Skip navigation

Kyiv Pechersk Lavra (Києво-Печерська лавра), also known as the Kiev Monastery of the Caves, is a historic Orthodox Christian monastery which gave its name to one of the city districts where it is located in Kiev.

Since its foundation as the cave monastery in 1051, the Lavra has been a preeminent center of Eastern Orthodox Christianity in Eastern Europe. Together with the Saint Sophia Cathedral, it is inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Kiev Pechersk Lavra is essentially a complex split into two parts. One above ground and one below. It is very spread out with numerous buildings.

Built in 1073-8 AD, the main church of the monastery was destroyed during the World War II after the Nazi Germany troops occupied the city of Kiev. The reconstruction of the cathedral began in 1998 and was completed in time for its reconsecration during the Ukrainian Independence Day ceremonies in August 2000.

Great Bell Tower –  it was the tallest free-standing belltower at the time of its construction in 1731–1745.

It is an active monastery. Monks dressed in black walk around the complex. The monastery has a very informative web site in English – including information for local churchgoers and pilgrims –

The caves were the beginning of a detailed excavation in which monks created a labyrinth of underground caves and catacombs. Below ground, this network takes on a greater meaning as it is full of mummified monks, religious relics, and icons.

We were so distracted by the above-ground complex that we left it too late to explore the caves. Too bad as it would the most unique sight.  Well, next time.

In the news at the time this post was drafted, Ukraine created the biggest schism in Christianity in centuries, as it breaks from the authority of a Moscow-based patriarch and formally gain recognition for its own church (“autocepaly”), taking tens of millions of followers and church properties. Ukraine’s Parliament voted in December 2018 to force the Moscow-affiliated church, currently known as the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, to instead call itself the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

See New York Times article here.

The cave monastery is owned by the Ukrainian state but occupied by followers of the Moscow patriarch under a long-term lease, could become a point of contention. What an ugly mix of geopolitics and religion.

View of the monastery garden

A view of the monastery from the River Dneiper. Due to the camera angle, the statue appears next to the monastery, but in reality they are actually quite far apart.

On our way out, we noticed these brand new copper tops of church spires. The monastery apparently has a shop that supplies the parishes with this essential architectural element.

We really missed out a lot of sights on this short tour. If this is interesting to you, the monastery has a wonderful 3D tour online at  Go take a look.


We spent a few days in Kiev (Kyiv) in Ukraine to see the 2018 Champions League final in June 2018. We knew little about Kiev or Ukraine, here are a few things we saw and learnt.

Metro stop nearest to our hotel – Universytet (Університет) – the style of “M” is the same as in Moscow – all Soviet state’s metro probably have the same logo

The National Opera House (Національний академічний театр опери та балету України ім. Т. Г. Шевченка) – –  we saw a ballet there

Independence Monument located on Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) built in 2001, and to its right, the National Tchaikovsky Music Academy.

Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) – Ukraine has been independent since 1991, splitting from the Soviet Union (USSR).

Orange Revolution started here in late 2004 where hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered in the square and nearby streets, and pitched tents for several weeks, protesting against electoral fraud. It led to an additional round of presidential elections which were won by the opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko. Victor Yanukovych who lost the election served as Prime Minister.

The Ukrainian presidential election of 2010 was Ukraine’s fifth presidential election since declaring independence and was won by Viktor Yanukovych beating the then Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

The square was the site of Euromaidan (Євромайдан) protests beginning in November 2013, progressing to violent clashes, fires, and ending in the ousting of the elected Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014. We created an earlier post (click here) on the extravagant residence of this ex-President just outside of Kiev.

The next presidential election is set for 31 March 2019.

TsUM (ЦУМ), a high-end Russian department store –

Champions League Final celebratory street fair on Khreshchatyk street next to Independence Square

NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium where the final game was played – Read Madrid beat Liverpool 3-1

Stalin empire style built between 1930-1955 – one of the “Stalinkas” on Khreshchatyk street – the star is no longer red – it is now in blue and yellow – colors of the national flag

Museum “Memorial to Holodomor victims” (Музей «Меморіал жертв Голодомору») – opened in 2008 on the right bank of the Dnieper river adjacent to the Kiev Pechersk Lavra.

Holodomor literally translated from Ukrainian means “death by hunger” – up to 4 million Ukrainians died between 1932-1933.

Actions by the Soviet Union such as rejection of outside aid, confiscation of all household foodstuffs, and restriction of population movement confer intent, defining the famine as genocide.

The Kiev Pechersk Lavra (the cave monastery) stocks copper roof top crosses for churches around the country. See later post for details.

The Motherland Monument (Батьківщина-Мати) – built by the Soviets, now controversial in modern independent Ukraine, allowed to remain standing because it is a part of a Museum on the history of Ukraine in World War II.

St. Andrew’s Church (Андріївська церква) next to a large and lively street market where we spent a nice afternoon.

Ukrainian driving licenses of the famous – in case you cannot read the names – E Macron, Mr Bean, Tom Cruise are there.

