Sverresborg Folk Museum

I discovered the Trondheim Folk Museum pretty late in my Fulbright year, but have become somewhat enamored with it since then. Like most folk museums in Scandinavia, the one in Trondheim consists of a museum as well as grounds. Unfortunately the museum is a bit haphazardly done, or at least it felt that way because everything was in Norwegian, but it was still fun to quickly walk around. I enjoyed looking over a few of the historical displays, particularly the ones featuring Elvis and what appeared to be old punk rock clothing.

IMG_4058  IMG_4060  IMG_4062

While the museum wasn’t the best, the grounds were pretty great to walk around. There wasn’t an abundance of information for each of the ground’s buildings, but there was the odd sign post and the occasional human to answer questions. Thanks to them, I now have answers to two questions that have been bugging me since I arrived in Norway. The first involved wanting to know the reasoning behind Norwegian building’s grassy roofs. I was told that the benefit of the roofs were that they were cheap, long lasting (they last around 30 years or more), and they provide good insulation. The other question I had was why most of the buildings were red.* Turns out that one of the byproducts of iron is a red pigment. Because iron mines were in Norway and Sweden, getting the pigment was cheap, it was a byproduct which no one wanted, which made it cheaper, and it was also long lasting. The mystery of the red houses was officially solved.

The museum also has a few more well known places in the grounds. One of the most well known is the remains of King Sverre’s castle. The castle is in ruins now, but it was originally constructed in the winter of 1183-84. It was the first stone castle in Norway, although it was torn down and rebuilt twice. After the civil-war years, the castle didn’t serve a purpose and was abandoned and left to deteriorate. It was later reclaimed by the Germans during World War II due to its strategic significance, which I’m assuming was namely that it has a sweeping view of the city.

IMG_3747  IMG_3749  IMG_3726IMG_3729  IMG_3732  IMG_3733IMG_3741  IMG_3744  IMG_3746

Other highlights of the grounds included seeing an old catapult in action and following a few rogue lambs around the property. As for the buildings themselves, several of them were quite stunning, particularly one farmhouse that was redone and repainted.

IMG_3706  IMG_3751  IMG_3710IMG_3696  IMG_3698  IMG_3699IMG_3714  IMG_3716  IMG_3724IMG_3780  IMG_3783  IMG_3795

Nicole and I also had a lot of fun at a farmhouse where we were able to interact with a few Norwegians who decided to show us around in character. The farmhouse they gave us a tour of was from 1906, so we had a bit of fun playing along and saying that we had arrived in Norway by boat after many weeks at sea, and that while America’s streets were not paved in gold, they were paved in silver. They in turn had fun showing us around. I would say that the two biggest things that we learned were that most homes had a Sunday room, or a very special room only used on Sundays or for guests, and we also learned the proper way to sleep. Apparently it’s incorrect to sleep horizontally because angels flying overhead might mistake you as dead and come and take your soul. The proper way to sleep is to sleep upright, as if sleeping in a chair.

IMG_3810  IMG_3826  IMG_3811IMG_3764  IMG_3767  IMG_3770

We also paid a visit to the old town. The old town consists of buildings that used to be located in downtown Trondheim. There they have several exhibits featuring a dentist office, apothecary, and even a telephone operating room.

IMG_3832  IMG_3838  IMG_3833IMG_3720 IMG_3721  IMG_3723

My favorite spot was however the ski museum. I had never really thought too much about Norway’s favorite sport, so it was nice to gain some insight into it.

Skiing only started to take off in Norway in 1850. There were several factors that led to this, but they can be summarized by saying that an increase in wealth gave people the time and money to take up the sport. While more and more people were able to take up skiing, skiing only started to be closely linked to Norwegian identity after Fridtjof Nansen, a national hero and polar explorer, popularized his arctic explorations. This caused people to associate this hero, and Norwegians, with skiing.

