Tag: museum

Krakow 2019 (Day 16-17)

Day 16

On this day, I visited the National Museum in Krakow, the Polish Aviation Museum and ended with a grand dinner at a goose restaurant.

What I saw

Strolling through the market square after breakfast.
The National Museum in Krakow.
The museum’s most famous exhibit is Da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine. I had the painting to myself unlike the huge crowds at the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa.
Next stop was the Polish Aviation Museum, which had a great collection of Soviet era aircraft.
A Yak-40 VIP jet used by the Polish Communist government.
The Junkers Ju-52 transport aircraft.
One of the few planes emblazoned with the Nazi Swastika.
A large collection of MiG planes, prominent in Eastern Bloc air forces.
A Tu-134A passenger jet used by the LOT national carrier.
Soviet built helicopters.
A VIP helicopter used by the Pope during his visits.
Comfy interiors for its time.
The Curtiss Hawk II plane that was part of an aircraft demonstration during the 1936 Berlin Olympics in Nazi Germany.

What I ate

Had a “Spanish Omelette” at Milkbar Tomasza for breakfast. Milkbars used to be affordable spots for state subsidised meals in communist Poland but are now cultural icons.
As it was my last night in Europe, I decided to treat myself to dinner at Szara Ges (Grey Goose), a fine dining restaurant.
My Aperitif
Black herring and caviar in dill-infused buttermilk for starters
Glazed goose leg with buckwheat and prunes for mains
A glass of French wine costing just 8 euros.
Dessert was their signature Grey Goose, that resembles a goose egg on a nest. The egg is made with a white chocolate shell, white chocolate mousse for the egg white, mango mousse for the yolk & dark chocolate for the nest. There’s also candy floss under the nest.
Slice open the “egg” and the mango mousse yolk flows out. Splendid!
A Digestif to conclude a 95 euro meal. Superb.

Day 17

On my final day of the trip, I checked out of my hotel and took the train back to Warsaw and onwards to the airport. It was a smooth flight back to Singapore, with a stopover in Doha.

On the PKP Intercity Premium to Warsaw.
Bon Voyage!

Thanks for reading this epic travelogue! Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did experiencing and writing it.

Warsaw 2019 (Day 10-13)

Day 10

On Day 10, I said farewell to Beerlin and set off for Warsaw via the Berlin-Warsaw Express. The six hour ride took me through the flat plains of Eastern Germany and Poland.

What I saw

Waiting in the cavernous station for my train to pull up.
The Berlin-Warsaw Express is a regular Polish service.
Crossed into Poland at the Oder River
Lush flat fields stretched into the horizon.
After 9 days of hostels, it was nice to have my own room again.
Toured Warsaw’s Ols Town Market Square after dinner. This is the Warsaw Mermaid, a symbol of the city.

What I ate

Met my Polish friend Jakub and his girlfriend at the Zapiecek restaurant. We had pierogi (Polish dumplings) and rye soup (Zurek). It was superb.
Jakub insisted we have a small toast with vodka.

Day 11

I spent the day sightseeing with my friend Jakub, and we visited several historic landmarks and museums.

What I saw

One of the remaining walls of the Warsaw Ghetto, where the Jews were imprisoned during the War.
The Warsaw Orthodox Synagogue, the only one to survive the war.
The Pawiak Prison Museum, where 37,000 Poles died during the German occupation.
The POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews is located within the former Warsaw Ghetto.
The Museum has a wealth of exhibits on centuries of Jewish culture in Poland, including the Holocaust.
The most impactful exhibit were these original Star of David patches that Jews in Nazi controlled territories were forced to wear.
After lunch, we headed to the Palace of Culture and Science, a communist era tower that was a “gift” from the Soviet Union but hated by the Polish as a symbol of Soviet occupation.
Great views of Warsaw from the top.
Enjoying Czech beer with Jakub after touring the Palace.
Nowy Swiat, a street full of cafes and restaurants.

