Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Pergamon Museum - Vorderasiatisches


Ishtar Gate

It was a 2 hour wait just to get inside the Pergamon Museum. Luckily, the sun was shining and it was comfortable standing outside with just a light jacket and medium heel espadrilles. The Pergamon is undergoing renovations and a section of it will be closed after September 2014. The main entrance is now closed and visitors must enter from a side entrance in the courtyard bounded by the Neues Museum, the Alte Nationalgalerie and the Pergamon on Museum Island. I bought the area ticket worth 18 which may be used to enter a number of other museums within the same day of purchase.  What I should have done though was buy the €25 annual basic membership Staatliche Museen zu Berlin ticket so I could have skipped the line. Well next time I know better.

This was my second visit to the Pergamon. I was quite impressed with the Gate of Ishtar the first time around which is why it was on my bucket list on this trip and the reason why I endured the long wait. I wavered a couple of times and thought I should have started at the Neues Museum to view the Nefertiti first which is equally electrifying but the line to the Pergamon never let up so I stayed where I was until I was finally allowed into the museum at around 2 p.m.

In Nebuchadnezzar's own words

The Ishtar Gate and Processional Way are at the top of the stairs as you enter the lobby. The gate is one of eight double gates from Babylon dating back to the time of Nebuchadnezzar II around 575 B.C.E.  It is covered in blue glazed bricks across which parade yellow glazed dragons and bulls. The gate dazzles like new. On one side wall is an inscription of Nebuchadnezzar’s own words:  “I, Nebuchadnezzar, laid the foundation of the gates down to the water level and had them built out of pure blue stones. Upon the walls in the inner room of the gate are bulls and dragons and thus I magnificently adorned them with luxurious splendor for all mankind to behold in awe.”* And it is truly awesome!

Processional Way

The Processional Way is a snippet of the original in ancient Babylon, but it is nonetheless impressive. Lions march along the length of the facing walls in the direction of the gate. These well preserved fragments date back to 600 to 562 BC.

 Lamassu

There are so many treasures in the Pergamon Museum, particularly in the Vorderasiatisches Museum. One of these treasures is the lamassu, an Assyrian deity in the form of a winged beast with a human head. It is stunning in size.

Next up, the Market of Miletus.


*Source: Smart History, Khan Academy

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Images by TravelswithCharie


Sunday, June 01, 2014

Random Amsterdam


The Bulldog

Amsterdam has always thrived on its notoriety which has brought many visitors eager to see its offbeat attractions such as the Red Light district. Another popular curiosity is The Bulldog (The Name with a Heart!) which, as the sign on its colorful façade indicates, has been around since 1975 serving some things you wouldn't normally see on a regular café menu. They claim to be the first coffee shop in Amsterdam where they now have several locations including this one at Oudezijds Voorburgwal 132 in the Red Light District. And to quote their Palace branch website, "If there is more than coffee or juice you crave, The Bulldog cafes have all the offerings". Yes, they have Karaoke too! (lol) The Bulldog has also branched into the hotel business both in Amsterdam and in Canada. 

The Night Watch, Rembrandtsplein

The Night Watch is considered one of Rembrandt's masterpieces and it's possibly the most precious painting in the Rijksmuseum.  The Night Watch has been vandalized twice in recent years and subsequently restored. On the Rembrandtsplein, there's a sculptural reproduction of The Night Watch over which a statue of Rembrandt keeps watch. And you can approach, examine, and touch the various characters from the famous painting. The little dog is my favorite.

Bike Lane

When you see this sign, stay away from it and allow the thousands of bicyclists who have places to go and people to see to navigate their way without obstacles in their path. Don't walk on their lane. Or you'll hear about it!

De Krijtberg

Amsterdam is not known for its churches but the Krijtberg (Church of St. Francis Xavier) on the Singel near the flower market is a neo Gothic church from 1883 whose beauty you'll only discover once you enter the main door. Notice the vaulted ceiling, the stained glass windows, the rood screen and the ornate pulpit. There's so much to look up to. The façade though, is plain and unattractive with two pointed spires. 

View from the Skylounge

The Skylounge at the Double Tree Hilton by the Central Station has one of the best views of the city and the EYE Film Institute on the banks of the Ij River. There's an outdoor seating area with gas heaters for cold evenings.  This was my new discovery in a city I know so well, thanks to my good friends. I love to sit here and watch the sunset transform the city from nitty gritty to absolutely romantic!

