Northern Germany, Prague, & Amsterdam

(2008-09) This was a Christmas-to-New Years trip that was conceived during the heat of a Florida July. We flew into Amsterdam, rented a car and headed for Germany. First stop was the Hanseatic city of BREMEN.

The sun was out, so we enjoyed our walk into town looking at the big houses on one side and the River Weser on the other. We passed the cultural complex situated on the edge of a park that was once the moat around the city walls and then came to The Schnoor. Schnoorviertel is the Old Town; where the oldest buildings date from the 15th century, and most are 17th and 18th.

After wandering the narrow streets lined with shops and Art galleries, we emerged on the other side and were soon in the Marketplatz, home of St. Petri Dom, the Rathaus and one of Bremen’s most famous residents: the statue of Roland. Erected in 1404, it is 18 feet tall and made of sandstone. His name comes from a vassal of emperor Charlemagne, Duke Roland of Brittany, who in 778 lost his life in the Pyrenees fighting with the Basques. There was also a very nice Christmas Market, where we grabbed a lovely bowl of lentil soup for lunch.

Other famous residents were found across the square: Die Stadtmusikanten, the renown depiction of the Bremen Town Musicians, donkey, dog, cat and rooster – the stars of the Grimm Brothers fairytale.  The bronze sculpture was created in 1951 by the artist Gerhard Marcks.  Right next door was St. Peter’s cathedral, 13th century. The interior was painted stone in red, blue and yellow. Very attractive.

From there it was a short walk to the entrance of the Böttcherstrasse. A narrow alley lined with craftsmen, it was given its name in the Middle Ages when it was home to the barrel makers and coopers. The Lichtbringer (below) by Bernhard Hoetger was the large gold relief which marks the entrance.

Among the sights to be seen here were the Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum and the Roselius House Museum. Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) was one of the most important German expressionist painters and Ludwig Roselius was an art collector and businessman who invented decaffeinated coffee. It was he who commissioned artists to transform the old street in the 1920’s.

Girl with a Wreath of Flowers, 1902-03

The House of Atlantis was a Hilton hotel in the Böttcherstrasse and home of The Sky Room or Himmelssaal. The attraction here was the blue glass ceiling, as well as the outstanding design and decor.

Outside there was a small square with a carillon of thirty Meissen bells made of porcelain by Lutz Dietze. They ring at noon, three & six while the story of famous Bremen seamen was displayed on rotating, carved boards designed by Hoetger. Lutz Dietze was a craftsman with Meissen specializing in bells until early in the war, when he was thrown into prison by the Nazis. Meissen arranged to have him released so that he could complete making the set of bells. He was then returned to a concentration camp where he died. They are very beautiful to hear.  Click here for video.

Another outstanding Christmas Market was going at the Schlachte, the old harbor, turned upscale riverside shopping district. For the holiday it was a medieval shopping mall with stalls offering candy, candles, and more from the olden days. We heard a most unusual group of Mongolian musicians.  Click here for video.

We then crossed a bridge to an island in the middle of the river and home to the Neues Museum Weserburg, which was the largest museum of contemporary art in Germany. One of the featured displays in this reclaimed coffee factory was of large photos of scantily clad women by Helmut Newton. There was a display in the “attic” consisting of different sizes of speakers. They had no sound. Appropriately, admission included an espresso at the end of the visit.

We walked all the way across the city in search of the Übersee Museum. While this was the Bremen city museum, there were often exhibitions of Art. They had a display about the American West featuring a portrait of Sitting Bull when we were there. The museum looked out onto Bahnhofplatz, where we found another Christmas market in front of the fine old train station.

It was late, but we thought we’d stop at the Kunsthalle to check on the schedule for the next day. That’s when we learned that the museum had just closed for the next two years. (Note: this was in 2007 and the museum is now scheduled to reopen 2010/2011.)  Kunsthalle’s art collection includes paintings and sculptures dating from the 15th century to the present. The museum’s best holdings are of the German Expressionists and French Impressionists.

Liegende Quellnymphe by Lucas Cranach the Elder

Next door in the cultural complex is the Bildhauermuseum/Gerhard-Marcks-Haus. After hearing of our disappointment at finding the Kunsthalle closed, we were invited in to look at the artwork gratis. This elegant sanctuary of contemporary sculpture displayed rotating exhibits inside and a peaceful sculpture garden with works by Marcks (1889-1981). (Creator of Bremen’s famous Musikanten, remember?)

