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Rovaniemi and Jyvaskyla

Reporting from Helsinki

sunny 18 °C
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I decided not to clog up the Christmas in July post with the other thing we did in Rovaniemi - and we weren't there long really, so went to one museum and for a short walk along the river...

It was a very interesting museum called Arktikum, which showed life in the Arctic Circle, and also had lots of interesting information about animals, trade and history. It was in a building with a long glass arch, and photos of it in winter makes it look like an igloo. In summer however, it is a greenhouse and was stifling hot under the arch.

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We had a long drive to get from Rovaniemi to Jyvasklya and so opted to get going early and have breakfast as a stop on the way. Our other reason for getting away early, was that the reason we were stopping overnight at Jyvaskyla on the way to Helsinki was to get to the Alvar Aalto Museum, which we realised was shut on Mondays, so in order to visit, we needed to get there with enough time to enjoy it and it closed at 6pm on Sundays! So with the museum plugged into our GPS, apart from breakfast, we didn't stop. We have hauled the camping stove with us, so were glad to get it out to make coffee at a stop on the side of the road! Cereal and bananas made a perfect break stop!

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The museum was really interesting. Alvar Aalto was a furniture designer and architect, renowned for designing Finnish summer homes using natural and environmentally sympathetic materials. He was also an inspiration for many of the stools and chairs in Ikea, such as the common Frosta stool and everyone's favourite the Poang chair. He looked to create furniture from sustainable woods, and pioneered the use of plywood layers and bending wood.

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Jyvaskyla was a quick visit, given we arrived at the museum at 4pm and left the following morning after breakfast. But we did sample some local beers and enjoyed a walk around the town, along this gorgeous rainbow road!

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Posted by aboo10 03:12 Archived in Finland Tagged children animals museum finland ecotourism family_travel midnightsunrun Comments (0)

On to Oslo

Reporting from Bergen

rain 15 °C
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We arrived fresh and ready to hit Oslo after a night on the Ferry... amazingly smooth journey. We packed up our little cabin, and headed down to the car deck. Once our GPS booted up and realised it had moved to a different country we headed to meet the next key giver of the new AirBNB apartment - a lovely little space, I'm very taken with Scandanavian interiors!!
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Then once we had unloaded the car, we set off in the car - due to the short stay, we have not mastered the public transport system, and instead just visited three museums, all of which we drove to. The first was the Munch Museet. They were having an exhibition of Munch and Van Gogh, cohosted by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. It was a terrific exhibition, and showed the parallels between the two artists, who came into painting around the same time, and had similar influences, however interestingly never met! I was fascinated because there were so many paintings by Van Gogh that I had never seen before, this one particularly grabbed me... Two figures in the undergrowth.
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The Munch Museet gave the kids a treasure hunt activity to do, where they had a map of the museum, and stickers with parts of the paintings. They had to match the stickers to the rooms, and (optionally) write the name of the painting and the year it was done. It was a terrific activity and really got the kids engaged with the artworks. Then they got this pack at the end as a reward for getting it all right!
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After the Munch Museet, we headed to the Vikingskipshuset - a fascinating look at 3 Viking Ships which had been used around 900AD as burial tombs for 'important' people. The deceased were interred in a burial chamber on the boat, and surrounded with useful goods which would be beneficial in the afterlife. These ships are the best preserved because they have been buried, however when they were discovered they were treated with a preservative, which stopped the outside of the wood from deteriorating, but sadly are now decomposing from inside, and the museum experts are not sure how best to prevent it continuing.
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Interesting fact for the day... Vikings did not wear helmets with horns!
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A bonus from our ticket to the Vikingskipshuset, was it also gave us entry into the Historical Museum within 48 hours! So on the morning we were leaving Oslo, we had a quick visit to the Historical Museum to get another quick look at Norwegian Viking History and Life in the Arctic Circle!
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We saw a model of a Stave Church in the Historical Museum, and then realised that it was en route to our next stop - Bergen!

Posted by aboo10 13:27 Archived in Norway Tagged children museum norway family_travel midnightsunrun Comments (1)

Hamburg Happenings

Reporting from Hamburg

sunny 25 °C
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So after all the preparations and packing, we set off with the box on the top of the car... loaded for a four week driving holiday!!
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And drove 4 hours from our house to our first AirBNB place - it was perfect... balconies overlooking the canal, clean and streamlined.
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We had two days in Hamburg, and packed it in...

The first day we wandered around orientating ourselves, starting with lunch in a pop up wine village next to the Town Hall. Apparently this Weindorf has been 'popping up' every summer for 30 years! Each stand had it's own theme and was basically a small restaurant... but no beer!
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The Rathaus is a splendid building, and we were all suitably impressed!