Romantic Amsterdam

And speaking of romantic, here's a view of the Amstel river from Café de Jaren. Eat slowly and enjoy the view. Cheers! 

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Images by TravelswithCharie

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Begijnhof, Amsterdam


Behind this nondescript door is an enclave in the center of Amsterdam. This was once the home of the Beguines, single women whose mission was to care for the sick. The first recorded document of the Begijnhof dates back to 1346 when a certain Cope van der Laene gave the Beguines the Beghijnhuis (house of Beguines).

Courtyard of the Begijnhof

The door from the Spui leads into a courtyard surrounded by traditional 17th-18th century houses which were completely renovated between 1984-1987. It's a different world as you cross the threshold. But for the noise created by the visitors, it feels as if Amsterdam is miles away. Though just outside the door, depending on the day of the week, there are outdoor cafés and musicians playing to the crowd. Or if it's the weekend, there might be a book or art fair on the Spui. 

Het Houten Huys, 1528

One of the oldest houses in Amsterdam, the Houten Huys (black façade) dates back to 1528. Many of the earlier buildings in the Begijnhof were made of wood. Two big fires in 1421 and 1452 razed buildings on the property. The Beguines rebuilt the houses using brick. 


Behind the Houten house is a wall with colorful plaques of biblical themes from 16th century. The topmost plaque is Christ the Savior, and below are Jacob's Dream, Elijah, Flight to Egypt, the Sacrifice of Abraham, the Golden Oven (from Nebuchanezzar's time), in Emmaus, and one inscribed 'TGELOOF. These plaques have beautiful stories to tell.   

The Chapel of the Beguinage

The Chapel which is dedicated to St. John the Evangelist and St.Ursula is another hidden church in Amsterdam. The exterior of the chapel gives no clue that there is a Catholic church within. This was the result of the Alteration when Protestants wrested power from the Catholics and forbade them to attend mass. The Beguines started construction of their new chapel in 1665 after their own church within the property was confiscated and given to the English. The sign above the door says English Reformed Church which is across from the chapel. But this is now a Scottish Presbyterian church. Two houses were bought and joined to form the chapel. It was completed in 1682.  There were 150 Beguines during that year. The last Beguine, Sister Antonia, died in 1971. Nowadays, the Begijnhof is home to single women (who are not Beguines).

There is a mass in French at 11:15 am every Sunday. It's a small community and the service is both intimate and tranquil. It's perhaps my favorite place to worship in Amsterdam.

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Images by TravelswithCharie

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Architectural Diversity in Amsterdam

17th century canal houses

During the Dutch Golden Age, wealthy merchants built magnificent homes along the canals of Amsterdam. Today we associate Amsterdam with its 17th century canal houses. But a walk around this compact city reveals a healthy dose of Art Deco, Dutch Art Nouveau, and modern structures. Amsterdam is a city that embraces diversity (in more aspects than one) with aplomb.

Eye Film Institute Netherlands

Across the Ij River and easily accessed by a free ferry, the Eye Film Institute reigns as the principal attraction of the Overhoeks urban district. It is the Dutch film culture and heritage museum which opened in April 2012. The EYE was designed by a Viennese architectural firm, Delugan Meissl Associated Architects. An article on April 10, 2012 in the ArchDaily described the EYE building as follows: "On the interface between land and water, between historic centre and modern development area, the building adopts many faces from each viewpoint, thus finding itself in a constant dialogue with its surroundings."  I view the EYE as rising from the waters of the Ij and is one with it. (In fact, it stands on pylons embedded in the river below.) 

Pathé Theater

Even if you don't want to watch a movie, you can always go to Pathé theater for a drink at the bar. And this is one heck of a bar! There's no mistaking the Art Deco façade which sets Pathé apart from its neighbors. The bar is in the lobby which has been thoughtfully furnished to reflect the era. I stood below the lighted dome in the foyer and watched mesmerized as it changed color from green to red to purple. When I finally had enough of the kaleidoscopic colors, I turned around and spotted a beautiful painting on the wall. As I was crossing the foyer to get a closer view of the painting, I happened to glance down and saw this eye popping carpet. This carpet was redone in 1984 using the same Moroccan thread ( but not the original design). It was flown back to Amsterdam in one piece courtesy of KLM Airlines. 


