Viktor Wynd’s Museum of Curiosities | London

The Last Tuesday Society

Halloween is creeping up on us so what better time to take you to a dark basement in East London, right? More precisely, we’re going to Hackney. There’s this strange-looking pub on Mare Street, with a black front and curious knick-knacks haphazardly displayed in its window. Inside the atmosphere is suitably lugubrious. On the ground floor, the Last Tuesday Society is a pub like no other. As your eyes get used to the poorly lit environment, you may notice that patrons may look rather strange… Yes, you’re seeing that right, it’s a rather menacing stuffed lion wearing a top hat sat at that table! Now as much as this is definitely the most intriguing drinking institution I’ve been to, I’m actually here to tell you about what lies beneath it…

The Last Tuesday SocietyThe Last Tuesday SocietyThe Last Tuesday Society

Mention the museum to the bartender and you will be shown to a gaping hole on the ground where a staircase spirals down to a red-glowing mouth. Hold tight to the banister, a few more steps, please, please mind that one, and you’ve landed in Viktor Wynd’s Museum of Curiosities. There, a couple of rooms are lined with glass cabinets filled with so much stuff you don’t know where to start. There’s a lot of taxidermy as one expect from such places but the specimens are arranged in strange scenes, sometimes placed alongside surprisingly mundane objects. For instance, there’s this striking stuffed two-headed lamb standing right next to Dora the Explorer.

The Last Tuesday SocietyThe Last Tuesday SocietyThe Last Tuesday Society

The associations are mesmerising, you feel like you’ve just tapped into Viktor Wynd’s stream of consciousness. His interests are strangely intertwined behind the glass windows: tribal art, erotica, taxidermy, celebrity culture, Happy Meal toys and the flashy world of dandies. With his personal collection mixed with donations, Viktor Wynd wishes here to “recreate a 17th century Wunderkabinett with 21st century sensibilities”. The idea is not to educate but to leave the visitor with a sense of wonder. Undoubtedly, some pieces are awe-inspiring such as the perfect dodo skeleton, the precious glitter suit of celebrated dandy Sebastian Horsley or the predator bones lurking behind the bars of a cage at the back at the museum.

The Last TuesdayThe Last Tuesday SocietyThe Last Tuesday Society

But mostly, this little shop of horrors is deliciously facetious. A closer inspection to the book covers will make you blush, with titles like The Naughty Nun or Mrs Thompson’s Water Domination (!). And look at that angry stuffed chihuahua taking cover under the giant crab! It’s also well worth reading the labels on the various pots and jars exhibited on the shelves. There are some very puzzling spontaneous donations such as Russell Brand’s pubes (which are actually beard trimmings sent by his hairdresser), Amy Winehouse’s (fake) poo and Russell Crowe’s (actual) wee. The world of Viktor Wynd is undoubtedly fascinating but what you make of it is the added reward.

The Last Tuesday Society
Practical Information

The Last Tuesday Society,
The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities – website

11 Mare Street
London E8 4RP

Opening Hours
12pm – 10.30pm (Wed-Sun; same hours as the pub)
Tours are also organised

Admission
General £5 / Concessions £3 (includes a cup of tea & a guide book)

Bus
26, 48, 55, 106, 254, 388

Drimnagh Castle | Dublin

Drimnagh Castle

Did you know that the only castle with a flooded moat left in Ireland can be found in Dublin? You’d think with such a title, the castle would also be ‘flooded’ with tourists. Not quite. It is a bit of a locals’ secret probably due to the fact that it’s located rather far off the tourist track. In fact, the castle was completely unknown to me despite having lived in Dublin for 8 years! It is located in the capital’s South West suburbs, in a residential area called Drimnagh.

Drimnagh Castle

Case in point, when I finally visited this Norman Castle earlier this year, I practically had the whole place to myself bar a group of kids from the primary school next door. I had unfortunately just missed the tour guide but the helpful volunteers in care of the grounds kindly let me in and provided lots of information.

Drimnagh Castle was built around 1215 by the De Bernivale (sometimes spelt Barneville and later anglicized as Barnewall). They had received the land in recognition for their services during the Crusades and the invasion of Ireland. They resided here for 400 years.