Then we headed down to the Speichernstadt, which is the old warehouse district, easily accessed via canals and recently nominated for UNESCO recognition. The red brick buildings are right on the canals (damp basements?) and many are being restored.
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We visited a quirky, jam packed museum called Miniatur Wunderland - the world's largest model railway! Which took us on a tour of sorts through Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Scandanavia and the US - amazing detail. Remarkable was the model airport - with taxiing, queuing, arrivals and departures, and all the
other airport activity! The kids loved it, and the whole way round Didi was planning his own model railway, making suggestions for what he (and Dad) could include!
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The next day, we were again lucky with gorgeous clear blue skies, and were headed for Hafen City - the harbour section of Hamburg, which feels amazingly like being near the ocean, even though it is actually 200km away! And we stumbled on a massive Ferris Wheel... so we went on it... 60m high - gorgeous views!
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Then we went to the iF Design Museum, which felt a bit like a showroom rather than a museum, and showcased many different design features from furniture, to mobility aids, bikes, packaging and bathroom equipment.
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After that we headed next door to the Maritimes Museum - so many model boats! With such detail, and a true international maritime history. It was pretty good - 9 floors of maritime history is quite a lot though, although Jie Jie was quite taken with it and took a thousand photos of the exhibits!
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After the Maritimes Museum, on the promise of an ice cream, we stumbled across Chocoversum, and joined a tour of the Hachez Chocolate Museum. We made our own chocolate bars, by adding ingredients like gummy bears, caramel, cinnamon and coconut to warm melted chocolate, which set while we continued on our tasting tour, and was ready for us to package at the end of the tour.
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We have had a lovely two days here in Hamburg... now today, it's off to Denmark!!

Posted by aboo10 22:26 Archived in Germany Tagged children chocolate germany museum family_travel midnightsunrun Comments (1)

China Maritime Museum

Reporting from Jinqiao

sunny 32 °C

On the last Friday in June the kids and I got up to a bright blue sky revelling in the knowledge that it was the very first day of the long summer holiday, eight weeks of summer stretching out lazily ahead of us... the term had seemed to go on and on, and finally reaching that last week of term was relief to everyone, parents, kids and teachers.

It's also a bit of a sad time of year here as it is unfortunately a time that we often say good bye to some of our friends as they move on to new pastures green, and so that first weekend, coupled with being the start of the holidays for everyone was full of farewells. The biggest one being a great night out at Lost Heaven with about 30 people, unfortunately about 8 of them moving on, but we were lucky with the weather, and started with cocktails on the roof, before having an enormous feast together downstairs.
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On Sunday we went to Yi Cafe at the Shangri-La for buffet brunch, which is a bit of a Shanghai institution, but one in four years we have never participated in. There were twelve of us, and the kids were free! I went not expecting Jie Jie to eat anything, but to my surprise and delight she asked for a pasta dish to be cooked to order, and then surprised and delighted me further by eating the whole thing! Didi sampled lots of things off our plates, but the funniest bit was when he got a bread stick which was about a metre long, and proceeded to take bites from it, without picking it up off the table! There was also a dessert bar, and Jie Jie got confident about dipping marshmallows into a chocolate fountain. When we got home, Mike and I had eaten enough that we just needed to lie down like a snake digesting a mouse! It was delicious, and good fun, and with good friends, but I couldn't go every week!!

We lazed around for the week, going swimming with friends and on our own, out for lunch and playdates with friends, to another farewell party at an indoor play centre and then one week into the holidays, we went out to the China Maritime Museum - fortunately with friends who have a car, as they picked us up and drove us there - well past the airport! The building was impressive, with massive sails, reminiscent of the Sydney Opera House:
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And inside the museum, we were at first taken aback by the chill in the air, as the air conditioning was working so well it felt cold - admittedly part of that would have been coming inside from 34 degrees! The museum was great, lots of control rooms and hands on displays for the kids to play with and pretend that they were driving and working hard in submarines or on ships. My favourite was the old ship in the central void, with the mast going high up into the sail of the building.
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There were a number of wonderful displays, including model ships and aircraft carriers, the history of boats from bamboo rafts ('Just like Yangshuo', said Jie Jie) right through to enormous tankers, also tidal projections on a globe, engine rooms, simulated activities to practise welding or crane driving and of course a children's playroom complete with boats, cranes and fish. It was a great day out!

We've now had a couple more playdates and swims, and then tomorrow we are off on our summer vacation and adventure... we are going to Vietnam! We fly to Hanoi tomorrow afternoon where we are staying for 3 days, then heading down for 2 weeks on the beach in Hoi An, followed by 3 days in Ho Chi Minh City and finishing off with a trip to Disneyland in Hong Kong! How lucky are we??

Posted by aboo10 18:05 Archived in China Tagged buildings children boats museum family_travel Comments (1)

Nanjing Massacre Museum

Reporting from Jinqiao

rain 1 °C

Last week, I went on an adventure, bravely, all on my own... well, I signed up to go on a tour without knowing if I knew anyone on the trip, as it turned out I knew one friend of a friend, and she had two lovely friends with her, so all in all, I ended up having quite a sociable time.

