Showing posts from May, 2012


as my friend and i were wandering through the city, we decided to check out the residenz, which was the former residence of the bavarian kings.  i cannot believe that it was originally built in the late 1300s.  it was definitely built in pieces though, which was obvious reviewing the layout of the building.  
it took us about 20 minutes to find the entrance to the building leading us through many, many courtyards.  the entrance was very poorly labeled.  and no, this was not a case of us not understanding german!  by the time we found the entrance, it was 505.  we had to spend about 5 minutes trying to convince the guard to let us in.  they supposedly close entrance an hour early, since it closes at 6.  really?  wow.  that is something.  i understand closing admission a half hour early, but an hour early (and of course, they were closed the next day).
the rooms are beautiful.  we were quite happy we begged to let us in.  the antiquarium was breathtaking.  i have never been to versailles…

alte pinakothek

the last stop on my painting list was the alte pinakothek.  i was lucky that my friend, patricia from school, decided she would join me at the museum.  the museum was pretty close to my hostel, so we just walked over from there.  

the museum has a reduced admission price for sundays, which was awesome.  it was just a EUR to get in.  ironically, this was also the only museum where i was asked to show that i had paid about halfway through our visit!  

they had a number of great paintings.  again, no descriptions of the art except on two paintings.  perhaps this is something is expected or the norm in germany.  i am not really sure since i only went to two art museums in germany.  patricia and i did have a difficult to find the "gems" (according to my guidebook) in the collection.  we did notice there was a lot of glare on the paintings.  at times, it was really difficult to see parts of the painting.  we also wished they had kept some of the original names like the pieta by bott…


okay, last, but definitely not least, was my stop in munich, germany!  i decided to fly to munich since it ended up being cheaper, but it also gave me a full two days in munich!  
on the first day, i was lucky enough to go to the  - alte pinakothek - residenz we also checked out the hofbrauhaus, the original one!
then on monday, i covered some ground heading to the schloss nymphenberg seeing all of the outpost buildings as well.  i then headed to the deutsches museum, which is a large natural history museum.  
four more posts to go!

hamburger kunsthalle

my main reason for visiting hamburg was the hamburg kunsthalle.  the museum had 24 paintings on the masterful list of 1001 paintings!  pretty impressive!  that number puts it as the #6 museum on my list for quantity behind the likes of the louvre, uffizi, and natinoal gallery.  obviously, that made the museum a must visit on my trip!

the museum has a slightly awkward layout since it has two main entrances, which were not connected (from what i could find) on the first floor, just the second floor.  the second floor was very well laid out and easy to navigate.  some of the rooms had the corresponding number on the door frame, which was helpful.  i wish all of them had it.  i am not 100% sure i saw it all, mostly unsure about paintings on the first floor.

the collection was pretty fantastic.  it was about a medium sized museum and was manageable in an afternoon.  the paintings are grouped into large categories according to style.  only one room had descriptions of the art, which were tra…

saint nikolai memorial

now moving onto hamburg, germany from amsterdam!  i really only had one day of sightseeing in hamburg, so i tried to make the most out of it.  my gracious host in hamburg recommended that i try to go to the saint nikolai memorial.  the admission cost (like under 4 EUR) was very reasonable, which included a small museum under a glass pyramid like the louvre as well as the elevator ride to the top of the steeple.  

the church was first built in 1335, but underwent a series of renovations throughout its history.  during world war II, the church sustained pretty heavy bombing as the allied forces use the church as the navigation point for the city.  after the war, it was decided not to repair the damages, but instead leave it as a memorial to war and the destruction it causes.

the museum was nice.  i liked the overview of the bombings that occurred during world war ii although the order in the museum seemed slightly convoluted.  it laid very clear the destruction that nazi germany razed ont…


my last stop in amsterdam before heading to hamburg was the rijksmuseum.  this is yet another museum under construction with a completion date of sometime in 2013.  the museum is over 200 years old. they have whittled down a museum about the size of the louvre into eleven rooms of the masterpieces.  do not worry though, they are still charging full admission for the museum.  on one hand, i think the whittling down is great and therefore they should charge full price.  i could easily find the ten masterpieces that my guidebook recommended.  i was not exhausted after viewing the art.  on the other hand, the museum is usually so large, my guidebook warns "be prepared: this is a difficult museum to get to grips with in a single visit."  it did not even put that warning on the louvre!  how can you charge full price when i am seeing probably less than 10% of the entire collection?
so, i guess that is actually a wash. 
the museum was very crowded, but when i left the museum i coul…

coster diamonds

i decided to quickly hop into coster diamonds before heading into the rijksmuseum, which is just across the street.  coster diamonds has been in the business since 1846 and operates in amsterdam, the diamond capital of the world.