More posts on Kyiv to come.

Dear Readers,

It has been a tradition on this blog to take a look back at some of the places we visited last year. In Part 1, we posted photos of places we visited in the second half of 2018. Here are the places we visited in the first half.

Click on the links, where provided to read more about the places of interest. There are usually a series of related posts per location, you can discover them easily in the calendar at the bottom of the post.

In reverse chronological order:

Entrance to Harbor of Lindau, on the shore of Lake Constance in the summer

Red carpet area in St Gallen, Switzerland

Champions League Final in Kiev, Ukraine

Real Madrid scored against Liverpool and went on to win the title 3-1 –  Marcelo, Bale (2 goals – 64′ and 83′), Benzema (1 goal at 51′), Modric and Ronaldo

The Lavra, Kiev (Kyiv), Ukraine

Neues Rathaus at Marienplatz, Munich

Late night Ginza, Tokyo, in April

Zhengyang Gate, Qianmen, Beijing – 正阳门箭楼

Wanchai, Hong Kong in April

WYK, Hong Kong

Wadi Rum, Jordan

Dead sea resort, Jordan

Petra, Jordan

Oslo, Norway where we spent the beginning of the new year

Nobel Peace Center, Oslo

Let’s see where we will go in 2019.

Dear Readers, Happy 2019 !

It is a tradition on this blog to take a look back at some of the places we visited last year. We traveled more in 2018 than 2017, at least in terms of distance traveled. Chris had been to Hong Kong and Tokyo twice and went to the Middle East.

Click on links, where provided to read more about the places of interest. There are usually a series of related posts per location, you can discover them easily in the calendar at the bottom of the post.

In reverse chronological order:

London – Regent Street, an early Christmas for us

Covent Garden, London

Hong Kong  – on Star Ferry in October

Taipei, Taiwan

The new Eslite – 誠品行旅

The old Grand – 圓山大飯店

Beitou –  just outside Taipei – 少帥禪園

Los Angeles – wedding at NeueHouse in Hollywood

Col de la Croix de Fer, 2067m in the Alps, France

Albertville, France

Tokyo, in June – Hie Shrine 日枝神社

First half of 2018 in our next post.



This is no. 10 in a series of posts that is about funny business names or signs that we captured on film. From time to time during our travels, we come across English name or signage that makes us smile.

Check out Hilarity in names #1, #2, #3#4#5, #6#7, #8, and #9.

Like Shoes in Amman, Jordan

Mall in Beijing

Uniqlo on Ginza, Tokyo, 4F – Womens Clean ?

And on 5F – Womens Bottoms

On the same street in Kiev, Ukraine – two eateries named after famous people …



“,” in ladies fashion

“super superficial” – we saw this in London, no idea what they do

Hope you smiled too, more to come …

In the last few years, we have been posting on various bookstores around the world. If you missed the blog entries, click here for a shortlist of the visited bookstores posted on this site. I(Chris) admits to like loitering in bookstores, browsing, and buying books.

Our interest is not just in the stores that display and sell them. We like books. But admittedly, for various reasons, not many books have been read cover to cover.

Anyway, to make books as a topic a bit more interesting, we will talk about pairs of non-fiction books with a similar theme. To start, we have:

The Shortest History of Europe by John Hirst


Europe: A History by Norman Davies

These two books actually inspired us to make this post. First, we are not history buffs.

Europe: A History by Norman Davies was bought initially for a reason. One advantage of living in Europe is that we have more opportunity to visit a rich diversity of churches, historical sites, and castles, etc. Although we use guide books and read descriptions onsite, the information is more often sketchy and does not provide the broader context. Usually, we get the “what” but not the “why”. And we soon forgot what we saw after we left the site. Knowing the history and the bigger picture would make the visits more meaningful and enjoyable.

We liked the idea of a panorama, from the Ice Age to the Cold War. This book does it. It is a hefty 3-pounds, 1400-pages tome.

In Munich’s airport, I (Chris) recently bought The Shortest History of Europe by John Hirst. I was impressed by the first 2 chapters – 50 some pages of an effective overview of the history of classical/medieval Europe (Greek & Roman learning, Christianity and German warriors) and the modern Europe (Renaissance, Enlightenment and Romanticism). The history was told by a focus on explaining the driving forces behind the social trends and events. The remaining chapters explore what made Europe unique.

The plan is to finish the short one and then go to the big book for specific events.

+ + +

Next up is a trio of books on languages – quick fix french grammar, Wicked Italian and Learn German in a Hurry. Judging by the titles, one can surmise that we want to learn at least two of these languages in the shortest possible time. All three are official languages of Switzerland (our host country).

We happen to live in a French speaking canton – Vaud. So the French book got the most use. We actually have quite a few more books on learning French but unfortunately the number of books is not a reflection of our competence in the language.

Wicked Italian is a collection of long-form (probably old fashioned and even cute) insults, and it contains some swear words. Vaffanculo! The book is for amusing our Italian friends.

+ + +

One of our favorite topics is food.

Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking – The Science and Lore of the Kitchen is a classic first published in 1984. The edition we have has been updated. The book is comprehensive and accurate on food science and practical cooking skills. The appendix has a primer on chemistry. We read it to improve our general culinary knowledge and for its simple explanation on why certain combination of things/techniques would work or not.

Arts & Foods – Rituals since 1851 is a catalogue of an exhibition we saw in the La Triennale di Milano in 2015 as a part of the World Expo. The following blurb sums it up nicely”

… an exhibition that brings attention to the theme of the event: ‘feeding the planet, energy for life’; creating an area for art in the center of the city, outside of the official expo venue. curated by Germano Celant, the exposition investigates the relationship between the arts and different food-related rituals around the world, offering: an historical view of the aesthetic and functional influences eating has had on the language of creativity; while exploring the way in which art in all its forms has dealt with themes of nourishment.

There are in this 960-page book, pictures of special forks used by the cannibals in New Caledonia, images of food in Italian neorealism cinema, as well as essays on design, autocracy, war, famine and migration. It is a smorsgabord.

+ + +

About Switzerland, our host country – we bought Swiss Watching by Diccon Bewes. Chris found a copy of Watching the English by Kate Fox at a book swap at work.

We enjoyed reading Diccon Bewes who is a travel writer from the UK and now living in the land of milk and honey (see tag line). The book is funny, insightful, and we can fact-check him.

We have just started with the book about the English. The tag line is The Hidden Rules of English Behavior. The writer herself a Brit and a social anthropologist takes a humorous look at and tries to explain Englishness.

“Every social situation is fraught with ambiguity, knee-deep in complication, hidden meanings, veiled power-struggles, passive-aggression and paranoid confusion.” 

Taken from a section of Goodreads which has a collection of quotes from the book.

+ + +

Last but not least, this pair of publications was probably the result of year-end shopping at airports, at least one was bought in the United States. According to the cover, the Onion’s Our Dumb World (Atlas of The Planet Earth) is the 73rd edition, hard cover and comes with 30% more Asia. If you do not know The Onion (America’s finest news source), click here to explore and enjoy.

2018 is a complicated year, a rich time for history writers. It will be interesting to see how much of the observations and prospects discussed in The World in 2018 panned out in reality. Judging by our daily world news, things will get even more unpredictable in 2019.

We encourage all to read more in the new year. We will.


Back in June, we spent one day in St. Gallen, on our way to Kiev from Lindau.

After seeing the Abby and its library (see the post here), we were looking for a place for dinner that was not far from the train station and our hotel. Not really expecting much, Lokal was the restaurant we chose from Google map.

Lokal, which is on the other side of tracks at the train station and it turns out to be a part of The Lokremise.

The Lokremise is a cultural center for St Gallen. It consists of a concert/theater/dance space, an outpost for the Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, the cinema Kinok as well as our bar/restaurant Lokal.

The Lokremise was built between 1903 and 1911 at the time of the textile boom. It is the largest surviving locomotive ring depot in Switzerland.

I wondered what was the purpose of this tower. It looks mysterious.

The depot is a monument of national importance. The buildings were renovated in 2009/2010 and converted into the current complex.

The circular layout of the rail depot has been adapted to form a courtyard for having drinks outdoors.

Some train tracks remain visible under the pebbles. The space can be a really good lounge-y, party space.

Kinok moved into the new Lokremise cube, designed by the Zurich architects Isa Stürm Urs Wolf SA, featuring a cinema room, screening room and bar.

The art museum’s space is situated behind the cinema.

Sculptures and drinks.

The ambiance changed a little after dark.

The post-industrial, high-ceiling dining room is made less grungy by huge mirrors and warm color light fixtures.

Not sure what the idea is with these rows of chrome hemispheres … but they made the large otherwise stark wall a lot more interesting.

The food was overall quite good; the space is phenomenal. Location is super convenient. Highly recommended.


While we were in Kiev (Kyiv), we had a choice of visiting either Chernobyl (the site of the nuclear reactor accident) or Mezhyhirya (the residence of Ukraine’s ousted ex-president). They were both available as a day trip and one day was all we had. We took the safe option to view this monument of corruption.

We ordered a taxi from the hotel. It took us about 45 minutes to reach the residence outside Kiev.

The Mezhyhirya Residence (Межигір’я) is an estate where Viktor Yanukovych lived when he was prime minister and then president of Ukraine. It is now a museum displaying Yanukovych’s luxurious lifestyle at the people’s expense.

Yanukovych lived in the estate from 2002 to 21 February 2014, when he fled the country to Russia during the 2014 Ukrainian revolution (Euromaiden). He was one of the patrons of the now infamous Paul Manafort (ex-Trump campaign manager).

The estate is over 140 ha (350 acres) and is situated on the banks of the Dnieper river. It is packed with recreational facilities from a yacht pier, an equestrian club, a shooting range, a tennis court to hunting grounds. Unfortunately we did not see any of these facilities as they were quite spread out. We could have rented a golf cart but did not initially think we needed one.

