Category Archives: Museum

Utrecht’s Number One Citizen

Meet Miffy

Holland has produced some amazing characters, both real and imagined, but none more perfect then Miffy. This quiet unassuming gender bending cartoon character has captured the imagination of generations of Dutch children. I say gender bending because there seems to be a bit of a divide out there. Apparently, creator Dick Bruna didn’t dab a flower onto the rabbit’s smock until 1970 and folks born before that were free to assign any gender they chose to the little bunny.

Miffy is a worldwide phenomenon with more than 120 books that have sold over 85 million copies, a feature length film and three television series.

Why so popular? Miffy appeals to children all over the world, but especially here. She, like the Dutch that adore her, is unpretentious, uncomplicated, has a very positive attitude and, even though innocent, is always open to new experiences.

But she’s no push over. Miffy has been forced to duke it out with Miss Kitty over copyright and trademark infringement and has won.

The dismayed creator has simply said, “No, don’t do that. Try to make something that you think of yourself”

She is no more revered then here In Utrecht, Bruna’s hometown. Called Nijntje in Holland, there is a square named after her, the Nijntjepleintje (Little Nijntje Square), the Centraal Museum has opened a permanent exhibition called the dick bruna huis (Dick Bruna house), there is a Nijntje Museum and there are even street lamps shaped like the little bunny.

 

 

 

 

On February 16, 2017, Dick Bruna died at the age of 89. Miffy would be 62 today.

 

 

 

 

 

More Interesting but Useless Facts;

In the Netherlands, Miffy is known as “nijntje”, which derives from the Dutch word “konijntje”, meaning “little bunny”. This is a very logical name for anyone who speaks Dutch, but not in any other language. Because “nijntje” is difficult to pronounce for non-Dutch speakers and because there are so many different words for “bunny” in other languages, the rabbit is simply known as Miffy. The name has no special meaning, but is easy to pronounce in all languages.

See how practical the Dutch are?

The Wendi Files – The Dutch Edition

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My Tour Guide

Our trip has drawn to a close but, as usual, I can’t end without a final nod to my intrepid companion and chief motivator, the person who forces me off the couch and into the world.

With Anne Frank in North Amsterdam

With Anne Frank in North Amsterdam

Gemeente Museum in Den Haag

Gemeente Museum in Den Haag

With Banksy at the Moco in Amsterdam

With Banksy at the Moco in Amsterdam

On the beach in Bloemendaal ann Zee

On the beach in Bloemendaal ann Zee

At the Bazaar in Beverwijk.

At the Bazaar in Beverwijk.

Russian Tough at the Drents in Assen

Russian Tough at the Drents in Assen

Don't touch the art at the Drents

Don’t touch the art at the Drents

With George in Bloemendaal

With George in Bloemendaal

Art supplies in Haarlem

Art supplies in Haarlem

Wanders In De Broeren - Zwolle

At Waanders In De Broeren in Zwolle

Museum De Fundatie - Zwolle

At the Museum De Fundatie in Zwolle

Posing for Vermeer in Den Haag

Posing for Vermeer in Den Haag

Selfie at the Kuntshal in Rotterdam

Selfie at the Kuntshal in Rotterdam

Stay well my friends.

Museum Crawl – Dutch Art 101

We’ve been on a Museum Binge. We happened to buy a couple Museumkarts and have been drunk on art ever since. The Museumkart gives you access to most of the best museums in the Netherlands and is the deal of a lifetime. You don’t even have to wait in the ticket line. In an attempt to squeeze every last drop of goodness out of the card we have attacked this part of Holland with a vengeance and been to 14 museums so far. Here’s just a couple.

The Mauritshuis - Den Haag

The Mauritshuis – Den Haag

The Mauritshuis - Den Haag

The Mauritshuis – Den Haag

The Fotomuseum - Rotterdam

The Fotomuseum – Rotterdam

The Fotomuseum - Rotterdam

The Fotomuseum – Rotterdam

The Fries Museum - Leeuwarden

The Fries Museum – Leeuwarden

Dutch Art 101

In this neck of the woods you are going to see lots of paintings from  the Dutch Golden Age, a period in Dutch history generally spanning the 17th century that rang in the new Dutch Republic and helped make it the most prosperous nation in Europe. As you can imagine we have managed to see a whole lot of great paintings, but I won’t bore you with all that. Describing images to people is like telling them about your dreams, you really had to be there. I think most people are somewhat familiar with Dutch paintings anyway. If you’ve seen a cigar box, you can probably imagine a Rembrandt. I’ll just talk about two of the big dogs and try to keep it short.

