February 8, 2019

Austria - Vienna - Weltmuseum

Yes folks it's another ethnographic museum. Surprised? I think it is one of my pleasures whenever I travel to check these museums and so far I've come to a conclusion. Big museums such as the ones in London, Berlin, Geneva or Amsterdam and now this one in Vienna, host objects that have little to do with those specific countries and more with the ones they once ruled.

I am saying this, compared to the ethnographic museums in Budapest, Bucharest, Ljubljana, Riga, Krakow, Split and who knows how many others, where they exhibit bits and pieces from their way of life, their culture and their costumes. It somehow makes you wonder if there isn't a connection between this and the fact that UK, Germany, Nederlands and Austria have lost their celebrations costumes?

Bear with my logic for a moment. In Romania and all the countries around there are two types of costumes, the everyday one (casual) and the one for celebrations. The national costumes evolved from the celebrations ones, which were more decorated, made from more expensive fabrics and so on. In the countries around where I live now, Nederlands, France, Germany, Belgium and UK, the national costume evolved from the working costume, the everyday one.

Is it possible that they were so into conquering other cultures that they lost their own?

I know it's a harsh conclusion, but I would really, really want to see the Austrian way of life exhibited in Vienna and not, possibly, at a rural museum somewhere outside Vienna. And I do know what Weltmuseum means, in case you want to hold on to that.

Nevertheless, I've liked the museum. It is big and it takes a while to visit, but it is interesting. I will post just pictures of textiles as I was more drawn to those, but I did see a lot more objects :)

This is an intriguing piece, it is described as "sarong" from Malaysia and to me "sarong" is a traditional form of a skirt, but this one is very similar to "fota", a Romanian skirt, particularly with the ones from Muscel region. 

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February 4, 2019

Romania - Bucharest - The Minovici Folk Art Museum

Despite spending almost eight years in Bucharest, years in which I had a big interest in what we call "arta populara", folk art, I have never ever visited this museum until a few months ago. I knew it reopened in 2017, but I have no idea when it closed for restoration.

As it happened I've visited the museum on my five hours layover in Bucharest so if you happen to have the same, know that you have plenty of time to visit this museum as you will not exactly go inside Bucharest's terrific traffic. The museum is close to Miorița Fountain in the northern part of Bucharest.

If you are Romanian you might have heard of Mina Minovici, he was the founder of forensic research in Romania and the Institute of Forensic Medicine bears his name. Well the Folk Art Museum belonged to Nicolae Minovici, Mina's brother. He was a scientist in his own right and he worked close with his brother.

Although constructed in 1906, the museum first functioned as a private institution (his country home) and the objects were gathered between 1900 to 1941. So a lot of things to see, among others Romanian folk costumes, ceramics, common every day objects or glass painted icons.
I've liked the whole museum and I have to admit that if it were up to me I would have decorated my house in the same way :) but I do not live alone, so...
On the ground floor I've liked the fireplace with ceramic bricks painted with my beloved carnation pattern. Carnation and dark blue... I was smitten. I want one in my house :)
Also on the ground level they have a small collection of peasant attire, from which I've liked this one from Botosani, I think. I would have liked more explanation about those costumes, but that was just me.
Besides costumes the museum has a large collection of ceramic and apparently those are the oldest Saxon plates in Romania.
I've liked Nicolae Minovici's style of decorating the house. Seems that he came to this house when he wanted to get out of the hassle and bussle of Bucharest, to relax and reflect, but to me especially this place spoke about a time best kept forgotten in the past, when young city man would profit from not so well read or cultivated young peasant women. Which gets me to wonder if his real interest in peasant life and folk culture was not a little twisted and he would not profit from his position. We have a saying in Romanian "despre morti numai de bine", speak only in good terms about dead people, well I would not speak well about Nicolae Minovici so let's leave it like that.
Moving on, I liked this room a lot, even with its abundance of objects. For a minimalist, this room must look like hell, but I really liked it. Of course peasant houses would rarely look like that, but apparently Minovici was a collector and the house looks now exactly as it would look like during his life.
I was really impressed about the shapes of the ceramic jugs or plates in Minovici's collection. I've visited this museum after the one in Piatra Neamț so this particular shape made an impression on me.
I must have been a little bit critical about the museum, but know that I've liked it and would warmly recommend you visit it if you are also interested in peasant art. I think the entrance fee is minuscule so you have no reason not to visit.
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February 1, 2019

UK- Scotland - Edinburgh Castle

You know me, I have visited my fair share of castles. I've visited castles in Luxembourg, Germany, France, Belgium, Nederland, Romania, Ireland, Austria...well I've visited a lot of castles. And even if I'm not an expert in this field, at least aesthetically I can form an opinion. 

And when you see Edinburgh Castle from Princess Street, it does make an impression. And now let's face it, what is there to visit in Edinburgh, but the castle? So I think, the people who take care of the castle are cashing on that aspect, cause for me 20 pounds to visit a garrison is too much. I am sorry, I've tried not to be so focused on the price, as with the Guinness Storehouse, you pay 15 euro and that's it, but I can't.

Somehow it doesn't offer as much for the price you pay, and 20 pounds is just the entrance, 5 pounds for an audio-guide??? And then multiply that with two, so almost 50 pounds for two people, it's a lot. Even one of the most famous castles all over the world, the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, has 13 euros as an entrance fee. You see my point, there?

I think that line of thought stopped me from enjoying the castle, cause indeed if you want you can spent a whole day inside, the castle has a lot of rooms and attractions. So if you don't mind the price, enjoy our photos.