Construction of Pathé started in 1918 and it opened in 1921 after Abraham Icek Tuschinski, its owner, spent 4 million guilders for a top rate theater. Renovations to the theater took four years, from 1998 to 2002. Nothing was spared to restore the theater to its former glory. As a footnote, Tuschinski and his family died at a Nazi concentration camp.

American Hotel

I have passed by the American Hotel many times over the years but not until recently did I notice the façade which faces the Leidsekade.  What stopped me in front of the hotel were the life-size statues representing the world's continents suspended in a row between the windows. These statues were added during the expansion and renovation of the hotel under the management of the architect W.G. Kromhout. Kromhout preserved the original building in its Viennese Renaissance state while the new building was constructed in the Dutch Art Nouveau style. The American Hotel is a charter member of Historic Hotels Worldwide.  

For the architectectural buff, Amsterdam is a treasure trove of buildings both old and new and well worth exploring. That's why it's always fun to travel to Amsterdam where surprises abound.

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Images by TravelswithCharie 


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Our Lord in the Attic



In the years following the Alteration in 1578 when power was transferred from Catholics to Protestants, an ordinance was passed in Amsterdam prohibiting Catholics from openly celebrating the mass. Jan Hartman, a rich merchant, bought property on Oudezijds Voorburgwal in 1661 and started rebuilding the three houses on that property to accommodate a hidden church on its top floors. 

View of the organ from the first gallery

Ludovicus Reiniers, a priest, acquired the property in 1739 and kept the church open for worship. Our Lord in the Attic remained the parish church of Catholics living in the area for over 200 years until St. Nicholas Church (in front of the Central Station) was consecrated in 1887. Soon after a group of Catholics bought the property to save it from demolition. It was reopened in 1888 as a museum, one of the oldest museums in Amsterdam. Masses are still celebrated on first Sundays of the month from October to May at 11 a.m. (Check their website for dates of masses.)

The ceiling and second gallery

It's literally a breath of fresh air to visit this secret church as there were few visitors when we were there during Easter break. Unlike other destinations in Amsterdam where you have to contend with the crowds to get a good view of an icon or a painting, to find a seat in an outdoor café and to have room enough to walk the familiar streets without a bicyclist careening towards you, it's a breeze to slowly walk through the various rooms and intimately connect with this 17th century canal house. If only walls could talk.

The confessional

Aside from the church, there are interesting rooms to see including the imposing drawing room of Jan Hartman 's family, the bedroom with a bed in a cozy closet (to keep the cold out), the tiled kitchen, the Chapel of Mary, the confessional and vestuary. Typical of canal houses of the 17th century, visitors must climb and descend on steep stairs, one careful step at a time. I was particularly impressed with a well preserved quadriptych of the Resurrection which unfortunately was neither properly identified nor part of the audio tour.

The Ressurection (not sure of the title)

Our Lord in the Attic is in the heart of the red light district though this specific area has now been "gentrified". There are more restaurants and cafés in the neighborhood and no obvious "red light" businesses. The museum is open Mondays through Saturdays from 10 am to 5 pm and Sundays from 1 pm to 5 pm. The entrance fee is €8 as of this writing and this includes an audio guide. Large bags are not allowed in the museum and must be left in lockers in the reception area. The address is Oudezijds Voorburgwal 40 and is a short walk from the Damrak. For more info check this: www.opsolder.nl.

Cozy 17th c bed


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Images by TravelswithCharie



Sunday, May 11, 2014

That Perfect Photo Eluded Me

I know very well that to take the perfect photo of the iconic I amsterdam slogan, I must wake up at 5:30 a.m. and run over to Museumplein (at the back of the Rijksmuseum) before the tourists and visitors arrive in droves. But it was too cold to get up that early and besides, I kept late nights with friends sipping my favorite fresh mint tea leaves in one of many cafés on the Leidseplein and Rembrandstplein. So I shouldn't be disappointed at all with the images below since these were taken in late afternoon at the height of the King's Birthday weekend celebrations.

5:30 p.m. 

Everyone is hanging out in front of the slogan or should I say, all over the slogan. There's absolutely no way of getting a clear view of it. Notice the colorful orange accessories worn by many. It's the theme color of the House of Orange from whence the new King descended. These folks had been partying on the streets of Amsterdam all day long.


I have an almost unobstructed view from the back. 


Not too difficult to read? But it's not quite the same.  

