We were on a 12 day river cruise from July 26 to August 6 to Russia, starting from St. Petersburg, going through the Russian internal waterway, visiting the towns and cities along the way and ending in Moscow.
This is the second time we visited St. Petersburg. The last time was in 1995 when we took the cruise to the Baltics. The city surely looked better. There were less pot holes but more cars on the roads, the public transportation vehicles were less dilapidated, and the number of young vendors selling pins and medals in the streets was much smaller. It did appear that there was a change for the better. Putin no doubt has done a credible job, even though Russia is still poor by comparison. We understand that unemployment rate is 6% but it is not evenly distributed. While there are jobs in the big cities as in St. Petersburg and Moscow, people elsewhere are still hard done by. Wealth is in the hands of a very few. Pension age is 55 for women and 60 for men. The average life span of a Russian man is however only 59. No wonder we did see a lot of elderly women selling small baskets of fruits and flowers from their own back yards to make ends meet.
On the other hand, the palaces tell another story. Anybody who has visited them do not have to dig very deep to get to the causes for the 1917 revolution. We saw three of their most famous palaces, The Hermitage, Catherine’s Palace and Peterhof and had a glimpse into the past glory and decadent life style enjoyed by the Czars and their families. In our minds, the Russian palaces are unrivalled in the world. “Glittering with gold” is to be taken literally as the palaces are plastered with gold leaves everywhere. The numerous paintings and artifacts displayed in the Hermitage which used to be the Romanovs’ winter palace and is now a museum are not only national but world treasures; the amber room in Catherine’s Palace dazzles and boggles the mind and the many glorious and magnificent fountains in Peterhof provide us with an insight into Peter the Great’s vision as an architect of the Russian Empire. We come up short with words to describe with justice the richness of these palaces and hopefully the pictures and videos will do a better job.
From Russia with Love – Hermitage video
From Russia with Love – Catherine’s Palace video
From Russia with Love – Peterhof video
最近參加了一次十二天 (七月卄六至八月六, 二零一一年) 俄羅斯境內的遊輪旅程, 從聖彼得堡出發, 往河的兩岸尋幽探勝, 到終站莫斯科結束.
在聖彼得堡停留了三日. 一九九五年遊波羅的海時已到過這城市, 當時只覺市面簫條, 建築物及道路殘舊失修, 公共汽車千蒼百孔, 銹斑點點, 工厰大部份停止生產, 廠房空置, 失業率高企, 導至年輕小伙子都在家翻箱倒籠, 有值錢的東西都一窩蜂上街賣, 尤其充斥的是軍帽及紀念章. 今次重遊, 已有改變. 普京的努力沒有白費. 但聽說普遍還是貧困. 失業率是百分之六, 但並不平均. 工作機會只集中在大城市如聖彼得堡及莫斯科等, 偏遠的地方還是苦不堪言. 國民男的六十歲, 女的五十五歲已可領取退休金, 但數目小, 不足糊口. 雪上加冰, 俄羅斯男士平均壽命只有五十九, 怪不得很多老婆婆都從家後院採些花果, 在路旁叫賣, 但問津者少, 看來難過.
各大宮殿卻各領風騷. 極盡奢華, 參觀過的人都歎為觀止. 不用深究, 一九一七年的革命種子已一早埋伏, 民怨沸騰, 推翻沙皇皇朝, 是朝夕的事. 這次我們再度参觀冬宮, 彼得大帝的夏宮, 及嘉芙蓮女皇的行宮, 充份領略出活生生“金壁輝煌” 的含意, 牆壁都是鋪上金薄, 非常誇張. 冬宮現用作博物館, 展覽的名畫, 雕刻, 巧奪天工的藝術品, 琳瑯滿目, 數不勝數; Catherine’s Palace 有最為人津津樂道的瑪瑙室, 而夏宮數百座不同形式及設計的噴泉, 令人目不暇給. 本人有限的文字, 不足以準確描述所見所聞, 幸好可借助攝影機, 記錄影像, 與君分享.
Hermitage video 冬宮錄影
Catherine’s Palace video 嘉芙蓮女皇行宮錄影
Peterhof video 彼得大帝夏宮錄影
The Russian series continue with pictures taken at Red Square, Moscow.
Mon Sheong Volunteer Appreciation Dinner 2011
Volunteer Appreciation Dinners come and go but Mon Sheong’s appreciation for the selfless devotion and effort by the volunteers is ever-lasting. To commemorate the event a video has been created. To watch the video (錄影), please click here. To view pictures (相片), please click here.
We visited Peterhof (Summer Palace for Peter the great) today and here are some photos taken. The place is well known for its garden.
From Catherine’s Palace….
