Sep 072012
 
Krakow

Krakow remains the cultural and historical magnet for visitors to Poland.

If you do the Poland Trifecta (Gdansk, Warsaw, and Krakow) it is a good place to end your trip, and four days isn’t too long.  Granted, you might run into groups of British men doing one of those trips (the sight of a Ryan Air jet at the airport can be ominous) and, according to my hotel manager, the Norwegians are coming in with empty suitcases and hitting the Galeria Krakowska in droves.

Krakow, however, is not living in the past.  If you spend too much time in the city center, you might overlook that this is a regional commercial center.  And like other cities that are looking to the future, it is also trying to figure out ways to move people around without destroying the city.  The picture below shows bicycle and pedestrian traffic control.  Bikes use the lane to the left, with pedestrians to the right.  There are signs marking the dual use, and even crosswalks marked where there are pedestrians crossing — such as at this dual bike/pedestrian on/off-ramp.

Auschwitz/Birkenau

If you visit Auschwitz, chances are you’ll base in Krakow.  As I mentioned a few posts earlier, avoid taking an organized tour if at all possible — especially something like the combined salt mines/death camp tours. If you arrive before 10:oo am during the peak season you can visit Auschwitz without a guide — 10:00 am to 3:00 pm requires a guide.  But to arrive early complicates your transportation since it is over an hour by by public bus and therefore an expensive cab ride.  (Birkenau (Auschwitz II) does not require guides at any time.)

There is some discussion on whether it better to view this kind of site in the context of the specific events that took place — The Holocaust — or in the context of other genocides, pogroms, etc.  In the end, it is your decision what you want to take away with you.

Another issue is the deterioration at the sites.  One the one hand, you’d almost like so see it dissolve into rust and rot — be gone forever.  But the worry is that people will forget — and many (most?) have no idea the scope and scale of the Holocaust.  But these rails and ties just show some of the more obvious deterioration.  Time will tell what kind of balance is struck.

Warsaw

Still the industrial and commercial engine for Poland…All the more amazing when you consider the extent of German destruction. The city continues to build and change.  This display on the observation tower at the Uprising Museum is supposed to show buildings that are still standing from the WWII era (the darker shapes).  However, the some of the newer buildings on the display have since been replaced by even newer buildings.

The sights in Warsaw are farther apart than in Krakow and if you spend time touring, you’ll probably be wise to do your explorations in sectors.  If you spend more than a couple of days, it might be a good idea to learn the tram system — though they can be packed during commuting hours.

Taxi Ride to the Airport

A short distance from the hotel the driver gestured to the right with his head.  “Souvenir of Stalin”.  He was referring to the Palace of Culture and Science.

He asked if I minded the radio, which was playing Polish songs.  I didn’t mind.  We chatted a little and as we got close to the airport I heard a song:

Kayah and Bregovic: “Prawy Do Lewego (From Your Right to Your Left)”

Then I’m saying “That lady — the singer.  That’s, uh, uh — Kayah!”

“Kayah.  Yes.”

“Kayah and Bregovic.  Right?”

He was genuinely surprised that I knew.

He turned up the volume.  We were both tapping our fingers and quietly whistling along.

It was a nice way to end the trip.

Links for this trip…
Krakow

Cracow-Life:  http://www.cracow-life.com/

Krakow Info:  http://www.krakow-info.com/

Historical Museum of Kraków:  http://mhk.pl/

St Mary’s Basilica (in Polish):  http://www.mariacki.com/

Wawel Royal Cathedral:  http://www.katedra-wawelska.pl/english

Hotel Floryan:  http://www.floryan.com.pl/en/index.php

Auschwitz/Birkenau

Auschwitz (Official Site):  http://en.auschwitz.org/m/

Excellent BBC Interactive Map of Auschwitz:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/interactive/animations/auschwitz_map/index_embed.shtml

Warsaw

Warsaw-Life:  http://www.warsaw-life.com/

Warsaw Rising Museum:  http://www.1944.pl/en/

The Royal Castle in Warsaw:  http://www.zamek-krolewski.pl/?page=1114

National Museum in Warsaw Information:  http://www.mnw.art.pl/index.php/pl/english

