650 Years in Krakow, Poland

Crowds gather in the courtyard to watch the animated clock procession

Crowds gather in the courtyard to watch the animated clock procession

The gorgeous Library is part of the museum tour

The gorgeous Library is part of the museum tour

Krakow’s Collegium Maius (Major College), in Jagiellonian University

This University Museum is classy…and old. A Must-See in Krakow

We spent a day doing all this, and found it fascinating.

The oldest existing building of the Jagiellonian University is the Collegium Maius, situated at the corner of St. Anne’s Street and Jagiellonska Street. The university was established under the name of Studium Generale by Kazimierz Wielki in 1364 and is one of the oldest universities in Europe. This year they are celebrating its 650th year, an amazing number, indeed a very long span of learning to celebrate. It’s the second oldest university in central Europe, after Prague (1348). The first universities were in Italy, in Bologna (1088) and Padua (early 1200s); and England, in Oxford (1096-1167) and Cambridge (1209).

Rod admires the basement cafe

Rod admires the basement cafe

The niches and nooks & crannies in the cafe are artistically decorated

The niches and nooks & crannies in the cafe are artistically decorated

There are two main reasons to visit the Collegium Maius: the courtyard, which has a free animated clock procession three times a day; and the University Museum. A third reason to visit is the Café U Pecherza coffee shop/snack bar in the rather labyrinthine basement. It’s attractively decorated with colorful paintings of musical instruments and other musical themes—and serves great coffee! Here are a couple of photos of that.

In two separate following posts, I’ll tell about the clock/courtyard, and the museum, so the posts are not too long with all that information!

The cafe's menu

The cafe’s menu

Ordering our coffee

Ordering our coffee

I stand at the entrance to IMA

I stand at the entrance to IMA

We wonder what this long circular "curtain" is

We wonder what this long circular “curtain” is

A Room, by Sopheap Pich, Cambodian, b 1971

Installed 2014. Made of bamboo, aluminum, plastic, polyethylene braided line, and Teflon floss.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art’s large entrance hall is often home to a temporary art installation and we were lucky to see this unusual creation. Long strips of various materials cascade down in a circle from the ceiling and at first we wonder what on earth it is. Turns out that visitors can part the strips and enter the circle or inner space, called A Room.

A Room was specially created for the IMA, and is a rare opportunity for people to touch and experience Pich’s work from the inside looking out. When inside, the light coming through the slats suggests the light in a bamboo forest.

A Room fits perfectly into the circular entrance hall

A Room fits perfectly into the circular entrance hall

The artist used lengths of bamboo as well as artificial strips. The bamboo is all from Cambodia and was prepared by hand in his studio. Photographs on the information board show him and his workers preparing and laying out all the strips.

This is a really interesting installation, as it is huge and colorful and yet very symbolic in a way—a room within a room, a place to stop and think about where we are and to imagine we are in some other place. We loved the way the different strands of materials shimmer and seem to change color as the light changes.

Sopheap Pich works and teaches in his studio in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. He likes to work with natural materials like bamboo and rattan, which are easily available near his studio. Many of his sculptures use parallel lines woven in an open grid, which allows air and light to pass through, giving access to both interior and exterior and creating intricate shadows that change with the light.

Inside A Room, looking out to another room and to the outdoors

Inside A Room, looking out to another room and to the outdoors


Entering A Room in afternoon light

Entering A Room in afternoon light


Entrance to the museum

Entrance to the museum




The Indianapolis Museum of Art offers visitors a feast for the senses, both inside and outdoors. The Sutphin Mall is the park-like area in front of the museum entrance. Right by the entrance is the interesting Sutphin Fountain, and at the far end is LOVE by Robert Indiana. This iconic sculpture is world famous (remember a postage stamp based on it?), and has been welcoming visitors to the museum since 1975.

The Mall often hosts temporary sculptures too, and right now it has Five Brushstrokes, by Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997), painted aluminum, designed 1983-84. As the information board tells us , ” …enlarged and boldly colored brushstrokes dance jubilantly in the air, with the tallest form soaring to 40 feet….Here, instead of taking popular motifs from comic culture, Lichtenstein chose the brushstroke as his subject matter. His monumental sculptures satirize the spontaneous splashes of paint associated with Abstract Expressionist artists such as jackson Pollack. This grand but playful commentary on painting offers a meaningful connection to other masterpieces the Museum displays indoors.”