Skiing was originally advertised as a masculine sport, and one that solely in the domain of men. The first organized ski trips in Norway used to be organized by groups of men, and they often ended in drinking. Women were allowed to go skiing for recreation, and it was common for small groups of men and women to go skiing together. Although women were encouraged to ski for leisure or for practical purposes, during this time they were largely kept away from competitive skiing, such as ski-jumping and cross-country ski racing. Women were only able to truly gain acceptance in competitive skiing in the 1970’s.

The Norwegian tradition of Sunday skiing started to gain popularity in the 1950’s and 1960’s, but these days skiing has become less and less popular. Only about half of Norwegian children own skis, and an even smaller percentage actually use them. Some Norwegians worry that this downturn in skiing will cause it to fade out, eventually stopping the phrase “Norwegians are born with skis on their feet.”**

Overall, I really enjoyed going to the Folk Museum and would definitely recommend paying it a visit, especially on a nice sunny day.

*Generally speaking the houses in Norway are one of seven colors: red, green, blue, brown, yellow, black, or white.

**Alix can testify that she’s happy that this saying is inaccurate.

Remaining Berlin Sites

The day before was technically the last day of the conference, so today was the day that most people went home. Iman and I on the other hand managed to squeeze in an extra day or two, and I thought I’d put down the rest of my Berlin adventures in one post. So, here’s the docket:

The Neues Museum

I know that I already covered the museum, but I actually went back a second time with Iman and Jenny Bruna. We weren’t there for long since we were really only stopping by to see the bust of Nefertiti, but I thought I’d add a few more pictures to the blog. The golden hat is unimaginatively called the Berlin Gold Hat. It’s only one of four golden hats that have been found from Europe’s Bronze Age, and apparently it might has also served as a type of calendar.

IMG_0716  IMG_0726  IMG_0722

Schloss Charlottenburg

Although Schloss Charlottenburg is a bit out of the way, it was definitely a fun trip to make. Schloss Charlottenburg is a baroque palace inspired by Versailles and one of the few Prussian palaces in Berlin. It was originally built by King Friedrich I for his queen Sophie-Charlotte (whom the palace is named after). The palace was originally a small summer retreat called Lietzenburg but was expanded under King Friedrich I and other royals.

Because I arrived towards closing time, I only bought a ticket to the Altes Schloss, the oldest part of the palace. While the Altes Schloss did have some impressive rooms and a nice ceramics collection, it was shockingly plain. I was confused as to why the interior wasn’t a bit more grand, but I soon learned that the palace had been heavily damaged in World War II. Rebuilding the palace became more of a priority after the East German government destroyed the only other Hohenzollern palace in 1951. Overall, I would give the Altes Schloss a pass, but the trip was not a total waste since I really enjoyed walking around the very extensive and beautiful grounds.

IMG_0786  IMG_0766  IMG_0774IMG_0796  IMG_0815  IMG_0835IMG_0846  IMG_0860  IMG_0866IMG_0882  IMG_0886  IMG_0893

Turkish Market

The Turkish market appears every Tuesday and Friday in Kreuzberg and is filled with a variety of stalls. People sell things ranging from food to fabric, and although I wasn’t really looking for anything other than a quick snack, it was fun to walk around on a sunny day and get a small taste of local Berlin.

IMG_0898  IMG_0899  IMG_0900IMG_0903  IMG_0906  IMG_0907

Tränenpalast (Palace of Tears)

The Palace of Tears is a former border crossing station at Friedrichstaße. The checkpoint was opened in 1962 and served as a gateway into West Berlin. Since this was often the place where East Berliners were parted from their family and friends, it saw more than its fair share of tears (hence the nickname).

The checkpoint was established in 1962, but by 1961 2.8 million people had escaped the GDR, with several thousand fleeing every day. The GDR had heavily fortified the border between East and West Germany, but until the Berlin Wall was erected it was fairly easy for people to slip across to West Berlin on the S-Bahn and underground. The Palace of Tears eventually became one of the main stopping points between the two Berlins.