See also: Love Irish Castles? Check out this Norman Castle just outside Dublin

Drimnagh CastleDrimnagh Castle

The castle you see today had been updated throughout the years: the main castle on the right of the tower dates back from the 15th century, the tower was built in the 16th, the porch and the stairway in the 19th and various buildings were added during the last century.

It also holds the title of being the longest inhabited castle in Ireland but by the mid-1980s it had completely fell into ruins. Thankfully the local community and An Taisce (The National Trust for Ireland) intervened and brought the place back to its old glory. They even added a beautiful 17th century-style garden.

Drimnagh CastleDrimnagh Castle

Inside the castle, the piece de resistance is without a doubt the Great Hall. It has a gorgeous red and black tiled floor, an imposing mantelpiece and curious carved oak figures adorning the walls. Back in the day, the hall had a dual purpose of sleeping quarters cum living room. During the day, the mattresses were replaced by tables and benches.

Drimnagh Castle is certainly a charismatic place and it won’t surprise you that it was used as a shooting location for several productions among which The Tudors and Ella Enchanted.

See also: Killruddery and Powerscourt Estate were also filming locations for the TV show The Tudors.

Drimnagh Castle

DRIMNAGH CASTLE PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Drimnagh Castle – website
Long Mile Road
Dublin 12

Admission
General €4.50 / Students & OAPs €4 / Children €2.50

Opening Hours
9am-4pm (Mon-Thu)
9am-1pm (Fri)

Bus
18, 56A, 151

 

Rose Festival & North Bull Island | Dublin

Rose Festival & North Bull Island

It was a hot afternoon in July, I had just come back from London, right in time for Saint Anne’s Park Rose Festival. I had been wanting to visit the park and its yearly floral event for a quite a while now. Every July, for a weekend, the beautiful rose gardens are celebrated by the local community. Families gather the time of a weekend, to enjoy the festivities. The cheerful atmosphere actually reminded me a lot of the Bloom Festival. Plant sales, craft stands, food stalls were lined up in the park’s paths while a band was giving the crowds a soundtrack for that happy Summer day. The kids were flying mini kites or queuing for a ride on the carrousel. And let’s not forget the star of the weekend, roses in their different shape or colour were admired in one of Dublin’s best rose gardens.

Rose Festival & North Bull Island
Rose Festival & North Bull Island
Rose Festival & North Bull IslandRose Festival & North Bull Island
Rose Festival & North Bull Island
Rose Festival & North Bull IslandRose Festival & North Bull Island

St Anne’s park is located in the north of Dublin bay, between Clontarf and Raheny. It offers many interesting features, aside from the rose garden. Most prominently, many follies in decay but also a walled garden and a clock tower, as well as the Red Stables which houses an arts centre, a cosy little cafe and markets on the weekend. And last but not least, there’s a line of oaks that bears a striking resemblance to the Dark Hedges from TV show Game of Thrones. This park is so fun and its diverse landscape made me think of my childhood grounds, le Parc Solvay in Brussels. This might just be my new favourite park in Dublin!

Another great thing about this park is that it’s facing the seashore, more precisely the entrance to North Bull Island. I had never been there so I decided to kill two birds with one stone while I was in the area and pay it a visit.
Rose Festival & North Bull IslandRose Festival & North Bull IslandDublin Rose Festival & North Bull Island

The road to the island crosses salt marshes which holds a UNESCO protected bird sanctuary. Dublin is actually the only capital city which has an entire biosphere reserve within its walls. At the end of the causeway, you’ll find dunes and the man-made beach Dollymount Strand. It’s a beautiful sandy beach which offers great views on the Dublin bay, on one side, the Poolbeg Chimneys stand tall while on the other side, Howth head lies on the fluffy sea.

Kylemore Abbey | co. Galway

Kylemore Abbey

Seeing Kylemore Abbey roll out over the horizon when you drive down the N59 is something that must be experienced once in a life-time. A few years ago, My friend and I were road tripping in the Connemara when we both simultaneously gasped and squealed at the sight of the castle standing majestically over a mirror-like lake. This is the kind of stuff fairy-tales are made of.

