As part of a continuing series over the holidays, I have been publishing a series of top ten lists. Last week I published a list of the top ten travel destinations that you might not think of to visit. I also published a separate list of the top ten top travel destinations. Earlier this week, I posted Top Ten Lists for London and Paris. Next week, I will finally get around to publishing the Top Ten D&O Stories of 2018. But today, I am posting several additional top ten lists, just to round out the holiday season before returning to this blog’s more accustomed topics.
My first Top Ten list in today’s post is my list of the Top Ten Museums. Just a few introductory words about my list of museums. There are some museums that everyone knows are great. For example, no one needs me to tell them that the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and the British Museum and the National Gallery in London are top museums and worth seeing. So I have left those Museums off of the list, to leave so room for some other museums that may not be as well known. Here’s my list of top ten museums, starting with number 10. (Please also see my other Top Ten list, below, as well.)
10. Checkpoint Charlie Museum (Berlin): Berlin is such an interesting city. Even though it has been a number of years now since the city was divided into two parts, the Wall that divided the city continues to cast a shadow. A number of sections of the Wall have been carefully preserved. The area around Checkpoint Charlie (the crossing point for entry into the American sector of occupied Berlin) includes a number of different memorials about The Wall. The Checkpoint Charlie Museum provides an interesting overview of The Wall’s history – how events at the end of WW II (including the Berlin airlift), and post-war events, like the nuclear arms race, the Hungarian uprising, and the Cuban Missile crisis led to the building of The Wall. The museum includes an interesting and sometimes tragic account of the many escape attempts as well, and a moving display about the events the led to the Wall’s fall.
9. Seurasaari Open-Air Museum (Helsinki, Finland): The Seurasaari Musuem is an outdoor Finnish culture and heritage museum located in Helsinki. The Museum’s collection consists of a series of buildings, homes, and churches transported from around the country to a wooded outdoor setting. There are similar outdoor museums in Oslo and Stockholm, but what makes the Finnish version so special is its location on rustic, heavily wooded island connected to the mainland by a narrow footbridge. The Museum, which is interesting enough, takes up only a small part of the island; the rest of the island is a beautiful, forested preserve, full of flowering plants and wildlife. When we visited, we intended only to stay an hour or two and wound up spending the entire day walking through the woods and along the island shoreline.
8. Warsaw Rising Museum (Warsaw, Poland): In August 1944, as the Soviet Army approached from the East, the Polish Home Army rose up against the occupying Nazi Germans. The locals anticipated that the Soviets would support their efforts; but instead, the advancing opposing army paused on the far side of the river. The last thing in the world Stalin wanted was an independent, effective military force in Poland. The tenacity of the locals surprised both the Nazis and the Soviets, and the rising lasted longer than anyone anticipated. When it was finally suppressed, Hitler ordered that Warsaw should be destroyed, a task the Nazis completed with grim efficiency. Among the many terrible events in World War II, the Warsaw Rising may be one of the most tragic. This museum tells the story in great detail, emphasizing stories of the people who fought in the rising and how they were able to fight so effectively against a modern, well-equipped, professional army. If you go to Warsaw, you have to visit the Warsaw Rising Museum.
7. Museo del Prado (Madrid, Spain): The Prado is of course one of the most famous art museums in the world, very much in the same league of the famous museums in Paris in London that I deliberately left off this list. However, there is a very specific reason I included the Prado on this list. The Prado of course has an extensive collection of Spanish art, but much of it consists of portraits of overfed Habsburgs and Bourbons. What makes the Prado particularly interesting and worth visiting are the several paintings in its collection by Valazquez and Goya, particularly the exhibit of Goya’s Pinturas Negras (Black Paintings). Goya painted this group of 14 dark, haunting, obscure paintings on the walls of his home. The paintings were never intended for public exhibition, but they may be among the most interesting (although also arguably most disturbing) works of art you will ever see anywhere.
6. Museum of Occupations (Tallinn, Estonia): Estonia’s 20th Century history was complicated and eventful. During the Second World War, the country was overrun by the Soviets, invaded and captured by Nazi Germany, and then invaded again by the Soviet army. Following the war, the country remained a part of the U.S.S.R. until 1991. The Museum of Occupations explores this complicated, difficult history using video footage, photographs, interactive technology, and an extensive collection of artifacts. The museum provides deep insight into the country’s difficult 20th century history. Among other things, it really helps you understand what the country has accomplished to achieve its current stability and prosperity.