“The Night Watch”  is a 1642 oil painting by Rembrandt that hangs in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

"The Night Watch" by Rembrandt 1642

“The Night Watch” by Rembrandt 1642

To better understand the significance of this Dutch Masterpiece in contemporary terms lets first discuss that iconic TV show “Law & Order”, the longest-running hour-long primetime TV series in history. Created by Dick Wolf, this show ran for 20 seasons and spawned an entire Law & Order franchise. One of the chief successes of the show was it’s distinctive look. This was, in part, achieved by a technique brand new for TV, the “Walk & Talk”. This is done by using a steady cam and backing through the set as the main characters walk down hallways and go room to room discussing their next move. This gets the actors out from behind those boring old desks, propels the story forward by making it look like talking is actually doing something and it keeps the viewer actively engaged. This is so much a part of the show that it’s even in the intro.  I thought it was so original until I finally realized this is exactly what Rembrandt did in 1642. Until then these group portraits of prominent citizens and military leaders were pretty staid affairs with everyone lined up like bowling pins or sitting around a table trying to figure out what to do with their hands. In this enormous painting, 142.9″ × 172″ , Rembrandt got them up off their considerable duffs and turned them into giant men of action who just might step right out the painting and do what needs to be done.

Rembrandt van Rijn

Rembrandt van Rijn

In the process Rembrandt cemented his place in art and is generally considered the greatest painter in Dutch history.

 

 

 

The Young Bull “  is a 1647 oil painting by Paulus Potter that hangs in the Mauritshuis in The Hague.

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The Mauritshuis- Den Haag

At 92.7” x 133”, this huge painting approaches life-size, allowing space for very detailed realism, including flies, frogs and cow pies, a fact that was much criticized originally. But fortunes changed and by the 18th and 19th centuries the painting had gained much traction and was highly admired. Today it is considered one the Dutch Golden Age’s greatest paintings. Potter was only 22 when he completed this work and died of tuberculosis at the age of 28 having succeeded in producing about 100 paintings by working continuously.

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“The Young Bull” by Paulus Potter 1647

Besides the staggering craftsmanship, what makes this painting so unusual is the sheer scale. Up until then extremely large paintings were reserved for the rich, the royal and the Gods. This is the first time that a farm animal has been afforded such reverence. The life size image forces us to look into the Bull’s penetrating gaze and it becomes almost difficult to perceive it as anything but a sentient being. This painting  with its almost heroic treatment of an animal alters our perception of the Bull’s place in the universe and, by extension, our own. Whether he meant to or not Potter moved the art world in fundamental ways and by the 19th century this monumental treatment of virtually the entire animal kingdom would become somewhat commonplace.

Paulus Potter

Paulus Potter

Still I find the whole notion that a mere 22 year old, with some paint and a few brushes, has that kind of power utterly remarkable.

 

 

 

Interesting But Useless Facts #289 & #290:

As large as “the Nightwatch” is, 20% was cut off the left hand side in 1715 to make the painting fit its new position at the Amsterdam town hall.

“The Young Bull” was at least 20% smaller when first painted. Potter added extra strips of canvas on both sides and at the top of his original composition, which just included the bull itself.

The Wendi Files – Norse Sagas

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Viking Attitude

I’ve wandered through Scandinavia like a bit player in the Norse Sagas, those timeless myths filled with blood, battles and debauchery. Only my voyage consists of beer, buses and bargain basements. Maybe not as dangerous but just as exhausting. At this point in the trip I’m downright tuckered out. I have been trudging around after Wendi as she’s pillaged her way through Iceland, Norway and Sweden for weeks.  I’m always a couple steps slow and a few beats behind like a bass player that can’t catch up to the rest of the band. It seems she is always looking back at me with that “will you hurry up” look on her face.

Let's Go

Let’s Go

And hats! What’s with the hats? Every silly hat from Reykjavik to Stockholm has magically ended up on her head, coupled with a goofy grin. She doesn’t want to bring them home so, I suppose, that’s good.

Viking1Wendi-Stockholm2WhiteHatRaccoon RedHat PinkDaveyCrockett

Viking4 Viking3

Regardless of her proclivity for wacky chapeaus, Wendi’s enthusiasm is undeniable. She is clearly a woman on the move.