Although the Palace of Tears had some overlap with the DDR Museum in terms of content, I would say that the Palace of Tears was a much better museum. The content addressed conditions in both East and West Germany and was much more well organized. Here are a few of the things that I found interesting:

  • There was an ongoing propaganda war between the SED and West Germans. The SED would try and justify its politics and send “propaganda bombs” to West Germany. At the same time, West Germans would try and educate SED soldiers, the National People’s Army (NVA), in a similar manner.
  • Visitors to East Germany would have to exchange D-Marks into GDR Marks at a 1:1 rate on entry. This was problematic since it was not an accurate exchange rate. GDR Marks were worth much less than the D-Marks; however, a minimum amount had to be converted upon entry. This minimum increased over time since it generated a lot of Western currency, which the GDR need to pay for its Western imports.
  • After 1964, the SED allowed senior citizens to visit relatives in West Germany regularly. This made these pensioners an important connection to the West as well as a good source of rare consumer goods that were smuggled back from West Germany.
  • School trips into the GDR were welcomed starting in the 1970s, and teachers often took advantage of this to better educate their students on the GDR.

Overall I really enjoyed my time at the museum and would recommend it.

IMG_3023  IMG_3027  IMG_3024IMG_3033  IMG_3034  IMG_3044

Gemäldegalerie (Picture Gallery)

I went to the Gemäldegalerie since I had heard that it was one of the best museums in the Kulturforum. The Kulturforum was West Berlin’s version of Museum Island, and likewise has a great collection of museums and cultural buildings, such as the Berliner Philharmonie. The Gemäldegalerie specializes in European art from the 13th – 18th centuries. Unfortunately this isn’t my favorite period of art, although I did enjoy a number of Rembrandts that they had on display. What really caught my eye was a Mario Testino exhibit that they had, called in In Your Face. Funnily enough, I had seen the exhibit two years before at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. I had thoroughly enjoyed the exhibit in Boston, so I had no qualms over paying to see it again, especially since Testino is one of my photographers. I would highly recommend going to go see it if you’re in Berlin and like fashion photography.

IMG_3049  IMG_3047  IMG_3053

On My Own

The next day I was planning on meeting Iman, but medicine had yet to work wonders on her cold and I ended up spending the day solo. My first destination was the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria. Gargi and I had already been to a number of the sights listed in Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons so I figured I’d finish up most of the remaining sights today. Here is a helpful blog that we used in order to accomplish this. Now the church I was going to is the sight of Bernini’s The Ecstasy of St. Theresa, and the blog wasn’t kidding when it said that it was a bit out of the way and tiny. But it was worth the pit stop. To my great surprise, I was expecting to be tired of churches at this point, but even now it never fails to amaze me how beautiful they all are, regardless of whether or not they contain famous artwork.

IMG_8103  IMG_8109  IMG_8114

My second stop of the day was the Villa Borghese. Now remember how I mentioned that I didn’t make any reservations before my trip? Well you pretty much need a reservation to get into the Villa Borghese. Now I knew that going in. That didn’t mean that I wasn’t going to try and get around this, especially considering that almost all of my friends who had gone to the Villa Borghese had managed to fabricate their way in. So I figured I’d give it a shot. And remembering Italian lesson number two (in Italy rules are really just suggestions) I set off for the Villa.

Now the way things work at the Villa is that you sign up for a time slot and then view the Villa at your allocated time. I figured my best shot was to come after the people who had legitimate reservations had already entered the Villa, so I arrived about thirty minutes after the 11 am time slot. Sure enough I was initially told that I could not get into the Villa for the next available time slot, BUT I was told that I could pay and enter with the ongoing time slot. I also had to laugh when the ticket lady gave me a pitying look for having only an hour and a half in the Villa as opposed to the normal two hours. I on the other hand was just excited to get in.