5. Vasa Museum (Stockholm): The Vasa Museum houses the Vasa warship, which foundered and sank on its maiden voyage on August 10, 1628. The ship sat at the bottom of the harbor in Stockholm for centuries until it was salvaged more or less intact in 1961. You might think a badly designed sunken ship would not make for much a museum, but the museum is actually really interesting. There is of course the recovered ship itself, but what makes the museum so interesting are the exhibits showing how the sunken hull was located on the harbor bottom and how it was brought to the surface, as well as how the unique conditions in the Stockholm harbor preserved the hull so well.
4. Vikingskipshuset/Viking Ship Museum (Oslo, Norway): The Viking Ship Museum houses three more or less intact Viking ships that were recovered from excavated burial mounds in Norway, as well as a trove of Viking artifacts collected from around the world. It is quite an experience to see first-hand how massive the Viking ships were. You can only imagine how terrifying it might have been for a fleet of these huge ships to appear on the horizon. The exhibits explain how the ships’ sturdy construction allowed the Vikings to range so far across the seas. The exhibits also show just how far afield the Vikings roamed. This museum is relatively small and compact but a very interesting place to visit.
3. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya/ King Shivaji Museum (Mumbai, India): The King Shivaji Museum is the principal museum in Mumbai. The museum itself is interesting in its urban context; the museum and its grounds are something of an island of calm amidst the chaotic kaleidoscope of Mumbai’s sometimes overwhelming sights and sounds. The museum’s collection includes a vast array of art and architecture from throughout India’s history. The museum has a particularly interesting collection of artifacts from Indus Valley Civilization, as well as of other relics from ancient India in the time of the Guptas and Mauryas. The archaeological exhibits include an extensive sculpture gallery including religious art from throughout India’s history. The museum is in effect an entire curriculum on art, history, culture, and religion on the Indian subcontinent.
2. European Hansamuseum (Lübeck, Germany): The Hanseatic League was a commercial and defensive confederation that thrived in Northwestern and Central Europe between the 1100s and the 1400s. For much of its history the League was based in Lübeck, which for a time was one of the wealthiest cities in the world. Lübeck is now home to the European Hansamuseum, an absolutely terrific museum that opened in May 2015. The Museum makes very creative use of technology to explain the League’s history, and to show how the League’s members overcame problems of language, currency, piracy, and geography to establish a thriving trade business across northern Europe. The museum includes interesting exhibits on how the League used flexible dispute resolution mechanisms to avoid deeper problems, as well as how cultural, social, and religious trends followed in the wake of the League’s activities. An interesting museum about an interesting time in European history.
1. The Gutenberg Museum (Mainz, Germany): The printer, inventor and publisher Johannes Gutenberg best known for introducing movable type printing to Europe was born in Mainz and established his first printing press there. The Gutenberg Museum includes original copies of many of his first printed products, including several of his famous bibles. But this museum is about so much more than what Gutenberg did and accomplished. The museum in effect represents an overview of the entire history of printing, and not just in Europe but around the world. The museum’s fascinating collection contains many interesting exhibits including a number of early printing presses, as well as interesting displays explaining the changes and improvements in printing technology over time. This museum is an absolutely fascinating place.
My list of museums might be interpreted to suggest that while I travel I devote myself exclusively to improving activities and high-brow entertainment. In truth, from time to time when I travel, I sometimes take advantage of the opportunity to, say, have a beer. There are a number of great places to enjoy having a beer. Here is my list of the top ten places to enjoy a beer.
10. Temple Bar (Dublin): The Temple Bar district in Dublin is just off of the Liffey River, near Trinity College. The area’s cobble-stone streets are lined with pubs, cafes, and restaurants. There is actually one bar called Temple Bar, but there are many other great bars in the area. Many of the bars have live Irish music. The area can be quite touristy, but if you make your way into the side streets, there are some places that aren’t quite as full of American college kids. Just find a place you like and have a Guinness. It is great fun.
9. Köln/Cologne (Germany): Cologne is the only city where beer that properly calls itself kölsch can be made. It is a delightfully light and refreshing beer, traditionally served in small cylindrical glasses of only a few ounces. Throughout the old part of the city, there are numerous atmospheric pubs where the traditional local beer is served. Servers make their way around the tables, replacing empties with full glasses, marking the number of glasses consumed with a pencil mark on your coaster. The full glasses will keep appearing until you put your coaster on top of your empty glass, signaling you have had enough. For anyone that enjoys beer, Cologne is an absolutely mandatory destination.