What I ate

Tried rye beer (Kvass) at a Georgian restaurant.
Had this boiled lamb with soup and potatoes for lunch.
Shared this stuffed pastry with sour cream.
Had Fettucine Marinara pasta for dinner near Jakub’s place.

Day 12

On Day 12, I visited the Warsaw Rising Museum, which took up most of the day.

What I saw

There was free entry on Sundays and I had to wait in a long line to get into the Warsaw Rising Museum.
A BMW motorcycle used by German motorised infantry.
Witold Pilecki, a Polish war hero who voluntarily got imprisoned in Auschwitz to collect intelligence and escaped. After the war, he was executed by the communists after a show trial. He was rehabilitated after the fall of communism in 1989.
A printing press used by the Polish resistance during the war.
A replica of the American Liberator bomber.
The old generators of the building, which was once the power station for Warsaw’s trolleybus network.
The museum’s external brick facade.

What I ate

Had some paçzek or Polish stuffed doughnuts from Nowy Swiat. The salted caramel one was so good.
Enjoyed a helping of doner kebab and fries from a Turkish takeout place along Nowy Swiat.
Had lamb and cheese for dinner at another Turkish restaurant with Jakub and his girlfriend.
Thanks to them both for their hospitality!
Ended the day with a cocktail at the hotel bar.

Day 13

I spent the day mostly catching up on work stuff online, as well as catching a breath after nearly 2 weeks of constant travelling. Chilled at the hotel.

The Chopin Museum on the left and my hotel on the right.
Enjoyed another round of pierogi and zurek.

Click HERE for Day Fourteen to Day Fifteen

Berlin 2019 (Day 8-9)

Day 8

I spent Day 8 exploring the Neues Museum and the Pergamon Museum, both filled with thousands of artefacts from across the world. One of the most fascinating days of my trip.

What I saw

The Neues Museum largely preserves damage from WW2 while otherwise modernised.
The remains of an Ancient Egyptian burial chamber.
Head of a statue of Queen Hatshepsut or King Thutmose III.
A gallery of small Egyptian figurines.
Sarcophagus lid of a royal audit officer.
The most iconic object of Neues Museum, the bust of Queen Nefertiti.
The Pergamon Museum is dominated by several huge structures. One is the iconic Blue Gate of Ishtar from Ancient Babylon. It was built in 575 BC on the orders of the fabled King Nebuchadnezzar II.
A closer look at the gate.
The preserved friezes of lions which once lined the processional way leading to the gate.
A replica of the Code of Hammurabi, one of the oldest legal codes in history. The original is in the Louvre in Paris.
The Market Gate of Miletus is another grand exhibit. It was built in Miletus (now in Turkey) around 120-130 AD.
The Pergamon Altar, the most famous exhibit and namesake of the Museum. Unfortunately, it’s closed till 2023 for refurbishment. (Pic from Wikipedia)

What I ate

I had a delicious doner kebab from a Turkish place near the train station.
Kebabs roasting slowly on the spit.
Treated myself to an extra helping of currywurst for dinner.

Day 9

On Day 9, I toured the Alexanderplatz, the Berlin Cathedral, the Stasi Museum and a food fair.

What I saw

Alexanderplatz was the former city centre of East Berlin, and still retains the socialist architectural feel. The view is dominated by the Fernsehturm, a television transmission tower constructed by the East German regime.
Another landmark is the World Clock, built in 1969. It also includes Singapore.
Decided to visit the interior of the Berlin Cathedral.
The majestic altar.
The cavernous domed ceiling.
The immense church organ with 7269 pipes and 113 registers.
Berlin from the Cathedral’s rooftop. Tickets cost just 7 euros, less than half that those for the Fernsehturm.
View from another side of the roof.
My afternoon was spent at the historic Stasi Museum which was once the HQ of East Germany’s feared secret police.

To read a detailed account of this fascinating Cold War museum, click HERE.

What I ate

Had a pulled pork wrap from the street food market near Hackescher Markt station.
Explored a food fair with my Twitter friend for dinner.
There was a great selection of food, wine and beer available.
I had a pulled pork bun which was soft and tender. Like German Char Siew.
Ended my day with a glass of German beer of course!