BergenOperaHouse

At the Opera House in Bergen, Norway

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A stroll in Bergen

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Shopping in Stockholm

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On the way to the Moderna Museet in Stockholm

Car

On a ferry in Vestlandet

On the fjord ferry.

On the fjord ferry.

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With family in Stavanger, Norway

BergenWalk

A walk in Bergen, Norway

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Shopping in Reykjavik, Iceland

Armed with her Stockholm Card.

Armed with her Stockholm Card.

On the way to Fotografiska.

On the way to Fotografiska.

Subway station photo bomb.

Subway station photo bomb.

On the way.

On the way.

Hotorget Flea Market

Hotorget Flea Market

City Food Market.

City Food Market

The Royal Palace

The Royal Palace

Nutshell

On the Flambana in Norway

She does have quiet moments of self reflection, albeit few and far between and usually after extensive shopping or while jet lagged.

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DK Department Store – Stockholm

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One of twenty H&M’s in Stockholm

BluLag

Jet lagged at the Blue Lagoon in Iceland

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At the Moderna Museet in Stockholm

Wet Bottom.

Wet Bottom.

With Olav, Wendi's Viking Friend.

With Olav, Wendi’s Viking Friend.

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On the ferry in Stockholm

She did take time for a little work.

Gamla Stan

Gamla Stan, Stockholm

At Skudeneshavn, Norway

At Skudeneshavn, Norway

Haugesund, Norway

Haugesund, Norway

Rosendal, Norway

Rosendal, Norway

That’s all for now.

That's All Folks.

That’s All Folks.

That'sAll2

See you soon.

 

The Borgund Stave-Church

Borgund Stave-Church

Borgund Stave-Church

This church is located at Borgund in Lærdal beside the Sognefjord and is the world’s best preserved stave church.

Borgund Stave-Church

Borgund Stave-Church

Borgund Stave-Church

Borgund Stave-Church

Borgund Stave-Church

Borgund Stave-Church

Borgund Stave-Church

Borgund Stave-Church

Borgund Stave-Church

Borgund Stave-Church

These medieval wooden Christian church buildings were once common in north-western EuropeIt is believed, that at one point, there were between 750 and 1000 stave churches in Norway. Today there are only 28 remaining. In the Middle Ages, when people in Europe were building great cathedrals in stone, Norway developed similar construction techniques with timber. Norway had a very long tradition of wood construction for buildings, art and the production of ships. The roof structure is essentially an inverted ship hull.

Come On In

The North Door

The North Door

The decoration of stave churches is a fascinating blend of Christianity and Viking era symbols with several runic inscriptions on the church walls and the distinctive “Dragon’s Heads”, similar to those found on Viking ships, jutting out from the gable peaks. The main doorway has vine-scrolls on the pilasters and serpents and dragons on the side panels and lintel.

The Main Doorway

The Main Doorway

Runic Inscriptions

Runic Inscriptions & Animal Masks On the South Door

Medieval Stone Altar. The Altarpiece Was Painted In 1654.

Medieval Stone Altar. The Altarpiece Was Painted In 1654.

The timbers used to construct this church were felled in the year 1180. There are two factors that have accounted for the church’s longevity, it is constructed entirely on a stone foundation so that none of the wood touches the ground and also the timbers were “seasoned on the root” which draws the tar to the surface thereby preserving the wood beneath.

Root Seasoned Wood

Root Seasoned Wood

Root Seasoned Wood

Root Seasoned Wood

Root Seasoned Wood

Root Seasoned Wood

More Useless But Interesting Facts

St. Andrew’s Cross:

St. Andrew's Cross

St. Andrew’s Cross

The diagonal cross-braces are named after St. Andrew who was crucified on a diagonal cross, supposedly at his own request, as he deemed himself unworthy to be crucified on the same type of cross as Jesus had been. Who knows? But one thing is clear, the whole idea captured people’s imagination. The symbol has been used on the flags of Scotland, England, Grenada, Jersey, Logrono, Vitoria, Amsterdam, Breda, Potchefstroom, Kateijk, Valdivia, Tenerife, Galicia, Jamaica, Burgundy, the Imperial Russian Navy, the state flags of Florida and Alabama, as well as, the former Indian princely states of Khairpur, Rajkot, and Jaora, just to name a few. And of course, there is the much debated Confederate flag. Although the original designer, Willian Porcher Miles, insisted he changed it from an upright cross to a saltire so that it would be more a heraldic device then a religious symbol.