You can visit the ground floor of the castle where you’ll learn of its history. It was built in the 1860s by Mitchell Henry, a wealthy London doctor, for his wife Margaret who fell in love with the region. They lived there very happily and had 9 (!) children. Alas, their story took a tragic turn when Margaret died of a fever during a trip to Egypt. Inconsolable, Mitchell built a Gothic Church and a mausoleum in honour of his wife, which you can still visit today in Kylemore. He left the premises, pained by the memory of his wife too present there. The castle was then acquired by the Duke and Duchess of Manchester who had to let it go a few years later due to gambling debts.
Kylemore Abbey
Kylemore Abbey
Kylemore Abbey
Kylemore AbbeyKylemore Abbey

This brings us to 1920 and the current owners of the estate, the Benedictine nuns. They were looking for a new home after their Belgian monastery was destroyed in World War I. They found it in Kylemore Castle which then became Kylemore Abbey. They still live there today, living off admissions, donations and the handmade goods they sell at the gift shop.
Kylemore AbbeyKylemore Abbey
Kylemore Abbey
Kylemore Abbey
Kylemore Abbey

Unfortunately, I wasn’t as enthralled by the rooms of Kylemore Abbey as I was for its outside. For me the true gem of the estate is the Victorian Walled Garden. Nestled between hilltops, the abbey gardens are a stunning example of Irish landscaping. Inside the stone walls, you’ll find a vegetable garden, orchards, glasshouses and the Head Gardener’s house. The latter’s period rooms are beautifully laid out in pastel hues. I can’t start to imagine the life led by those who took care of this land, an oasis between lake and mountains.
Kylemore Abbey

KYLEMORE ABBEY PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Kylemore Abbey – website
Connemara
co. Galway, Ireland

Admission
General €13 / Seniors €10 / Student €9 / Children under 10 Free

Opening Times
9.30am-5.30pm (Every Day, Mar-Nov)
9am-7pm (Every Day, July-Aug)
10am-4.30pm (Every Day, Nov-March)

A singing man, a protest and the missed cheesecake | Berlin, Day 4

Berlin, Day 4
I started the day with this little white fluff of happiness, watching the snowflakes falling by the window. If you didn’t read day 1 of my Berlin trip, you might have missed that my airbnb came with a cat. He was such a personality, spending his time either napping or supervising the courtyard.

It was then time to head out the door. Like every morning, I took the U-bahn, aka the Berlin tube, to join the city centre. My airbnb was located just next to a station so it was very handy to explore the city. I quickly snapped this picture as it was the first time I got on one of these vintage carriages. So small and so seventies!
Berlin, Day 4
I decided to go back to Mitte, the city centre where the main sights are, as I realised I had forgotten to check out Gendarmenmarkt, which is often referred as one of the most beautiful squares of Europe. I, for one, think it has nothing against ‘my’ Grand Place but it wasn’t too shabby indeed! On the marketplace, you’ll find the German Cathedral, the Concert Hall and the French Cathedral (the last two pictured below). The guy next to the fountain was singing some Oasis songs at the top of his lungs and I’m not sure why but I found him quite moving. Maybe it’s because he was facing the towering Concert Hall as if he was imploring Listen to me!. I was about to give him my change when it was suggested to me that the cup he was holding was actually his coffee. Awkward situation averted, phew!

On the square, there’s also an old-fashioned toyshop with an army of nutcracker soldiers in the window and other beautiful wooden objects. The Christmas decorations were still up so there were loads to look at. Side note, I was surprised to see so many garlands and trees still up walking in Berlin mid-January. Do Germans have a hard time letting go of Christmas? Does anyone know why?
Berlin, Day 4
Next stop that morning was Bebelplabtz which is famous for being the spot where Nazis held book-burning ceremonies. I wanted to see the memorial but unfortunately it was closed for renovations. On the opposite pavement, there was a little second-hand book market which is probably the most a-propos place to sell books, don’t you think?
Berlin, Day 4
On a lighter note, I then made my way to the Mall of Berlin where I wanted to browse the home section of H&M. I’m forever jealous of the other countries where H&M homeware is stocked so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to browse IRL the goodies that had me dreaming online. In typical ‘Nora’s fashion’, I got overwhelmed and nearly left the shop empty-handed when I spotted a cute marble phone cover by the till so at least that came home with me! I wandered a bit more in the mall and browsed in Zara Home and in the Marriage Freres tea shop.