To see what else I've visited in Edinburgh please follow me on Instagram. The feed is on the right part of your screens if you read this post on a desktop, if not you can find me by searching @mademoiselle.ralu on Instagram.


January 28, 2019

UK - Scotland - Edinburgh in a nutshell - National Museum of Scotland

This is no travel blog so don't expect advises or points to check. We decided to do a city break in Edinburgh on November, we bought the plane tickets and booked a hotel and forgot about it over the holidays. Having a collie (Scottish Shepherd Dog) I always wondered how Scotland might look like. I somehow imagined it to be similar to Ireland and Edinburgh similar to Dublin. I was wrong.

Edinburgh is more stony than Dublin, you feel like you are constantly near a church, Edinburgh is grey even when it's not raining and I don't know why but Edinburgh reminded me of Luxembourg with that massive slope dividing the old and the new town. To me Edinburgh is more like Belfast than Dublin, but maybe I'm just confusing things right now.

So we had three full days in Edinburgh and the first thing we (read my husband) wanted to do was to visit the castle. You can't avoid it if you are a tourist in Edinburgh. Only after I've read about an interesting exhibition at the Scottish National Museum, we left the castle for the second day and we went there first. The museum is free and it has one or two temporary exhibitions which cost 10 euro. But be prepared to spent a whole day there. Organised on three floors and five sections, you have plenty of things to see whatever your interests are.
I of course went to the fashion section, which is called Art, Design and Fashion, but I've enjoyed also the World Cultures and Scottish History sections. There were also Science and Technology and Natural Sciences, but I only passed through them in a rush. 

The Fashion section introduced me to the Scottish Fashion through the ages. I got to touch the fabrics, listen to stories, see and photograph all the exhibited items. I think I've spent most of the time there. I was drawn to the temporary exhibition and I really want to talk more about that.
In every country I've visited when talking about embroidery, every pupil would produce a sample. I only saw them collected, documented and exhibited in Scotland, in Edinburgh. It is fascinating to see that those apparent unimportant pieces of fabric hold so many stories. Initially I thought that the samplers were made by young girls when they learned to do embroidery, but it turned out that they were also used to copy patterns and also to prove the girl's skills in an event of a marriage. They were framed and exhibited around the house and that lead me to something we call "păretare" they are pieces of fabric embroidered with sayings which mostly the Romanians in Transylvania used to decorate their home (mainly the kitchen). I think they were inspired by the Transylvanian Saxons, but I'm not sure.

Going back to the Scottish Samplers, I found the exhibition fascinating. So much dedication to date and trace them, so much care in placing them in frames and exhibit them and mostly in finding their story. They had samplers that belonged to the whole family, they had samplers made by boys, they knew the explanations of the buildings embroidered and of the patterns and animals. If you are just a little bit interested in embroidery, you will love the exhibition. Though a temporary one, we were told that the samplers will be donated to the museum, so who knows?
I also liked the room with Fabric of life, I think it was part of the World Cultures exhibition, but it showed textiles from around the world and their role in that specific place. It also had touching samples of fabric and interesting stories relating one part of the world with another through fashion. I loved the care and the connections made and I also think I've spent there a lot of time reading and studying all.
At the science and technology section I've discovered the cloned sheep, Dolly. I had no idea she was Scottish, but she was and after her death she was exhibited at the museum.
The museum has a cafe and two floors and I simply did not feel the time passing as I've marvelled at all the exhibits. It is an ethnographic museum, a history museum, a science museum all rolled into one and I can almost guaranty that you will like it.

I have to say that from Luxembourg, in January 2019, you can go to Edinburgh only by stopping in Amsterdam first, but I've heard that they plan a direct flight from Luxembourg to Edinburgh in the near future.

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January 25, 2019

UK - Scotland - Edinburgh - The sad story of Greyfriars Bobby

When I think about Scotland I think about collies, I can't help it, after spending my last twenty years with three of them. So imagine my disappointment when we went to Edinburgh and the only dogs existent on magnets, postcards and souvenirs were Scottish Terriers and Westies. Where are the collies?

Well, I have to hope they are on the magnets in the Highlands and also that someday I will brace myself and head there, but I found in Edinburgh something way more interesting. I knew about the statue ever since my interest in dogs was more than sharing my life with one. There was a time when I've dreamed of owning a dog farm, breeding collies, I went to dog shows...happy times. Back then the Internet was not present in our lives and I remember I found a book titled "Dog statues around the world" and Bobby's was one of them.
The tale is simple, Bobby was the dog of John Gray the farmer. Bobby was a terrier. When John died Bobby guarded his grave for fourteen years until his own death. In that time he became known by the local community and cared for and after his death (in 1872) an aristocrat erected the fountain and statue we see today. Bobby's grave is a few metres from his friend's and can be seen in the Greyfriars Cemetery in Edinburgh.
There is a pub between the cemetery and the statue so I think that during the day Bobby was well taken care for, but what I found strange was that the graves in the cemetery were next to the houses surrounding it, but not a few metres away, they were stuck to the houses, some on them part of the house. To me that is strange.
The statue and fountain are a well known attraction in Edinburgh and on the souvenir shops you can find the book with Bobby's story. I found it touching. I do know about a dog's devotion to his human friend, but fourteen years it's a lot. It's a dog's life. How old was Bobby when John died? Was he old enough for the bound to form? I better not check it and leave you with this beautiful and touching story.

Have a great weekend, my friends!

I hope you loved reading this post as much as I loved putting it together! Also, if you fancy keeping in contact with me, drop a line at on Facebook.