I had to be at the Shanghai Portman Centre by 7.45am, for registration and bus was departing for Hongqiao Railway Station at 8am, so to allow plenty of time, at 6.30am off I set, in a taxi to the Metro Station. It was somewhat eerie being at the station so early with the fake market closed and distinct lack of crowds on the station. Similarly arriving in Nanjing Xi Lu just before 7am was quiet, Marks and Sparks wasn't open yet, the traffic was non-existent, and the town was just stretching and waking up. It was cold and damp too, so a misty fog hung in the air.
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I was there in plenty of time, so started roaming through some of the alleys, but there was more than a hint of rain in the air, so I decided to get down to the meeting place directly. Some shops and businesses were starting to set up, and I loved this line of delivery bikes all parked ready and waiting for the day of business.
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Arriving at the Portman Centre, it started to rain, and these deserted benches caught my eye, and look quite romantic through a few rain drops on my camera lens. Although I was a bit worried that my camera was going to fog up and take ages to dry out again.
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The tour organisers were checking names and passports and handing out the outward bound tickets, and I sat down to enjoy a Cranberry Bagel with cream cheese (which incidentally cost more than the bagel!) and a cappuccino. Once everyone was accounted for, we headed over to the bus for the 20min trip to Hongqiao Station. On this short trip, we were introduced to our tourguide, Janny who gave us a brief history of Nanjing, and how for a long time it was the capital city of China. She also filled us in on the imperial history and that through the various Chinese dynasties, with tales of angst between uncles, brothers, monks and prodigal sons, all many centuries before the Nanjing Massacre which occurred doing the Second Sino-Japanese war, and specifically starting in December 1937.

The train trip was pretty amazing, we were travelling on the high speed train, and the trip took 75 mins and they displayed the train speed at the end of each carriage - approximately 300km/hr. Some years ago, we went to Nanjing as a family and the train trip took nearly 4 hours, so amazing that now you can go there and back in a day. The station in Nanjing was pretty impressive, and we followed the group out to the bus to take us to the Nanjing Massacre Museum, about half an hour away. Janny then told us the history of the Nanjing Occupation by the Japanese, which took place from 13 December 1937, for approximately 6 weeks.

The Japanese army had issued an order on 9 December 1937 to Nanjing urging surrender within 24 hours, but did not receive a response from the Chinese by the deadline. General Tang Shengzhi retreated on December 12, and 100,000 untrained Chinese soldiers were left to defend Nanjing. Nanjing then fell to the Japanese by nightfall on December 13, and was then subject to the 6 week period of the Nanjing Massacre. During that time the Japanese soldiers raped and killed many women and children, reportedly up to 20000, carried out 26 mass murders, the museum itself is built on the site of one of these murders, and is the gravesite for an estimated 10000 people. In total 300,000 Chinese were killed during this period.
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Outside the entrance to the museum there are a series of sculptures which show the agony and the pain of some of the victims. For example, a child sitting alone crying, not realising that her parents are dead, a man leading away his elderly mother, someone trying to herd children away from the horror, someone falling after being shot in the back, and so on...
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Once inside, you are encouraged to walk on the solid slate paths, rather than across the neat grounds of pebbles. The pebbles represent the bones of the dead. Everywhere you look the number three hundred thousand is displayed, and written in many different languages, recognising the deaths of the Chinese during the Japanese occupation, at which time the Japanese had an order 'to kill all captives'.

The museum itself is a dramatic walk through what Nanjing was like during the massacre, with models of the city wall, display cases of journals kept by both Chinese and some Japanese soldiers, displays of weapons used. But what I found most disconcerting was the number of accounts (which had been translated into English) of the survivors, and the horrors that they faced daily during the occupation. Images of bodies floating in rivers, reconstruction of the houses of 'Comfort Women' (kept as sexual slaves), accounts of 'pretending to be dead', 69 protest letters against the atrocities sent to the Japanese Embassy, piles of dead bodies and even some atrocities which were committed by Japanese soldiers after the deaths of the Chinese, for example sticking a cigarette into the mouth of a decapitated head, and taking a photo. These artefacts have been donated to the museum by a number of survivors, and even some Japanese families who recognise that while the horrors of the Nanjing massacre were terrible, it is important to remember.

The grounds are a peaceful place to continue pondering the atrocities, and there are many sculptures around which depict the agony and the terror of the victims and survivors. Horrifying as well, are the excavated pits, much like those in Xian with the terracotta warriors, but with real bodies and bones to see. Reading the accounts of some of the deaths was just shocking, and it beggars belief how one human could do such horrifying acts to another.

Interestingly, just this week, a Japanese official publicly doubted that Japanese soldiers would have committed these atrocities in Nanjing in 1937, by saying that it 'probably never happened' - I think he should get himself over to Nanjing, and visit the Nanjing Massacre Museum.
Click here for the article in The Wall Street Journal

Posted by aboo10 07:17 Archived in China Tagged museum Comments (1)

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