Polish Army Museum (in Polish):  http://www.muzeumwp.pl/

Hotel Mercure Warsaw Grand:
http://www.accorhotels.com/gb/hotel-3384-mercure-warszawa-grand/index.shtml

Sep 062012
 
Polish Army Museum

Located next door (actually the same building) to National Museum, Warsaw, exhibits include a lot of artillery, vehicles, and aircraft stored outside; and a range of arms, armor, and uniforms through the centuries.  Particular emphasis is placed on the Polish Army during WWII and on artifacts from the over 21,000 Polish prisoners (Army officers captured during the 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland, police officers, and intelligentsia – “intelligence agents, gendarmes, landowners, saboteurs, factory owners, lawyers, officials and priests.”) murdered by orders of Stalin in 1940.  It was recently decided to relocate the museum to new facilities in the Citadel, north of Old Town.

Polish Winged Hussar — A major factor in the victory of the Polish forces over the Turks at Vienna, 1683. There is some discussion as to whether the wings were actually worn in battle — of even if the cavalryman could stay mounted on the horse while wearing those wings.

When I first glanced at the sign I thought it was warning against wing-walking on jet fighter aircraft…

The Royal Castle

Up Ulica Nowy Świat (a main shopping and historic boulevard) from the National Museum is Castle Square, the Royal Castle, and Old Town.

Zygmunt’s Column is a meeting spot for Warsaw residents and visitors, and the Castle Square is the location for festivities and official ceremonies.

Zygmunt’s Column, with the original sections, blown up by the Germans in reprisal for the 1944 Rising, in the foreground.

The Royal Castle was painstakingly rebuilt starting in 1970.  After the rubble was cleared following the German’s destruction, it was a cleared area that Poles could see every day for 27 years.  The reconstruction was based on exhaustive research, bits and pieces of the original building salvaged from the original, photographs, and paintings, etc.  The wooden floors are spectacular, with every important room having a different pattern.

Doors of the Church of the Gracious Mother of God (Kościół Matki Bożej Łaskawej)

Located midway between the Market Square and the Royal Castle, the church is adjacent the St. John’s Cathedral.  The doors are by Polish sculptor Igor Mitoraj, who also made the famous partial head that is installed in front of the British Museum, London.

The dates over the door are “1604 – 1944 – 1970”

The Old Town Market Square

Detail of a corner burgher house on the Market Square.

In the Market Square, probably the most famous, and most photographed, fighting mermaid.

Classic Fighting Mermaid pose.

When the mermaid gets hungry…Kabobs?

Warsaw Skyline Panoramic

Taken from a tower overlooking Castle Square.  Almost anything you can see was reconstructed after the Germans leveled Warsaw.  It is estimated that over 150,000 civilians were killed in the Rising and following, and around 550,000 people were expelled.

(Right click on picture and “View Image”.)

Sep 052012
 
The Palace of Culture and Science

Warsaw’s Palace of Culture and Science.

A relic of the years of Soviet domination, there are a lot of varying opinions about this building.  Some would like to tear it down, but it still has useful facilities.  And what would you put in its place (and who would pay for it)?

The Warsaw Uprising Museum

The museum’s opening was in 2004 — timed for the 60th anniversary of the Warsaw Rising.  While it might be said to have an advantage by only having to present a relatively short span of time — the 66 days of the Rising and a few days preceding it — it does that in a comprehensive, innovative, and thoughtful manner.

Not to be missed is a 3D video that simulates a fly-over of a devastated Warsaw after the German’s pounded much of the city into rubble.

One feature are the desk calendar pages that are on the walls next to exhibits.

“Calendar” pages near exhibits — one for each day of the Rising.

There is a page for each day.  Each page shows (in Polish only) the date and other information for the day including sunrise, sunset, and the maximum temperature.  It also tells what happened in Warsaw that day.  As you go through the museum you can take the calendar pages — eventually totaling 71.