IMG_8116  IMG_8117  IMG_8118IMG_8130  IMG_8134  IMG_8136IMG_8138  IMG_8141  IMG_8159IMG_8147  IMG_8145  IMG_8153As you can see, the artwork inside the Villa Borghese is pretty stunning. My favorite statue ended up being Bernini’s David (picture on the bottom left). There were also a number of beautiful paintings. What actually surprised me about the Villa was how small it was. It only has two floors of artwork. The other thing that surprised me was that they had a modern art exhibit on display by Mat Collishaw. The first component of his work were these glass picture frames that contained paintings by Caravaggio. When first glancing at these frames it seems as though they only contain Caravaggio reproductions, but if you look at the paintings for long enough the figures inside the frames move ever so slightly. I actually thought it was a great exhibit since it helped demonstrate how realistic Caravaggio’s pictures are. His second work is a zoetrope based on Ippolito Scarsella’s The Massacre of the Innocents. The content wasn’t exactly pleasant but it was still a pretty impressive work.

Once I was done with the Villa I went for a quick walk around the grounds. The grounds are fairly extensive and are on a hill so you get a pretty nice view of Rome. From there I walked down to Piazza del Popolo.

IMG_8218  IMG_8213  IMG_8227IMG_8229  IMG_8230  IMG_8222IMG_8233  IMG_8238  IMG_8237Once I was there I went back to the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo this time in search of Bernini’s Habakkuk and the Angel. After that I had managed to go to all of the places in Angeles and Demons, with the exception of Castel Sant’Angelo.

The only other thing on my agenda for the day was to visit an M.C. Escher exhibit that was on display at Chiostro del Bramante. So I set off in that general direction. It was in the middle of this wandering that I stumbled across a Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibit at the Museo dell’Ara Pacis. I had taken three years worth of photography classes in high school and Cartier-Bresson was one of those photographers who we had to talk about every semester. I hadn’t actually seen any of his original works so I figured that this exhibit would be worth a stop. The exhibit turned out to be great. My one qualm with it was that it was unclear in what direction you were supposed to be moving through the exhibit, making it very easy to go through his work in a haphazard and non-chronological way. Before leaving I also stopped by the Ara Pacis, or the alter of peace, that was on display on the top floor.

IMG_8254  IMG_8258  IMG_8273IMG_8262  IMG_8268  IMG_8272From there I slowly made my way towards the M.C. Escher exhibit. In the midst of my wandering I noticed a line forming to go into the church San Luigi dei Francesi. So, not being in a hurry, I decided to join the line and go inside the church. Remember how I mentioned that my Rome trip consisted of a lot of wandering? Case in point. Anyways, I entered the church and realized that there were a series of Caravaggio paintings there. So after struggling with the crowd I was finally able to see the series of paintings below.

The_Calling_of_Saint_Matthew-Caravaggo_(1599-1600)  inspiration-of-saint-matthew-1602-1(1)  24conta

After that I finally made it to the Escher exhibit. Now thanks to two of my college roommates, I have lived with reproductions of Escher’s work for a few years. The two ones below specifically. So, when I kept seeing signs all over Rome advertising an Escher exhibit I knew that I had to go.

001761_2_Escher_DrawingHands  LW306-MC-Escher-Sky-and-Water-I-1938

I will say that the Escher exhibit was excellent. They did a really good job of organizing his work chronologically and showing his transformation as an artist. The audioguide that they had was a bit lengthy (and thus went unused most of the time I was going through the exhibit) but the signs did a good job of explaining things.

In case you are like me and know nothing about Escher’s personal life, I thought I’d let you know what I learned here. Escher is actually a Dutch artist who ended up moving to Italy. He lived there continuously for fourteen years and met and married an Italian woman. He and his wife ended up having two sons together while they were in Italy. The reason behind the family’s move away from Italy came when his youngest son came home one day in a youth fascist uniform. Escher did not want his family to get mixed up in Mussolini’s politics and so he moved his family out of Italy. Escher was a very well respected artist during his lifetime and earned a number of awards before dying in 1972.

