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German Historical Museum and the DDR Museum

Berlin


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I had two main destinations planned for today - the German Historical Museum and the DDR Museum, which lie on each side of Museum Island - but on my way there I stopped at the St Marienkirche, a redbrick Gothic church which dates back to the 13th century but was heavily damaged by Allied bombing in WWII and was therefore restored in the 1950s by East Germany.

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Then I crossed the Spree and Museum Island, passing the Dom and the Lustgarten.

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The German Historical Museum was absolutely excellent; I highly recommend it. It spans a total of 1500 years of German history up until soon after German reunification. My favourite artifacts were:

A full suit of medieval plate armour, brandishing a sword while seated on a horse wearing a full suit of horse armour.

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Medieval painted shields made of wood, leather and metal (there was a full row of cases of them; my photo is of only one section.)

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An oliphant, an ivory hunting horn used by the high nobility during a hunt. The ornamentation suggests that it was manufactured in an Islamic country and imported to the West. Dates from 1000 AD.

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A medieval abacus from Northern Italy.

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The 'Grüninger Hand', a 15th century prosthetic arm probably made for a high-ranking knight who had lost his right lower arm in battle. Its age and relative sophistication makes it very rare; it allowed the wearer to bring his artificial elbow into six different positions and move his fingers together by pressing a button.

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Woodcuts from a book of traditional women's costumes published in Nuremberg in 1586, meant to complement a book on craftsmen's trades.

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A birdlike plague-doctor's mask and gown. Although this is the famous image most people have in mind when they think of the plague in early modern Europe, there are apparently only three or four surviving examples of what the plague-doctors wore.

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A 1740 map of North and South America with 30 scenes of the discovery of the Americas.

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Paintings of a court dwarf and the composer Georg Friedrich Handel, from 1680 and 1733 respectively.

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An 18th century gaming table with three games: billiards, Japanese billiards (a precursor of modern pinball) and cannons.

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Napoleon Buonaparte's bicorne hat and sword from the Battle of Waterloo.

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While I was in the museum the clouds had cleared up and it was nice and sunny as I walked back past the Lustgarten and Dom to the DDR Museum. I had a great view of the famous Berlin television tower.

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The DDR Museum took me in an entertaining and fascinating journey through daily life within socialist East Germany during the Cold War. I learned about what kindergarten, school and university was like, common jobs and how much you could earn for each one, and what kind of holidays people took (nudist ones appear to have been especially popular.) I got to look at an original, iconic Trabant P601 car (children can go on simulated drives) and walk round a reconstructed, fully furnished tower block flat. In the latter's living room I saw the TV programme for this day in 1984.

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Something still fascinating, but sobering and sinister rather than entertaining, was the information and exhibits relating to the surveillance citizens were placed under by the Stasi (secret police).

After leaving the museum I stopped at a supermarket to pick up a couple of savoury bakery items and a tub of creme caramel to have for dinner later, and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening relaxing at the hostel.

Posted by 3Traveller 03:40 Archived in Germany Tagged churches germany museum berlin cathedral Comments (0)

Back in Graz

Deutschlandsberg and Graz


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It was another beautiful sunny day as I said goodbye to Deutschlandsberg and took the train back to Graz.

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I'm at A&O Hostel Graz Hauptbahnhof, where I stayed last Saturday. Since I got back here I've had another lovely walk around the historic centre, taking in the sunshine, beautiful architecture and the view from the Murinsel, a tiny manmade island on the river Mur.

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I also went to the Dom, admired the Gothic and Baroque interior and lit a candle.

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I also admired a fresco on one of the exterior walls which is kept behind glass because of its historical importance; although religious in theme, it contains the earliest depiction of the city of Graz. Unfortunately my photos of it didn't turn out well due to the reflections on the glass.

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Tomorrow I spend the night in Klagenfurt before I fly to Hamburg and take the train from there to Lübeck on Sunday.

Posted by 3Traveller 02:28 Archived in Austria Tagged bridges art trains austria cathedral hostel graz unesco_world_heritage_site deutschlandsberg Comments (2)

UNESCO World Heritage Site: Historic Centre of Vienna

The start of a six-week trip through Austria and northern Germany with a side trip to Slovenia and ending in Prague.