The Bavarian Shuffle

Munich

The first stop on our swing through southern Bavaria was Munich. It’s a big place, Germany’s third largest city, with a population of around 1.5 million. Although it’s an old city, 1158, it feels very young and is presently undergoing a huge facelift with new construction and restoration everywhere. Munich may be one of the most prosperous and fastest growing cities in Germany but it’s not all business, people are having a pretty good time here.

An afternoon beer garden

An afternoon beer garden

Reconstruction is everywhere.

Construction is everywhere.

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The Lowenbrau Beer Garden

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Candy Shop

The plaza was full of huge rolls of plastic straws. Art?

The plaza was full of huge rolls of plastic straws. Art?

Ice Cream Vendor

Ice Cream Vendor

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Walking Men

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The Olympiaturm was built for the 1972 Summer Olympics.

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Marienplatz

The Rathaus at Marienplatz

The Rathaus at Marienplatz

Marienplatz is the central plaza in the old town and like most everything in central Munich it is overfowing with tourists.

Marienplatz

Marienplatz

The Rathaus in Marienplatz

The Rathaus in Marienplatz

The Rathaus in Marienplatz

The Rathaus in Marienplatz

The Rathaus in Marienplatz

The Rathaus in Marienplatz

Probably the largest tourist attraction in Munich is the Glockenspiel located on the Rathaus in Marienplatz. Every day at 12 p.m. and 5 p.m in the summer mass crowds of tourists and locals fill the plaza to watch this low-tech marvel chime and re-enact two stories from the 16th century. Consisting of 43 bells and 32 life-sized figures, the whole show lasts somewhere between 12 and 15 minutes. At the end of the show, a very small golden rooster at the top of the Glockenspiel chirps quietly three times, marking the end of the spectacle.

Glockenspiel

Glockenspiel

Urban Surfing

The Grandstand

The Grandstand

Despite being many hundreds of kilometres from the nearest ocean, Munich has a reputation as a surfing hotspot, offering one of Europe’s best waves. The Bavarian capital is the birthplace of river surfing and has been the center of surfboard riding on a stationary wave since the early 70s. Up to 100 surfers daily hit the Eisbach wave in the city’s Englischer Garten. Munich has produced the best river surfers and has around 1,000 active surfers, while 10,000 people have tried it at some point. An annual surfing competition is held on the standing wave. 

Urban Surfing In Munich

Urban Surfing In Munich

Urban Surfing In Munich

Urban Surfing In Munich

Hans der Kunst

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Hans der Kunst

Hans der Kunst - Closed Christmas & New Years

Hans der Kunst – Closed Christmas & New Years

Hans der Kunst was constructed from 1933 to 1937 as the Third Reich’s first monumental structure of Nazi architecture and as Nazi propaganda. The museum was opened on July,18 1937 as a showcase for what the Third Reich regarded as Germany’s finest art. The building’s original purpose can still be seen in such guises as the swastika-motif mosaics in the ceiling panels of its front portico.

Hans der Kunst - 1937

Hans der Kunst – 1937

Opening Night

Opening Night

We were there to see a great exhibition called “Mise en scene” by American photographer and filmmaker Stan Douglas.

Lenbachhaus

Lensbachhaus

Lensbachhaus

The Lenbachhaus is a great museum with outstanding art and a terrific cafe. It was built as a Florentine-style villa for the painter Franz von Lenbach between 1887 and 1891. The building has been remodeled, modernized and expanded many times over the years but some of the rooms of the villa still have kept their original design.

Lensbachhaus Courtyard

Lensbachhaus Courtyard

Lensbachhaus Courtyard

Lensbachhaus Courtyard

Lensbachhaus Courtyard

Lensbachhaus Courtyard

If money is what we use to keep score then Gerhard Richter is an MVP. He held the auction record price for a painting by a living artist at $37.1 million until last November when the Balloon Dog (Orange) by Jeff Koons sold for $58.4 million at Christie’s, and knocked Richter off his perch. The museum has 8 large scale Richter abstracts and up close, they are amazing.

Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter 7′ x 7′

Ludwig’s Houses

Further south near the Austrian border we stopped by three of Mad King Ludwigs most popular castles.

