times the rental car struggled to make it to 15 mph in the lowest gear with no a/c at all turned on.

one of the stops I made on the way up to the summit.  Unfortunately the road was very narrow with no guard rails at many points during the travel and there were very few turn offs for pictures, so if your driving and by yourself, there were not a lot of opportunities to take pictures on the way to the top of Pikes Peak.

one of the stops I made on the way up to the summit. Unfortunately the road was very narrow with no guard rails at many points during the travel and there were very few turn offs for pictures, so if your driving and by yourself, there were not a lot of opportunities to take pictures on the way to the top of Pikes Peak.

I finally made it to the top of Pikes Peak but noticed something seemed off when looking off the summit. Everything looked hazy or smokey to me. I know its 14,000 feet above sea level and I am in a state where marijuana is legal, but I can guarantee you that neither of those items were in play with me. As I looked at a mountain beside Pikes peak it all made sense. Coming off from several areas of the neighboring mountain was large plumes of white smoke from what I am guessing were either controlled or uncontrolled forest fires and the wind was blowing the smoke around and this was the haze that was surrounding me and the summit. Just my luck....

Looking down from top of Pikes Peak.  Hazy due to smoke from fires on neighboring mountain.

Looking down from top of Pikes Peak. Hazy due to smoke from fires on neighboring mountain.

Not quite as bad with smoke and haze but this was the last pic I was able to take that would actually be worth of any viewing pleasure

Not quite as bad with smoke and haze but this was the last pic I was able to take that would actually be worth of any viewing pleasure

Even with the disappointing end to my visit at Pikes Peak, I got to see everything on my list as well as a couple of things that were not actually planned and researched. I saw lots of the countryside in Denver, Wyoming, Nebraska and South Dakota as well as I can now cross off several more National Parks from my list of must visits. Time back from this trip will be short as I leave in just over a week or so for a week long adventure to more National Parks including Grand Canyon North Rim, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Painted Desert. I will also see Monument Valley as well as several areas of historic Route 66. Stay tuned for pics and updates from that trip and I hope you enjoyed some of the adventures I had on this quick little road trip using Denver as my "Base Camp".

Posted by pensfan30157 13:34 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Budapest and Bucharest

sunny 80 °F

The first 10 days of September 2016 find me in Budapest Hungary and Bucharest Romania as I continue my European trips. Budapest is Hungary's capital and was originally 3 cities separated by the river Danube. The hilly area west of the Danube river was known as Buda and the flat area to the west of the river was known as Pest. The first day in Budapest started out with a city walk starting in the Pest side near the Parliament building.
The walk will include famous sites on both the Buda and Pest sides and will go across the famous Chain Bridge

Lion statue on the Chain Bridge

Lion statue on the Chain Bridge

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view of Buda while crossing the Chain Bridge over the river Danube

view of Buda while crossing the Chain Bridge over the river Danube


view of the Parliament Building in Pest while crossing the Chain bridge

view of the Parliament Building in Pest while crossing the Chain bridge


view from Buda to Pest with the Chain Bridge from a hill

view from Buda to Pest with the Chain Bridge from a hill


Buda History Museum

Buda History Museum

Next we saw the Matthias Church which is a 14th century church named for King Matthias

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Our next stop brings us to the Fishermans Bastion. This is a terrace in neo-Gothic style that sits atop Budapest Castle and the views from it back towards Pest are incredible. It was built between 1895 and 1902 and was almost completely destroyed during World War II.

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statue at Fishermans Bastion

statue at Fishermans Bastion


Chain Bridge from Fisherman's Bastion

Chain Bridge from Fisherman's Bastion

We now walk back across the Chain Bridge to see some sites in Pest. The first stop is St. Stephen's Basilica. It is built to honor Stephen who was the first King of Hungary. Inside is the right hand of Stephen enclosed in a box that you can see if you drop a coin into it. I already know what a right hand looks like, so that coin was later used to purchase one of the most popular things in Budapest, Ice cream. Don't ask me why but there were a ton of Ice Cream vendors every where we went and you always saw people walking around eating cones with ice cream in them. I was not terribly impressed, but I do have high standards so maybe I am not being fair on that aspect.
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Still on the Pest side we walked around with no real plan in mind and just began investigating what all Pest had to offer.

Dohany Street Synagogue. The largest synagogue in Europe and second largest in the world

Dohany Street Synagogue. The largest synagogue in Europe and second largest in the world

Budapest Military Academy

Budapest Military Academy


Hungarian National Museum with a WW II tank outside

Hungarian National Museum with a WW II tank outside

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Swan Fountain

Swan Fountain

Budapest is well known for its architecture and when darkness arrives, the structures are all lit up with lights pointing in every direction imaginable.