As I stepped outside, I found myself in the middle of the biggest demonstration I ever seen. I’m not 100% sure what was going on but there seemed to be a lot of discontentment against the power in place. Among groups representing Vegans, LGBT Rights and the Refugees, I listened to speeches shouted from megaphones for a while. I don’t do well in big crowds so I slipped away to a deserted side street and went for a bite in a shabby greasy spoon.
Berlin, Day 4
Going to the Topography of Terror museum wasn’t part of the plan but I ended deciding to go there on a whim after seeing it pretty much mentioned in every Berlin guide I read. It’s located just next to the Martin-Gropius-Bau exhibition hall which is a stunner of a building. It has these pretty gold medallions all over it. I took a good while admiring and photographing it, nearly getting run over by a car in the process. After googling it, I found out that it’s pretty amazing inside too so I really regret not stepping in.

In front of  Topography of Terror, there’s a segment of the Berlin Wall still standing as well as the excavated cellar where prisoners were tortured and executed by the Nazis. The museum is indeed built where the Gestapo HQ used to stand. The Topography of Terror examines the Nazi institutions and the crimes they carried. One thing I would say is that the exhibition is quite static. Chuck loads of information is displayed on white boards so I would probably advise you to watch a good documentary on the subject beforehand and then focus on the areas in the exhibition you’re interested in. Queuing to read the boards can get a bit tedious otherwise. The part that captivated my attention the most was the beginnings of the National Socialist party and how they managed to gain so much power with such a vile agenda. It turns out that voters’ indifference is probably the most powerful political tool. It is a delicate balance achieved by giving something to the people they want then taking away something else and repeat the process. It is scary how that method still rings true today.
Berlin, Day 4
When I left the museum, I headed to the nearest U-bahn entrance. I rode South to the neighbourhood of Kreuzberg. The atmosphere there was probably the liveliest of all the areas in Berlin I had visited so far. The streets there were a pleasant combination of Kebab restaurants and indie shops. In a courtyard, I found the hipster Voo Store where cool magazines, designer clothes and beautiful people drinking coffee formed a harmonious hub. I quickly browsed the thoughtfully curated items on display and made my way towards my last cultural stop of the day: The Museum of Things. How do I describe this museum with this strangely vague name? If you love collections, you will enjoy browsing these cabinets. Objects are displayed according to function, material or colour. It’s incredibly eye and camera-pleasing. As you can imagine, I went a bit snap-happy so no doubt I will expand on this place in a later post.

By the time I got out of the museum, the night had fallen on the city. However, I was in the mood for cake and looking on my mapstr, I noticed that Five Elephant was on the way to my airbnb. It turns out that once again I underestimated Berlin geography. The walk felt long, although the cold and the neighbourhood with the creepy circus and the questionable street-sellers might have had something to do with it. I passed many cute cafes but my heart was set on Five Elephant as it came recommended by Mariell’s blog. She claimed they serve the best cheesecake in history. If that’s not an incentive, I don’t know what is! Unfortunately, when I finally got there, the place was packed. Thick-condensation-on-the-window packed! I turned on my heels and jumped on the bus home.

Are you all caught up with my Berlin trip so far? Here are Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 if you missed them.

Parc Tournay-Solvay | Brussels

I had planned a post on my trip to Berlin this week but I just want to talk about Brussels. Last year when the city was on lockdown and continuously portrayed as a terrorist den in the media, I froze at first and eventually I felt like reacting by publishing a post on the joyful Brussels I know. The terror and frustration of last year have been replaced by numbness and incomprehension after the attacks this week. My heart breaks for the lives lost and broken, for the ones who have to live with the absence and the pain, and for the light-hearted Brussels of yesterday.  I’ve been going through my pictures of last summer which filled me with a painful nostalgia, I long for my city to come back to a peaceful place. As fate would have it, the last post on Brussels I have in my archives is of the most serene place I know of. 