So I tried again the following week, same time, late afternoon. But I could only fit the entire sign by taking the photo from the side. I was using my IPhone and I haven't mastered the panoramic setting yet. I really should wake up early next time.


And I don't mind if I'm tagged a tourist because I'm engrossed in taking pictures of this fun icon. I'm up to the challenge!

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Images by TravelswithCharie


Saturday, May 10, 2014

"Tiptoe through the Tulips"


Though I've visited Amsterdam many times, I've never been to the tulip fields. During this recent trip, I made it a point to go to Lisse to see the profusion of colorful tulips at their peak. It was beautiful to stroll around the 32-hectare Keukenhof Gardens. While it was overcast, it wasn't cold at all and a few sprinkles didn't warrant an umbrella.


There are more than 7 million tulips, daffodils and hyacinths grown at Keukenhof. The incredible variety of tulips and amazing colors are every photographer's dream. This is truly a feast for the eyes. 


The flowers are artfully planted in diagonals, horizontals, verticals, patchwork, and many elaborate patterns. There's a windmill on site, a Japanese garden, a stream running through the gardens, fountains and playgrounds and so much more. You just need comfortable shoes and well rested legs for the long walks.


"And if I kiss you in the garden, in the moonlight
Will you pardon me?
And tiptoe through the tulips with me." Tiptoe through the tulips


The Beatrix Pavilion was transformed into a tropical wonderland of phalaenopsis, cymbidium, and oncidium to name just a smattering of these beauties. There are so many varieties here to admire. I can only wish I could raise such healthy orchids. 


Keukenhof has been named the "Most beautiful spring garden in the world". It's open from March 20 to May 18 in 2014. (March 20 to May 17 in 2015). To get there, take Bus 858 from Schiphol Airport. Buy your ticket from the Information kiosk. The round trip bus fare and entrance fees were €19.00. Arrive early at the gardens to avoid the crowds. Opening time is 8 am. Check their website at www.keukenhof.nl for more detailed information.

A tulip field outside Keukenhof Gardens


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Images by TravelswithCharie

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Advocacy: Balay ni Charie



First Grade classroom, Agsilab Elementary School

February was a hectic month for Balay ni Charie. We distributed school supplies in four elementary schools in Capiz. Our first stop was in Sapian at Agsilab Elementary School. 300 students received notebooks, pens and pencils from Balay ni Charie. At Agsilab, we saw first hand the damages wrought by super typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda. In one building, three different grades had to share the same room. Blackboards were used to separate one class from the other. The ceiling was gouged out. In another classroom, a red plastic tarp keeps the children dry from the rains. The kindergarten and day care kids were installed at the barangay hall across the street as there were no classrooms available for them. The good thing is that all the children were able to continue with their studies. And maybe the buildings will be repaired during the summer break.

Agsilab Elementary School

Our next stop was at Agoho Elementary School in Pan-ay which is right on the beach. It has the most beautiful setting of all the schools but vulnerable to storm surges and flooding. I would have a hard time concentrating on learning anything if I were one of the students here because I would probably be gazing out the window or be distracted by the calming sounds of the sea. 290 children received school supplies at this school. We happily observed the work on the roofs of the buildings. Fortunately, the school received much needed help for repairs from a Christian group from TexasUSA.
 
Agoho Elementary School

Nieva Burdick and her friends and family sent a generous contribution of school supplies to Balay ni Charie. She shipped these supplies and t-shirts from New York in December 2013 and it was delivered in Roxas City in February 2014. This contribution helped us immensely so we could reach out to two more schools - Malonoy Elementary School and Ilas Norte, both in Dao, Capiz.  I was quite impressed with how the Principal, the teachers and the parents of the students at Malonoy Elementary worked together to make necessary repairs to the classrooms damaged by the super typhoon. What a herculean effort on their part to put everything back together in record time! Bravo!

Malonoy Elementary School

The sixth grade kids at Ilas Norte Elementary School received t-shirts and they were so excited to wear them. Here they are showing off their new tees.

Students at Ilas Norte Elementary School 

About 204 students in Malonoy and 295 schoolchildren at Ilas Norte Elementary School received school supplies. These distributions totaling 1,027 grade school students in Capiz were much needed replenishments after the super typhoon claimed all of the children's books and supplies. As Balay ni Charie, a grassroots foundation, enters its 9th year of service to the children in Capiz, it is grateful to all its generous supporters whose invaluable contributions allow it to reach out to more schools in the community.