In many exhibits, such as the one below, there are taped interviews with those who fought.  If the exhibit is about light machine guns, there is a video interview with a man describing the Bren gun he actually used.  (All of those interviews are subtitled in English.)

An exhibit of weapons used in the Rising.

 

The “Kotwica” — Symbol of the Polish secret state and the Armia Krajowa (Home Army, or AK).

A pleasant surprise is this coffee shop.  I had to do a double take to make sure it wasn’t an exhibit.  It is themed for the time period of the Rising and there is also a contemporary area outside on a balcony.

Themed coffee shop in the museum.

On the wall near the coffee shop is this bottle of Cinzano…

“Jozef Wrobel and his Home Army friends decide on May 9, 1945, to save a prewar bottle of Cinzano wine until the day Poland regains her independence and the last foreign soldiers her soil.”

A friend once said that you have to be one heck of a city to have a mermaid with a sword and and shield as your symbol.

Warsaw’s Fighting Mermaid.

View of the museum’s observation tower from the Rose Garden — on the back side of the Memorial Wall.

Sep 032012
 

I seem to be having a hard time finding sunshine here in Krakow.  However, for a trip to Auschwitz and Birkenau, a bright sunny day might be a bit too incongruous.

Auschwitz

The main gate at Auschwitz — from the inside.

Below is one of the early attempts to deal with the remains of murdered persons.  One pair of a total of four ovens at Auschwitz.  The turntable on the floor allows operators to pull ashes out of an oven, turn the cart 180 degrees, and the push the cart over an ash pit to be dumped.  This particular setup was abandoned as more efficient equipment was developed to handle the mass of murdered people.

Early ovens at Auschwitz.

 Birkenau (Auschwitz II)

The other iconic gateway.

The rail gate to Birkenau.

A railway wagon of the type used to transport to Birkenau for work or to be killed.  This is the place seen in many photos showing people being taken off the trains and, in many cases, immediately sorted and taken to the gas chambers.

Railway goods wagon of the type used to transport people to Birkenau.

Electrified fence line.

On the Birkenau site, opposite from the railway gate, are the remains of gas chambers and crematoria — destroyed by the SS at the Soviets advanced westward.  A picture of the structure is on the sign to the left.

Gas chamber and crematorium destroyed as Soviet forces drew closer.

The memorial, opposite the camp from the railway gate.  The group in the center are Israeli students.  The government of Israel sends thousands of students every year to tour the death camps.  This practice is considered controversial by some.  The students are accompanied throughout their visit to Poland by Israeli security guards (I counted at least 4 with this group).

Israeli students at the memorial.

Inside one of the wooden barracks.  These were designed as stables for the German Army — to house 52 horses.  They held up to 400 prisoners.

Inside a wooden barrack.

Israeli students light candles in one of the brick barracks.

Visiting Auschwitz and Birkenau

Many people take an organized tour, but I’d recommend avoiding them.  You can do all the research you need online, and I don’t think Auschwitz and Birkenau are best absorbed when you are part of a herd.  Also, during the peak tourist months, you can only enter Auschwitz I between the hours of 10:00 am and 3:00 pm as part of an organized tour– due to the crush of visitors.  There are no such restrictions at Birkenau.

My recommendation is to take a bus from the Krakow bus terminal (right next door to the main Krakow train station).  Get a bus that will get you to the museum no later than 11:00 – 11:30.  Then take the free shuttle to Birkenau (Auschwitz II).  You likely find it very quiet.  Take your time and then take any of the shuttles back to Auschwitz that leave Birkenau after 2:45 pm.  You will have managed is to avoid the surge of tours that starts at Auschwitz, then goes to Birkenau, and then home.

Panoramic Photo of Birkenau

A 360-degree view taken midway between the railway gate and the memorial.  (Right click on photo and then select “View Image”.)

Sep 022012
 

So I step out of the hotel a little before noon and there is a crowd lining both sides of the ul. Florianska (the street which carries the “Royal Way” into the city and to the Market Square).  The event?  How about a dachshund parade?