So ended our sojourn in Bremen. I have to admit, we did not try a local delicacy called Rollos (a cross between burrito and lahmacun (turkish pizza) or the fish cakes with green sauce, as it appears all the fish cakes we saw were deep fried to death. Though we did enjoy some herring, the emblematic fish of the Hanseatic League. Click here for more photos from Bremen:

It was a short drive to HAMBURG for our next adventures. Upon arrival we bought a Hamburg Pass, which included unlimited transport for three days, plus discounts. We used our first discount that evening at the Kunsthalle und Gallerie der Gegenwart which was right next to the train station.

The whole spectrum of periods and styles - lots of German painters, a few Cranachs, lots of religious, German Expressionists; from 13th century to contemporary, featuring work by Richard Serra, Francis Bacon and others. I liked the mosquitoes over the staircase, and there was a good painting by Paula Robeson.

Then we, of course, went to the Christmas market across the street, along the Kirschenalle. Up one lane and down another. I think it was actually more than one market pushed together. And though it was Sunday night, the atmosphere was as lively as Bremen, with fewer families. We saw some good Cossak singers serenading the crowds. Click here for video.

On tv that night we recognized some animated art with cartoon called “Bernard die Eisbarren” and then “Bernd das Brot.” Both good. Bernie the Polarbear goes from almost idiotic joyful happiness to being an angry growling monster. And how can you resist an adventurous loaf of bread? We never saw them again on our trip.

One of our non-Art expeditions actually was about Art, because Marie wanted to see live polar bears to help her with paintings that she did for a show in Gainesville. We began at Hagenbeck Tiergarten, in the NW part of town. We got a small discount with the card and although it was pretty cold, there were other visitors at the zoo. And while we found the space that was assigned to polar bears, there were none. Lots of grizzlies, however, and flamingos.

And I found the old art nouveau entrance from 1907 when the Hagenbeck family opened the park. They continued to add to their gardens with bronzes from the Orient, totem poles from the Pacific Northwest, and creating special habitats. In 1909, life-sized dinosaurs were sculpted and there have been the recent additions like the Sala Thai on Burma pond and Nepalese pagoda temple above the new entrance. There were often exhibitions by animal artists.

Even the U-Bahn stop across from the riverfront was a modern art creation named for the Landungsbrücken building. The River was the Elbe and the old market building was in the process of being renovated. We walked out to the floating dock and continued along the river past the many cruise boat offerings.

Since the sun made an early exit as we neared Christmas in this northerly clime, we took the U-Bahn to the Rathaus to check out the Christmas markets there as well as look at the decorations along the inner harbor. If you were not aware, there are lots of canals in Hamburg, many beginning at this basin. This was where the high end shops and hotels were found. Click here for video of accordion band.

It was just a short walk to Bucerius Kunst Forum, which was supposed to be “a bridge between classical and modern art.” Guest curators were commissioned to design and develop four exhibitions each year. There were two temporary exhibits when we were there, almost everything from 15th & 16th centuries in the two smallish rooms. The building featured very nice mosaic floors and columns.

Walked a few streets over to find the Reeperbahn, Hamburg’s “red light district.” Unlike Amsterdam, there were no prostitutes displayed in the store windows, just a bunch of toy stores, peep shows, and clubs. We did find a sidewalk sculpture commemorating the Beatles debut in Hamburg in one of those clubs.

There was also a Christmas market there, unlike the others. This market put the X in Xmas with special offerings of dildos, condoms, exotic this and erotic that. That about wraps up the Hamburg portion of the trip. Click here for more pictures of Hamburg. Now it was time to head for Berlin.

Again, it was not a long drive to BERLIN, and after finding our hotel, we hopped on a tram and began our explorations at the Alexanderplatz and its Christmas market. They are called Wienacht markets, here, and we saw more Cossak singers. Since we were not going to be taking on any museums that day, we saw the sights, like Unter den Linden, the magnificent boulevard with the center filled with a double row of Linden trees which runs from Museum Island to the Brandenberger Tor.

One in a series of city gates, Brandenberg Gate was built from 1788 to 1791 and after restoration, was one of the most recognizable landmarks in the World. One short block from there, along the eastern edge of the Tierpark, we found the Holocaust Memorial.