The estate also has an automobile museum displaying Yanukovich’s exotic cars, a golf course, an ostrich farm, a dog kennel, numerous fountains and man-made lakes, a helicopter pad, and a small church. The entire complex is enclosed by a five-meter tall fence along the perimeter.

The grounds are beautifully maintained and we saw several couples in gown and tux taking wedding pictures at various scenic spots.

Gazebo with giant chairs

The main feature of the residence is the so-called “club house”, also known as Object Honka (Honka being the name of the Finnish company that built the log house).

Front of the House

Back of the House – only the top half is visible

He even built a fake Roman ruins next to the the House

On 21 February 2014, the police withdrew and Euromaiden protesters were able to enter the complex. There was no looting or vandalism. Activists later turned it into a public park.

Viktor Yanukovych served as President from February 2010 (defeating Yulia Tymoshenko) until his removal from power in February 2014. It started when Yanukovych rejected a pending EU association agreement, choosing instead to pursue a Russian loan bailout and closer ties with Russia. He is currently in exile in Russia and wanted by Ukraine for high treason.

Yanukovych has been widely criticized for “massive” corruption and cronyism with an estimated net worth of $12 billion.

Private zoo with many different kinds of birds and animals – ostrich

It was said “For most of [Yanukovych’s] career he was a public servant or parliament deputy, where his salary never exceeded 2000 US dollars per month. … In a country where 35% of the population live under poverty line, spending 100,000 dollars on each individual chandelier seems excessive, to say the least.” He was robbing his people.

Viktor Yanukovych hired and paid millions to Paul Manafort who was Donald Trump’s election campaign chairman for a period and has since been found guilty of five tax fraud charges, one charge of hiding foreign bank accounts and two counts of bank fraud. He recently lost his plea deal after being caught lying repeatedly to the FBI. Real crooks.

These are the photos I (Chris) took and posted on Facebook. The series was started in March of 2013. There is no theme – just something random and visually interesting. We gave each a title and noted where it was taken (to the extent we could remember the city).

random photo #366 – giant – munich


random photo  #367 – dessert – langkawi


random photo #368 – “new york style” – seoul


random photo #369 – tree – penang


random photo #370 – pattern – villandry


random photo #371 – shower – penang



random photo #372 – bloom – aosta


random photo #373 – celebrate – kuala lumpur


random photo #374 – lanterns – gyeonju


random photo #375 – islets – cologne


If you are interested in seeing other Random Photos, click on the  random  tag on the left.
We have nothing to do with the ads below.

These are the photos I (Chris) took and posted on Facebook. The series started in March of 2013. There is no theme – just something random and visually interesting. We gave each a title and noted where it was taken (to the extent we could remember the city).

random photo #356 – blue green – penang


random photo  #357 – coy – london


random photo #358 – options – hong kong


random photo #359 – tall mural – sao paulo


random photo #360 – buns -penang


random photo #361 – chimney – orleans


random photo #362 – cats – penang


random photo #363 – triangles – budapest


random photo #364 – corner – troyes


random photo #365 – rest – langkawi


If you are interested in seeing other Random Photos, click on the  random  tag on the left.
We have nothing to do with the ads below.

We spent a day in St Gallen, a historic town located in the northeast of Switzerland. It is best known for its university and the Abbey of Saint Gall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983.

The collection of buildings in the abbey precinct including its magnificent Baroque cathedral form a unique historical ensemble. The appearance of the abbey’s buildings is largely the result of constructions in the 18th century.

The west side includes the Baroque church (the present cathedral), flanked by two towers and the ancient cloister, which today houses the Abbey Library.

The city of St. Gallen grew around the Abbey of St Gall, which is said to have been built at the site of the hermitage of Irish missionary Gallus established in AD 612. The abbey followed the Rule of St. Benedict, which prescribes the contemplative study of literature. 

We were in awe of this late baroque Rococo decorations.

The abbey prospered in the 9th century and became a site of pilgrimage and a center of trade, with associated guest houses, stables and other facilities.

As a religious city-states, the abbey joined the Swiss Confederation in 1450s and the town became free from the abbot.

The abbey is an outstanding example of a large Carolingian monastery, represents 1200 years of history of monastic architecture from the Middle Ages.

Confession booths.

The interior of the Cathedral is one of the most important baroque monuments in Switzerland.

Ceiling frescoes.

Scrolling curves, gilding, white and pastel colors, sculpted molding, and trompe l’oeil frescoes – this church has every element of Rococo.

The Abbey library of Saint Gall (Stiftsbibliothek) is recognized as one of the richest medieval libraries in the world. It is also known as the Seelenapotheke (healing place of the soul). It is home to one of the most comprehensive collections of early medieval books in the German-speaking part of Europe.

There was a guided tour and we were required to wear soft overshoes to protect the floor. 

The two-storeys library, its walls and the balconies are ornately decorated. The library hall designed by the architect Peter Thumb in a Rococo style, was constructed between 1758-67. Bookshelves alternate with window recesses on both levels.