Click HERE for Day Ten to Day Thirteen

London 2019 (Day 4-5)

Day 4

My friend Alex and I spent the day touring the Imperial War Museum and the districts with Big Ben, Parliament and Buckingham Palace.

What I saw

Began the day with a trip to the Imperial War Museum
Obligatory shot with the naval guns in front.
Large displays included the V2 rocket and the Harrier jet.
Lawrence of Arabia’s Arab headdress accessory (agal).
The British flag carried by the British party when they went to surrender to the Japanese at the Old Ford Factory in Feb 1942. It was then hidden by POWs at Changi. The flag was again raised in Singapore after the Japanese surrendered to Lord Mountbatten on 12 Sep 1945.
A Nazi eagle emblem recovered from the Reich Chancellery in Berlin after the German surrender.
The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben from Westminster Bridge.
The Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben (the bell inside) were undergoing refurbishment.
Buckingham Palace. The Queen wasn’t at home though.
A happy guy who just happened to wander into my shot.
The British flag was flying above Buckingham Palace. If the Queen was present, the Royal Standard would be flying instead.
Climate Change protesters outside the British Library. It was surreal to see street demonstrations.
The strikingly beautiful St Pancras station at night. Strong Gothic vibes.

What I ate

Had breakfast in this delightful little coffee house at Tavistock Place.
Had the full English Breakfast which was extremely filling so we skipped lunch.
Dinner was this lamb souvlaki. It was too chewy though.
This warm chocolate brownie topped with vanilla ice cream was superb.

Day 5

On Day 5, Alex and I hung out at the Victoria & Albert Museum and Harrod’s before we bid farewell to each other. I then ended my last day in London with a play at the Duchess Theatre.

What I saw

The ornate entrance to the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A).
An extremely detailed lacquer table from the Ming dynasty.
A Japanese lacquer chest inlaid with gold, silver and mother of pearl. It was exported to Europe by the Dutch East India Company in 1640-43.
A gallery full of Victorian era reproductions of classical artefacts.
Among the casts include one of Michaelangelo’s Statue of David. The original is in Florence.
The Tippu Sultan’s famous tiger automaton, depicting a tiger mauling a British soldier. It was looted from India after the Sultan’s defeat.
Ended the day by watching “The Play That Goes Wrong”, a comedy that features a play within a play.
It’s a small but cosy theatre and the murder mystery plot was very entertaining. Well worth the 22 pound ticket.

What I ate

Had delicious butternut squash pancakes with egg and maple syrup for breakfast.
The hot chocolate was a great way to warm the body on that cold day.
Decided to pop by Five Guys for my first taste after the play. The shake was so thick.
The Five Guys was just a stone’s throw from King’s Cross.

Click HERE for Day Six and Day Seven

London 2019 (Day 1-3)

Day 1

I checked into the YHA Hostel at St Pancras, which was conveniently located across the road from King’s Cross Tube station. The rooms were comfortable. As it was already late afternoon, I rested a bit before heading to Leicester Square to meet my friend Zane, who was studying in London, for dinner and some sightseeing.

Great Views of the British Library (left) and St Pancras International station.

What I saw

Obligatory photo at Piccadilly Circus
Is it even Chinatown if there are no lanterns?
Big Ben was under renovation but the LEGO version at Leicester Square was lovely too!
The West End Sondheim Theatre in Westminster.
Thanks Zane for showing me around!

What I ate

Finally got to try Burger and Lobster’s roll for 28 pounds.

Day 2

On the first full day in London, I decided to dive straight into history with visits to the Churchill War Rooms and the (in)famous British Museum.