Not that often that I can get Internet…
From Russia with love, frist day in St. Petersburg
An open letter to our hard working volunteers
You all did a great job in making our Volunteer Recruitment Open Day event a success. Success was not measured solely by the number of people signed up as volunteers on the event (we had 17 signed up plus 6 more from CIBC partnership team) but how the event was run. It was run so smoothly that all 90 signed guests were impressed (judging from their enthusiasm and smiles of satisfaction). Because you all took good care of our guests and answered their questions so patiently, I strongly believe we now have 90 more people on our side helping to spread the good words on Mon Sheong. That’s a success!
這次「義工招募日」的成功, 有賴你們的鼎力支持和努力; 我們致萬二分的感謝。衡量活動的成功. 不只要看招募到的義工人數, 更需要看到活動程序的順利進行, 工作人員忙碌和落力的表現, 盡量来滿足, 到埸的九十名嘉賓的需求, 和解答他們的問題。這成果,在各嘉賓臉上, 露出来的滿意的微笑, 就早已可見一斑。通過這活動, 我們招募到十七名新義工,和六名CIBC企業義工夥伴計劃的新成員。我深信, 我們早已成功地爭取到, 到場的九十名嘉賓成為新的孟嘗會支持者。
As Gerald, our VS & YG Director, put it “Everyone stepped up when being called upon and I am so proud to be a part of such a wonderful team. That is certainly a great start of our recruitment effort and let’s continue to work to make Mon Sheong a great place for everyone”.
正如我們義工服務部及青年團總監Gerald所説:「這次活動, 大家都不遺餘力, 鼎力支持; 身為這義工大軍的一份子, 使我感到十分驕傲。這肯定是義工招募良好的開始, 希望我們能継續努力, 使孟嘗成為值得我們義工作出更大貢獻的地方。」
To all, keep up the good work and to view those photos taken during the event, click here.
The first thing to consider when renting a car in Italy is to get one just big enough for your needs. We learned it the hard way when we were faced with the daunting task of driving an eight-seater (for seven people) in the country roads in Provence last year. The small Fiat we had this time was just fine for the two of us. It was easier to manoeuvre in the narrow and winding roads in the Lake Como district in the north of Italy and finding a snug parking spot was not an impossible dream anymore.
On the whole, Italian drivers were no worse than their counterparts in North America. Surely, they used their horns much more liberally and many would whiz past us in full speed when we were picking our way gingerly along the single lane mountain roads, but that happened here too. The biggest adjustment we had to deal with was their road signs. Even in a tourist destination like Lake Como, the Italians still did not want to divulge too much information. Signs were posted at the points of entry and departure to tell us where we were then but that was it. Without a map at all times, we would have no idea as to where we were heading next. You would think they had to do better in the highways. Think again. We drove about 120 km from Como to Verona one day along a highway which ended in Venice. If we didn’t know that was the same highway according to the map, we would be really worried because there were no signs whatsoever indicating that Verona was on the same route. Only the name of Venice and the distance to it was occasionally posted. We had to gauge for ourselves the approximate mileage to any other city along way. They did put out little signs on the left when we were close to Verona and fortunately we did not miss them.
From our London experience, we learned to return our car prior to going into Milan and used their subway. We bought day passes which would allow us to make unlimited trips within the city boundary. For a two day pass, we only paid 5.50 euro. It was a good deal. The subway system was fast and efficient and not difficult to figure out at all. We found that driving in the country but taking public transportation in the city yielded the most flexibility.
To watch Lake Como video click here
在意大利租車, 千萬不要貪大, 只要夠用就可以了. 去年我們就碰過釘子, 舞着架大型八座車, 在普羅旺斯(Provence) 的郊區公路上運作, 十分吃力. 這次租了架小型「快意(Fiat)」, 两口子連行李已足夠有餘. 就算在意大利北部的高帽湖區(Lake Como), 蜿蜒行驶在崎嶇陕窄的山路上, 還是控制自如, 找位泊車, 更是輕而易舉之事.
總體来説, 意大利的駕車人士, 跟北美的, 本來也差不多; 但他們郤有一悪習, 經常亂響喇叭, 更不時在陜窄的山路上, 越位扒頭, 險象横生. 但這也並非是我們面對的難題. 路牌短缺, 才是我們的最大挑戰. 就算在高帽湖區這旅遊勝地, 也只在進出口有標誌指引, 其他地方, 也就貴客自理了. 原以為在高速公路, 應有所改進, 但是路牌還是奇缺, 行不得也哥哥. 我們從高帽湖區到維羅納(Verona), 全程120公里的公路上, 就只見到一些顯視公路終點城市威尼斯(Venice)距離的路程牌. 幸好我們早已從地圖上, 確知維羅納就在這公路中途, 唯有放胆估計行程, 奮勇前進, 直到維羅納附近, 在路左邊, 才有個維羅納小型路牌. 我們銳利的視力, 早已觀察到, 否則就找不到出口了.
