Tag Archives: museums

Spending a day in Liechtenstein

12 Mar

If you have been following my blog, you might recall me saying back in February that my next trip to another European country would be in May when we go to visit Poland. I had a feeling that I would be getting itchy feet long before then and I was right. So I decided to visit Liechtenstein for the day.

Liechtenstein is the fourth smallest country in Europe and is only 1 hour and 20 minutes from Zurich by train. I was surprised when I got there to see that there was so much snow on the mountains and the temperature was a lot colder than it is in Zurich.

As the country isn’t big, everything in the city centre is easy to get to by walking and there are plenty of museums. Here is what I go up to:

Vaduz Castle

I hiked up to the castle, which is on the top of a  hill looking down on the city. I’m not exaggerating by saying ‘hike’. It’s a pretty steep path up to the castle. Unfortunately, the castle isn’t open to the public because it is the permanent residency of the Liechtenstein royal family. I thought that was a bit of a shame. There are 130 rooms in the castle so I would have thought that it would be possible to open it up to visitors for time to time. They can’t possibly use all of those rooms all at once. Even the Queen let the public into her residence when she was skint. Perhaps that’s the fundamental difference between the British royal family and their European counterparts – money. However, the castle is still impressive even if you can’t see it from the inside.

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The Stamp Museum

This is only a small museum but it is free to visit. There are some cool interactive tools, like being able to browse through the whole of the back catalogue of Liechtenstein’s stamps. I also didn’t realise that stamps used to be printed by engraving the design onto metal and then these engravings were used to make the individual stamps. Some of the examples on display showed how detailed the engravings are.

There was also an exhibition about the history of postcards which was interesting, especially as people don’t send them these days. Did you know that the stamp didn’t always used to be in the top right hand corner? Sender used the position and orientation of the stamp to communicate secret messages to the recipent.

Sculptures in the Street

As I was walking around the city and taking photographs, I noticed that there was a lot of art in the street. There is a large contemporary art museum (which I wasn’t in the mood to visit) so the city has a feeling of being quite arty. I like art and sculptures being in the street – I don’t see the point of things being locked away behind closed door rather than been enjoyed by people.

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Liechtenstein is the 29th country that I have visited in Europe which means that I have another 11 to visit before I can tick Challenge #8 off my 40 Before 40 list. Plus I now know how to spell it properly!

We have decided to have a few long weekends in different places this year rather than two weeks somewhere. Our next planned trips will be in Poland (May 2019), Luxembourg (July 2019), Serbia (September 2019) and Ukraine (October 2019). It could be that I end up being spontaneous and book a few more trips in the meantime but I will try to restrain myself.

Vienna: Days 10 and 11

25 Aug

On Wednesday morning I was back in the school. Although it has only been less than 2 weeks that I have been in Vienna, I have definitely got into a routine that works well. I normally leave at 8.10am and take the underground for about 12 stops and then I walk for 10 minutes to school. At the beginning this was a lot longer. Somehow I managed to take a longer route but on the way back I noticed that I could make a few shortcuts.

In the conversation class we were talking about the preconceptions or clichés that exist for different countries. Everyone in the class is from a different country so it makes it really interesting when we have discussions about how things are different in our homelands. The different nationalities are: English, Swiss (from the Italian part), Slovakian, Russian, Czech, Italian, Iranian, Ukrainian, Polish and Japanese. I am not sure if you could get a more diverse group of people if you tried. Some of the other students are staying in Vienna for a longer time, some are here while looking for jobs and others don’t really know what they are doing!

In the intensive course there were only two of us because none of the other people turned up for the class. We did a funny exercise where we start to write a story. I had to write a thriller and the other person wrote a love story. After we had started the story we had to swap and finish the other person’s story. I was quite surprised at how good my writing was. The language wasn’t very sophisticated but it made sense. I think it was better some of my writing in English to be honest!

In the afternoon I was treated to more “excellent” Austria customer service. This time at the hairdresser. The hairdressers here are a fraction of the price that they are in Switzerland and also cheaper than at home. I was left waiting for more than 20 minutes. I was about to leave when they came over to wash my hair. They then put some intensive conditioning treatment on my hair and left me with my head in the backwash for about 15 minutes. It is bad enough having your head in these backwash sinks for the time it takes them to wash your head but after 15 minutes I was in agony. Again I was ready to walk out with wet hair. There was no apology or embarrassment. I think that this is just normal customer service here.

In the evening I had bought a ticket to a Mozart concert at the Vienna Opera House. I got a 50% discount with the language school so I managed to get a seat 8 rows from the stage for 25 Euros. It was a really good view of what was going on on the stage. The concert was a series of excepts of Mozart’s works. There was an orchestra and two opera singers. The conductor was a bit of a smug bastard but I guess that he was playing the part of Mozart well.

The concert was only for 2 hours but I could have stayed there all night. At the beginning it was a bit like being at a pop concert when the band play songs from their new album that you don’t really know and all you want them to do is to play the greatest hits. It is incredible that some of these songs were written in the 1700s and they are still loved all over the world today.

After school on Thursday I decided to have an art afternoon. I went to Schloss Belvedere and saw an exhibition of Gustav Klimt, who I didn’t realise was Austria until I arrived here. The exhibition was called Klimt and the Erotic Encounters. Some of the art wasn’t too far from being pornographic. Shocked would be a good word to describe my reaction. There was an exhibition in Kunsthalle, Zurich which had a part of Japanese erotic art. These paintings were in a sealed off rooms and there was a person on the door who was checking that only over 18s were admitted. Maybe Austrians are more liberal in this respect.