A lot of fun, and the day were we there, the weather co-operated perfectly!fountain


The Five Brushstrokes



The reception area after the tour groups leave

The reception area after the tour groups leave

Sun Studios: The Birthplace of Rock ‘N Roll

No visit to Memphis, TN, is complete without a visit to the legendary Sun Studio. It was here that Elvis Presley recorded “That’s All Right Mamma” in July 1954, opening up a new genre of music called Rock ‘n Roll. It was an instant hit and Sun Studio became one of the most famous recording studios in the world. This year (2014) is the 60th anniversary of that momentous recording, and the city of Memphis is celebrating.

Elvis developed an innovative and different sound, combining Blues, Gospel and Country music. That quality made him a worldwide celebrity within two years and he went on to become one of the most famous and beloved entertainers in history. This studio didn’t only launch the career of Elvis, but also of Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, B.B. King, Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich and many others. Generations of musicians have been affected by all those who recorded here and, in fact, musicians still continue to record here at night.

Some of the vinyl records and old record covers on display

Some of the vinyl records and old record covers on display

Upstairs, our guide explains something about the story of Sam Phillips

Upstairs, our guide explains something about the story of Sam Phillips

The studio building is not large, which makes its impact on the music world even more significant. We entered the studio building into a small café/bar/shop, with a great selection of music CDs and various shirts and T-shirts. It’s a small space and can get very crowded, especially if there are large tour groups waiting for the next tour. Buy a ticket here for the guided tour, which lasts about half an hour.

Taking the guided tour is fun, but tends to be rather crowded, especially on the top floor, where the large tour group blocks out seeing much of anything in the glass cases lining the walls. That’s a shame, as the information that our guide tells us is fascinating. She tells about early Blues musicians, and how Sam Phillips got into the recording business, and something about early radio DJs and how they picked up on this new music. We also learned about the studio secretary, Marion Keisker, who really believed in young Elvis Presley even when Sam Phillips at first thought he wasn’t that great. We wished that the tour group size could be a lot smaller.

The group then goes downstairs to the recording studio, where you can hold the actual microphone used by Elvis and many of

Vera G tests out the mic used by Elvis and those other famous musicians

Vera G tests out the mic used by Elvis and those other famous musicians

the other great musicians, and where you can imagine those famous singers and players jamming and making music history.

A fun, but crowded tour. Our thanks to our guide that day, Nina, who did a lovely job and who is very enthusiastic about her subject.

It’s easy to get to Sun Studio: catch the free shuttle bus that runs between the Rock ‘n Soul Museum on 3rd Street (next to the Fedex Forum arena), Sun Studio and Heartbreak Hotel. The shuttle runs every hour from 10:30am.

This famous photo of The Million Dollar Quartet is displayed in Many places (Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis)

This famous photo of The Million Dollar Quartet is displayed in many places (Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis)



Views and Food at the Ship Inn

The harbor at high tide---the Ship Inn is the large white building in the center

The harbor at high tide—the Ship Inn is the large white building in the center

Even at low tide on a grey evening, the harbor is still pretty

Even at low tide on a grey evening, the harbor is still pretty

RodharborStonehaven, Scotland: The Ship Inn

Stonehaven is a pretty seaside town about 20 miles south of Aberdeen, and we like to stay there a few days to relax after the conference in Aberdeen. We have stayed at the Ship Inn before, so were very happy to get a room here again. We did it through Booking.com so we got a pretty good rate, double with breakfast.

We had room 5, which isn’t the best as it has a “view” onto the trash alley at the side of the hotel, but otherwise it’s fine, and actually not too noisy, as the front rooms facing the harbor are. Rooms are not plush, but perfectly comfortable.

The breakfast is very good—juices, cereals, fruits, tea/coffee, toast and a choice of cooked breakfast, all served in their restaurant.

What really makes the Ship Inn is the friendliness of the staff, the congenial atmosphere at a local gathering place, and the location right on the picturesque little harbor. Lots of people come to the Ship Inn, to drink, chat and hang out—both inside and outside—so we see prams, kids, dogs etc. Parents can sit on the narrow seawall with a drink, while the kids play happily in the sand. Rodmeal

The Captain’s Table restaurant in the Ship Inn is also pretty good; great food, well presented, and some interesting combos. It’s worth eating there at least once, and it’s best to make a reservation, especially at weekends, as it’s very popular and one of only 3 places on the harbor (the others are Marine Hotel and the Tollbooth). A bottle of wine is well priced—ca £15—and a large glass of beer is ca £3.20-ish. The focus is on seafood, although there are other offerings too. One night we had mussels and smoked salmon as appetizers, and then sea bass as the main dish. It was served with 2 giant prawns on top and came on a bed of courgette (zucchini) strips, like pasta.


VivmealAnother night, we had the soups of the day (carrot and coriander, and the local Scottish cullen skink, a bit like a fish chowder), tuna steak on noodles, and salmon with caper puree, squashed baby potatoes, and green asparagus. All excellent.