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Neuschwanstein Castle – Disney’s Inspiration

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Hohenschwangau Castle

Alpsee from Hohenschwangau Village

Alpsee from Hohenschwangau Village

King Lugwig of Bavaria was an enigma. Even before he died, the king was already somewhat of a legend. He once told his governess, “I want to remain an eternal mystery to myself and others”. With his palaces the king built an ideal fantasy world and refuge from reality. He conducted no matters of state and strangers were barred from his palaces during his lifetime. Called the Moon King, he stayed up all night reading alone and slept during the day. Although engaged twice, Ludwig never married or took a mistress. His hugely expensive and eccentric interpretation of his role as king was ultimately his downfall. From 1885 foreign banks threatened to seize his property. The government viewed Ludwig’s actions as irrational, had him declared insane and deposed him in 1886. The very next day both he and his psychiatrist died under mysterious circumstances at Lake StarnbergThe shy dreamer palaces have been visited by over 60 million people since his death. Due to tourist revenue over the past thirty years these properties are now firmly in the black. It seems that tales of craziness, murder, deception and an obscene amount of money will work every time.

King Ludwig II

King Ludwig II

Linderhof Palace

Schloss Linderhof

Schloss Linderhof

Construction was completed on Ludwig’s Schloss Linderhof in 1878. It is the smallest of the three palaces built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria and the only one which he lived to see completed. We took the tour and enjoyed every minute.

Schloss Linderhof

Schloss Linderhof

Schloss Linderhof

Schloss Linderhof

Schloss Linderhof

Schloss Linderhof

Schloss Linderhof

Schloss Linderhof

Schloss Linderhof

Schloss Linderhof

Schloss Linderhof

Schloss Linderhof

Schloss Linderhof

Schloss Linderhof

Plansee

Further south to Reutte, Austria we passed by Plansee, one of the lovelest lakes anywhere.

Plansee

Plansee

Plansee

Plansee

Plansee

Plansee

Spent the night at the Kroll Gasthof – Hotel in Wangle, Austria. A family institution since 1731.

Kroll Gaushaus

Kroll Gasthof – Hotel.

Good Food

Good Food

We finished the whole thing off on the top of the Höfener Alpe with apfelstrudel and a small dollop of whipped cream!

Höfener Alpe

Höfener Alpe

Coffee and apfelstrudel with just a little whipped cream.

Coffee and apfelstrudel with just a little whipped cream.

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Vienna – Top 10

The Great, the SoSo and the Run Like Hell

Before we got to Vienna we purchased lots of books about the city and it’s many attractions. Between these books and the many articles we’re read there have been tons of Top 10 lists. I thought it might be fun, for me at least, to review our most memorable 10. By way of a disclaimer I should point out that there probably isn’t anybody in the world that would agree with me. Even my wife thinks I’m full of malarkey.

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The City

The Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) does an annual Liveabilty Survey. With it’s low crime rate, great transportation system, sophisticated culture and architecture, Vienna is considered the second most livable city in the world. A little crowded at times but still nonthreatening, comfortable and easy to get around, it’s packed with great things to see. We loved it.

Downtown Vienna

Downtown Vienna

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Photo by Wendi

Photo by Wendi

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Fiaker Photo by Wendi

Fiaker                                                                                  Photo by Wendi

DogTie

These are to secure your dog while you are in the shop.

I don't think these things serve any purpose.

I don’t think these things serve any purpose.

Bart

A shout out to Bart

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The Belvedere

Completed in 1723 as a summer residence for Prince Eugen of Savoy, this was the most ambitious building project ever undertaking by a private individual. It is now home to some of Austria’s greatest artistic treasures. We are here for the Secessionist Art and this is Ground Zero for that particularly Viennese art movement. This is the home of Gustav Klimt’s most celebrated work, “the Kiss”, and art lovers make pilgrimages here like they do to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. Masterpieces by all the great Secessionist artists like Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka, Richard Gerstl and many more are on display, as well as all the great Impressionist. If you are an art lover this place needs to be on your bucket list.

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It was good to be the Prince.

