Tag Archive | museum

A very cultural week

*** Warning! Long blow-by-blow post. Please feel free to skip as necessary!


The gorgeous Belvedere Palace

As I wrote in my last post, the trip to Vienna was booked before we  knew that were going to Sri Lanka. But in any case of course Vienna and Sri Lanka are going to be very different experiences. We had never been to Austria before, partly because of my bias against the German language, but we decided it was worth a try.

So we packed up and flew off to our lovely air bnb care of one Anton Herzl. We got the airport bus to downtown for a cheap 13 Euro return (being careful not to lose the return part of the ticket!)

The flat was very well located, 5 minutes walk from the U-bahn subway station and a leisurely 20 minutes do the city centre along the Danube canal. We mostly walked down and travelled back by subway when we were exhausted. U-bahn has a flat rate of 2.20 Euro and is easy to negotiate, and all the machines are in English as well as German.

The first day we ventured down town and just wandered around to see what we could see. WE saw the Parliament buildings (which are very impressive, but didn’t take the organized tour) the  City hall or Rathaus building, and the huge Museum quarter. Everywhere there are statues, and highly ornate neo-classical, baroque and a few art deco style buildings. IT’s all rather ovewhelming, and it’s hard not to constantly stop and take pictures. We then walked back through the gardens of the Rathaus and around the area of the Imperial Hofburg Palace.

On our second day we first went to find the ticket office to collect our ticket for the Vienna Boys’ Choir, which we would hear the following Sunday in the Mozart Mass at the Imperial Palace Chapel. After this we visited the Albertina Museum for the fantastic Chagall to Malevitch and Monet to Picasso exhibitions. Then we hit the Naschmarkt open food market and partook of our first proper Schnitzel. Actually it was hard to decide where to eat as there were so many lovely looking restaurants, but we finally picked one, and then wandered around a bit (taking more photos of course) There was a nice Asian place where the waiters were all Chinese, so we chatted a bit to them and came back there the next day.

In the evening we attended a meeting of Vienna Couchsurfing at a small bar, and met people from Vienna, Spain, Colombia, Finland and even Syria and Palestine. It was fun but hard to talk to everyone as there were so many people. When we left it was pouring with rain so we took a taxi home, as we were not sure how to negotiate the tram.

The third day was spent entirely at the amazing Imperial Palace the Hofburg, which has several different parts, and it is difficult to see everything if you don’t want to be “castled out”. As rather limited animal fans we passed on the Riding school, but if you are a horsey person you can do that. We saw the Silver collection and the Sissi Apartments, which show a peek into the lives of Franz Josef and his young wife Elizabeth (the Sissi of the movie fame) and it was a very interesting experience and made me want to brush up on my history. Everything was fascinating and beautifully laid out.We then returned to the Naschmarkt for supper to get a bit of Stir fry and practise our Chinese on the waiters.

The next day being Holocaust Day in Israel we identified by visiting both Holocaust Museums in Vienna. We found them rather underwhelming after all the grandeur of the Hapsburg palaces, especially as the museums themselves are not very well laid out or labelled, or even that easy to find. The first one in Judenplatz was particularly uninspiring, and had a temporary exhibition of documents relating to Simon Weisenthal. The second one was better and had a special exhibition on the contribution of Jews to modern music, and this had a very good audio visual commentary accessible by smart phone.In the evening we had tickets to a Mozart concert held in the Sala Terrena, one of the (many) houses occupied by Mozart during his time in Vienna. The concert was lovely but even more impressive were the decorations in the hall itself,which were just gorgeous.

Day 5 was a visit to the incredible Belvedere Palace. It was hard to choose where to go, as there is also the Schonbrun Palace, which we were told is completely different and also amazing, but one can’t see everything,right? Anyway the Belvedere was indeed lovely, and quite easy to get to on foot,by walking through the lovely Stadpark. Fortunately the Stadpark had a food fair going on that day, so we had a great Viennese hot dog on the way as an added bonus. On arrival at the Belvedere, we noticed some workers erecting lots of scaffolding and a small stage, and decorating everything with flowers. There was no seating so it wasn’t a concert. We discovered that the place had been hired by a very rich Indian family for a wedding, to which 1,000 guests had been invited. Apparently this is a “thing” now. There are two palaces, actually the Upper and Lower, and the gardens. Fearing exhaustion we chose only the Upper, where the famous “Kiss” picture by Klimt is housed, and were not disappointed. There are rooms upon rooms of gorgeous artworks and it just goes on and on… Anyway the visit to the Belvedere, with its ornate rooms and galleries was another wonderful day out in Vienna.