Later I went to visit the Hundertwasser Museum. The museum is home to the art of Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who was one of the most, if not the most, significant Austrian artists of the 20th century. I only came across his work when one of my German teachers gave me some of his pictures to use in an exercise to improve my ability to make descriptions. The museum is full of his work and it is interesting to see some of the projects that he worked on during his life. There was also a photography exhibition of a Canadian photographer called Edward Burtynsky on the subject of water. The photos show how the effect of humankind is affecting water sources. He uses drones as well as standard cameras to make impressive landscape pictures.

In the evening I went for a quick run and then packed. Tomorrow is the last day of school and I fly back to Switzerland and my own bed.

A Norwegian Getaway

2 Apr

After having the first BBQ of the season on Thursday evening, I was ready for holidaying to start. On the Friday, I jetted off early to Oslo in the hope that the weather forecasts were completely wrong. Up above the clouds and seeing the sun, I was thinking that the weather was going to be a lot better than predicted. My hopes were shattered when we descended under the clouds and I could see a coating of snow on the ground! I was glad my gut instinct of bring layers and hat and gloves had been correct.

The train from the airport to the City centre was quick and I had arrived by 10am. Although there was no snow in the city, it was foggy and grey but at least not the rain that was forecast. As the weather was not great and I had bought the Oslo Pass which includes entrance into 30 museums, I decided to be a culture vulture.

After a wander round to get my bearings, the first stop was the Nobel Peace Centre. Last year I went to the Nobel Centre in Stockholm, Sweden so I thought it would be nice to see the exhibition about the Peace Prize. The museum itself was quite small and, in my opinion, not as good as the museum in Stockholm. The main display was an exhibition of all the winners of the prize on iPads. When you walk up past the iPads, it activates the screens and gives more information about the prize winner. It took me a while to realise that when a screen is activated a musical note plays, so that when there are more people in the room looking at parts of the installation it produces a, well, for want of a better word, a peaceful atmosphere.

I moved next to the Munch museum (which is apparently is pronounced “Monk”). I was expecting to see The Scream, which seems like a reasonable assumption but it wasn’t there. In fact, the museum doesn’t have a permanent exhibition. The paintings are changed regularly so it could happened that it’s hit or miss what you see. I personally wasn’t a fan of what I saw.

The Natural History Museum was the next stop and I came face to face with a T-rex. I had no idea that the museum had a T-rex so it was a nice surprise. I always found Natural History Museums a bit macabre as a child and I guess I still do. But the stuff about dinosaurs and fossils are pretty cool.

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I had already booked a Fjord cruise but by the time I left the museums, it was rain. The weather forecast was right. It was bucketing it down. The boat had no sides and the only roof was a canvas. Luckily there were blankets provided but it didn’t do too much to keep me warm. My idea of what a cruise on the Fjords would be like was not what I expected. Because of the foggy and the mist, there wasn’t anything to see. It was just grey. The only way I can describe it is that if Manchester was on the sea and they put on cruises it would be exactly like that: Raining, cold and grey. I can imagine that in the summer when you can see all the islands with their greenery, with the sun beating down that it has a certain majesty about it. By the time, I disembarked I wasn’t able to feel my feet. I was glad to go for something to eat to warm up.

The weather on Saturday was unfortunately much the same. So, it was time for more museums. On the Fjord cruise an American family had told me that they had been to the Fram museum and highly recommended it. I headed there first. The Fram museum houses the Fram, a boat that was used in Polar exploration. There was lots of information about the race to get to the North Pole between Scott and Amundsen, who was Norwegian. It was even possible to board the Fram and go into all the cabins and see how the ships worked. I have no idea how it must have been to go into the unchartered territory with limited provisions, nevermind having to cope with the cold all those years ago without the technology that we have today.

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Next to the Fram museum are also the National Maritime Museum and the Kon-tiki Museum. I’m not all that interested in martime history and I only really went because it was free. I am sure that it would be really interesting if boats through the ages was your thing. The Kon-tiki musuem was dedicated to the work of Thor Heyerdahl who in 1947 made an expedition from South America to French Polynesia because he wanted to prove that the people of Polynesia had a link to Peruvians. To prove it, he took 5 other friends on a raft, called Kon-tiki made out of wood across 4,000 miles of ocean. The original vessel that they sailed on was in the museum. It’s an incredible story – not least when Heyerdahl not only had a fear of water and wasn’t able to swim. One of his most famous quotes is: “Borders? I have never seen one, but I have heard they exist in the minds of some people” Perhaps if more people had this view of life that there would be less conflict in the world.

Next I headed to The National Gallery because, after a bit of research, I had found out that this was where The Scream was kept. It’s quite bizarre that it is just housed in a normal room with no additional security when it had been stolen about 3 times in the past. It was a surprise just to come across it in one of the side rooms. I only realised it must be there because so many people were sitting looking at it.

After a small stop for lunch, I went to the Ibsen museum. I had heard of Ibsen before and I could name a few of his works but after visiting the museum, which is on the site of where he last lived, I will make a conserted effort to read some of the things he has written. It seems like a man who was ahead of his time, writing about women’s role in society, for example. Some of the details of his private life are not so pleasant but that doesn’t stop his plays from being good.

There was just enough time to look around the Akershus Castle and to go to the Opera House where I was treated to an incredible sunset over the city (by now, the weather was improving and I even saw some blue sky). It is possible to climb up to the roof of the Opera House and the view from the top is something to behold.

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Overall, I really enjoyed my time in Norway. The weather was the major disappointment. It meant the weekend was more of a damp than I was hoping but I made the most of it.

Next weekend I am back in the UK to go to the Grand National for the first time. The weather can’t be as bad as the weekend in Norway, can it?