Parc Tournay-Solvay

The Tournay-Solvay park is a secret garden in the South of the Belgian Capital. I haven’t seen it mentioned that often in guides which is a pity because I think it’s pretty magical. Although I might be biased because this place is linked to many memories and formative moments in my life. It is here that my mum would bring me as a toddler to burn some energy as I learned to walk. Later, I would come with my primary school to learn how to recognise trees by their leaves. I made my first herbarium here and saw the life cycles of many frogs, dragonflies and butterflies. I think it’s safe to say that my love for nature stems a lot from this place. When I was a teenager, I would hang here and laze in the sun or play petanque. And finally, the lost young adult I was would escape here to breathe and reflect when things were a bit too much. I would sit on the bench at the foot of the burnt castle that overlooks the ponds while listening to Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible or Patrick Wolf’s Lycanthropy on repeat.

Parc Tournay-SolvayParc Tournay-SolvayParc Tournay-Solvay

This park that was created in the early 20th century has so many beautiful features, it’s well worth taking an afternoon to explore the various parts of it. It has a rose garden, an apple tree orchard, ponds, a walled garden, centenary trees, the ruins of a castle on a hill and rows of rhubarb leaves that look like umbrellas. If you leave through the kitchen garden’s exit, you’ll find yourself in the Sonian Forest’s dried swamps. We’re so lucky that the forest so close to our city has been so well preserved. It’s not unusual to catch the sight of a shy roe and in the summer nights, the fireflies come twinkling over the swamps.

The exit near the ponds will lead you to the Boitsfort lakes which is another fab place to have a walk. And they’re right next to one of the most creative Brussels neighbourhood, the Coin du Balai (literally meaning ‘Broomstick’s Corner’). You’ll fall in love with the colourful facades. The residents love to decorate their abodes with potted plants and various knick-knacks there.

Parc Tournay-Solvay

When I visited the park last Summer, I was surprised to see it in the process of being renovated. ‘My’ bench had disappeared and new areas to accommodate visitors had been laid out. The eerie ruins of the burnt castle had been replaced by a construction site. I’m a tad worried that this park’s old charms will make place to something too new and too shiny for its own good but I think it’ll be interesting to see what they will make of it. This might strengthen its position on the Brussels map. I’m guessing tourists don’t come here too often because it’s a 40 minute tramway journey from the city centre but if you have a thing for green space, pretty architecture and quiet suburbs, head South next time you’re in the Belgian Capital.

Parc Tournay-Solvay
PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Parc Tournay-Solvay
Chaussee de La Hulpe
1170 Brussels

Admission
Free

Opening Hours
Every day from 8am – 6pm (Oct-Mar); 8am-7pm (Apr); 8am-9pm (May-Aug); 8am-8pm (Sep)

Bus
17 (Etangs de Boitsfort Stop)

Tram
94 (Boitsfort Gare Stop)

Train
Gare de Boitsfort

 

Eyeliner, french toast and an evening in the museums | Berlin, Day 3

Berlin, Day 3
Day 3 in Berlin started with a spot of shopping. I can’t say it was the promise of browsing that lured me in the giant shopping mall Alexa, just off Alexanderplatz. I think I was more interested by any source of heat at that stage. I’m glad I stepped in as I stumbled upon a Kiko shop that was having the most ridiculous sale ever. So while warming up, I stocked up on my favourite eyeliner and other bits. I’m all about that kind of multitasking.
Berlin, Day 3
Berlin, Day 3
First on my list of things to see that day was the Berlin Cathedral. It’s quite an impressive building. There is something about the way it looms over the river Spree that reminded me of Notre Dame de Paris and the Seine. It made the area quite romantic really, even the bridge next to it had something French about it.