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In Vienna for a group induction/ training weekend before moving on to my teaching destination for the next week.

The view from my hotel room:

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Due to the nature of the weekend there wasn't much time to see the city, but very early this morning, after breakfast, I managed a walk into the historic centre. The sun was rising and the sky was clear; one of those fresh and crisp winter mornings I really love. A thrill of excitement ran through me as I walked the almost-empty streets and admired the architecture.

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Once in the inner town I came across a covered pathway with windows showing a yard with white horses looking out of stalls. I realised that they were some of the famous white Lipizzaner horses of the Spanish Riding School. While I was watching a girl came round with a wheelbarrow to muck them out.

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When I got to the Stephansdom I went inside, though as a tourist most of it was closed off to me as Mass was just starting.

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I stayed for a bit anyway, looking at the bit I was allowed into and lighting a candle, before exiting and walking round the outside. I'm not too keen on the green, red and black patterned tiled roof, but I like the rest of it. The view from the tower was amazing - definitely worth the climb, which was probably one of the highest sets of spiral steps I've been up!

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There was no time over the weekend to go to any museums, but yesterday evening I went to the historic Seven Stars brewery/pub - definitely a place I'll be returning to when in Vienna in the future! It was very atmospheric inside and the cheese & bacon gnocchi I tried was lovely. There was a list of all the different kinds of schnapps on offer - decided to give them a miss on this occasion but will definitely be giving them a try over the next few weeks!

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Speaking of food, on Friday evening at a different place I had a tasty clear beef broth with a semolina dumpling plus a side of Swabian pasta - I thought it might come with vegetables, but it didn't. Both that and the broth were still really nice, though the broth was smaller than I expected.

When I got back from the historic centre it was time to pack up, check out and head off to the station to my first teaching destination...

Posted by 3Traveller 10:34 Archived in Austria Tagged vienna hotel austria cathedral brewery explorations unesco_world_heritage_site austrian_cuisine Comments (0)

Thracian treasure, wonderful pizza

Sofia


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After resting a while in our room after our Mount Vitosha excursion, we headed out to the Archaeological Museum, because Dave hadn't been before at all and I hadn't been since October so I wanted to see if a) the wonderful Thracian treasure troves were still there and b) if the temporary exhibition had changed. We went there via the amazing pizza place and also the Rotonda Church of St George.
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It was very interesting for me to get another look at everything, and Dave was impressed by the Thracian treasure in particular. At first we thought the Thracian treasure room was closed off, but then we realised that although the door was closed, people were actually still allowed in. I couldn't get over how amazing a lot of the craftsmanship was. The burial masks, helmets, jewellery, drinking horns, wreaths of almost paper-thin gold leaves... just absolutely stunning.

The temporary exhibition room now had an interesting exhibition of the finds from a Roman Thracian villa. It included two of the finest pieces of Roman glassware ever found (according to the blurb - they did indeed look very fine), plus an assortment of other things; an extraordinarily well preserved and engraved helmet, a stone with a carving of a Thracian Horseman, some coins, metal tools and other household objects.

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We headed back to the main part of the hostel then, though we looked into the Sveta Nedelya Cathedral on the way. The scaffolding that had been along the whole of one wall ever since I first saw it (last October) has been taken down now, so the results of the fresco cleaning that had been going on there could clearly be seen.

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Back at the hostel we played some games of pool and had our free dinner before returning to our room.

We've got an early start tomorrow - our bus to Veliko Tarnovo leaves at 09.00 - so I'd better be off now for a relatively early night.

Posted by 3Traveller 08:23 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged museum cathedral hostel dave sofia bulgaria orthodox_church roman_remains Comments (0)

Dave arrives - the Black Sea beckons!

Sofia


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Dave was due to arrive late this evening - he's going to be with me for the coming week. Through a combination of school holiday, national public holidays, my usual days off and two days of booked holiday, including yesterday and Thursday I have a total of 11 days off. A perfect time to make a trip to the Black Sea coast!

