Friday, January 13, 2023

The Romanovs back in St. Petersburg

As an amateur historian, the story of the Romanovs and how the Russian Monarchy ended has always fascinated me.   This is why we took a 12-day Baltic cruise that stopped for two days in St. Petersburg.  Most people know the story of the last Czar of Russia, of him and his family brutally murdered on the Russian frontier.   

What's not well known is that after the fall of the Soviet Union, Queen Elizabeth wanted the bodies recovered and given a proper burial.  So, at the request of Queen Elizabeth, the bodies were excavated and eventually buried in Peter and Pauls's Cathedral.   

So in the afternoon of our last day in St. Petersburg, we visit Peter and Paul Cathedral and the star Fortress, where the remains of the last Czar and his family are interned.  After the remains were identified, they had an internment ceremony and were placed in this small chapel inside the fortress.  "After the DNA testing of 1998, the remains of the Emperor and his immediate family were interred at St. Peter and Paul Cathedral, Saint Petersburg, on 17 July 1998, on the eightieth anniversary of their assassination."

In Episode 6, Season 5 of "The Crown," the death of the Russian Royal Family in 1918, the Romanovs is a subject.  It was one of those moments when we said we'd been there.  In 2019, we visited St. Peters Fortress and this church,  the burial site.  

The Star Fortress is on the last Island on the Neva River across from St. Petersburg Proper. It's quite the site with the Hermitage and the Winter Palace in full view.  After getting off the bus, there is a long line to enter the church.  An orchestra on a temporary stage is practicing for the Russian Victory in Europe celebration.  It is a surreal moment watching the band play as scenes of World War II play on jumbotrons. 

It's a small church that is very ornate and decorated in the Russian Orthodox style.  The remains are interred in a separate room on the side of the church.  There are plaques for each family member on the wall behind where the remains are located.  It is a very solemn moment to realize that you are witnessing such a tragic event in human history,    

Monday, January 9, 2023

Watsons Mill Bridge State Park

Watsons Mill Bridge State Park is one of those hidden gems you need if you want to step back in time.  Tucked away in the Georgia farm country about 70 miles east of Atlanta near Athens, Georgia.  It provides a respite from the everyday grind.  The 1100-acre park makes you feel like you could be somewhere in the mountains.  Around the park its small farms in slightly rolling hills.  The one-stoplight town of Commer 3 miles from the park.   I love the slow-paced feel of this place.  The zero commercialism of this place makes for a great getaway.  

The mill owner L. Frank Edwards of Athens donated Watson's Mills Bridge to the state of Georgia in 1970. he also built a cotton mill 12 miles away in Crawford.  The park is centered around the 236-foot covered bridge, the longest in Georgia.  Built in 1885 by W. W. King and his father, a former slave Horace King who started his own bridge-building company for the sum of $3,228.00.    The bridge straddles two counties as the county line officially runs down the middle of the South Fork of the Broad River.

Old Mill Power Staton Ruin
The established trails and American Volkssport Association walk there is our reason for visiting.  They offer a 6 and 11-kilometer walk.  This walk takes you over the bridge past the old powerhouse ruins that ran the Mill.  Once you cross the bridge, you complete a 2 1/2-mile loop that gives you a good picture of the park's topography.  The major attraction here is the covered bridge and powerhouse ruins, along with the canal built from the bridge to the powerhouse.

We camped in the campground and then used Watson Mills as a base camp to complete other walks in the area.  There are some good ones.  The City of Athens, Ocoee Nature Trail Near Athens, Watkinsville, and we even made it to the Anderson, South Carolina Historic walk.  This trip is the start of trying to complete 100 American Volkssport Association walks in 1 year.  This will make us a member of their Centurion Club.  The last week gave us a good start. 

Friday, January 6, 2023

The Cavern Club Liverpool: Home of the Beatles

Last night while watching that documentary about the Beatle's secretary Freda it brought back memories of being in Liverpool a few years ago.  The Beatles were a Liverpool Club Band for their first couple of years.  They now dominate the tourist sites in Liverpool. 

Frida was with the band from the beginning to the end for 11 years.  She originally took over the just-started fan club before they became known outside of Liverpool.   After they had a few hit records, she was hired full-time as the Beatles secretary.  She first met the Beatles at the Cavern club, where they started their journey to fame.   The Beatles performed over 280 times at the Cavern Club, and she said she probably saw 180 of them. 

Every trip to Liverpool would be complete if you didn't make it to the Cavern Club.  After walking across England from Newcastle to Carlisle, I made it a point to stop here for a few days to take in the Beatles sites.  The Cavern Club sits on historic Mathew Street in Liverpool.  The street has changed from a commercial district back in the 1960s to a street party scene, much like bourbon street in New Orleans.  The Cavern Club is named appropriately because it sits in a basement of a building, and it looks like a cave once you're inside.

Before arriving in Liverpool, I bought a ticket to a Beatles cover band that performs regularly at the Cavern.  I get there well before the show starts.  I enter the doorway, walk down the stairs, and join a line waiting to get into the actual club.  It's tight and crowded before the doors open for the show.  We are let into a bar area with a small stage on which the Beatles used to perform.  The actual performance will be in a larger location in another room in the basement.  After watching a warm-up act in that room, we a directed into the basement hall where the show is performed.

The show is performed in three acts.  The early Beatles year, the middle years, and the later years.  It's a long and good show, with the actors interacting with the audience like they were the Beatles.  It was a fun time and something that I'll never forget. 

Over the next few days, I walk around Liverpool.  I see the Beatles statue in the park and go to the Beatles Museum on the waterfront.  Liverpool, during World War II, was heavily bombed because of being a strategic seaport.  The downtown was rebuilt and is completely modern.  It's a great town, a place I'd love to return to someday.