The library holds 2,100 manuscripts dating back to the 8th through the 15th centuries which are handwritten, 1,650 incunabula (printed before 1500), and old printed books. 400 of the handwritten books are over 1000 years old. These manuscripts are placed inside the glass cases.

Of particular interest are a beautiful collection of early medieval Irish manuscripts unique in Continental Europe.

The 2,700 year old Egyptian mummy Shepenese is also housed in the library.

This abbey and the library is really THE place to learn and experience central European history and see Rococo.

We passed the city of Bregenz on our way to Lindau, and made it the destination of one of our day trips.

Bregenz is the capital of the province of Vorarlberg which borders three countries: Germany(Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg via Lake Constance), Switzerland (Grisons and St. Gallen) and Liechtenstein. Vorarlberg is the westernmost state of Austria.

The city sits by the lake at the foot of Pfänder mountain (Der Berg am Bodensee).

The summit of the Pfänder (1064 m) can be reached by the Pfänderbahn from Bregenz. The cable car covers a height difference of over 600m in around 6 minutes. We waited for almost an hour to get onto it. Lindau is clearly visible.

With its views over the lake and the surrounding mountain peaks, the Pfänder is one of the most famous lookout points of the region.

One can see a stage on the water which is built for the famous annual international opera festival, Bregenzer Festspiele, which will run in the summer.

From a distance, it looked like a giant pair of hands rising out of the lake. Here is a time lapse video of the construction of this year’s stage for Carmen.

There is a small Alpine wildlife park at the top.

Back to town, the Vorarlberg area is known for its architectural principle – “Neue Vorarlberger Bauschule” – which combines traditional construction and modern interpretation, and involves craftsmen and locals in the building process.

Walking through Bregenz, we saw many modern buildings standing next to traditional houses.

Overall, quite harmonious.

One of Austria’s famous food is the schnitzel – pounded and breaded veal fillet. We were happy to find a restaurant specialized in this dish in a old historic building.

Goldener Hirschen at Kirchstrasse 8 serves many tourists but without being touristy.

Traditional interiors.

We sat outside in a small garden. They also offer a pork version but it was clearly stated and 15% cheaper. Many main street touristy restaurants do not offer a choice and serves pork (especially true in Germany).

The presentation was pedestrian, not as good as what we had in Vienna.  Overall very good.

Click here to see the Wiener Schnitzel we had a while back.

We have not posted on this theme for quite a while.

Well, here is no. 9 in a series of posts that is about funny business names or signs that we saw. From time to time during our travels, we came across English names that makes us laugh. This post will focus on English language signs we saw in the United Kingdom that are cute or humorous.

Check out Hilarity in names #1, #2, #3#4#5, #6#7 and #8.


King of Bling

Relatively Painless (sorry, it is a bit out of focus)

art pistol

Seriously Fishy


Murphy’s Law

AI Pets –  you mean smart robots ?

Pastel restaurant

Criminal – Made with Conviction

Fleshmarket Close – an alley in Edinburgh’s old town, not a shop

There are more to come …

While staying at Lindau, we went to see the Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen. The industrial town is situated on the german shore of Lake Constance and west of Lindau. We saw a zepplin on the first day we arrived in Lindau.

The museum presents on 4000 m2 of exhibition space its world’s largest collection on airship navigation: a multimedia narrative of history, courageous people, technical innovations and high performance.

We used in this post much of the explanation of the museum from their web site which is here. We saw a short movie about the history of airship and the company which developed the technology.

Ferdinand von Zeppelin established his famous dirigible factory at the end of the 19th century. The 128m-long LZ1 airship (Das Luftschiff) rose from its mooring on July 2, 1900.

The first large exhibition hall on the ground floor is dedicated to the biggest and most famous Zeppelin airship: the LZ 129 Hindenburg. This partial reconstruction brings to life a flight to North and South America by airship that took place in the 1930s. 

This ship became the Hindenburg disaster which occurred on May 6, 1937, in Manchester Township, New Jersey, United States. The  LZ 129 Hindenburg caught fire and was destroyed during its attempt to dock with its mooring mast. Of the 97 people on board, there were 35 fatalities (13 passengers and 22 crewmen). A variety of hypotheses have been put forward for both the cause of ignition and the initial fuel for the ensuing fire. Photo taken from wikipedia.

The disaster was recorded on film and widely distributed. The event shattered public confidence in the giant, passenger-carrying rigid airship and marked the abrupt end of the airship era.

Despite the disaster, it is clear that the frame is an amazing piece of engineering.

Intricate and precise. Perhaps, this is a reason why steampunk is almost believable.

Besides the preparations required for the journey, it visualizes the luxury at the time on board the flying hotel. 

Via the drop-in ladder you can climb into the real-life passenger compartments of the LZ 129, which have been recreated according to historical plans. It was noted that the interiors were designed according to the Bauhaus school in 1930’s – so the airship really incorporated state-of-the art design and technology of the time.

In the permanent exhibition, flying is explained graphically using the principle of “lighter than air” and made tangible at experimental stations.