A large area (almost five acres) precisely covered with rows of rectangular blocks made of finished stone; width and length were always about four feet by ten feet, with the height ranging from two feet to fifteen feet and higher. They were separated by long straight paths of paving block that undulated from end to end.

It was created by Peter Eisenman and Buro Happold in 2003 and 2004. I’ve read that it was controversial, but we found it very moving.

Christmas Day on Museumsinsel - Museum Island - which was between Alexanderplatz and the Brandenberg Gate. There was lots of construction going on when we were there and we had some difficulty figuring out which building contained which collection and which was open.

Although the first exhibition hall on this part of the island in the River Spree was erected in 1797, and the design for the Altes Museum was completed in 1822 by Karl Friedrich Schinkel (built in 1830), it was in 1841 that Kaiser Wilhem IV dedicated the area to Art and Science. The Altes houses the Classical Antiquities collection, displaying some of its vast Greek and Roman holdings.

We went into the Altes Nationalgalerie, reopened in 2001, home of 19th Century Art; spanning from Classicism through Romanticism and Impressionism. The museum came into being when banker J.H.W. Wagener bequeathed his art collection in 1861. The building was completed in 1876, between the French Revolution and WWI, between Classicism and Secessionists, all with a heavy German slant.

The building grandiose, the collection a bit disappointing. Just three shows and again no permanent collections on display. There were a few names like: Cézanne, Monet, Manet, Pissaro, Corot, Goya and others, but not works of quality (at least in our opinions) and usually one painting by each artist. There was one painting that illustrated how a great granite bowl was ground out, and as we left Museum Island, I noticed that same granite bowl in front of the Pergamon Museum.

At the tip of Museum Island was the Bode Museum (1904), which contained the Classical sculpture collection and Numismatic collection. The Egyptian Museum and Museum of Prehistory and Early History were housed in the Neues Museum, which reopened in 2009. The collection was considered one of the best in Europe, with a famous bust of Nefertiti.

The largest building was the Pergamon, which houses three museums: 1) Collection of Classical Antiquities with Great Altar of Pergamon and the Gate of Ishtar; 2) Museum of the Ancient Near East, in the South Wing of the Pergamon; and 3) the Museum for Islamic Art was in the North Wing.

We headed to the Kulturforum complex over west of Potsdammerplatz. There we found the Neues National Gallery, a stunning 1968 glass building by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe designed to house Berlin's permanent exhibition of 20th century European visual art, with heavy German Expressionism.

There were two shows going on at the time: Jeff Koons, of the mylar water balloon animals, and Paul Klee.

Boxers by Keith Haring

Also in the Kulturforum was the Gemäldegalerie, which focused on medieval to 18th century Art. Lots of Cranachs, and wall after wall of religious Art. Probably the most ever. An uncountable number of Marys. As Marie said, “a great place for Christmas.” There were also Rembrandts, Titian, Fra Angelica, Breugel (and Cranach’s Breugel-like paintings). There were paintings by Cranach Jr., a Vermeer, several Bellini that M liked, and a couple of women artists. Finally, in the very last room of the entire museum, I found a couple by Botticelli. The museum was quite large and had nice molded wood benches in various nooks for resting.

We closed the place at six o’clock and then it was even colder. Discovered a concert of music right next door at Sankt Matthäus Kirche. Actually it was a service with music, a little period group of flute, viola, harp, and five to six women singing. Sometimes they were accompanied by an organ. The church was all white with Art hanging along the side galleries. On the back of the alter was a large silvery artwork. Also in front there was a very large Christmas tree decorated with real lit candles. There were lit candles throughout, even among the pews between the prayer books.

Next stop was the Sony Center near Potsdammerplatz. This was a large semi-covered space surrounded by glass buildings. Giant Lego characters welcomed us to the Christmas market. We found a small hut inside with inside seating (because it was still cold in the Sony Center) and got Glühwein and a bowl of soup. The lights were fun.

Walked up Unter den Linden with all the lights wound around the bare Linden limbs. There were still a few Wienacht markets open complete with Ferris wheel, tube slide, and skating rink.

Day after Christmas we visited Nikolasplatz, considered the old part of Berlin. We went right past the Christmas market in the Schlosspark in front of the Rathaus. In the center of the park-turned-Wienacht market was a monumental fountain featuring Neptune by R. Begas, surrounded by a donut shaped skating surface for the season. Nice carousels as well. Behind the Rathaus was Nikolas Viertel, supposed to be Medieval, but didn’t feel like it, except for the Nikolaskirche. In a small churchyard was a column with a caged bear on top and an over-sized sculpture of a woman. The church is from about 1230.