Dan wanted to have a glimpse of the Danube proper and not just the Canal, so the next day we walked via the Karmelite market towards the river. The market, in Leopoldstrasse, a Jewish neighbourhood of Vienna, was quite nice but nothing amazing. But on our way to the river we walked through the Prater amusement park which was nothing short of splendid. I am not usually a fan of these things but the big wheel was indeed impressive and the whole place had a sort of yesteryear charm to it which was quite lovely, added to the fact that the sun was shining. We reached the Danube eventually, which was, as I had feared rather disappointing. There were no restaurants or cafes along its banks, as there are along the canal, and frankly nothing at all to do there. SO we decided to head back to the area around the Stefansdom, the iconic church set in the Stefansplatz, and the beating heart of the Innere Stadt. There we went up to the top of the spire in the lift, and enjoyed a view out over the city.


D on the Danube


Amusement park at Prater

There were still a few more surprises for us in Vienna. We had tickets for the Vienna Boys’ Choir singing the Mozart Mass in the Imperial Hofburg Chapel. I had not realized this would be a “proper” Mass and not just a concert. This was a rather weird anthropological experience for us good Jews, never having attended Mass before. I was rather worried they would call us up to do whatever it is you do with the host and the wine, but fortunately we didn’t have to do that. The choir was of course outstanding and the accoustics were incredible. The whole experience was very special. Our final musical experience was actually devoid of music. We did a tour of the Opera house, which was very interesting, but didn’t attend a performance, as we couldn’t get tickets, and I didn’t fancy queueing up for 3 hours to stand through something that we didn’t know well, and there were only performances of less well-known operas on, so we decided to pass.

Our last day in Vienna we returned to Stefansplatz a bit( quick glass of white wine and marching band!) and then walked along the canal again to just chill out and try and take in all the sights. We were blessed with gorgeous hot weather, and chanced upon a cafe restaurant, amusingly named Tel Aviv beach, complete with sand, deck chairs, hummus and pita (which we didn’t eat) and a great view of the canal.


Imperial Box at the Opera House

Thus ended our week and we now have a month to get ready for the next adventure- Sri Lanka! Bring it on…



South Korea revisited-Seoul

Well since we are now back in Israel with a proper keyboard I feel the need to post about Seoul and Busan, especially since I feel I shortchanged our wonderful hosts in Seoul,Jongsoon and Won. We contacted them through http://www.servas.org, an international friendship and hosting organization which we joined before we left China. Servas means “to serve” in Esperanto,an organization which promotes cross-cultural exchange among travellers. You join them after being interviewed and paying a small sum of money and then they send you lists of contact information for the hosts in your destination country. You don’t have to host people to stay at your house,you can simply be a day hosts.We received 30 pages of hosts in Korea and we wrote to Jongsoon Shin and her husband Won,who are roughly the same age as us,she is a High school teacher of English and He is a retired banker,and they have two 20 something kids who live with them.They sent us a warm email and met us at the airport bus stop near their home at 11.30pm and helped us carry all our luggage to their apartment.They gave us our own bedroom and bathroom,maps and guide books on the city and a transportation card each with money on it!.

We spent two wonderful days at their house,and when we told them we were moving to a hotel (Servas policy states to stay 2 days unless invited to stay longer) they were a bit upset so we told them we would return at the end of our Korean trip and stay with them again.


Won singing “Arirang” the most famous Korean Folk Song

In Seoul we enjoyed visiting several royal palaces -Changdeokgung, Changyeonggung and Gyeongbukgung and also the Shrine of Jongmyo where the spirit tablets of past kings are buried.We tried to understand something about Korean culture and enjoyed the serenity of the gardens.We visited the Korean War Memorial and saw many groups of school and kindergarten kids in uniforms, walking in long lines and sitting down to eat their packed sushi lunches.They were adorable and all waved ans shouted hello to us.


Kindergarten kids

As a Brit,I had really not known a lot about the Korean war before our visit, so I found the War Memorial most informative,and moving,seeing the conditions people had to live in during the war (there was also an IMAX thing recreating some of the wartime experiences) and realizing how quickly the North had invaded Seoul.One day we met a group of people demonstrating in the street about missing persons still unaccounted for who had apparently been kidnapped to North Korea, and they also explained that in the past divided families had been allowed to reunite once a year,but that recent tensions between the Koreas meant that these reunifications had been discontinued.