Dachshund Parade down ul. Florianska.

On up to Wawel Hill, home of the Wawel Castle and the Wawel Cathedral.

Wawel Cathedral

Passage from Wawel Castle towards the Cathedral.

After Wawel Hill a walk along the Wisla, and a crossing over a pedestrian/cyclist bridge, Love Padlocks (or Love Locks) — and a newlywed couple.

Newlyweds and Love Padlocks on a pedestrian bridge over the Wisla.

The Pharmacy Under the Eagle (Apteka Pod Orłem).  Operated by Tadeusz Pankiewicz, a Roman Catholic, the pharmacy was started in 1910 by his father, and served both Gentiles and Jews in Krakow’s Podgórze district.  The district was turned into a Jewish Ghetto by the Germans in March 1941.  Pankiewicz remained on the premise despite the offer by the Germans to relocate him across the river.

Pharmacy Under the Eagle (Apteka Pod Orłem), taken from Plac Bohaterów Ghetta.

The pharmacy became a hub for a range of activities attempting to support, ease suffering, and to save Jews from transport to death camps.  In 1983 Pankiewicz was recognized as a “Righteous Among the Nations” for his works.

Walking back, I pass a long line…

A line for ice cream.

The clue is a little brown sign below a red sign on the left of this picture:  “LODY” (ice cream).  I have no idea what makes this shop so popular, but ice cream shops and small storefronts are a feature in Poland — at least in the larger cities.

Sep 012012
 

A dreary day in Krakow, with clouds and occasional rain — Just like the forecast.  But inside it didn’t matter — especially for a couple of Krakow’s highlights.

A dreary day in Krakow — From the Cloth Hall towards St. Mary’s.

Nowe Sukiennice/National Museum in Krakow, Gallery of 19th Century Polish Art in Sukiennice

For the first time in four visits to Krakow, the improvements in the Market Square are completed.  The renovations to the Sukienice took place between 2006 and 2010, and a whole new museum dedicated to the centuries of Krakowian history, was built under the square in an area roughly covered by the left half of the photo above.

About half of the “Chełmoński Room: Realism, Polish Impressionism, Beginnings of Symbolism.”

Some of the paintings I liked:

Four-In-Hand, Jozef Chelmonski, 1881

Powerful imagery of horses racing across a barren landscape…One of the Museum’s signature pieces, it is a big painting, as you can tell from the objects to each side.

Four-In-Hand

A Meeting on a Bridge, Jozef Brandt, 1886

A Meeting on a Bridge

Christmas Eve in Siberia, Jacek Malczwewski, 1892

Christmas Eve in Siberia

School of Talmudists, Samuel Hirzenberg, 1887

School of Talmudists

Saint Mary’s Basilica, and the Veit Stoss Altar

Occupying a corner of the Market Square from the end of the 13th Century, St. Mary’s shares major landmark duties with the Cloth Hall, as well as being a functioning house of worship.  What draws visitors is the High Altar, carved by Bavarian Veit Stoss (Wit Stwosz) between 1477 and 1489.  Opened, it is about 13 meters high and 11 wide.  When the wings are closed, there are 12 scenes of Mary’s suffering.   At the start of WWII it was taken apart by the Poles, crated, and hidden around the country.  The Germans discovered it, and sent the altar to the basement of Nuremberg Castle.  It was repatriated in 1846 and restoration was completed in 1957.

The walls of the presbytery are lined with painted and gilded relief sculptures, and the ceiling is painted blue with golden stars.  Wall paintings by Jan Matejko and windows by Stanislaw Wyspianski and Jozef Mehoffer.

 

View along the side of the Presbytery towards the High Altar.

The main panels of the Veit Stoss High Altar.

The Presbytery from altar to ceiling.

Feb 262012
 

A Saturday visit to two centers of art in Washington, DC.

The Phillips Collection

My favorite art museum in DC, this is the place to take visitors from out-of-town.  Located about a block from the DuPont Metro Station (at 21st and Q NW), Duncan Phillips started the collection in the family residence in 1918, and opened it to the public in 1921.