Standing on the bank of the river, I could see a gold dome shining in the distance. I followed it like the old magpie I am, thinking it would probably be a Russian Orthodox church. It turns out it was the New Synagogue. The most beautiful one I ever did see, it looked like an intricate wooden jewellery box. It’s certainly worth a look if you’re in the area. And the surrounding street is actually very lively, Oranienburger Strasse seemed to be a haven for hip bars and restaurants. I didn’t put any of these places to the test as I was on my way to the House of Small Wonder, near Friedrichstrasse.
Berlin, Day 3
I had been dreaming of their infamous Croissant French Toast ever since reading about them on Jess-On-Thames’ blog. I vaguely pretended to look at the menu and ordered them straight away and accompanied by a matcha latte. They were indeed delicious although I would say that the portion is rather on the small side, just a warning in case you are really hungry. Maybe, I was too greedy… The decor of that place was absolutely magical, so many plants, it had an air of French Indochina.
Berlin, Day 3
I then headed to the Charite University Hospital. The campus was so eerie, blocks and blocks of stern buildings that looked like abandoned asylums. I couldn’t help thinking it would make a brilliant map for a video-game. There, I visited the medical museum with its gory collection of jars filled with diseased organs. This stuff wasn’t for the faint-hearted, I’m sure you’re grateful that photography wasn’t allowed inside.
Berlin, Day 3
Next stop, keeping with the creepy and weird theme, was the Design Panoptikum. This ‘surreal museum for industrial objects’ was such a great surprise. And something I will be sure to write more about here. The charismatic founder, Vlad, takes you away on a journey where things are not always what they seem. Loved it!
Berlin, Day 3
My ‘night at the museum’ ended with the DDR Museum. The museum presents the daily life of the people who lived in East Germany in a very interactive way, through a collection of mundane objects, from their beach essentials to the cars they drove.

I don’t think I have ever been to so many museums in one evening! I’m going to blame the cold for that. Rather tired, I ran back home but made sure to stop for a burger first. A falafel burger, natürlich.

Here are Day 1 and Day 2 if you missed them.

Chandeliers, pink rooms & film props | Berlin, Day 2

Berlin, Day 2
On Day 2, I left the city to go to Potsdam, a town 45 minutes away from Berlin. The reason I wanted to go there was to visit the Sanssouci park which comprises of several grandiose palaces and buildings. Unfortunately, only the main Sanssouci Palace and the New Palace were open during the low season but I still took the combi-ticket as I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see as many rococo rooms as I could that day.
I did find it a bit puzzling that there was no Winter ticket as you only get to see 2 palaces out of the 5 buildings open in the full season for the same price. Tickets are not cheap and on top of that, you need to buy a photo permit, maps must be bought from machines, there’s a charge to the restrooms and some parts of the palaces open that day were going under some works. I don’t regret it as it was totally worth it, I had a magnificent day out and I can imagine that the maintenance of the whole park must cost a fortune but to be perfectly honest, I do feel that there should be some kind of gesture towards the low season tourists.
Berlin, Day 2
Berlin, Day 2
Berlin, Day 2
Berlin, Day 2
First up was the main Sanssouci Palace which was the summer residence of Frederick the Great. Forgive me if I’m not very historically accurate here, but taking pictures while holding the audio guide and keeping up with the group was a bit of a challenge. The guy was reacting against the squareness of his father who thought education was frivolous. He lived for arts and philosophy. He even asked Voltaire to come and live with him at Sanssouci. You can see the room where he stayed today, it’s a mad thing! Its yellow walls are covered with wooden parrots and flowers (I will show it to you in another post, I’ve way too many pictures to share). Frederick was as exuberant in his lifestyle as in his choice for home decor. He loved French baroque and his living space is an incredible display of the rococo trend. As a visitor, I marvelled at his taste and felt like fist-bumping the guy… Not sure I would have felt the same as a tax-payer at the time!