At the War Memorial

We enjoyed visiting different parts of the city- transportation was easy with the prepaid card,hopping on and off subways, we saw bustling Itaewon with many foreigners shopping and eating, yuppy Insadong with cute shops selling fans and other souvenirs, and we enjoyed walking along by the river with its bike paths and couples strolling along.Seoul really does have soul…


Secret Garden in Changdeokgung Palace

We wanted to do a tour of the DMZ to see the border with North Korea,but after we discovered that you need to book it 3 days ahead to allow the UN to check your passport etc we faxed them our passports and decided to take the tour on our return to Seoul at the end of our trip,and flew to Jeju island (see earlier post).

On to Busan..

Renee and Barry Shanghai weekend-Shul and Jazz

Since this last weekend would be our last opportunity to visit our dear friends Renee and Barry in their Shanghai apartment before they return to Hawaii we were delighted that the weather was fine and we were finally able to see them.We arrived in Shanghai at 5pm and were met at the South Bus station which is a convenient short walk from the apartment given them by Shanghai Normal University. So it is different from the Lin’an setup as it is not a campus university. WE had a wonderful noodle supper lovingly prepared by Renee and then went out on the town. We went down to East Nanjing Road , the throbbing pedestrian street at the heart of the city and walked down to the famed Peace Hotel,where Barry assured us there would be live Jazz. Sure enough we were treated for the sum of 100 RMB including one drink to a marvellous band of old Chinese guys playing lots of smooth classic Jazz.Then at 10pm another younger band came on accompanied by a guest artist from New York, a sax player called Eric Wyatt, After Barry told him that he was from Brooklyn the guy game over to us and chatted, autographed a CD for us and also played a song about Brooklyn for Barry! It  was a terrific evening,as the hotel is a sort of Colonial style luxury hotel looking like something lavish from the 1920s. IT was great fun.

Next day we got up and after a splendid Renee breakfast we went down on the metro to the old Jewish Quarter of Shanghai called Huangpu where Jews had been taken in during the Second World War. There was a reconstruction of the Ohel Moshe Synagogue now a Museum and we had a wonderful guided tour from a young Chinese woman volunteer called Lulu who was most knowledgeable.

Ohel Moshe Shul Shanghai

Ohel Moshe Shul Shanghai

WE then walked to the little park in the neighbourhood which had been where the Jewish children of the ghetto played, now full of the requisite Chinese doing their exercises, and old men playing cards etc. It was a charming place. IT is interesting to know that when most of the world turned its back the Shanghainese welcomed the Jewish refugees as best they could. We then stopped at a wonderful bakery next to Dalian Metro station for a coffee and a bun.

We took a metro to a place near the Pudong Tower where you can see a view over the whole city. But instead of going up that one we took the lift to the 85th floor of the Grand Hyatt Hotel where there is a bar. From there you can also see all the lights of the city,which is a truly amazing sight.

Roof of Hyatt Hotel

Roof of Hyatt Hotel

Then we took the metro again across town to eat at the famed Grandmother restaurant on Sichuan street which was wonderful and cheap. WE had planned to pop next door to the House of Blues but unfortunately it was too full and there was no room to sit, so we got a taxi home and fell into bed exhausted from our wonderful day.

With the Jazz musician Eric Wyatt at the Peace Hotel

The following day some other friends of Renee and Barry from Hawaii who are going to be staying in China for 5 weeks arrived and we all went off to take photos in the nearby park. This park was an oasis of green and calm in the city,full of Chinese doing whatever they like-exercises, cards, mahjong, singing folk songs,flying kites, walking dogs or just relaxing with their kids. IT was a wonderful finale to our weekend,as 3pm we had to get the bus back to Lin’an. We felt as always so close to Renee and Barry,happy to meet their friends Chuck and Meli and hope to see each other again really soon. It is great to meet people who share our love of China and the Chinese people who have always been so friendly and hospitable even if we can’t speak much Chinese.

A great Day at the museum

Had a really good class today at the museum.The first part was about the use of the written word in Art,(I think it is called Conceptual Art ) and we saw works by people like Barbara Kruger, and we discussed the changes in women’s status since the beginning of the century (Virginia Woolf etc of course!)

Then came the really good bit. We had a talk from a young artist called Ariel Malca who has a new exhibit in the Shrine of the Book.It is a little hard to describe,but uses biblical texts moving over a landscape to convey the idea of the journey made by the Children of Israel on their way to the the land of Israel.That sounds crap but you really have to see what he did.Anyway we ended up talking about the lack of boundaries today between the different disciplines, since he doesn’t have any formal training ,either as an artist or as a techie. It was really cool.

Anyway when I got home I looked up some of the stuff including Barbara Kruger, and found a lot of really great stuff which I ‘d love to use in class. Maybe I will .

The ones that really caught my eye I have saved. Here’s one of them…
Barbara Kruger