The most famous painting in the collection is Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party”.  People really love this painting, and for good reason.

Luncheon of the Boating Party (Renoir)

Leica M9 w/Zeiss 18mm f/4 lens; ISO 800; 1/25 sec.

A detail of the ceiling and mantlepiece in the Music Room.

In the Music Room

Leica M9 w/Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 lens; ISO 1600; 1/15 sec.

The gallery rooms in the original residence are intimate and calming.  They stress that the furniture in the rooms is intended to be used, and these galleries are nice places to relax.

Gallery room in the original residence.

Leica M9 w/Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 lens; ISO 400; 1/30 sec.

Staircase in the Sant Building, looking out onto the courtyard.  This used to be an apartment building, and a complete interior rebuild was completed in 2006.  It added additional gallery space, an auditorium, a library, classroom, and workshop space.

Staircase in the Sant Building.

Leica M9 w/Zeiss 18mm f/4 lens; ISO 800; 1/500 sec.

National Gallery of Art, East Building

Part of the immense Calder mobile (untitled) completed just before he died.  It weighs about 1,000 pounds but moves subtly in the air light currents inside the building.

Paintings and Calder Mobile

Leica M9 w/Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5 lens; ISO 800; 1/90 sec.

On the main floor with Ellsworth Kelly’s “Color Panels for a Large Wall” in the background.

Main Floor of East Building

Leica M9 w/Voigtlander 15mm f/4 lens; ISO 400; 1/30 sec.

Painting, viewed from above.

Leica M9 w/Zeiss 25mm f/2.8 lens; ISO 400; 1/25 sec.

“Multiverse”, by Leo Villareal, is a light sculpture that lives alongside the underground moving walkways between the East Building and the cage/museum shop at the east footing of the West Building.  This shot looked awful in the Leica’s monitor, but it actually “cleans up pretty good” in the computer.  I need to go back and try a few more shots.

Leo Villareal's "Multiverse"

Leica M9 w/Zeiss 25mm f/2.8 lens; ISO 1600; 1/30 sec.

Dec 302011
 
Musée d’Orsay, October 2009

One of several big clocks at the Orsay (a former train station), this one is over the entrance.

Clock at Musée d’Orsay

I rediscovered this picture while looking back in my files for images relating to the Orsay’s new photo policy.  This was shot in 2009.  The museum now believes that allowing normal people to produce images like this is too disruptive, probably not dignified, and ultimately harms the museum.

The camera was a Leica M8, and the lens was the incredibly sharp Zeiss 25mm f/2.8.  Shot at ISO 320 and 1/45 second exposure.

Dec 112011
 

Lincoln Memorial, May 2008

I stumbled across this picture while working on another project.

Not traditional composition and framing, which is why I like it.

Lincoln

It was shot with a Leica M8 and a Voigtlander 90mm lens.  The image is very low key, with no startling whites or deep blacks.  Typical for an M8 image, the DNG (RAW) file required very little post processing.

Oct 262009
 

Thought I’d drop by the Eiffel Tower this morning and see what was happening.

How about a mob of people?  It didn’t take much internal argument to figure out hanging around for a couple of hours in line just for the first elevator ride was not going to be a productive use of my leisure time.

As I arrived, a group of trinket sellers and some of the Roma women were hightailing it out of the crowd of tourists as a couple of police officers on bikes rode through.

Under the Eiffel Tower

This shot barely gives an impression of the crowds, likely made worse because one of the four pillars was shut down — the tower is undergoing its once-every-seven-years repainting.  The Roma woman (foreground, long dress, left side of frame) approaches targets with a piece of paper and asks if you speak English.  This is to get you distracted, get you to reveal where your cash is, etc.  I gave an oddly accented “No Ainglesh” to the first one I encountered and she moved right on.  The second one got a fully Americanized “F___ Off” from me, and I got an equally clear “F___ Off” in response — but she did keep moving.