What I saw

First stop of the day was the Churchill War Rooms, an extensive bunker from which he directed the British war effort.
A conference room in the bunker.
Room where junior staff worked. Conditions were rudimentary.
Churchill’s office in the bunker.
A map of the Malay Peninsula and Singapore in the bunker. There were dozens of maps on walls in key rooms.
The famed German Enigma code machine, whose system was eventually broken by the Allies.
The Government Offices Great George Street building above the bunker. It houses several departments including the Treasury.
The entrance to Downing Street where the British Prime Minister lives.
The massive Horse Guards Parade square where various state and military ceremonies such as Trooping the Colour are held.
Extinction Rebellion protests at Trafalgar Square. The first protest I came across in Europe.
The Cross Keys, a heritage-listed pub in Covent Garden.
In the afternoon, it was time to explore the massive British Museum, filled with millions of often-looted items.
The iconic central atrium of the British Museum.
A colossal 7 tonne statue of Pharaoh Ramesses II.
Winged Assyrian human-headed lions from ancient Nimrud.
Part of the Elgin Marbles that Greece has demanded for decades to be returned.
There were plenty of mummies on display, including some unusually sized and coloured ones.
Hoa Hakananai’a, a four tonne Easter Island statue taken in 1868. The island’s inhabitants have been calling for it to be returned.

What I ate:

As there were no queues at Covent Garden’s Shake Shack unlike Jewel Changi, I decided to try their mushroom burger, which was excellent.
Enjoyed a crispy duck confit, duck egg and waffle with mustard maple syrup at Duck & Waffle Local in St James.

Day 3

On my second full day in London, I explored the historic Tower of London, met up with my friend Alex who had come down from Scotland, browsed the wares at Camden Market and ended the day with a fantastic tapas dinner.

What I saw

The Tower of London is an immensely popular historic attraction that dates back to the 11th century.
I joined a fascinating guided tour by the Tower’s famous Yeomen Warders, also known as Beefeaters. They are retired Warrant Officers with at least 22 years of service. This guy was very entertaining with his stories.
The Jewel House, a vault where the British Crown Jewels are kept. I got a glimpse of the Koh-i-Noor diamond which India has demanded to be returned. Photography wasn’t allowed inside.
One of the Tower’s Ravens (there are at least six). A superstition holds that “if the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it.”
The White Tower, which contains a large collection of armour and weaponry.
Part of the medieval armour collection, for both soldiers and horses.
Obligatory shot with the Tower Bridge of London, which is near the Tower of London. It is often mistakenly called “London Bridge”, which is actually another bridge.
Reunited with my Scottish friend Alex! We had met in Melbourne in 2015 while he was on exchange there.
Camden Lock which was right next to Camden Market.
Fabulous and free view of London’s cityscape from Primrose Hill.
Chalk Farm tube station with the iconic Leslie Green exterior tiling.
I bought Harry Potter souvenirs (like Dumbledore’s Elder Wand) from the shop at King’s Cross station.

What I ate

Mac & Cheese with chorizo and harissa from Camden Market.
Superb dinner at Leicester Square Kitchen, a place with a DJ & cool vibes. The Mexican & Peruvian inspired dishes were bursting with flavour.

Click HERE for Day Four and Day Five

What should we do with Stamford Raffles’ statue?

Source: Visit Singapore

As a student of History, I think it’s not necessarily bad to take down statues of figures such as colonialists and slave traders. The purpose of having statues of these figures is to literally put them on a pedestal and honour them. We don’t need to have statues to remember and learn the history they represent. After all, there aren’t any statues of Hitler and most statues of Lenin have been destroyed. But we still learn about their lives and actions in school and through books, films and museum exhibitions.

The statue of Stamford Raffles has stood in front of the Victoria Memorial Hall since 1919. During the Bicentennial commemoration last year, there was much discussion over his legacy and that of colonial rule in Singapore. Raffles looted many artefacts during the British invasion of Java. Priceless Malay cultural artefacts and manuscripts were lost when Raffles’ ship “Fame” burned and sank in 1824. British rule also meant the dispossession of the indigenous people who were gradually left out of the booming colonial economy.

I don’t support the destruction or disposal of Raffles’ statue. But if the statue of Raffles is ever shifted to a museum with added context explaining his complex legacy, that doesn’t mean Raffles is being wiped from our national consciousness or that history is being “erased”. There are plenty of roads and institutions bearing his name to remind us of him.