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The Secession Building

This large, white cubic Secessionist building was opened in 1897 to mixed reviewed. Critics called it everything from a warehouse to a public restroom. The quality of the art it contained was never in question, most of which was looted in World War II. The building was finally restored in the 70’s and today is considered one of the finest examples of the Secessionist period. I loved the building, I only wished there was more art. The basement has a room specifically designed to house the completely restored 110’ long fresco of Gustav Klimt’s “Ode To Joy”. With the exception of this masterpiece and a few sparse and pathetic contemporary pieces on the first floor the building was devoid of art, but perhaps one masterpiece and an outstanding building, is enough.

Secessionist Building Photo by Wendi

Secessionist Building                                         Photo by Wendi

Owls were admired foir their wisdom. Photo by Wendi

Owls were admired for their wisdom.                                                               Photo by Wendi

SecessionistBuilding6

Turtles were admired for their longevity

Turtles were admired for their longevity.

The Hofburg Palace

Have you ever been to Disney World on a holiday weekend? Paid a fortune to get in and then stood shoulder to shoulder in a hoard of humanity barely able to move. Now move the whole thing into an IKEA style rat maze. Replace all the products with a never ending row of glass cases filled with old silver, glassware and plates that you can’t get close enough to see. Then join an endless procession through a series of period rooms equipped with dress displays, dioramas and cut out figures as you try deperately to find the exit. Escape is futile.

If you want you avoid this, save your money and stay outside. The buildings, grounds and setting are magnificent.

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Lipizanner Horses

These Spanish horses were brought to Austria by Emperor Maximilian II in 1562. Encouraged by their beauty, intelligence and stamina the Hofburg’s Spanish Riding School was established in 1572. In the summer the Riding School does training from 10 to 12 daily in an old arena next to the stables.

Wendi is a Montana girl and as such has an affinity for horses and insisted that we attend so she could see these beautiful animals in action. We stood in a long line at 8:45 am and waited patiently to fork over our 16 Euros each to watch this sold out event. The pictures advertising the event showed peppy horses leaping and prancing and running and rearing back on their haunches and marching in formation. We braced ourselves for the excitement.

All I can say is that between the 1 ¼ hours in line, the two hour “show” and the ¾ hours in the cheap café, there are 4 hours of my life that I will never get back.

There was no show and as far as I could tell and no training unless, of course, watching various horses and riders slowly wandering aimlessly around the arena for 2 hours can be called a show. At least 2/3 of the audience had fled within 45 minutes.

Sure I’m a little cynical, but I didn’t need them to bring out the barrels and the clowns or do any calf roping, just a little something that resembled the advertising would have been nice.

All the pictures you see were shot stealthily as young attendants circled through the crowd informing everyone that picture taking was strictly “verboten”. I can understand why. You would hate to have unauthorized images of this breathtaking extravaganza circulating on the internet. I did a little quick math based on seating capacity and ticket prices and won’t be surprised if this little scam netted over 3 million Euros a year.

On a positive note, the arena was very old and interesting.

Lipazans2 Lipazans1 Horses1

 Stephansdom

Considered Austria’s finest Gothic edifice, “Steffl” suffered severe damage from WWII bombing. It’s rebuilding was a symbol for hope for the country. If you like this sort of thing, it’s an A+.

Stephansdom Photo by Wendi

Stephansdom                                            Photo by Wendi

Stephansdom

Stephansdom

 Naschmarkt

Naschmarkt is the city’s largest market. The restaurant and food sections are opened everyday, but on Saturday’s local farmers arrive with their produce and a flea market sets up with hundreds of stalls. Needless to say, Wendi was, once again in heaven.

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 Time For Dessert

Oh yea, we love this stuff. You can’t come to Vienna without trying its most famous cake, the Sachertorte. Franz Sacher is said to have invented this chocolate cake, apricot jam and chocolate frosting concoction in 1832. We tried it twice to be sure, but unfortunately found it a little dry.

Sachertorte

Sachertorte

But oh, the equally celebrated Apfelstrudel with Whipped Cream was to die for. With a cup of good coffee, this is the stuff dreams are made of.

Apfelstrudel

Apfelstrudel

The Leopold

Located inside the courtyard of the Museumsquartier complex, this limestone cube is one of our favorite museums in the world. We were so intrigued that we spent two days at the Leopold just so we wouldn’t miss a thing. This outstanding building hosts a magnificent collection of Austrian art from the 1870s to the 1950s, including the world’s largest collection of Egon Schiele and a huge group of Gustav Klimt paintings. It is also surrounded by a courtyard filled with great restaurants. How can you go wrong?