Eiffel Tower

The mandatory Eiffel Tower shot.  A little later, the Leica-toting Japanese guy and I traded shooting positions, and I did the tourist shot for Japanese girl.  An Italian guy insisted that the picture I took of him with his camera be just right — which included making a redo.

What turned out to be the last stop of the day was the Luxembourg Gardens.  I arrived around noon after picking up a bag of Vietnamese Oolong tea at a little shop I spotted on the way from the Metro.  It was a beautiful midday, and being a Monday, the crowds were moderate.  These are the gardens of the French Senate, which meets in the Luxembourg Palace.

Luxembourg Gardens

And those chairs?  I have no idea how many hundred there are.  Most are straight back, but a fair percentage are kinda slouching.  People group them, single them, read, sleep, eat lunch, visit, etc.  I grabbed one of the slouch models — and proceeded to take a nap in the sun.  Much better use of my time than waiting in line at the Eiffel Tower.

Medici Fountain

The Medici Fountain.  There are sculptures all through the gardens, activities for kids (puppets, rental model sailboats, play areas), tennis and basketball courts, and specified lawns where you can sit on the grass (sounds regulated, but it does allow the grass areas to be cycled).

Other Observations:

  • The only place I saw police “on the ground” were the two bicycle cops under the Eiffel Tower, and a pair of officers on foot (one with a FAMAS rifle) at the Louvre.  I didn’t see one uniformed officer in the Metro.  At the Eiffel tower and the Louvre there were also 3-person military patrols (two with FAMASs and the senior member following), but they don’t bother with crime…The trinket sellers, pickpockets, and Roma women pay them little notice.
  • Both the Mini and the Fiat 500 are contemporary “comeback” cars.  The originals (the Mini-Cooper and the “Cinquecento”) are rarely seen in the U.S., though my family won a Fiat 500 in a raffle and several friends have had the original Mini.  It’s only in Europe where you are likely to see them all together.  Then you realize how tiny the originals were.  The current Mini is really a “Midi” — and the Fiat 500 is a 500 in name only.
Oct 252009
 

Today started across the street from Saturday’s first stop.  The Musee Rodin is a nice place to visit — almost a refuge.  The Hotel Biron, though a little frayed around the edges, has two floors of sculture, some paintings (including some Van Goghs).  Small wonder the floors are creaky and show patches, when you consider the amount of bronze, marble, and plaster.  The free museum guide is well done and concise.

The Gardens of Musee Rodin and the Hotel Biron
The Gardens of Musee Rodin and the Hotel Biron

The grounds are peaceful and well maintained, though I expect that on nice spring and summer weekends it can get crowded.

Rodin:  Jean de Fiennes
Rodin: Jean de Fiennes

Bronze works are distributed around the grounds and there are even free telescopes so you can closely examine the details of his famous doors “The Gates of Hell”.

The next stop was the other part of FIAC 2009, taking place in a temporary building erected in the Cour Carree de Louvre.  For those who have been to the Louvre, that’s the courtyard to the east of the Pyramid.

For FIAC, a temporary building in the Cour Caree du Louvre
For FIAC, a temporary building in the Cour Caree du Louvre

I didn’t find as much to like with this collection of galleries and artists.  One guy was eyeing my Leica, though…At least I think that’s where he was looking.  His wife finally dragged him away.  (He was probably trying to figure out what it was, since I usually cover the “steal me” red dot and model engraving with pieces of black tape.)

My biggest surprise was the Centre Pompidou…The place was crawling with people.  Also surprising was the number of kids — little kids.

Two children and the Christophe Berdaugeur/Marie Pejus installation "7th Continent"
Two children and the Christophe Berdaugeur/Marie Pejus installation “7th Continent”

These two are looking at an installation called “7th Continent” by Christophe Berdauguer and Marie Pejus…That is, until their mother told them to get out of the way of the guy taking pictures.  But we worked that out, and now Mom is expecting a file with the picture. (That will take a little bit of time back home — this is a tricky image.)  It does make you wonder about “children’s art”…It really shouldn’t be just about clowns and bunnies.