But what it does mean is that we can finally acknowledge the impact of colonialism on the indigenous people of this region by vacating his place of honour. It would also be a potent signal that after more than five decades of independence, Singapore is finally ready to move out of its coloniser’s shadow.

Yogi’s Verdict: Stasi Museum

Thirty years have passed since the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989. Germany, which had been divided into the communist East and the capitalist West peacefully reunited a year later.

But the scars of Cold War division are not easy to remove, even after three decades. And there is no more potent symbol of the lingering effects than the Stasi Museum. Located in Berlin’s Lichtenberg district, the vast complex of buildings used to be the headquarter’s of East Germany’s feared Ministry for State Security (Ministerium für Staatssicherheit), or Stasi.

From 1950 until its dissolution in 1990, the Stasi was one of the world’s most effective and repressive secret police forces. Almost 1 in every 63 East Germans collaborated with the Stasi in some form, with the agency having over 90,000 employees and 170,000 informants by the time the Berlin Wall fell.

After East Germany’s collapse, the Stasi Records Agency took possession of the Stasi’s millions of records, estimated at around 111km in total length. Half are kept at the former Berlin complex with the rest housed in various Stasi museums across the former East.

I went for an English guided tour in the afternoon, taking the U-Bahn to Magdalenenstraße station which is right next to the museum entrance.

Magdalenenstraße Station

I walked up the driveway to the main building, known as House 1, passing the huge plattenbau prefabricated towers that made up the bulk of the complex.

Forbidding towers loom over you.

The guided tour began in the lobby, which was adorned with East German and Communist flags, statues of Karl Marx and the Soviet secret police pioneer Felix Dzerzhinsky.

Karl Marx
Felix Dzerzhinsky

In the centre of the lobby is a large model of the Stasi Complex made in 1982. The guide explained that there were plans to expand it further by demolishing neighbouring residential areas but these were of course disrupted by the fall of the Berlin Wall.

A 1982 model of the Stasi Complex

The guide proceeded to take us through various exhibits showcasing the Stasi’s rise to prominence under Soviet control, the vast surveillance network it built, the careful methods it used to recruit trustworthy officers as well as the last days of a once-feared apparatus.

A prisoner transport van with individual sealed compartments and disguised as an ordinary workman’s vehicle.
A map of Stasi facilities in East Berlin
A medal awarded to an officer who successfully prevented an escape attempt
A Stasi listening device concealed within a door that was only discovered in the 1990s

I felt that the most poignant exhibit was one which carefully reconstructed how the Stasi worked to discredit a particular dissident using psychological methods:

“First, they ensured he lost his job and was unable to find another. Rumours were spread that he had contracted an STD by being unfaithful. An agent was dispatched to seduce the wife and cause further marital trouble. The dissident was kept under constant and obvious surveillance to induce paranoia. A copy of the evaluation report stated that the man’s life had fallen apart after just 6 months, rendering him useless within the dissident movement.”

The next floor is known as the Minister’s Level. Erich Mielke, who ran the Stasi from 1957 to 1989, had his offices here. The rooms are preserved as they were in the final days, giving an unsettling glimpse into the heart of this sinister organisation.

The Minister’s secretary had her office here. A senior agent herself, she was able to reach high level East German officials quickly via her desk phone.
The conference room where Stasi chiefs decided the fates of prisoners and oversaw its vast surveillance network
Erich Mielke’s office

The highlight of this floor was the minister’s personal office itself. Although largely empty, one can still imagine the intrigue that permeates this space, with the austere furniture standing as silent sentinels to all they had witnessed.

Final glimpse. In the foreground is an exhibition on how the Berlin Wall fell.

The Stasi Museum is smaller than expected, occupying House 1 within the entire complex, and some exhibits are only in German. But the stories told within are very compelling, and display the worst of humanity in East Germany’s repressive society.

Yogi’s Verdict: ★★★★☆

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