Took the U & S-bahns to the Zoo in search of polar bear models. On the way I spotted a large stainless steel horse sculpture from the train, so we hopped off to take some pics.

The station itself was very nice large contemporary; all glass like the Kennedy library. Four-armed supports for the train lines began on the bottom level and reach up. We could see down three levels. Very elegant design. Back on the train and around the West end of the Tierpark. We saw the Siegessäule down two or three spokes before the train got to the zoo.

Crowds were already pouring in when we got there, so we headed straight for the polar bear enclosures. First we found the habitat for the famous Knute (pronounced with a hard K), but he was curled up in a hole sleeping. So we explored. The habitats seem to be pretty nice, for what they were, and they had some ridiculous number of species living there. Interesting buildings, some with thatched roofs, lots of grass and vegetation, and the best playground.


Next to Knute was a single grizzly who was photogenic, then we found a pair of black bears, and beyond them was the other polar bear habitat where we found Mannfred, a terrific artist's model in M's opinion. When we went back to see Knute, he was awake.  At one year old, Knute lived alone and amused himself by chasing butterflies, other insects, and a couple of crows. Marie made lots of sketches of Knute and Mannfred.

Arctic Bear by Marie Hammer

It was a short walk to Breitscheidplatz and Kaiser Wilhelm Church – Gedächtniskirche. Consecrated in 1895, it was built by Kaiser Wilhelm II in honor of his grandfather. The church was bombed out during the war and kept as a ruin for a reminder and, as I understand it, an expression of culpability. Next to it was a chapel with blue glass walls and a much too big and gory gold crucifix. Right outside was a Christmas market which we dutifully inspected and ate at.

From there we took the S-bahn to Charlottenburg. Actually we went to Sophie-Charlotte-Platz and walked down to Charlottenburg, where the Schloss was. We walked the length of Schlosstrasse where at the end were two museums: the Bröhan Museum (nouveau and deco design items) and Sammlung Berggruen, a formerly private collection with a great variety.

We skipped the first. Heinz Berggruen’s collection offered works of classic modern Art (early 20th century), with special emphasis on Picasso, Klee, Giacometti and Matisse. There were three floors with a large spiral staircase in the center.

Giacometti sculpture with Sammlung Berggruen's elegant staircase

Across the street was Schloss Charlottenburg (ornate palace built in 1695) which served as temporary home to state collections during renovations at other museums. And in front of it was a Christmas market. We could tell right away that this was a bit more upscale than most with items not yet seen at others. There were also brass players playing music throughout the site, and they weren’t asking for tips.

Tried to get an earlier start since we had a long way to go to the flea market at Kennedyplatz which was in Schoenberg, south of the city. We took a series of trams to Warschauer station where we got on the U-1. Very funky station with small yellow cars, this was Berlin’s oldest line. Most of the trip was above ground, so we got to see more Berlin. The next thing we saw was this wild looking building up ahead and then we’re going through the building. Turns out this was a bridge over the River Spree called the Oberbaumbrücke; clad in brick, its unusual design includes twin-towers in a neo-Gothic style.

The Oberbaumbrücke was directly on the former east-west border, and during the existence of the Berlin Wall, it served as a pedestrian-only border crossing point. Along the West side of the river was the longest surviving segment of the Wall. We went back later to take pictures.

We changed trains at Nollendorfplatz for the U4, which had just two of the small yellow cars and the stations looked even older, more funky. We were underground until we pulled into the enclosed Rathaus Schoenburg station. When we stepped out of the train, the first thing we saw, through large mullioned windows was a schloss with gardens. After the short train left the station, directly back into the tunnel, we could see that the other side of the station also had large windows, but these faced a small pond with an even smaller reed marsh and some ducks. Beyond this was a large park.

It was just a short walk to the Rathaus and Kennedyplatz (named for JFK), where the flea market (trödelmarkt) was going on. Lots of good stuff; antiques and plenty of junk as well. I bought a Communist medal and Marie got some little copper things.

We took buses north into the Tierpark and Grosser Stern and the tall column at the center of the park called Siegessäule with the Golden Else on top. A Bismarck memorial faced the column.