There is quite a lot of activity around the Centre (it is much more than just a museum).  The shot below was taken just after sunset, and you can see the glow of the Eiffel Tower at the upper right.

Place Georges Pompidou just after sunset
Place Georges Pompidou just after sunset

Even as I left a little after 7:00 pm, people were still coming in.  Why aren’t those people staying at home on Sunday evening watching TV and training their kids to be couch potatoes?

Footnote:  The Musee Rodin has an excellent guide to the museum’s collections.  “Guide to the Musee Rodin Collections” is a compact and concise 256-page book and provides insights into not only Rodin’s sculptures, but also his painting, drawings, and works of others that he collected.  The price is 15 Euros and you can find a little more information here:  http://www.musee-rodin.fr/bnouv-e.htm.

Oct 242009
 

First stop today was Napoleon’s Tomb.  This is indeed a national shrine…Perhaps the French are more willing to celebrate a leader’s accomplishments, and not focus too much attention on his shortcomings.  The sarcophagus likes in the tomb that was excavated and build under dome of what was once the Royal Chapel.

Napoleon's Tomb

When the dome was regilded in 1989, about 25 pounds of gold was used.  The tomb is part of the Hotel National des Invalides, which also houses the Musee de L’Armee.  I was pleasantly surprised to see an exhibit honoring Poland’s story and contributions in WWII.

Poland:  First to Fight

There is a series of displays down a corridor (shown) with French text, and a series of large photos and text displayed in the museum’s main courtyard (English and French) giving a much more accurate view of events than the history I learned.

One little gem in the Musee de L’Armee is the Musee des Plans-Reliefs.  These are formerly classified relief map models of French fortifications along the Atlantic coast, the Pyrenees, and the Mediterranean.   You have to climb up to the 4th floor, where the 24 models in the collection are kept in a dark, climate-controlled room that runs pretty much the length of the courtyard.

Models of French Fortifications

It is very dark in the museum, but you can manage photos if you have a fairly fast lens, a steady hand, and can manage high ISO digital images.

FIAC 2009 (Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain) is a pretty significant contemporary arts exhibition.  In the booths are the big name galleries, and sitting in the booths or mounted on the wall are some pretty big name artists.

The FIAC in the Grande Palais

This picture is just the part that is set up in Paris’ Grand Palais.  The other half is located in the Cour Carree de Louvre…I guess you could see both in one day.  Contemporary art isn’t for everyone, and I can easily disregard the vast majority of what I saw today.  However, every once in awhile…

Oct 232009
 

Might as well use some of those miles.*  Flew out on Wednesday — Arrived Thursday morning.  And I admit to dogging it on the arrival day and just crashing for the rest of Thursday.

Friday I hoofed it from my hotel (near UNESCO) to the Musee d’Orsay.  This remains one my favorite art museums mostly because of its content — art from 1848 to 1914.  The building is an old train station saved from the wrecking ball.  As a result, the main hall is spacious and airy.  There are plenty of places in the main hall to sit and relax, a good restaurant with a wonderfully ornate dining room, another restaurant overlooking the Seine, and a snack bar.  (Some snooty architecture critic was praising NYC’s Guggenheim, remarking that it was unique in that it didn’t look like an old palace or a train shed.  Would that more museums looked like the d’Orsay.)

The Main Hall of the Musee d'Orsay.

Along both sides of the main hall (the former train shed) are exhibit rooms.  On the River Seine side (the right side of the picture) are several levels of galleries.  The museum’s impressive collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist work is on the 5th level (picture taken from what would be the 6th level), stretching the length of the building and across the end behind the clock.  Additional rooms hold pastels in special controlled lighting.  My only critique is that while the galleries are great, vertical access in the building is a totally bizarre mixture of ramps, stairs, and escalators.

A four day Paris Museum pass gets you access to about 60 museums and attractions, and avoids the longer lines.

For Saturday?  Probably FIAC 2009. (Look it up.)

* Actually, it only took 40,000 Alaska miles to get a flight on American from Washington National (DCA) via Miami — the first time I’ve taken DC’s Metro from home to an airport for a European flight.

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