While the exhibit was great, getting into the exhibit was a bit of a pain. When I first got to the church there was a line out the door. Soon after I got in line there was an announcement made in Italian, and by using my sketchy Spanish and by asking around I realized that they were telling us that it would take an hour to get into the exhibit. Now I thought that they were just trying to make us come back in an hour, but low and behold beyond the ticket booth lay a courtyard that had a line snaking around almost the entire perimeter. So I settled in to wait and after the promised hour I finally gained entrance to the exhibit. But the wait was totally worth it.

Once I was done with the exhibit all that was really left for me to do was to slowly make my way back to my hostel and prepare for my last full day in Rome.

IMG_8300  IMG_2262  IMG_2250

Vienna Decked Out

The next day we returned to Schloß Schönbrunn. Our tickets still allowed us access to the Desert Experience, Palm House, Zoo, Carriage House, Strudel Show, and more. And while we wanted to get the most out of our tickets, we also wanted to see everything during the day.

We started out by walking somewhat aimlessly through the grounds and then climbed the hill behind the palace to the café. This ended up giving us quite a nice view of the palace, grounds, and the surrounding city.

IMG_7145  IMG_7173  IMG_7195We walked by the zoo but decided to pass on it. To our delight however we did manage to catch a glimpse of the rhinos on our walk by.

Because we spent about a solid hour walking around the frigid grounds, we were quite happy to enter the Palm House. What my Dad and I hadn’t realized was that this would cause enough of a temperature shift to completely fog up our camera lenses. While my Dad decided to wipe his lens off, I decided to leave mine the way it was and play with the effect it made on the pictures.

IMG_7211  IMG_7214  IMG_7220IMG_7229  IMG_7236  IMG_7223Once we finished walking around the Palm House and accidentally crashing a small wedding ceremony, we crossed the road to the Desert Experience. It was only slightly less exotic than it sounds. It turned out to be similar to a greenhouse but without the humidity. Similar to the Palm House, there were a variety of plants, or in this case cacti, but there were also animals! One of my favorite moments was finally spotting the elephant shrew below. After hiding almost the entire time we were there, he decided to dart out and say hi at the last minute.

IMG_7244  IMG_7302  IMG_7267IMG_7273  IMG_7288  IMG_7296As much as we enjoyed the Desert Experience, it was eventually time for us to return to the bitter cold. All we really wanted to do by then was just finish our walk around the grounds before heading back into the city.

IMG_7310  IMG_7312  IMG_7316But then I heard my stomach growl. So instead of going back into town we decided to go to the Strudel Show. The show was actually quite good–then again my apple strudel sample might have a large part to do with my satisfaction.

It was only after we cleaned even the crumbs off of our plates that we finally left Schönbrunn. My Lonely Planet book on Vienna had warned us that Schönbrunn was worth a day trip, and considering how much time my Dad and I spent there I would definitely agree, especially considering that we didn’t even manage to see everything.

After that we went to the Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit at the Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien. The exhibit was there to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Toulouse-Lautrec’s birth. Now if you have no idea who Toulouse-Lautrec is never fear. You probably recognize his most popular work Moulin Rouge-La Goulue, which also happens to be the work that made him an overnight success:

Lautrec_moulin_rouge_la_goulue_1891

Overall the exhibit was really great. It covered Toulouse-Latrec’s very short life and did a good job of chronicling his work. Half the fun was just seeing how his art developed over time. His posters in particular were great to see up close. If you happen to have the chance I’d highly recommend a visit.

Our next destination was the Imperial Treasury. I’ve always enjoyed looking at the various treasures that nations have so I was excited to see some of Austria’s crown jewels. They were impressive to say the least. My favorite piece (which unfortunately isn’t pictured) was a “unicorn horn.” The sign clarified that it was actually a narwhal tusk, but it’s always nice to dream.

