Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Auschwitz-Birkenau and Kraków, Poland

I specifically visited Kraków so that I could go to Auschwitz-Birkenau (it was as depressing as you'd expect), and was pleased to find the city thoroughly charming, and quite busy at the end of winter.

The Auschwitz concentration camp entrance gate with the sign "Arbeit macht frei" or "Work makes you free" (a replica of the original sign, which was stolen in December 2009, and since recovered, cut into three pieces)

Auschwitz electric fence

Birkenau extermination camp: end of the line (I could not believe how many tourists were getting their photos taken, draped across these train tracks)

Birkenau memorial

Birkenau memorial

Birkenau gas chamber destroyed by German troops as the Soviet forces approached in November 1944

Guard tower with Birkenau camp buildings in the background

Wawel Hill featuring Wawel Castle, Kraków

Wawel Cathedral

Dominican Church, Kraków old town

Church of SS Peter and Paul, Kraków old town

Town Hall tower, Rynek Główny (Main Market Square), Kraków old town

Rynek Główny

St Mary's Basilica, Rynek Główny

Florian Gate, Kraków old town

Old city walls extending from Florian Gate

Courtyard of Collegium Maius, the oldest university building in Poland

Next: Budapest, Hungary...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

State Hermitage, St Petersburg, Russia

Think of every famous artist you've heard of. Michaelangelo, da Vinci, Raphael (only 3 of the 4 TMNTs - Donatello was missing), Renoir, Monet, Cézanne, van Gogh, Rodin, Gauguin, Picasso, Matisse, Kandinsky, Rubens, Rembrandt...

Now place their artwork in rooms of incredible beauty, rooms that are works of art themselves. Add crown jewels, ancient treasures, and Egyptian mummies, and you'll begin to imagine the scope of the State Hermitage.

My jaw dropped when I walked into each room. I didn't know what to look at first - the floor, the ceiling, the artworks on display? Some rooms were overwhelming, and required several viewings.

The collection is housed in the Winter Palace and Small, Large, and New Hermitages. I spent 2 full days there and still didn't see everything.

Detail of mosaic on the floor of the Pavilion Hall

The Raphael Loggias (copies of the frescoes done by Raphael at the Vatican)

Detail, the Raphael Loggias

Large Italian Skylight Hall

My favourite room: The Gallery of the History of Ancient Painting

Detail, the Gallery of the History of Ancient Painting

Detail, the Gallery of the History of Ancient Painting

The Boudoir

"The Eternal Spring" by Auguste Rodin

"Dance" by Henri Matisse

"Music" by Henri Matisse

"Absinthe" by Pablo Picasso


The Twenty-Column Hall

Next: Kraków, Poland (including Auschwitz-Birkenau)...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

St Petersburg, Russia

Sorry, I've been off the grid for ages. I had less time for blogging after meeting up with my sister in Paris, and then I returned to Australia and focused on finding somewhere to live, moving house, and starting work. Work's going OK I guess. It's just a job. More on that in a separate post some other time.

And now, some photos from the second stop on my Eastern Europe trip: St Petersburg. It was so lovely there in the snow (though very cold).

State Hermitage inside the Winter Palace

Winter Palace

Alexander Column in Palace Square

St Isaac's Cathedral

View from the top of St Isaac's Cathedral

Bronze Horseman

Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood

Interior, Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood

Playground in Admiralty Gardens

Next time: photos from inside the State Hermitage in St Petersburg...