The Leopold Stock Photo

The Leopold                                                                                                                        Stock Photo

The Leopold

The Leopold

Artists Tales of Sex, Betrayal and Untimely Death

Egon Sciele

Egon Schiele

EGON SCHIELE

In 1911, Schiele met the seventeen-year-old Walburga (Wally) Neuzil. Schiele and Wally wanted to escape what they perceived as a claustrophobic Vienna. They went to the small town of Krumau, the birthplace of Schiele’s mother. Despite Schiele’s family connections in Krumau, he and his lover were driven out of the town by the residents, who strongly disapproved of their lifestyle, including his alleged employment of the town’s teenage girls as models. They moved to Neulengbach where Schiele’s studio became a gathering place for the town’s delinquent children. The artist’s way of life aroused much animosity among the town’s inhabitants, and in April 1912 he was arrested for seducing a young girl below the age of consent.

When they came to his studio to place him under arrest, the police seized more than a hundred drawings which they considered pornographic. Schiele was imprisoned while awaiting his trial. When his case was brought before a judge, the charges of seduction and abduction were dropped, but the artist was found guilty of exhibiting erotic drawings in a place accessible to children. In court, the judge burned one of the offending drawings over a candle flame. The twenty-one days he had already spent in custody were taken into account, and he was sentenced to only three days’ imprisonment. While in prison, Schiele created a series of 12 paintings depicting the difficulties and discomfort of being locked in a jail cell.

In 1914, Schiele glimpsed Edith Harms, who lived with her parents across the street from his studio in Vienna. Schiele chose to marry the more socially acceptable Edith, but had apparently expected to maintain a relationship with Wally. However, when he explained the situation to Wally, she left him immediately and never saw him again. Despite some opposition from the Harms family, Schiele and Edith were married on June 17, 1915, the anniversary of the wedding of Schiele’s parents.

In the autumn of 1918, the Spanish flu pandemic that claimed more than 20,000,000 lives in Europe reached Vienna. Edith, who was six months pregnant, succumbed to the disease on 28 October. Schiele died only three days after his wife. He was 28 years old. During the three days between their deaths, Schiele drew a few sketches of Edith; these were his last works.

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Richard Gerstl

RICHARD GERSTL

In 1906 the 22 year old Richard Gerstl, then an Academy student, met composer Arnold Schonberg and asked him to sit for a portrait. Gerstl admired the older composer and viewed him as somewhat of a father figure. During this time the young Gertl met Schonberg’s wife Mathilde and began to paint portraits of her as well. During the summer of 1907 the relationship developed into love. Schonberg suspected the liaison and during a summer vacation in 1908 caught the lovers “in flagrante”. Mathidle left Schonberg and her children but was soon persuaded to return for the sake of society and her family. The depressed Gerstl was cut of from Schonberg’s social circle and on the night of November 4, 1908 committed suicide. Mathilde became taciturn and shunned her husband’s company from that day on. All of the young artist’s paintings were packed away in boxes and stored in a warehouse. In 1931 art dealer Otto Kallir discovered Gerstl’s work and organized an exhibit in Vienna.

This was the first time Gerstl’s work was ever shown in public.





Market Mania

Quick Currency Conversion

Quick Currency Conversion

My wife is flea market crazy. I don’t mean that she likes or is slightly interested in flea markets. Oh no, she’s completely and totally bonkers, nuts, out of her ever lovin’ skull, just can’t get enough of, crazy about flea markets. She has dragged me to the most God awful, disgusting, trashy yard sales, jumble sales, boot sales, garage sales and impromptu street markets in broken down Grange Halls, dilapidated industrial sites, abandoned warehouses, trash strewn vacant lots, very scary dead end streets and deserted parking garages in every city we have ever visited just so I can have the immense pleasure of gazing upon and fondling acres of other people’s useless and discarded junk.

Junk

Budapest has proven to be an exception to this otherwise nightmare scenario. Wendi has coerced me into two flea markets here and, I have to admit, they are terrific. Big, sprawling old school Markets, untouched by the tidal wave of cheap third world tshirts and trinkets. These are Markets were you can still find hidden gems and long forgotten items for a bygone era. Exactly the kind of Markets that made them popular to begin with.

Our first stop was at the Szechenyl Market is the middle of the large city park. The smaller of the two, Szechenyl has a bit of a yard sale feel but was still really interesting.

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Will you hurry up!

Will you hurry up!