The bus continued along the north edge of the park to the Tor/Gate. From there we walked up Freidrickstrasse to Tacheles. Or Kunsthaus Tacheles, if you please.

Built in 1908, Friedrichstraßenpassage originally was an early shopping mall, it received only minimal damage from bombing, yet demolition began in 1980. The final sections were slated to come down in April of 1990, but just two months before, the Künstlerinitiative Tacheles occupied the building. They tried to prevent the demolition through discussions and to make a long story short, a last-minute injunction was issued. "Tacheles" is a Yiddish word for "plain, honest, straightforward talk," as this was in the Jewish quarter. Originally it served as living and working place for artists from around the world. The walls were painted bright colors and sculptures went up in the courtyards. A very inhomogeneous group, as I understand it, moved in.

It was a graffiti-covered building now and we walked up a few flights of stairs without finding anything resembling Art, though by the front door someone was selling t-shirts and stuff. Went out back to what was euphemistically referred to as a “sculpture garden.” While there were a few pieces one could call sculpture, you could never refer to the trash-filled mud hole as a garden. The lease was up in 2008 and the future still unknown.

We headed south again cutting across the tip of Museum Island, the Bode Museum, and a woman playing an accordion.

Went through the Kunst und Nostalgiemarkt, an outdoor Art and Antique market, and came upon the Gendarmenmarkt, allegedly one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. For the holidays it was filled with a Christmas market, albeit a nice one which charged €1 admission.

Tried again at the Daimler museum, for which we rang the bell a few days earlier and still got no answer. And we gave up on finding the Guggenheim, as well. The Daimler Collection consists of 1,800 works by German and international artists focused on abstract and geometrical concepts. Deutsche Guggenheim, which celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2007, collaborates with the Guggenheim Foundation and Deutsche Bank, where the museum was located. Christmas may not be the best time to catch these venues.

On our way to out of town, we revisited the Oberbaumbrücke. From the bridge we could see Jonathon Borosky’s Molecule Man. The 100-foot high, aluminum sculpture was installed in the Spree and can be seen from far up and down river.

As I mention previously, beginning at the Western foot of the bridge is the longest remaining section of the Wall. It was called the East Side Gallery where hundreds of artists painted on segments. Most had been vandalized or grafittied over.

There were a few venues that we couldn’t get to either due to the season or limited time or they were closed. Such as Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum fur Gegenwart (contemporary art) or Freidrichswerdersche Kirche with 19th century sculptures. The Collection of Scharf-Gerstenberg is over 250 works by Surrealists and their forerunners: Piranesi, Goya, and Redon to Dali, Magritte, Max Ernst and Dubuffet, and was located in the Eastern Stuler building opposite the Charlottenburg Palace. And more, of course. Click here for more photos of Berlin.

It was just a couple of hours to DRESDEN, the legendary fairytale city that was firebombed at the end of WWII. We parked on the south side of the Elbe and quickly found ourselves wandering among the old Baroque edifices from when Dresden was the capitol of Saxony. Well, at least the reconstructed buildings. The bombing in February of 1945 was quite thorough.

We started by walking around on top of the Zwinger. Built 1710-28, originally designed as an orangery and a setting for court festivities, it was later used for exhibitions. The most perfect example of Late Baroque architecture in Germany. Construction of the Semper Gallery ran from 1847 to 1855.  Click here for video.

The Zwinger housed the Old Masters Picture Gallery, Armoury (Rüstkammer), Porcelain Collection, Zoological Museum, and sculpture collection. The large enclosed courtyard could be walked upon and offered a unique tour of the Zwinger. On one end was the carillon of Miessen bells that played every fifteen minutes. There were broad staircases inside and out, and fountains. Everything one might expect in an overly ornate building. The Palace and Hofkirche were across the street. The Opera House next door. Something to behold.

We went into the Picture Gallery – the only museum we would be interested in that was not under construction. The Gemaldegallerie has works of Rafael, Tizian, Rubens, Rembrandt, Velazquez, Cranach, Poussin and others. Then we ate soup at the museum café, which was very nice.

For fans of the famous European pruned trees, in a couple of places there were groves of trees with their branches intermingled. This must be an Art.

In the Augustusstrasse, at the back side of the Royal Mews, a 334-foot long mural decorated the wall. Known as The Procession of Princes or Fürstenzug in German, it depicted a parade of rulers of the House of Wettin since 1127. In total thirty-five princes, dukes, kings, etc. are shown on horseback while foot soldiers and other people accompany them. The name of each ruler was inscribed below his image. Interestingly, everyone was shown wearing the same period clothing styles.