He didn't arrive until past 9 pm, so I had the whole day in Sofia with Kate first. While we walked around town going to various different places, Andrew wanted to go to the Military Museum, which is quite a way out of town, so he set off to walk there.

Kate and I went out twice, actually. The first time, I escorted her to the Archaeological Museum, wandering past the 4th century Rotunda Church of St George on our way. We admired the outside and the ancient ruins of the Roman city of Serdica that are next to it, but decided to come back later in the day to explore properly. Kate then went inside the Archaeological Museum, particularly keen to see the room of Thracian gold Mum, Emma and I had all recommended to her. Unfortunately for her, that exhibition had been taken down, but she enjoyed the other exhibitions.

While she was inside, I admired the tulips outside and then walked to the central bus station to buy mine and Dave's tickets to Veliko Tarnovo tomorrow. It's a public holiday weekend, so I didn't want to risk the chance of leaving it until tomorrow and then the tickets selling out before I get there. After buying the tickets successfully I walked back to the hostel, where I met back up with Kate. She wrote a couple of postcards before we set off again on our next excursion.

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Our first stop (other than to grab slices of pizza for lunch) was the post office, where she got stamps for the postcards she'd just written. Our next port of call was the Rotunda. It is the oldest building in Sofia and looks incredible, the ancient red bricks, the unusual shape and the Roman ruins behind it contrasting greatly with the much more modern hotel and President's building that surround it. I visited this last October with Mum, but Kate hadn't been before.

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We decided to go inside, and were glad that we did because we caught the end of a service in what were extremely atmospheric surroundings. The priest and congregation were facing away from us, with the priest in a central position facing a table and the congregation standing on two sides, in a semi-circle with an small aisle down the middle. The priest was chanting something that sounded like plainsong. At first we wondered what he was doing, because the table had every-day foods and other objects on it, but then I noticed that he seemed to be splashing holy water over the items so I think he must have been blessing it all. Soon after that the service ended, the table was moved to the side and the congregation came up and started picking up items that we presumed were theirs. People had been going in and out of the church while we were watching from the door, by the way, so we don't think we were intruding at all.

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We then carried on to the St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, popping into a Russian Orthodox church on our way just to see what it was like. We also looked round the icon and handicraft / antiques market in front of the cathedral.

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The cathedral is the one of the biggest Orthodox cathedrals in the world and contains a small case of Alexander Nevsky's relics.

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As with the relic at the church we visited on our first day in Sofia, Kate regretted looking at it! After that I took Kate to the crypt, which has been turned into a gallery holding the largest collection of Orthodox icons in Europe. I'd been there before so I waited outside while Kate paid to go in.

When she emerged we walked to the Sveta Sofia Church nearby, which gave the city of Sofia its name back in the 14th century and is the second-oldest church in Sofia after the Rotunda. As we walked round to the front entrance we passed the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the eternal flame. I went to this church back in October with Mum too, and had told Kate all about the wonderful interior and the extensive Roman ruins in the crypt, so she was particularly interested to visit. She wasn't disappointed! The church and its predecessor churches were built on top of the necropolis of the Roman city of Serdica, and restoration work on the remains have opened up a walkway under the church, so you can wander round and see intact Roman tombs (some with frescoes) and early Christian mosaics. The main part of the church is interesting, too, because unlike all the other Bulgarian Orthodox churches we've been in it doesn't have any frescoes in it at all, just thin bricks with areas of white plaster. Apparently it did have frescoes originally, but they were destroyed when the church became a mosque in Ottoman times and when the building was converted back into a church again new frescoes weren't created.

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We had a quiet evening in once we'd got back. Andrew had arrived back safely from the Military Museum earlier. I checked back in (I was in a dorm last night but was moving into a private room with Dave tonight). We had our free dinner at the hostel and then after a while after that, I took a bus to the airport to pick Dave up! A taxi back to the hostel and I took Dave to our double room - which turned out to be exactly the same one we had when we were here at Christmas. At Hostel Mostel the private rooms are in separate buildings from the rest of the hostel.

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Posted by 3Traveller 14:40 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged art market airport museum cathedral hostel buses sisters dave sofia bulgaria icons explorations orthodox_church roman_remains Comments (0)

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