inside the museum, it steps you through the process of polishing a diamond, what to look for and points out some of coster diamonds' famous cuts.  coster recently invented (or accomplished) a new cut, the royal 201.  it is pretty magnificent.  check it out compared to a diamond of the same size and quality of a "brillant" cut.

the exhibit was just very informative as someone who knows very little about diamonds.  this chart was particularly helpful!

one of their most famous diamonds is in the crown jewels of england.  they have a replica of it in the museum.

overall, i gave it a "B," which for most museums would mean "ehh, if you have a lot of extra time, go for it."  in this case, though, it means something a little different.  …

museum amstelkring

on the day of the ascention, i went to the museum amstelkring, also known as "our lord in the attic" church.  the church is over 400 years older.  unfortunately, the red light district has encroached on the little church.  it is about half a block away, which is slightly ironic!  the church is undergoing renovations.
this museum had no signage, just an audio guide to follow along.  it uses a pretty effective method.  the museum employee set it up to the proper language, point to a special sign in each room, and then listen.  it was also included in the ticket price. 
it was in this audio that it was emphasized how "lucky" we were to see the church under renovation.   it was a little annoying.  i do not think so.  they kept mentioning that we could see it in the "original state."  i am not really sure what they meant by this.  this was not like "the original state" when it was under construction.  i am also getting a little cranky about muse…

amsterdams historisch museum

my next stop in amsterdam was the amsterdams historisch museum.  my guidebook recommended that i go to this museum first to really understand amsterdam.  unfortunately, i could not quite do that, but it still provided some perspective on the city.  this museum has the same mission and objective as the museum of london, but unfortunately, was not as good as that museum.

from a logistics and layout perspective, this museum was a mess.  it was hard to find entrance, believe it or not.  i literally walked right past it at one point and did not realize that is where i was supposed to go in.  i tried to do the museum in order since it is supposed to be reviewed chronologically.  unfortunately, that did not happen since it was so difficult to follow the order, so that was frustrating.  i could not figure out where i was half the time in the map that was given in the pamphlet or the one in my guidebook.  i was so lost that to leave the museum, i basically had to retrace my steps through the en…

anne frank house

the only place i bought a ticket in advance was the anne frank house.  the tickets seem to let people in at 20 minute intervals.  one of the girls in the hostel recommended going late afternoon.  she said that there was not a line then.  so, it may be similar to the case of the van gogh museum.  this was one of the few museums that opened at 9 and it seems like getting there then would make sense.  there was a huge difference in the line between 940 when i went in and 1030 when i came out.

the museum is a very well guided tour.  basically follow the person in front of you.  the pamphlet you receive when you walk in was very informative.  all notes of the museum were basically in the brochure that they give you when you walk in.  it was difficult to hear the audio at times since they had little headphones with a bunch of languages in each room.  you could hear the audio through the headphones that were not in use. 

the museum was very well done although seemed a little lacking at times …

van gogh museum

my first stop in amsterdam was at the van gogh museum.  the museum was literally a half block away from my hostel, conveniently the van gogh hostel.  i went in the late afternoon and it had no line.  every other time i walked by the museum, it had a huge line down the block.  the museum is not large, so i would recommend either checking it out in the afternoon or buying a ticket for a particular time slot.  i felt that the museum was a little expensive for what it was.  the museum cost more than the louvre, which seemed a little silly as far as relative value.  the museum was founded by van gogh's nephew.

i was in the museum for a little over an hour, but really could have used about 1.5 hours.  i made it through the main portion of the museum of van gogh's works, but would have liked to see the special exhibits.
the first floor, which is really the second floor, has the main collection.  i had not realized that van gogh only painted for only about eight years.  it was very spa…


phew!  all of the paris posts are finally written!  now moving onto amsterdam!  i spent one full day and two half days in amsterdam.  