Have to get one of these.

Have to get one of these.

Our last visit was at the Ecseri Market and it is the pièce de résistance. Located in the suburbs southwest of Budapest, getting there required two Metro transfers and a 20 minute bus ride, but was well worth the effort. A truly terrific treasure trove.

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Ecseri Market

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Wash Station

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Better hurry, this kind of market is rapidly disappearing.







The Secessionists

Take my word for it, Secessionist Art is really cool. It was one of the Art Nouveau disciplines that was popular between 1890 and 1910 and slightly predates Art Deco and was huge in Budapest. This modernist artist group included the likes of Gustav Klimt and Karoly Lotz,  They were renegades who separated from the support of official academic art and its administrations during this period. 

The Kiss - Gustav Klimt

The Kiss – Gustav Klimt

Woman Bathing - Kaloty

Woman Bathing – Karoly Lotz

Budapest, like both Berlin and Vienna, was a hot bed for this new and exciting art movement. Some of the country’s most famous architects designed buildings in this style. Some of them were inspired by traditional Hungarian decorative designs, Transylvanian traditions, or Far East (Indian or Syrian) styles.

One of our favorites is the Museum of Applied Arts, designed by Odon Lechner and Gyula Partos from 1893 – 1896. It is the third oldest applied arts museum in the world. It is currently showing a very exciting exhibit of Hungarian Posters from the 1920s called Bolder Than Painting.

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AppliedArts12

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AppliedArts10

AppliedArts9AppliedArts8AppliedArts6AppliedArts5AppliedArts4AppliedArts3AppliedArts1More Art Nouveau Architecture


The Cold War

25 years ago this poster would have landed you in prison.

25 years ago this poster would have landed you in prison.

For most Americans, unless of course you happened to work for the CIA or were unfortunate enough to have friends or relatives behind the Iron Curtain, the Cold War always remained a sort of conceptual notion, like the Boogie Man hiding in the closet that could burst forth at any moment and annihilate us all with hundreds of unseen thermonuclear devices, more of a threat then something real and tangible.

Not so for the Hungarians. After the Soviets drove the Nazis out at the end of WWII, the Communists held this place in a grip that was total and absolute and lasted over 40 years. In Hungary the Iron Curtain was not some scary ethereal miasma. Here it was very real, fashioned out of guns, spies, interrogation, propaganda and fear.

Iron Curtain Sculpture

Iron Curtain Sculpture

Capitalism, with all it’s pluses and minuses, is now the system du jour and virtually all signs of Soviet domination have been eradicated with a few notable exceptions. Flea markets, where the sale of Soviet era paraphernalia, i.e. coats, hats, pins, etc., is an ongoing enterprise, and two museums, the House of Terror Museum and Momento Park, stand as constant reminders of life under the Communist boot.

The House of Terror, located at Andrássy útca 60, is a memorial to the victims of the fascist and communist dictatorial regimes who were detained, interrogated, tortured or killed in this building.

The House of Terror

The House of Terror

Pictures of victims stretch the length of the building.

Pictures of victims stretch the length of the building.

 The Nazi’s took possession of this very fashionable location during WWII. When the Soviets and Hungarian fascist Arrow Cross Party took over, they expanded it to include almost the entire block and converted the basement into a labyrinth of cells and interrogation rooms.

Iron Curtain Sculpture

Iron Curtain Sculpture

Memento Park is an open air museum about 20 minutes southeast of Budapest. It is filled with monumental statues from Hungary’s Communist period (1949–1989).

Main Entrance

Main Entrance

Cubist monument of Marx and Engels.

Cubist monument of Marx and Engels.

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Onward Comrades

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Hungarian-Soviet Friendship Memorial

Memento22

Together we will dominate the world.

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Monument to the Martyrs of the Counter-Revolution

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Break Free of Imperialist Tyranny.

Memento20

The Republic of Councils Monument

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The Republic of Councils Monument

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The Hungarian Fighters in the Spanish International Brigades Memorial.

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Red Army Soldier

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Lenin Relief

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Soviet Heroic Memorial

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Soviet Heroic Memorial

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Most notably absent are any statues of Stalin. Apparently all of them were destroyed after the Soviets fled in 1989. All that remains are Papa Joe’s boots.

Stalin's Boots

Stalin’s Boots

And finally, just for scale.

Wendi is unintimidated.

Wendi is unintimidated.