When the tour was done, I had some time to kill before the next one would start at the New Palace. I took that opportunity to walk in the gardens surrounding the palaces. They’re huge so it took me quite a long time to get to the New Palace and my 7 minute-late arrival caused the receptionist a panic but thankfully she let me grab an audioguide and join the group…
Berlin, Day 2
Berlin, Day 2
Berlin, Day 2
Berlin, Day 2
The atmosphere inside the New Palace offers an interesting contrast to Sanssouci. The windows had been blocked off, everything felt a bit dusty and sad. The rooms were freezing cold. But I think I liked it even better, it reminded me of the abandoned house Professor Emilius Browne squats in during the Blitz in Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
Rococo was out of fashion at the time Frederick the Great built this palace but he could not get enough of the chandeliers, the silk tapestries and the gilded frames. His love for rococo was so strong that a new form of the style was named after him ‘Frederician Rococo’. My kinda guy.
The New Palace had some of the most impressive rooms I had seen that day. The reception hall had a sea theme and was covered with seashells and another one with pink marble from floor to ceiling. My favourite room though was the hunters lodge, surprisingly it looked like it could have been Marie-Antoinette’s boudoir, what with its feminine blush tapestries and the wooden rosebuds carved on the ceilings.

I had a little bit of time left before the night would fall so I decided to stay a bit longer in Potsdam to check out the film museum. Unfortunately, cameras weren’t allowed inside so I’ve nothing to show to you bar my ticket.
Berlin, Day 2

Potsdam is an important spot in the history of cinema. There, you will find Babelsberg Studios, the first ever large-scale film studio, birthplace of masterpieces such as the iconic Metropolis. To my surprise, I found out that the studios are still in activity and produced quite a few international blockbusters in recent years like Inglorious Basterds, V for Vendetta or The Grand Budapest Hotel. The Film Museum displayed quite a few props used in the nearby studios, old machinery and vintage makeup. I especially liked looking closely at the editing consoles. It turns out that editing was historically a woman’s job because of their smaller fingers. It made me smile that women had such an important role behind every great story shot on the silver screen.

Read about my first day in Berlin here.

Street art, Pastel Houses & David Bowie’s Flat | Berlin, Day 1

It’s been a few days since I’ve been back in Dublin and I’m not sure I’ve quite collected all my thoughts on Berlin yet but I thought I would show you day by day what I did in the German capital. Technically, this wasn’t my first day but my third one. On Day 1, I didn’t take any pictures but I roamed around where my Airbnb flat was located to get my bearings and Day 2 was spent unfortunately inside as I was sick. I was in good company though as my Airbnb host had left her cat in my care and it was so cosy to have a little purring friend by my side. It was my first time using Airbnb by the way and maybe I could dedicate a post to my experience if anyone’s curious on how the service works but to make it short here, I am a total convert, the whole thing was absolutely delightful!
The Fraternal KissSo let’s go back to my first day exploring Berlin. My flat was located in Berlin East, in the neighbourhood of Friedrichshain and on that morning, I decided to walk to my first port of call: The Berlin East Gallery. I don’t know about you but generally when I get to a new place, I feel like I need to walk everywhere and I avoid confined spaces for the first few days. Museums and public transport make me feel a bit claustrophobic up until I have a better grasp of the geography surrounding me.

It took me about 45 minutes to walk to the most famous segment of the wall covered with murals. The walk there was an atmospheric one, on the big boulevards of East Berlin, with their towering stalinist buildings. Few times during my trip, I felt like suffocating thinking of the past, this was one of them.

The walk along the Wall cheered me up. I was armed with patience to take a tourist-free picture of the infamous Fraternal Kiss (pictured above) which I heard was near to impossible. It turns out sightseeing at the crack of dawn is great, the whole gallery was empty. Too bad about that ugly fence though.

Nikolaiviertel
Nikolaiviertel
Berlin, Day 1From there, I had planned to walk along the river Spree to get to the city centre but I didn’t factor in the size of Berlin. I knew it was big, I think I read somewhere that it is 10 times bigger than Paris but I guess I thought I could deal with it… Well, I ate my hat and took the U-bahn, aka the Berlin tube to my next stop, Nikolaiviertel (not without a little breakfast stop to a kebab joint oops… One thing I love about Berlin is how falafel is so readily available, it’s literally everywhere so it was hard for me not to have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday. (Hi my name is Nora and I’m a falafel addict).

