Around The World In 18 Museums

I’m a bit (a lot) of a history geek, and its International Museum Day tomorrow, so I thought I’d take a look at some of the best museums husband and I have seen on our travels. They’re an easily overlooked activity when you’re travelling because they have a reputation for being boring (probably because a lot of kids were dragged to them against their will at school), but there are soooo many different types of museums out there that are a hell of a lot more fun than what you did back in year 5!

Top left: Banff Park Museum -Top right: Chicago History Museum – Bottom left: Museum at Mondragon Palace in Ronda – Bottom right: Saga Museum in Reykjavík

1. Banff Park Museum, Banff, Canada
91 Banff Ave, Banff
https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/lhn-nhs/ab/banff/index
Cost: free
This museum looks at animals of all sorts native to the area (like elk, mountain goats, bears, wolves). It also has some gorgeous geological displays of stones and crystals and random curiosities donated by locals. And on the way out, for bonus points, there’s a beautiful library!

2. Chicago History Museum, Chicago, USA
1601 N Clark Street, Chicago
http://www.chicagohs.org/
Cost: USD$16.00 per person
This was like walking through a history book in the best possible way. I learned more than expected to about Chicago’s history, random things like how the city flag came to be, and about the incredible work of Vivian Maier, which I’m not obsessed with.

3. Museum at Mondragon Palace, Ronda, Spain
Plaza Mondragon, Ronda
http://www.museoderonda.es/
Cost: €3.00 per person
This old Moorish palace has been renovated and restored, and given new life as a natural history museum. A lot of the ceiling and tile details are original, and the garden (while small compared to some of the other palaces) is stunning.

4. Saga Museum, Reykjavík, Iceland
Grandagarður 2, Reykjavík
https://www.sagamuseum.is/
Cost: 2.200kr per person
This is like a history picture book come to life – with an audio guide to talk you through, you walk through the museum’s displays of figures (all crafted based on descriptions found in the Viking sagas and chronicles), demonstrating events from Iceland’s history.

Top left: Guinness Storehouse in Dublin – Top right: Mardi Gras World in New Orleans – Bottom left: DDR Museum in Berlin – Bottom right: Czech Beer Museum in Prague

5. Guinness Storehouse, Dublin, Ireland
St James’s Gate, Ushers, Dublin
https://www.guinness-storehouse.com/en
Cost: €17.50 per person
I’m not a beer drinker, and I still had a blast here! Yes, you get to go through a proper tasting session, and learn how to pour the perfect pint, and enjoy said pint in the rooftop bar with a killer view over Dublin, but it’s also a multi-level museum looking at everything from the beer creation process to it’s many marketing campaigns.

6. Mardi Gras World, New Orleans, USA
1380 Port of New Orleans Place
http://www.mardigrasworld.com/
Cost: USD$20.00 per person
You can read more about our visit to Mardi Gras World here, but basically it’s a tour through one of the warehouses the Kern family use to create the incredible parades floats. You’ll get to see the props and some floats, as well as getting a peek at some of the artists at work.

7. DDR Museum, Berlin, Germany
Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 1, Berlin
https://www.ddr-museum.de/en
Cost: €5.50 per person
This is an incredibly interactive museum, encouraging visitors to open cupboards, sit in cars, and listen to the sounds coming through the headphones. You’ll get a disconcerting taste of life in war-time East Germany, including being able to walk through a full “apartment” and rifling through the kitchen, bedrooms and lounge room.

8. Czech Beer Museum, Prague, Czech Republic
Husova 241/7, Prague
http://beermuseum.cz/
Cost: 280CZK per person
Again, not a beer drinker, so this was mostly for husband’s benefit, but turned out it was a really cool little museum! It covered the history of beer, had some crazy beer collections (bottles, labels, model trucks), and at the end of the tour, you received 4 beers to sample. Not little 30ml sips, but full glasses of beer. Enjoy!