my first afternoon, i went to the van gogh museum.

my full day was started at the anne frank house followed by the amsterdam historical museum.  after the museum, i went to the museum amstelkring, which was a secret catholic church in an attic of the house (well, three actually).  

on my short morning, i went to the coster diamond museum and the rijksmuseum.

here the posts come!


in my last few hours in paris, i explored the montmarte area and the first stop was the sacre-coeur.  my hostel in paris was a few minutes from the basilica.  so, i headed over first thing in the morning.   

the steps are legendary.  it is the highest point in paris.  here is a picture of the basilica from the arc de triomphe.  as you can see, it is quite prominent in the skyline.

the steps up to the basilica seemed slightly daunting after my 800 step day the day before.  

it is a great view from the top.  unfortunately, a large tree blocks the eiffel tower!  i did not climb up to the top of the church although the view is supposed to be fantastic.  the inside of the basilica is beautiful.  inside the church, no cameras are allowed.  the interior is not as spectacular as the other two churches, but the outside and view seem to trump that consideration.  none of the church descriptions were in english, unfortunately. 

the statues on the top of the building are beautiful.  the statue of c…

musee rodin

i decided to stop at the musee rodin after the musee d'orsay.  they are about a ten minute walk apart.  the musee rodin is also included on the museum pass and is very close to the hotel des invalides, which was considered a must-see by my guidebook.  

i walked right in and got my ticket, but then had to wait to actually getting in the museum.  they were very strict about capacity and the space was really not that large.  while unhappy waiting outside in the rain, i did appreciate this once i was in the museum.  it was pretty easy to get around and see what i wanted to see without dealing with a packed house.  

the museum is currently being refurbished.  they had set up a temporary exhibit in its place using about half of the museum space.  we saw rodin's best pieces in chronological order of creation.  i thought they did a great job selecting the best overall pieces from his portfolio.  i could not tell that we were really missing anything of very high value.  the museum did a…

arc de triomphe

my last stop on my busy day in paris was to stop at the arc de triomphe.  i walked up the champs-elysées to get the full experience.  i was banking on the elevator up the arc, but of course, it was broken.  i decided to climb up since it was included in the museum pass.

my guidebook recommended visiting the arc in the morning, but i got there around 745.  i will admit that the stone work on the "front" was more difficult to see, but the "back" was much easier to see.  so, i think early in the morning or the end of the day may be the best.  

i decided to climb up anyways to get the fantastic view.  at the top, there is a museum.  "museum" is a little bit of a stretch, so do not climb up to learn more about the arc de triomphe.  climb for the view.  personally, i liked being able to see the eiffel tower.  it was a fantastic view.  the 360 panoramic from the top was great.  the sky had finally cleared up and i got to see the beautiful blue sky.

the view was spe…

crypte archeologique

i had a quick stop at the crypte archeologique.  it was a very convenient way to avoid the first quick down pour.  i got in free with the museum pass, which was turning out to be a good investment already.  i did have a few problems finding the actual crypt.  it was not very well marked.  in the front of notre dame at the street, there is a wide staircase, which leads down to the entrance of the museum. 

the crypt was not a crypt in the traditional sense (or at least the type i usually think of).  it did not hold any bodies or graves.  it was just building foundations from pre-roman and roman times.  the crypt was discovered when they were building an underground parking garage in front of notre dame. 

the museum was basically one large room that had information on the outside walls with the remains in the middle of the room.  

the museum did not translate all of the text from the exhibits to english, but did have these large handouts with some basic translations to get the basic unders…

notre dame

one of the required stops in paris is notre dame.  i decided to climb to the top since i had the museum pass for the tour to the top.  the church does not charge admission. 
the first thing i did at notre dame was walk around to the back of the church.  it was spectacular.  i cannot believe that i almost missed it!  i was looking for the line to go up to the towers in notre dame and ended up basically walking around the building.  the back of the church is just as spectacular as the front!  it has a lot more large interest.  the front is very detailed, but it is more intricate details. 
as you can see from these pictures, it was just before the storm hit.  if you look at the sky in the pictures below, it is pretty different from this beautiful blue!

i had to wait about a half hour to climb notre dame.  it was well worth the wait.  please note that it is about 400 steps up to the top with no handicap access.  i got in line around 1030 and was let up around 1105.  they allow people to …