A lovely place.



Entrance to British Museum

Entrance to British Museum

Small Medals Tell a Large History

exhibitentrance(This is the final post on the WW1 commemorative exhibits we visited this summer).

If you will be visiting London before mid-November this year you will be able to take in two of the special exhibits that I’ve posted about, as the one we saw in Paris (see http://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2014/08/30/ww1-centenary-commemorations-part-2-paris/ ) has now moved to London’s St James’s Park, where it will be until 11th November: Fields of Battle, Lands of Peace 14-18

After that, it will tour the UK and internationally until 2018, as a way of bringing the Centenary to hundreds of thousands of people. www.fieldsofbattle1418.org

The other special exhibition is at the British Museum: “The Other Side of the Medal: How Germany Saw the First World War”. It will run until November 23, 2014. Museum entrance is free, as is entrance to this exhibit.

Good information about the museum at www.britishmuseum.org entrancehelmet

This small exhibit very cleverly uses the common phrase “The Other Side of the Coin”, meaning to look at a different viewpoint. Here, it does try to show how the other side thought about the war, literally using coins (medals).

This display shows medals produced by artists during the War, documenting the events of the conflict from an emotional as well as an historical perspective. There are many German, some French and a few British medals.

There are medals telling the story of the Battle of Verdun and Battle of Jutland, German zeppelins over London, and many about the sinking of the Lusitania.

On May 7, 1915, the passenger liner RMS Lusitania was sunk enroute from New York to Liverpool by a torpedo from a German U-boat submarine. The sinking of the Lusitania turned public opinion in the USA against Germany.

If I had to pick out just one medal to show here it would be America in the World War, by Ludwig Gies, Germany 1917.


Gies’ giant animal-headed raft represents America. Profits from the sale of armaments to allied powers pour from its mouth, while ranks of guns form the beast’s back. America formally joined the war in 1917, although it had been supplying arms to the Allies throughout.

As the war came to an end, artists produced medals about the blockade of Germany and then about the Treaty of Versailles in June 1919.

A small but significant exhibit that gives one a different perspective of this great conflict. Well worth a quick visit.


Scotland, Aberdeen. Aberdeen’s War, continued


Some of McBey's sketches, especially of camels in the desert, are blown up on the walls

Some of McBey’s sketches, especially of camels in the desert, are blown up on the walls

At the Aberdeen Art Gallery, in a separate room is another part to the exhibition featuring James McBey War Artist, 1883-1959. He was a self-taught artist, born and raised in Aberdeenshire. In 1917 his artistic contribution to the war effort was recognized when he was recommended for appointment as Official War Artist in France and with the British Expeditionary Force in the Middle East, including 5 days with the Australian Camel Corps in the Sinai Desert.

The artist’s wartime prints include a great collection that evokes the devastation he witnessed in France, on the Western Front. Some famous sketches are “The Sussex” a torpedoed passenger ship beached of Boulogne, and “France at her Furnaces”, workers at the Schneider munitions works at Harfleur. Later came “Spring 1917”, spare but powerful. The capture of Trone Wood was a difficult and costly action that took place in July 1916. McBey visited the scene in early spring the following year, and he shows the aftermath of the battle with broken trees and a land devoid of life (see below).

McBey perfectly captured the stark desolation of WW1

McBey perfectly captured the stark desolation of WW1

camels2He produced hundreds of drawings in pen, ink and watercolor, also recording the campaign in Palestine and Sinai. Notable are many wonderful sketches of camels. This great collection illustrates military and civilian aspects of the war and sheds some light on a theatre of conflict that is often overlooked in pubic commemorations of WW1.

McBey painted portraits of two of the protagonists of the Egyptian campaign, Emir Faisal and T. E. Lawrence—we see McBey’s preparatory sketches, as the originals are in the Imperial War Museum in London, as are many of his other official war sketches. What fun to see what Lawrence of Arabia actually looked like—not just what we imagine from the movie of the same name! In one panel of portraits is also a sketch of George Langley, the Australian commander of the Sinai Camel Corps (see below, for the 3 men).

LofAand Faisal

Some of these images were later translated into etchings and they are on display in the McBey Room in the museum along with sketchbooks and original photographs, bequeathed by his widow, Marguerite.

McBey’s photographs also documented the war—this talented man captured the war with this other medium too. The black-and-white photos are in albums, with a slideshow presentation just above them.

McBey was unknown to us so, this exhibit was a real bonus, as he was obviously very talented, adding to the understanding of the war experience. He later became an artist of international renown, painting in Morocco, southern France and other warm places! His widow, Marguerite, donated much of his collected life works to the Aberdeen Art Gallery.

valeriu dg barbu

© valeriu barbu



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