The Procession of Princes was originally painted between 1870 and 1876 by Wilhelm Walter. When the stucco started to deteriorate it was replaced between 1906 and 1907 with almost 25,000 ceramic tiles from the porcelain manufacturer Meissen. The tiles miraculously survived the devastating aerial bombardment..

While we had some sunshine, we walked across the Augustusbrucke to the other side of the Elbe. More modern structures with the exception of the gold statue of Augustus the Strong. The days were very short and we were to be in Praha that night.

Once settled in, we walked from our hotel to the tram stop on the outskirts of PRAGUE/PRAHA. The tram-ride into town was always an interesting voyage. It went down long, fairly steep hills through an almost rural setting. Then it crossed the River Vitava, before going through residential neighborhoods. Past the exhibition center where the tram began to follow the Dukelských hrdinů. Past the four sculptures in front of the Veletrižní Paláce branch of the National Gallery. Then it followed along the river before taking a hard left over the river once more into the heart of downtown.

We got off at Karlův most (Charles Bridge) and walked across the Vitava River. Begun in 1357 when Charles IV was in charge, it was finished in the beginning of the 15th century connecting the Old Town and Prague Castle. There were artists hawking their wares on the bridge, a local tradition. Marie bought a piece of wire wrapped stone jewelry and we watched the tourists rub a statue and pose for pictures.

We caught the 22 tram on the hill leading up to Prague Castle. This took us along the river and back into the Old Town area. Eventually we just got off without knowing quite where we were. With luck we happened upon Wenceslas Square or Vaclavske namesti in Czech. Both sides of this boulevard, not really a square, were lined with huge Nouveau buildings, many hotels, and a Christmas market in the middle. The equestrian statue of Vaclavske stood at the other end, but it was too cold to walk down.

From the foot of Vaclavske we turned onto Na Příkopě Street, a very fashionable district. There we found the fabulously Art Nouveau or Secession-era Municipal House (Obecní dům, built 1906-1912). The most significant Czech painters and sculptors of the time participated in the decoration of the Municipal House. That list included: Jan Preisler, Mikoláš Aleš, Max Švabinský, František Ženíšek, Ladislav Šaloun, Josef Mařatka, Josef Václav Myslbek, and Alfons Mucha. It featured Prague's largest concert hall and a great Art Nouveau café. Kavárna Obecní dům was considered among the most beautiful cafes in Prague and right next door was the Powder Tower from 1475.

From here we explored the Old Town. Like other medieval cities, there were blocks and blocks of shops peddling souvenirs, clothing, Art, and more, so the window shopping was entertaining. We stopped in art galleries, glass shops, and priced beer offerings.

We got to Staromestske namesti with plenty of time to make it across the square to hear the chimes and watch the Astronomical Clock. But the plaza was filled with a Christmas market and a holiday crowd, and it took so long to cross, we only saw the end of the show. We came back another time. The Old Town Hall Astronomical Clock had a 230-foot-tall spire. The Clock kept several versions of time. Two outer rings showed the hour: Bohemian time (Gothic numbers, with hours counted from sunset) and our time (twenty-four Roman numerals, XII at the top being noon, XII at the bottom being midnight). Everything revolved around the earth (the fixed middle background, with Prague at the center). Arcing lines and moving spheres combined with the big hand (a sweeping golden sun) and the little hand (the moon showing various stages) to indicate the times of sunset and sunrise.

Four statues flanked the clock representing 15th-century Prague's four biggest worries: invasion (the Turk), death (skeleton), greed (a moneylender), and vanity (enjoying the mirror). At the top of the hour, 1) death tipped his hourglass and pulled the chord ringing the bell, 2) the windows opened and the twelve apostles paraded by acknowledging the onlookers, 3) the rooster crowed, and 4) the hour was rung.  Click here for video.

From there it was a nice walk down Parizska and the fine storefronts and past the old synagogue and graveyard. But it soon got too cold for strolling.

I know we haven’t seen a lot of traditional Art yet on this visit. But, as I’ve said, you have to expand your definition of Art in order to fully appreciate everything you see. Among other superlatives, Prague is a treasure chest of Nouveau architecture.