吸取了倫敦的經驗教訓, 我們曉得在回米蘭前, 先把汔車退還, 轉乘地鐵. 拿着米蘭的地鐵日票, 我們可以在一天內, 全無限制地, 乘搭地鐵, 在米蘭市內漫遊. 兩日票也只費5.5 歐元, 十分便宜. 而且這裏的地鐵糸統, 既快捷, 效能又高, 更容易使用, 真是皆大歡喜. 我們認為, 郊外驅車, 市內地鐵, 是自遊的最佳配搭. 看高帽湖區錄影, 請按此處
Cruise travel is getting to be very popular. There are many cruise ships to choose from and their prices are dropping. Among the big and well known cruise lines are The Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Cunard, Italian Costa and NCL. Royal Caribbean owns Celebrity which also operates Azamara. Carnival took over Princess and Holland America a few years ago and they may now be the biggest cruise line in the world. There are also smaller but more luxurious liners such as the Crystals and the Radisson.
Last year, taking the advantage of a slow January month we invited our sisters to join us on a Caribbean cruise. This time we took the Adventure of the Seas. The ship belongs to the Voyager class of the Royal Caribbean family. Nine years ago, like her sister ships Explorer and Navigator of the Seas, was one the largest cruise ships at the time. Since then the title had been taken over by the QM2 (Cunard), then Freedom of the Seas (Royal Caribbean) and now the Oasis of the Seas (Royal Caribbean).
I always make a video after a trip for the memory just in case I have memory lapses or Alzheimer down the road of my life. There is no exception this time. To watch the video, click here.
二Ｏ一Ｏ年十月十六日星期六是一年一度樂善眾 Sing 金曲耀孟嘗為孟嘗會籌募善款活動的日子. 今年已是第四屆, 席設太古金王朝酒樓. 是晚筵開三十餘桌, 所有餐券全部售罄, 座無虛設. 雖然設訂晚會在六時纔開始, 但五時卅分過後便陸續有賓客抵達, 而到了約六時卅分, 差不多各席多已入座, 現場瀰漫著熱烈和歡樂. 友儕間開懷暢敘, 在跳舞音樂的輕快旋律襯托下, 洋溢著無拘無朿的愉快. 舞池中早已有人自由自在地踏著輕快而熟練的舞步. 就在這種火熱和輕鬆交織的氣氛中, 晚會在七時由司儀宣佈正式展開.
首先是福門太極拳社社員表演楊家太極刀和太極扇. 隨後是主辦單位樂善薈黃鍾愛兒女士致詞, 跟著是孟嘗會董事柯宗榮先生致開幕詞和贈送感謝牌予各贊助商, 以答謝他們的鼎力支持. 在較嚴肅的授受儀式後, 揚聲器煞那間響起了熱情澎湃的金蛇狂舞音樂, 晚讌正式開始.
有不少有心人, 在解善囊購餐券支持外, 還另外出錢捐助, 出力獻唱. 大會遂安排他們在用膳時間一展歌喉, 俾使大眾既在享受美食之時, 又可盡視聽之娛. 特別一提的是有一位女士, 雖年屆耄耋, 但善心依然, 每年的孟嘗籌款, 她必慷慨解囊. 是晚這位八十二高齡, 芳名Mary的善長, 捐善款高歌了兩首膾炙人口的小調: 春花萬里香和採茶山歌. 還特地換上了高跟鞋, 載歌載舞. 全場都不約而同地拍掌和唱, 為她打氣. 果真是天佑善人, 老而彌堅. 今屆還添加了拗手瓜的籌款項目, 而之後是獻唱和太極對拆的同臺演出, 跟著的便是一連串的歌曲演唱, 這包括了國、粵語時代曲, 粵曲和閩南語曲等. 整晚節目, 隨著由孟嘗會第二副主席劉燕玲女士致謝詞而漸入尾聲. 由於先前的捐款點唱歌曲甚多, 使表演較原訂時間廷長了半小時纔告結束, 亦使大家的歡樂廷續多了三十分鐘.
是屆的演唱會, 成績更勝往年, 善款共籌得二萬伍仟餘圓. 而整晚氣氛熱烈, 沒有一瞬間的冷場. 兩位富經驗的司儀, 藉著惹笑的詞鋒, 把握突現的機會, 掀起不斷的高潮,使全場的目光, 大部份時間都投向舞臺. 不羈的幽默, 不絕的笑聲, 不歇的舞步, 臺上臺下情緒溶為一體. 在宣佈晚宴結束時, 賓客纔離座道別, 頗有留戀之情. 然而, 天下無不散筵席, 祗得期諸來年再會.