The successful history of the Zeppelin Group and its pioneers shows how technical innovations have emerged and the cult of Zeppelin has been celebrated for over a century. There was a display of numerous zeppelin-inspired objects, e.g., pens, etc.

We took a coffee break at the cafe.

Other aviation companies, including Maybach, also arose in Friedrichshafen to help service the industry, which received a major impetus from World War I.

Old poster about identifying British versus German military aircrafts in World War I.

Maybach limo and engine

The exhibitions on the period from 1933 to today is mostly about the integration of the company into the Nazi and the WWII economy, the destruction of Friedrichshafen, and the reorganisation and redevelopment of industrial enterprises after 1945.

Because of its industrial output, Friedrichshafen was heavily bombed during the war. This aerial photo shows a decimated factory complex and all the bomb craters around it.

The company is still in existence and has diversified into various light and heavy industries, e.g. ZF Group that makes gear box for cars.

It was a really interesting visit as we know so little about zepplin before. Too bad it was too late to join a flight. I will try to do it next time.

The museum is located in front of the harbor and we took a ferry back to Lindau. Nice visit.

While on Lindau, we went to Eli.Gut.Halle for dinner. It is located close to the lighthouse at the end of the promenade.

Offering outdoor and indoor seating, it has both a view of the harbor and the lake.

Here is a view of the harbor of Lindau – the lighthouse, the lion and the tower (from right to left). There are more pics of the harbor in our last post.

We were there when the sun was setting, and the sky was beautiful.

The restaurant is attached to a lounge/event space, a bar and a gallery of sports cars. There is a meeting area upstairs.

From above, one could see the top tier of cars at a better angle.

The theme is obviously sports cars, but not all of them are vintage.

Most cars are German made understandably.

A few English and Italian.

Surprisingly, we did not see a BMW. Munich being the birthplace of BMWs is not far away and we were in Bavaria.

What I have not seen/heard before is a Porsche-branded tractor – fire-engine red.

The food was good, not touristy.

Nice ambiance.

Go for a drink if you are in town.

In May, we went to Lindau with IT. Lindau is a small island in Lake Constance (Bodensee), located near the meeting point of the Austrian, German and Swiss borders and is nestled on the lake in front of Austria’s Pfänder mountain (see later post). 

We took this aerial photo when flying from Zurich to Kiev after our visit to the island, and recognized it immediately.

Lindau is connected to the mainland on the north shore by a road-traffic bridge and a railway dam. We did not drive and came by train from Switzerland. The station on the island is an old building and has its charm.

Lindau Hauptbahnhof are connected to Friedrichshafen, Munich, Ulm, Augsburg, Bregenz and Zürich by train services run by DB, OBB and SBB.

Our hotel is in front of the harbor on the promenade. Very scenic and lively.

One morning, a small orchestra played on the harbor front outside our hotel.

Lindau is old. The first use of the name Lindau was documented in 882 by a monk from St. Gallen (which we visited after Lindau, see later post). The name Lindau means “island on which linden trees grow”.

Traditionally, it is popular for tourists from the southern parts of Germany.  A well-known landmark in this southwesternmost city of Bavaria is the harbor entrance with Bavarian lion and new lighthouse.

The six-meter-high lion, watching over Lake Constance, is the work of a Munich professor Johann von Halbig. Completed in 1856, it consists of sandstone and weighs about 50 tons.

We strolled to the end of the breakwater on the side with the lion and looked across to the lighthouse. The lighthouse is relatively new, 36 meters high and measures a base circumference of 24 meters. Apparently, it is one of the few structures of its kind which has a clock in the facade.

Looking back towards the harbor, the Mangturm tower can be seen on the left in the photo below. Our hotel is just behind it. This tower used to be a square stone building was built in the 12th century as part of the medieval city fortification.

There are cars on the island but only a small number as the streets are old and narrow. The island is charming for that reason.

Apparently, the Nobel Laureate Meetings began here in 1951 and brings many Nobel Prize laureates to Lindau each year. Students from all over the world are able to meet up with Nobel Laureates to discuss scientific developments.

The Old Town Hall (Altes Rathaus) was built from 1422 in Gothic style – the work on the impressive building lasted 14 years.

It also houses the former Imperial City Library (Reichsstädtischen Bibliothek) in Lindau. It was Martin Luther who in 1524 called on the “councilors of all German cities” to create “good books or librareyen books” – and his appeal was heard here in 1538.

The library houses a colored copy of the first complete German Bible translation of Martin Luther from 1534 which has been put on display in autumn 2013 and protected by a huge climate-stabilizing glass cube.

The welcoming biergarten on the island. It must be packed with very happy people today as this is posted.

Lindau is a jewel on Lake Constance. Comfortable, relaxing, and cultural.

We will come back one of these days.

After a stroll through the 798 Art Zone with NKL (see previous post), he took me to the Art Museum of the Central Academy of Fine Arts (中央美術學院; CAFA) in Beijing. CAFA is an art academy managed by the Ministry of Education of China. It is considered one of the most selective schools in the country.