The neighbourhood of Nikolaiviertel was high on my to-see list for the simple reason that it looks like it could have been the set of a scene in Grand Budapest Hotel. The houses are painted with pleasing shades of pastel and they boast of pretty ornaments like bows and garlands. The contrast is quite impressive actually when you step from a big boulevard that has a distinct seventies vibe to this quaint quarter that could belong to a city like Vienna.
Berlin, Day 1I jumped back on the U-bahn towards the South of the city as there was something I was adamant to do that day. Like the rest of the planet, I had a hard time coming to terms with the death of David Bowie. I woke up that morning thinking it was a nightmare. His music had such an impact on me as a young adult although I am not going to pretend here that I was the biggest fan, I sort of ignored anything he did after Diamond Dogs. So I found some comfort in being in Berlin when it happened and discovering how their fates were intertwined. I went to Haupstrasse where he was sharing a flat with Iggy Pop for a few years in the seventies. In front of his building door layed flowers, drawings, candles and poems. I stood there with a handful of people in silent disbelief.
Berlin, Day 1
Berlin, Day 1
Berlin, Day 1
Berlin, Day 1

I then made my way back to the centre to see the main sights. It was my first time in Berlin, actually I think it was my first time in Germany weirdly enough so I felt like I should cross them off my list.
Pictured above, you can see Checkpoint Charlie which was the Wall crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. Nowadays it serves as a picture opportunity for tourists where they can pose with actors dressed in fake army uniforms.

Next was the iconic Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag building which sprung chilling image of World War II in my mind. Lastly, the day ended with a visit to the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma Victims of Social Nationalism and to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

Museo di Palazzo Mocenigo | Venice

Palazzo MocenigoPalazzo Mocenigo

Back in January, when I went to Venice, one of the things that I was looking forward the most was to visit lots and lots of palazzi. Unfortunately, I only managed to fit two: this one and the Palazzo Fortuny. I was travelling on a budget and it turns out entrance fees to Venetians palaces are quite pricey. Venice on a budget is not a problem and indeed very enjoyable but I would love to go back under different circumstances and live the palazzo life for a different take on the city.

Anyways enough wishful thinking, let’s go back to the Palazzo Mocenigo. Rebuilt in the 17th century, this impressive gothic   palace was the home of the Mocenigo’s, one of the most important family in Venice. It is now the Museum of Textiles, Fabrics & Perfume. Needless to say, this was high on my list.

Palazzo MocenigoPalazzo MocenigoPalazzo MocenigoPalazzo MocenigoPalazzo Mocenigo

As you access the piano nobile, you first walk through period rooms. Living rooms, dining rooms, the lavish furniture is marble-topped and the walls are covered with gold-framed paintings celebrating the Mocenigo family’s glories.

Filling those rooms, faceless mannequins are arranged in eerie little scenes. They wear ancient garments and accessories, the fabrics are beautifully patterned, the lace and embroidery are testaments to true craftsmanship. They exhibit the unworldly elegance Venetians are so famous for. In the library, you’ll find the books covering the history of these costumes and fabrics, of the fashion of 18th century Venice.

Palazzo MocenigoPalazzo MocenigoPalazzo MocenigoPalazzo Mocenigo
Palazzo Mocenigo
Then starts the itinerary through the Venetian history of perfume, highlighting the key role the city played in the origins of this art. You’ll see the reconstruction of a 16th century perfumer’s lab, where weirdly shaped bottles pile up on the shelves and the raw materials are scattered on a table. There, you get closely acquainted with the processes of perfume-making. In the glass cabinet covering the walls, stand the most beautiful collection of vintage bottle you’ll ever see.

My favourite room was the ‘olfactory station’ where the ingredients of the different fragrance families fill jars and phials. Woody, floral, oriental and fresh, you’re free to sniff  those top, middle and base notes to your heart’s content.

Tip: Make sure you go to the Palazzo Mocenigo in Santa Croce as opposed to the other palazzi of the same name in San Marco. Okay, maybe not a tip as such but if I can help one person not to feel like a total fool like I did that Tuesday morning…

Palazzo Mocenigo

Practical Information

Museo di Palazzo Mocenigo – website
Santa Croce, 1992
30124 Venezia

Opening Hours
10am – 4pm (Nov-March)
10am – 5pm (Apr-Oct)
Closed on Mondays, December 25, January 1 & May 1

Admission
General €8 / Reduced €5.50

Vaporetto
San Stae stop (Line 1)