Top left: MOMA in New York – Top right: Bier & Oktoberfest Museum in Munich – Bottom left: Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome – Bottom right: Totem Heritage Center in Ketchikan

9. Museum of Modern Art, New York City, USA
11 W 53rd St, New York, USA
https://www.moma.org/
Cost: USD$25.00 per person
It shouldn’t need much of an introduction – this is THE place to go for art in New York. The modern exhibits change regularly, but honestly, my favourite pieces were the classics like Monet’s Water Lilies and Van Gogh’s Starry Night – you see these in magazines and art textbooks at school, but in real life, they’re something else.

10. Bier & Oktoberfest Museum, Munich, Germany
Sterneckerstraße 2, Munich
http://www.bier-und-oktoberfestmuseum.de/en
Cost: €4.00 per person
This little museum lives in an old (when I say old, I mean from the 1300s) townhouse, accessible by a 500-year old wooden staircases, over a few floors. You’ll find an impressive collection of Oktoberfest paraphernalia (mugs, posters, etc), and can sit down to watch a short film about the history of Oktoberfest. Even as a non-beer lover, this was an awesome piece of history to see.

11. Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome, Italy
Lungotevere Castello, 50, Rome
http://castelsantangelo.beniculturali.it/
Cost: €14.00 per person
It took me three visits to Rome, but I finally got to Castel Sant’Angelo! It’s had a few lives, originally built as a mausoleum, and also serving as a fortress and castle before turning into a museum. The most stunning part of the museum are the paintings, Renaissance era frescoes, which have been preserved almost perfectly. Even if you’re not an art lover, they’re worth seeing. Speaking of worth seeing, make it all the way to the top and you’ll be rewarded with one hell of a view.

12. Totem Heritage Centre, Ketchikan, USA
601 Deermount Street, Ketchikan
https://www.ktn-ak.us/totem-heritage-center
Cost: USD$5.00
It’s not a huge museum, but the history it holds is massive. It holds some of the city’s most previous totem poles, as well as other native artifacts (think intricate hand-beaded purses and ornaments).

 

And, because this wasn’t our first (nor will it be our last!) adventure, here are a few more museums worth checking out that we’ve found on our travels…

– Holocaust Museum, Washington, D.C., USA
– The Egyptian Museum, Cairo, Egypt

The Vietnam Military History Museum, Hanoi

The Vietnam Military History Museum
28A Điện Biên Phủ, Hà Nội, Vietnam

 

I’m a bit of a military history nerd, so when husband suggested visiting the Vietnam Military History Museum,  I was stoked.

Vietnam’s identity and history have been so strongly defined by war, and that’s still very obvious. Listening to tour guides speaking to their wards as we made our way around the country, the constant theme was always strong military pride, and the museum exemplifies this national feeling perfectly.

The grounds are piled with discarded planes and bomb shells, the buildings full of photos and more pieces of history. It’s a sombre atmosphere, and you can’t help feeling enormous respect for this small but courageous nation of underdogs. While you could never understand what they have been through, you start to understand just why they’re so fiercely proud and patriotic. 

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Photo Journal: Port Arthur Historic Site, Tasmania

Australia was basically founded as one big convict colony island. Despite the fact that we’re a really quite a young country, there really aren’t many (any?) places left where you can see that side of our history.

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From the website, “The Port Arthur penal settlement began life as a small timber station in 1830. Originally designed as a replacement for the recently closed timber camp at Birches Bay, Port Arthur quickly grew in importance within the penal system of the colonies.”

And who was shipped off to Port Arthur?
“After the American War of Independence Britain could no longer send her convicts to America, so after 1788 they were transported to the Australian colonies…. The convicts sent to Van Diemen’s Land were most likely to be poor young people from rural areas or from the slums of big cities. One in five was a woman. Numbers of children were also transported with their parents. Few returned home.”

And walking through the remains of the colony, from the prison building itself to the church, the asylum, the staff and family housing and the beautiful gardens, you start to get a real sense of how different things were for the convicts as opposed to the officers. Looking out over Carnarvon Bay, it was honestly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. It must have been such a bittersweet feeling, arriving into this picture-perfect place, knowing that you’d most likely never see freedom again.