The CAFA Art Museum, designed by Japanese architect Arata Isozaki (磯崎 新), is located at the northeast corner of CAFA campus. The Museum opened in October 2008, for the University’s 90th anniversary.  So this year is the University’s centenary anniversary.

The school drew media attention during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, during which the students protested by creating a large statue, called the Goddess of Democracy.

NKL took me to see the special exhibit on the works by Xu Beihong (徐悲鴻; 1895 – 1953) who is the first president of CAFA and a painter.

Self portrait oil painting 1924

He was well known for his traditional Chinese ink drawings of horses.

Traditional caligraphy. I am no connoisseur. No masterpiece here.

He was also regarded as one of the first to create monumental oil paintings with epic Chinese themes – a show of his high proficiency in an essential Western art technique. These oil paintings are so strange as we are all used to seeing Western faces, green eyes and blonde hair.

In 1919, Xu studied overseas in Paris at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, where he studied oil painting and drawing. Notice he signed this drawing in French: Péon 1924.

Xu constantly pushed the boundaries of visual art with new techniques and international aesthetics, in bid to reinvent Chinese art.


1940 portrait made in Singapore

Between 1939 and 1941, he held solo exhibitions in Singapore, India and Malaya (Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh) to help raise funds for the war relief effort in China.

There were quite a lot of people on that day since it was raining outside.

There was a mock up of his study. He was a pioneer and a patriot.

It is really an interesting show about a painter that played an important role in the development of Chinese modern art.

While I was in Beijing, I met my high-school friend NKL who is in the art business there, and he took me to see the famous 798 Art Zone or 798 Art District (798艺术区).

By the way, I am not sure if the pile of bicycles in front of the 798 sign is art or a sign of excess of the sharing economy (people not returning the bikes that were shared via services like Uber).

It was a ugly rainy day and many of the galleries and eateries were not open. The consolation was that there were fewer people. The pictures are not pretty but you will get an idea of the place.

751 D-Park

Wikipedia has a lot of information on the history of the zone. So I will use their information in much of what is to come below.  The official web site is at

751 Ace Cafe

The 798 Art Zone is located in the Dashanzi (大山子) area, Chaoyang District, to the northeast of central Beijing. It is the site of state-owned decommissioned military factories including Factory 798, which originally produced electronics. The zone comprises a complex of 50-year-old factory buildings boasting a unique East German Bauhaus-influenced style (Dessau Design Institute). Factory #798 is only one of several structures inside a complex formerly known as the 718 Joint Factory.

Construction started in April 1954 and the factories started production in 1957. The factory quickly established a reputation for itself as one of the best in China. The Joint Factory produced a wide variety of military and civilian equipment. Civilian production included acoustic equipment such as all the loudspeakers on Tiananmen Square and Chang’an Avenue. After 10 years of operation, Joint Factory 718 was split into more manageable sub-Factories 706, 707, 751, 761, 797 and 798, following the Chinese government’s method of naming military factories starting with the number 7.

718 Art Ahead

The plans for the factory buildings, where form follows function, called for large indoor spaces designed to let the maximum amount of natural light into the workplace.

Arch-supported sections of the ceiling would curve upwards then fall diagonally along the high slanted banks or windows; this pattern would be repeated several times in the larger rooms, giving the roof its characteristic sawtooth-like appearance.

In 1995, Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA), looking for cheap workshop space away from downtown, set up in the now defunct Factory 706. In 2001, American Robert Bernell moved his Timezone 8 Art Books bookshop, gallery and publishing office into a former factory canteen; he was the first foreigner to move in. Later that year, Tabata Yukihito from Japan’s Tokyo Gallery set up Beijing Tokyo Art Projects (BTAP, 北京东京艺术工程) inside a 400-m² division of Factory 798’s main area. BTAP’s 2002 opening exhibition “Beijing Afloat” (curator: Feng Boyi), drew a crowd of over 1,000 people and marked the beginning of popular attention in the area.

In 2002, designer artist Huang Rui (黄锐) and hutong photographer Xu Yong (徐勇) set up the 798 Space gallery (时态空间) next to BTAP. With its cavernous 1200-m² floor and multiple-arched ceilings at the center of Factory 798, it was and still is the symbolic center of the whole district.

Beginning in 2002, artists and cultural organizations began to divide, rent out, and re-make the factory spaces, gradually developing them into galleries, art centers, artists’ studios, design companies, restaurants, and bars.

Insight Bookshop

Giant mural of the zone in isometric view

Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, UCCA (尤伦斯当代艺术中心) is an independent institution of contemporary art, founded in 2007 by Belgian philantropist, Guy Ullens, out of a commitment to bring Chinese contemporary art into global dialogue.

In June 2017, a group of China-based investors came together to restructure UCCA, separating its commercial and non-profit functions, ensuring its long- term presence in the 798 Art District, and securing its future vision.