For more information on BalayniCharie, please check www.balaynicharie.blogspot.com.

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Images by BalayniCharie and TravelswithCharie 


Monday, March 24, 2014

Kalibo Art Tour

Erlinda Quimpo Wilson (l) and fellow artist, Clay Dalid (r) at Studio Q

We drove to Kalibo from Roxas City to see the paintings of Erlinda Quimpo Wilson at her own Studio Q in the center of the city. At the time of our visit in February, Erlinda was busy preparing for the Transwing Art Exhibit at SM Aura Mall in Fort Bonifacio where her paintings were included in the exhibition. 


Erlinda has received awards for her works and these are proudly displayed at the studio. The walls of the cozy studio show a wide selection of her paintings depicting local scenes or festivals as well as canvasses she completed while in U.S. where she took painting classes. I really loved this peaceful painting of 2 people busily working on the field with their backs bent against violet tinged mountains in the background. 

Saylo Cuisine

We went to Saylo Cuisine for lunch where some of Erlinda’s paintings were prominently displayed in the dining room. Saylo encourages local painters to display their works here. Near the main door is this dining alcove with a deep purple backdrop and a collage of photos. What an artistic tableau!

Saylo Cuisine's menu

I was impressed with the lengths to which Saylo has gone to provide a unique dining experience starting with the menu which came in a banig bag. Lots of choices from the kitchen including their best seller, Inubarang Manok which is native chicken and ubad (core of a banana stalk) cooked in coconut milk and lemongrass. I ordered the fried tilapia and it was every bit as good. Saylo is located in Andagao on Quezon Ave Extension near St. Monica Chapel, a short drive from the city center. 

Dela Cruz House of Piña

The Dela Cruz House of Piña is a classy little boutique inside the home of the woman who sent her kids through school with the money she earned from weaving jusi or piña material with her very own hand loom. Both the woman and the loom were in house and I had the privilege of meeting this grand old lady who enjoys talking with guests and telling them her life story.  The sheer piña shawls are both elegant and refined. And the hand painted shawls are worth the price listed. The shop also sells nito and abaca products. Nito is a tropical vine from the fern family and is hard and waterproof. Nito is woven into baskets, placemats, and trays. The House of Piña is located at 81 Buswang, Kalibo.

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Images by Charie

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Miag-ao Church


It's a 35-minute drive from Iloilo City proper to Miag-ao along well paved roads. We left the city around five in the afternoon and arrived in Miag-ao just after sunset. I've had to filter these photos as it was too dark to get any clear images.

Miag-ao Catholic Church or the Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It was completed in 1797 and ravaged during the 1898 Philippine revolution against Spain, during World War II and again during the 1948 earthquake. The walls, the belfries and the facade are all that is left of the original structure.  Miag-ao Church is a fine example of colonial Baroque.


The facade of the Church is of yellow ocher limestone which was quarried from nearby mountains. It is decorated in high relief with a palm tree on the top and center of the triangular frame. St. Christopher with the child Jesus on his shoulder is under the palm tree and they are surrounded by indigenous flora. In the niche below St. Christopher is the town's patron saint, St. Thomas. The Church is flanked by two belfries of varying heights and which were built in 1854. An earthquake in 1880 destroyed the original north tower.


The massive walls of the Church measure 1 1/2 meters thick, rises 11 meters high and are of sandstone material. It is supported by buttresses that taper at the top. These walls were built as fortifications against further advances by Muslim pirates who attacked the town in 1741 and 1754.

The Church was closed for the evening so we missed seeing the retablo. It will be the subject of a future post.

Retracing our ride back to Iloilo City, we stopped at Tatoy's Manokan and Seafoods Restaurant in the Villa district to try their famous chicken. I didn't find the native lechon manok (chicken) to be anything special but it was good to check out what the hype was all about.  All the other entreés we ordered were fine. There's a new Tatoy's branch in Santa Barbara just outside the international airport.  

We stayed at the Smallville21 Hotel in Mandurriao. This is an area of restaurants, cafés, karaoke bars and discos. It was Saturday night, party night. We could hear the loud music from the bars below to the wee hours of morning. We begged for a room away from the main street but all the quiet rooms sold out early in the day. If you love the nightlife, then this area is for you. 

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Images by Charie