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You can read about the rest of the history on the website, but the thing that really surprised me about the site was just how beautiful it was; I had no idea. It’s been really well looked after and restored, but even if it had been left to fall to ruins, the stunning natural setting is something else, particularly in Autumn when the sun is still shining and the leaves are turning…

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Photo Journal: The Great Sphinx & Giza Plateau, Egypt

I think people often consider The Sphinx as a bit of an afterthought to the pyramids, and while it’s certainly smaller, it’s every bit as impressive. The Giza Plateau in general is a really beautiful area, and (if you can manage to block out the roaming salesmen) can be surprisingly peaceful if you have the time to just sit down and take it all in…

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Photo Journal: Washington DC’s National Mall

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Firstly, you may have noticed the slight change in blog name; while I didn’t necessarily want to be “ordinary” any more, it’s occurred to me that for better or worse, Ordinary Girl, Extraordinary Dreamer is my brand and my online identity now, and I’ve gotta honour that! That’s how I’ve become known, and I’m still surprised and grateful at the fact that my blog actually is known, so I’m going to partially return to my roots 🙂

Secondly, we had a great weekend escape to Warburton yesterday! We did eat delicious pizza, as I suspected we would, and had an awesome time just leaving the world behind for a while and exploring on our own  : )   And despite the absolutely freezing cold, it was really nice – it was also nice to get back home, into warm PJs, the heater, and a book to read at the end of it all!

Don’t ask me why, but I associate cold weather with books. I know, I’m weird. Maybe it’s because that’s perfect weather for curling up under a blanket with a good book. Good weather to escape into another story and another life. That’s what I was thinking about when I posted a TBT photo on Instagram this week that my husband took of me taking a photo of Thomas Jefferson’s collection in the Library of Congress (last photo of the post). Posting that photo also reminded me of the few days we spend in DC in January, and the particularly cold wet day we spend walking around the National Mall. I’m not a patriotic American, but even I have to admit it’s an incredibly impressive area…

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Anyway, hope everyone else had a great weekend too, and stay warm, fellow Melbournians!

Photo Journal: Luxor Temple, Egypt

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It was around this time last week that I heard about a terrorist attack that was fortunately quelled at the Temple of Karnak in Egypt. I visited Egypt a few years ago, and have written a lot about it; I was a little apprehensive about visiting, given that we arrived in the middle of unrest and riots, but I actually found it to be a wonderful country for the most part, with very kind and generous people, who were just trying to do the best they could in the circumstances they were experiencing. So it was really sad to hear that armed attackers tried to force their way through a security checkpoint at the Temple.

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In much the same vein as the post I wrote on Bangkok last year when they were going through some political (albeit a lot less violent) turmoil, I still believe Egypt is worth visiting. And instead of just writing a lengthy post about the curiosity and generosity of the people, the incredible food, the crazy markets and the brilliant culture shock, let me just show you yet another stunning example of the gorgeous temples that dot the country. Real life history like no where else, and absolutely worth seeing for yourself…

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Inside the hospital of Alcatraz

I can’t tell you why, but I’ve always had a strange fascination for old, abandoned hospitals. Much like old cemeteries (like the St. Louis #3 in New Orleans), I find something so perfectly, beautifully, macabre about them. I realise this is going to make me sound like even more of a lunatic than I already am, and I honestly can’t explain why; there’s just something about the decaying abandoned furniture and equipment, the cliched but naturally haunting lighting, imagining the stories of the patients who went through there. For these reasons, I loved the movie Sucker Punch, and am an enormous fan of the work of Seph Lawless, who captures a lot of these degenerate settings so beautifully.

I’d love nothing more than to spend days exploring some of these abandoned buildings with my camera, but they’re not easy to get into. So, one of the greatest opportunities I’ve ever been afforded was to see inside the hospital of Alcatraz (which was closed back in 1934) when I visited a few months ago. It was opened to the public for a few months after Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was invited to turn the rooms of the hospital into an art gallery, displaying his art examining human rights and free expression. You can read a little more about that exhibition here, but here are some of the photos I was able to take when I visited…

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