8. Bratislava (Slovakia): In recent years, Bratislava’s old town has been beautifully restored. At the heart of the old town is Hviezdoslavovo námestie (Hviezdoslav Square), a long shady plaza with several fountains and lined with restaurants and cafés. The plaza is about as pleasant a location for a morning coffee or an afternoon beverage as you will ever find anywhere. The pedestrianized streets leading off of the plaza are lined with renovated buildings and more restaurants and cafes. On the quiet side streets, there are a number of quiet sidewalk cafes. Have a seat and enjoy some of the excellent Slovakian beer.
7. Holland Park (Singapore): Because Singapore is located just 80 miles from the equator, it is warm there every evening. There are a number of great areas in the city to go out in the evening. For example, along the Singapore River there are a number of quays that have been re-developed with restaurants and bars. One particular place I enjoy visiting in Singapore for some food and a beer is the Holland Park area. There is a huge indoor food court area serving a wide variety of food. Along the main streets are a number of sidewalk cafes where you can sit and enjoy an evening beverage while the world goes by. On one visit, I compared the vibe to the feeling in an American college town, during the summer. Relaxed and easy.
6. St. Pauli (Hamburg, Germany): The St. Pauli district is a much livelier and a little bit rowdier place to go for a beer. The main street running through the district, the Reeperbahn, is lined with bars and restaurants, but from my experience the best places to go are on the side streets. The St. Pauli district is not for everyone; the city’s red light district is located in an adjacent side street, and the Reeperbaum itself has some downright seedy establishments as well. Just the same, the area’s street life is lively and interesting, and the many bars in the area (or at least some of them) are great places to enjoy a beer and maybe watch a football match.
5. Prague (Czech Republic): Prague is a great city to visit. It has many well-preserved historical buildings. It also has a great night-life. There are a lot of bars throughout the central district. I found that I preferred the quieter streets in the Malá Strana neighborhood on the far side of the river. There are a number of quiet cafés with outdoor seating along the canal. One place I particularly enjoyed was the Restaurace Velkopřevorský Mlýn, a quiet, shady canalside café, where we enjoyed some of the excellent Staropramen beer, which has its brewery along the river, right in Prague. There are a number of other excellent places along the canals to enjoy a beer on a quiet afternoon.
4. Schleusenkrug (Berlin, Germany): There are a lot of great places to enjoy a beer in Berlin, but one of the best places to have a beer, in Berlin or anywhere, is the Schleusenkrug, located in the Tiegarten, the city’s massive park. The beer garden’s sun-dappled tables sit in a quiet courtyard under huge mature trees. The establishment has a peaceful, calm feel, perhaps in part because it can only be reached on foot or by bicycle. Quite a number of families with children seem to favor the place. A great place to have a quiet beer and a bit of traditional German food.
3. Place de la Contrascarpe (Paris): Paris is of course famous for its sidewalk cafes. I think most people picturing themselves sitting at a sidewalk café might also imagine a glass of wine at their elbow. However, most sidewalk cafes also serve beer, and sitting at a sidewalk café with a beer and watching the endless Parisian parade is an excellent way to enjoy an evening in the city. There are a number of great areas to sit at a table and enjoy watching the evening crowd. For example, one area I like is the Rue de Buci, a particularly lively street in the 6e arrondissement. But if I had to choose one place in Paris to go for an evening beer, I think I would choose the Place de la Contrascarpe, a quiet area in the 5e arrondissement that has the feel of a village square. Because of its proximity to La Sorbonne, the crowd tends to be younger, livelier, and interesting.
2. Anglesea Arms (London): There are a lot of great pubs in London. In fact, having the opportunity to enjoy a pub is one of the great reasons to go to London. I have a long list of pubs in London that I like. I could in fact write a blog post just about my favorite London pubs. But if I had to choose one, I would recommend the Anglesea Arms, on a quiet residential street near the South Kensington tube station. This traditional non-chain pub, unusually, has an outdoor seating area. On a warm spring evening, it is great place to sit and enjoy the crowd of locals, and watch the neighbors stroll by.
1. Chinesischer Turm (Munich): There are a lot of great beer gardens in Munich, but on a sunny day, my favorite is the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower) beer garden, in the center of the Englischer Garten, Munich’s largest park. The beer garden surrounds a pagoda-style wooden tower, where oompa-oompa bands sometimes play. On a sunny afternoon, as many as 7,000 people can sit in the dappled sunlight under huge Chestnut trees and enjoy the excellent local Hofbräu beer.
Another Photo Array: As it turns out, many of my favorite cities happen to be located on rivers. By a process of association, I now have a number of favorite rivers, as well. Here are some pictures of a few of my favorite rivers.