When we entered the Center, a volunteer gave us a guided tour of the exhibits in Mandarin. He was enthusiastic and memorized the opinionated spiel about the paintings. But it took too much time and our attention, so we declined the personal tour after a few rooms. I did not take any photo in the Center except in the shop which had a decent range of books and design objects.

Apart from contemporary art, we visited the gallery of a copper artist/craftsman who made incredibly beautiful and complex copper sculpture.

798 Art Zone mixes art, commerce and tourism. It is exciting and exhausting at the same time due to its size, novelty, and diversity. If I live in Beijing, I will come here regularly.

One could think of this as Beijing’s version of New York’s Soho. While the development of the Zone has undergone a similar industrial to artistic to commercial pattern, it is not quite the same. The Zone is in a suburban area, not central Beijing, and much larger in terms of area. To me, it felt a bit like a theme park.

After the 798 Art Zone, my friend took me to the Museum of the Central Academy of Fine Arts. See the next post.


Closer to home …

Earlier this year while the 2018 Winter Olympics games were being held in South Korea, we went to visit our town’s most famous tourist attraction – the Olympics Museum (Le museé Olympique).

The museum is located on a slope facing Lac Leman, not far from downtown Lausanne. We took a city bus to get there.

The museum houses permanent and temporary exhibits relating to sport and the Olympic movement. With more than 10,000 artifacts, the museum is the largest archive of Olympic Games in the world.

The museum was founded on 23 June 1993, on the initiative of then-president of the IOC Juan Antonio Samaranch.

After 23 months of renovation between 2012 and 2013, the Olympic Museum re-opened on 21 December 2013. Outside the museum is a park filled with sculptures.

The permanent exhibition is organized into three major themes on three separate floors: Olympic World, Olympic Games, and Olympic Spirit. A visit begins on the third floor, where the Olympic World part of the exhibition informs visitors of the history of the ancient Olympic Games and the rebirth of the modern Games in the 19th century.

Highlights include a display of Olympic torches, as well as a video documenting major moments in the history of opening ceremonies history.

The second floor focuses on the Olympic Games.

Mascots from previous games.

Models of stadiums – Bird’s nest from Beijing 2008

Sporting equipment for a variety of sports are on display as well as the more than 1,000 video clips of Olympic Games events and athletes which can be searched and viewed at individual viewing stations.

The uniforms.

On demand are video clips of so many dramatic and magical moments.

The final part of the permanent exhibit covers the Olympic Spirit, where visitors are invited to experience being in an Olympic Village and they can test their balance, agility, and mental skills with interactive exercises.

Interesting optical illusion painted on the ceiling and walls of the stairwell leading down to the Olympic Spirit section.

Olympic medals are also on display. These were from the Winter Games of 1972 from Sapporo, Japan.

We had a lunch buffet which included some Korean dishes while watching the games on the big screen.

There was so much to see. One could spend days here. It was for us a very nice Sunday indeed.

Continuing with our desert adventure in Wadi Rum …

Wadi Rum is Arabic for “Sand Valley”, as Rum ( رَمَّ‎) means sand, especially light sand that can be carried by wind.

The official site describes …

Wadi Rum is a protected area covering 720 square kilometers of dramatic desert wilderness in the south of Jordan. Huge mountains of sandstone and granite emerge, sheer-sided, from wide sandy valleys to reach heights of 1700 meters and more. Narrow canyons and fissures cut deep into the mountains and many conceal ancient rock drawings etched by the peoples of the desert over millennia. Bedouin tribes still live among the mountains of Rum and their large goat-hair tents are a special feature of the landscape.

If you are curious about the local geography/topology, there is a map of the desert and rock formations online here.

The experience in the desert was otherworldly to say the least. There was not much wind (thankfully) and it was not scorching hot. There was no smell.

Distance was difficult to estimate except by the haziness of more distant objects. By the way, there are a few tents just below the smaller rock formations if you can spot them.

While criss-crossing the desert in canyons formed between the little and big rock formations, our guide took us to see some markings made at Thamudic times. Apparently, as much as the desert looks hostile, Wadi Rum has been inhabited by many human cultures since prehistoric times.

Nearby there was a caravan of camels … that is another touristic thing to do. All the people living in and around Wadi Rum today are of Bedouin origin and, until recently, led nomadic lives, relying on their goat herds.

Have a camel ride in the desert … exotic but I think it would be really uncomfortable and potentially dangerous if one does not know how to ride. 

There are sand dunes and they are found mostly piled up agains the rock formations. They are difficult to climb as your feet sinks into the ground and sand pours into your shoes.

We started around 3-4pm, so by the time we saw the camels, it was getting hazy as the sun is setting.

Not only the vista was stunning, it was also very quiet (except when we were on the back of the truck with the engine and wind noise).

Our guide said he will give us a treat by taking us to a spot to see sunset (Al Ghuroub). We sat on this rock ledge and enjoyed the silent sweeping vista. The sun was mostly hidden behind clouds on that day.

Transcendence is the word.

This spot, not only afforded us with a vantage point, it was also used in the movie, the Martian. Many other movies about Mars were made around here. 

What a memorable adventure !