IMG_7331  IMG_7337  IMG_7345IMG_7383  IMG_7391  IMG_7396IMG_7366  IMG_7371  IMG_7376After we finished with Treasury, we slowly walked back to our hotel. This allowed us to soak in a few more of the sights along the way, such as the National Library, Mozart monument, and Opera House. While we were at the Opera House we decided to look into tickets for the next day’s performance of Rigoletto. The ticket seller had only a few nosebleed seats left but my Dad and I decided to take them.

IMG_7417  IMG_7425  IMG_7429After that, we were off in search of the famous Figlmueller, a restaurant chain that claims to be the home of the schnitzel. Even though we didn’t have a reservation at the restaurant and when we called the restaurant claimed that it was full, my Dad and I decided to go early and see if we could just walk in. It turns out we made it just in time. We were just able to get some of the last seats available. I of course ordered the schnitzel and it was as delicious as advertised. Considering that the schnitzel took up my entire plate, I believe the restaurant when they say that they measure each schnitzel to make sure that it’s 30 cm (11.8 inches) in diameter. I have to admit that overall my Dad and I did a good job on the food front.

IMG_2080  IMG_2084  IMG_2079

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

Throughout our trip Michael and I kept seeing pictures of animals paired with indecipherable German. Having seen these signs everywhere we figured it was a signal from the universe to go to the zoo. So, in the morning I tentatively asked Julie if she would like to go with us to the zoo. To my surprise and delight Julie told me that she 1) would love to go with us to the zoo 2) had yet to go to the Munich zoo 3) had been meaning to go there. Not only were Michael and I excited to have Julie join us, we were also in awe of her knowledge of the Munich transit system. Having Julie along also significantly reduced our breakfast ordering struggles.

At the zoo, all of us were happy to look at all of the animals, although I insisted on seeing the elephants and Julie and I insisted on seeing the penguins. Our college dorm’s mascot was a penguin so we wanted to go pay a visit. Unfortunately, Michael was out of luck since his dorm’s mascot was a cod, so no mascot visits for him. While I liked looking at all of the animals I have to say my favorite was a black monkey who really seemed to enjoy posing for the camera. Not wanting to let him down, I’ve included some of his better shots.

IMG_5905  IMG_5910  IMG_5914 IMG_5916  IMG_5919  IMG_5921The three of us spent a bit more time walking around Munich before we saw Michael off to the airport. Afterwards, Julie and I headed back to Marienplatz and a Tripadvisor recommendation, Asam’s Church. Asam’s Church is one of the most elaborate churches that I’ve been to. Julie told me that the Asam brothers were responsible for selling things to churches, such as artwork, pews, confessionals, etc., and many of these are on display at the church. The church itself is pretty small so it doesn’t take too long to look around. The thing that impressed me the most was according to Julie the ceiling is actually flat. The painter managed to create an optical illusion so that it looks as though the ceiling is round.

IMG_5931  IMG_5936  IMG_5940Once we were done with the church, Julie took me on an adventure to go see the Oktoberfest grounds. Here are a few of the things I learned about the festival:

  • Oktoberfest is crowded more or less 24/7
  • The grounds are built every year although the space isn’t used during the rest of the year
  • Oktoberfest causes massive amounts of congestion in the city–causing a lot of locals to dislike it
  • Many locals will take their holiday time during Oktoberfest so that they can work during this time period. Apparently working in the grounds is very lucrative since they need so many people to actually run the festival

While there wasn’t too much to see, it was still nice to walk around the grounds and get a sense of the sheer size of Oktoberfest.

IMG_1290  IMG_1294When we finished, we headed to the English Garden to grab some lunch at one of the beer gardens. Julie was in charge of ordering and got us currywurst and spezi. Curryworst is sausage in a ketchup type sauce with curry (which I was initially skeptical of) and spezi is beer mixed with fanta (which I was excited to try). As per all of Julie’s food and drink recommendations, everything was delicious. Once we had finished, Julie and I headed back to her place for a few power naps and some Skype calls with old college roommates and friends.