Chain Bridge looking towards Pest

Chain Bridge looking towards Pest

Buda Castle

Buda Castle


Parliament Building

Parliament Building

Notice the specks of lights around the dome of the Parliament Building.  These are bats flying around and having a buffet of insects that are attracted by the bright and powerful lights illuminating the building

Notice the specks of lights around the dome of the Parliament Building. These are bats flying around and having a buffet of insects that are attracted by the bright and powerful lights illuminating the building

St. Stephens Basilica

St. Stephens Basilica

The next stop on my list of things to see takes me to Hero's Square. Here are statues of the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars and the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is a memorial to all the heroes who died for the freedom and Independence of everyone and the country.
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On the final night in Budapest we headed towards the Liberty Statue that sits atop Gellert Hill overlooking the entire city of Budapest.
It was erected in 1947 in remembrance of the Soviet liberation of Hungary during World War II. The walk up to the statue was very steep and there were no lights on the paths so we really had to pay attention to our footing. There were a bunch of little viewing stations that pointed out over the entire city and most of them had people sitting in them having picnics and viewing the lights of the city. This was the last sight we had of Budapest as the next morning had us flying to Bucharest for the remainder of our trip.
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View from the Liberty Statue towards Pest.  Luck would have it that we were able to catch lightning in the background

View from the Liberty Statue towards Pest. Luck would have it that we were able to catch lightning in the background

Danube river with the Parliament Building on the Pest side

Danube river with the Parliament Building on the Pest side

Szent Gellert Monument on the route we took to walk up to the Liberty Statue

Szent Gellert Monument on the route we took to walk up to the Liberty Statue

Bucharest is very similar to Budapest in regards to history and their architecture. Bucharest was much more condensed in size and they are just now getting more tourists so there was a lot of graffiti on buildings still visible and almost all the main sites were under some sort of renovation as an increase of tourists is expected. This should help the country as it is very poor overall as the average monthly income of someone in Bucharest is only approx. $400.

Statue of Carol I.  Ruler of Romania from 1866 to 1914

Statue of Carol I. Ruler of Romania from 1866 to 1914

The Memorial of Rebirth that commemorates the victims of the Romanian Revolution in 1989 which overthrew Communism. This monument has created a lot of controversy mainly due to its design.
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different angle of the Memorial of Rebirth.  It looks like a potato being pierced

different angle of the Memorial of Rebirth. It looks like a potato being pierced

Most of the sites we saw in Bucharest were by just walking around thru the city. A lot of the buildings are very similar to those in Budapest.

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House of Parliament.  Second largest building in the world behind the Pentagon in Washington DC

House of Parliament. Second largest building in the world behind the Pentagon in Washington DC

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Holocaust Memorial depicting railroad tracks and the chimney from the cremation ovens. Notice the "star" made out of metal which creates a shadow when the sun hits it at the right angle.

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During our time in Bucharest we planned a day trip to the Transylvania country side to see the Peles and Bran Castles as well as the medieval town of Brasov. Both Castles are in the Carpathian Mountains. Peles Castle served as the summer residence of the Royal Family until 1947. It was the first European castle entirely lit by electricity. Its 160 rooms are adorned with the finest examples of European art, Murano crystal chandeliers, German stained-glass windows and Cordoba leather-covered walls. Over 4,000 European and Oriental pieces dating from the 15th to the 19th centuries are on display in the armories. The castle did not allow photographs inside the actual castle but you were allowed to photograph the outside of the castle.

Peles Castle.

Peles Castle.

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view of mountains outside Peles Castle

view of mountains outside Peles Castle

Brasov, the old city, founded by the Teutonic Knights in 1211, is one of the best preserved cities in all of Europe.
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The Black Church. A fire partially destroyed it in 1689, and the smoke blackened the walls and was then referred to that for obvious reasons

The Black Church. A fire partially destroyed it in 1689, and the smoke blackened the walls and was then referred to that for obvious reasons

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The final item to see for the day is Bran Castle located nearby. Bran Castle is commonly known as "Dracula's Castle". It is the home of the title character in Bram Stoker's Dracula but that is all made up as there is no evidence that Stoker knew anything about this castle. The real person associated with Bran Castle is Vlad the Impaler who was a Wallachian ruler that earned the nickname "Impaler" by dispensing with his enemies by impaling them on pointed sticks and leaving them impaled on the pointed stick to die a long and painful death. Very similar to what we experience when having to come back home from our travels to Budapest and Bucharest.

Unfortunately getting pictures of the outside of the Castle was impossible due to it being under major renovations for the large amounts of Tourism they are expecting in the future. I was able to get some pictures of the inside (this is no Peles castle thank you very much!) but that also proved to be challenging due to the large amounts of airhead teenagers running amok inside the castle on some sort of attempted prison escape. I behaved myself and only threatened 4 or 5 of them with an impaling of their own if they didn't straighten up and show some basic manners so that I could actually take in everything in the Castle. Bran Castle was much different than Peles. There was no gold crusted wallpaper, hand carved wood panels, marble, crystal or fancy dancy carpet. This was a true medieval castle with only the simplest furnishings.

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Bran Castle finished the Budapest and Bucharest adventure so stay tuned for the next excursion........

Posted by pensfan30157 12:50 Archived in Hungary Tagged budapest Comments (0)

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