The next day we were taking a road trip to JABLONEC NAD NISOU, the "Bead Capitol of Europe." Straight north through flat farmland to pine-covered hills, this has been a center for glass since the 13th century.

We began at the Bead and Glass Museum. A Nouveau building that was completely modernized inside. Marie wanted me to go in with her, but after buying the tickets and climbing the stairs, it was apparent that there was nothing of interest to me. I found a comfortable stool by a window and I waited. We were about the only ones in the gallery when I sat down in the sunshine.  When I awoke, the room filled with people. I especially noticed the husbands dutifully following their wives. Nodding (as if they cared) when she would point out a particular piece of interest. M was very excited about the museum, which showed examples of the glass bead and jewelry styles over the years. A big map of the many glass workshops in the mountainous region was especially interesting. Some of them had been in business since the 1500’s.

But they should have a sports bar downstairs. There was some glass art on the top floor. Fortunately, there was no gift shop (just a couple of small display cases) so we were back on the streets of Jablonec. Because of the season, most of the innumerable bead shops were closed. One or two were apparently open but seemed to cater more to tourists than Artists. We eventually found just what Marie was looking for – a place with room after room filled with shelves holding bags, sacks, boxes, and casks of beads of every color. I should have waited in my fantasy sports bar. In the end Marie spent about 72 euros but she had a euphoric look about her.

New Year’s Eve. We were leaving the next day, so that was our last chance to see the Art museums up at Prague Castle. The courtyards were already filling up with tour groups when we arrived. I can’t imagine what it must be like in summer.

The National Gallery of Prague broke down like this: Old Masters were in the Sternberg Palace, St Agnes' Convent, and Schwarzenberg palace. Collection of 19th Century Art was at St George's Convent. Collection of Modern and Contemporary Art at Veletržní Palace, Kinský Palace, and the House at the Black Madonna while the Collection of Oriental Art was in the Zbraslav Chateau. These locations were spread out all over town.

We started with exhibitions in the Sternberg Palace, I believe it was called Baroque in Bohemia. There were some Cranachs, which is always nice.

Went out to St. Vitus Cathedral, which had several outstanding stained glass windows (made of Czech glass) including a 1931 creation by Alfons Mucha.

St. Georges’ Convent is also at Prague Castle so we dropped in to this very beautiful museum. Featured 19th-century collections, with emphasis on Bohemian artists.

Back down the hill, across Charlesbridge, and over to the Mucha Museum. Alfons Mucha (1860-1939) was a Czech Art Nouveau painter and decorative artist best known for his style and images of women. While the museum was small, it had several interesting pieces including numerous posters for Sarah Bernhardt.

Most interesting was the video about the Slav Epic project. Very briefly, this referred to Mucha’s series of paintings on twenty enormous canvases. Each related to a different story in Czech or Slavic history, and they have been on display in Moravsky Krumlov in the south Moravian region for the past forty-five years, though there was always talk of moving them to Prague.

Spent New Years day driving to AMSTERDAM and it took all day driving through a light snow. We had been to Amsterdam several times before and have visited the major museums, and a few of the minor as well. But we were meeting family so were revisiting some and discovering another.

Before our scheduled rendezvous, we tried to see a temporary exhibition from the now-closed Stedelijk Museum (contemporary art), but when we found the place, we also found that it was closed. The nearby library was delightful, however, with a whole floor for Art and music.


Took a No. 5 tram all the way south to the CoBrA Museum in Amstelveen. Founded by artists from the three cities in the name (Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam) in the 1940s who wished to rebel from the establishment. Blah, blah. We liked the museum and the art very much. Some of the best contemporary I’ve seen in a while. The museum is in a mixed residential neighborhood with shopping malls and Christmas markets.

The next day we went to the new Vincent van Gogh Museum. I don’t think it’s really “new” anymore, but we had the good fortune of seeing the old museum. That was of a square, spiral design, where you could follow the chronology of Vincent’s paintings, from the Potato eaters of Holland to the crows over the fields of France. The new museum was more in order by period rather than piece. One reason is because it is difficult to know precisely when a painting was completed. It was a nice enough building. Downstairs were paintings by various friends and influences. Of interest was a Vermeer borrowed from the Rijks.

We would soon figure out that not only was the Stedelijk closed, a good bit of Rijksmuseum was closed as well. There wasn’t near the amount of art we recalled from before; however, the three Vermeers and many Rembrandts were very nice to see.

That’s about it. Happy New Year and don't forget:

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