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Monthly Archives: January 2016

Before we go any further into Venice and the Biennale, let’s come back to Milan for a bit of applied arts.

Arts & Foods. Rituals since 1851 is an exhibition curated by Germano Celant, held at the Palazzo di Triennale in Milan from April 9 to November 1, 2015. It was a World Expo “pavilion” that was located outside the Rho grounds. With our Expo Milano 2015 entrance tickets, we got to visit the Arts & Foods exhibition for free.

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According to the exhibition catalog, “Visitors have the opportunity to immerse themselves physically in a spectacular route where works of art, drawings and architectural models, films, objects, documents, books, menus, and album covers bring to life a narrative that set works and images in their own historical, sociological and anthropological context.” What an all inclusive statement …  hope it lives up to the promise.

One of the first few halls explored the design of dining rooms, public and private, from the 19th to the 20th century.

Czech cubism circa 1912 – Vlastislav Hofman


The show unites two themes – Arts & Foods – that are favorite topics of this blog. We liked the show enough to buy the exhibition catalog (“Catalog”), a heavy brick which we lugged around all the way to Venice and back.artsfoods-2

A pristine 19th century butcher shop ?


An entire bar, full size, from late 19th century Italy was replicated here !


Charles Rennie Mackintosh set


There was a long display cases in which many pieces of cutleries laid out. When so many knives, scissors, forks, etc. of different sizes and shapes are presented side-by-side, it reminded me of a kit carried by movie villains who torture the hero.


The following knives and forks were a bit of a surprise for me (Chris) – these instruments were used by cannabilistic Pacific islanders. They use special tools for eating humans. Sue has seen them when she visited New Zealand years ago, and still recognized them.

Wahaika from New Zealand, 1888 (liver cleavers)


Ai cula ni bokola – cannibal fork from New Caledonia, 1888; Iculanibokola – cannibal fork from Fiji, 1874, 1884. Some of the tools themselves are made of bones, possibly human bones.


The show also traced the development of the modern kitchen from 1920 – 1950s.

Frankfurt kitchen – designed in 1926 by an Austrian architect – we saw a more complete set up at the Museum of Applied Arts (MAK) in Vienna – click here.


L’Autarca table by Angelo Fasce, 1935


Spazialita lunari by Fortunato Depero 1923 – a Futurist, Balla’s colleague


Crockery with Suprematist graphics by Nikolai M Suetin, 1930.


Kazimir Malevich, like his paintings.


Gaggia from 1950, the customer-facing side


… and the server side


More professional food service machines : soda recharging machine, 1920; Molidor electric grinder, 1945 , Polarstar multi-station coffee maker, …


More to come in the next post.


Wandering back and forth on the Grand Canal is one way to experience the “Invisible Cities” described in Italo Calvino’s fiction (1972). It would have been sublime if we could read it leisurely and try map the literal to the physical.

Here are more photos of the Grand Canal. We have obviously spent some time touring/commuting on a vaporetto. To see part 1 of this post, click here.


One end of the canal starts near Piazza San Marco and the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute (one with the domes).


The photo below shows one of the exits of the Grand Canal at the other end (top of the inverted “S”).


The name “Salviati” on this building may not legible in this photo. It is a family of very successful glass makers and mosaicists who started in Murano – we will have a post about this island later. Apparently, the Salviati family constructed the building at 235 Regent Street in London which houses the Apple Store now.


More mosaics here.


These buildings, near Piazza San Marco, have been converted into fancy hotels, each having a private canal-side entrance.


Guests can be picked up from Marco Polo airport and dropped off directly in front of the hotel.


Or one can walk onto a gondola from the hotel lobby.


Many people go to a restaurant by boat.


Church of San Simeone Piccolo


Venice’s palaces, churches, and buildings are supported by thousands of wooden pilings that date back hundreds of years. As long as they’re submerged, the pilings do not rot -but when they come in contact with the air when the canal is being cleaned, deterioration could begin.


Apparently, the Grand Canal does not need much dredging because of the tides that sweep silt and sewage out to the Adriatic sea. But the narrower ones need the cleaning once every few decades otherwise the canal becomes too shallow even for gondola and a foul odor develops.


The Grand Canal is indeed magical.


We will come back later with photos of the boats on the canals of Venice.


Canal Grande or the Grand Canal is the main street of Venice.

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In the shape of an upside-down “S”, it divides the old city into two parts, winding its way through the six sestieri (districts). To me (Chris), Venice resembles two clasping hands with the right hand on top. Our apartment is located on the right hand in sestieri Canneregio, near where the left finger tips nest into the right palm.

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It is about 4 km long, width from 30 to 70 m, and an average depth of 5 m. One end starts near the railway station and it ends near Piazza San Marco (see earlier post here).

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The banks of the Grand Canal are lined with more than 170 recognized buildings, most of which date from the 13th to the 18th century. There are many books (touristy or academic) and maps (ancient and modern) showing each building with stories behind its history.

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The scale and architecture of the buildings demonstrate the wealth and artistry of the old Republic of Venice. Many are fanciful enough to be called palazzos and are owned by noble Venetian families and rich Italians.

Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti

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Most of the city’s traffic goes along the Canal rather than across it.

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There was only one bridge crossing the canal until the 19th century, the Rialto Bridge. We will have a future post about Rialto.

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There are currently three more bridges, the Ponte degli Scalzi, the Ponte dell’Accademia, and the recent Ponte della Costituzione, designed by Santiago Calatrava,

Ponte dell’Accademia

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Ponte degli Scalzi

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Along the canal, one can see all the architecture styles that flourished and influenced the Venetians from Medieval 11th century to Modern. Because of its long history as a trading post with the east, many elements of eastern architecture had been adopted and merged into a distinct local style.

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Venetian Gothic combines the Gothic lancet arch with Byzantine and Moorish architecture influences. The style originated in 14th century and examples of the style are the Doge’s Palace and the Ca’ d’Oro in Venice.

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Ca’ d’Oro is one of the older palaces in the city, built between 1428 and 1430 for the Contarini family, who provided Venice with eight Doges (the leaders) between 1043 and 1676.

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Palazzo Bembo (right)

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More sceneries on the banks of the Grand Canal to come.


This was our first day in Venice.

Sis had a business trip in Europe so Sue and I(Chris) thought it would be great if we spend a few days in Venice together, taking in a bit of art at the Biennale.  The plan was to meet at the Milano Centrale train station and take the Frecciabianca express together to Venezia S. Lucia on the island.  We had done something similar before and it was pleasurable, traveling from Munich to Vienna on Railjet (click here to see that post).


Our previous trip from Munich to Vienna went flawlessly; we forgot that we were in Southern Europe. Sis’s train from Monte Carlo to Torino was delayed and delayed and delayed.  However, Sis said that it is possible that she’d be at the train station just in time.  At 1405, Sue and I found our seats and Sis’s reserved seat which was located just a few rows away was empty.  As the train departure time neared, I was hanging on to the train with one hand and leaned out to see if Sis was on the platform; with the other hand, I was pressing the phone to my ear trying to hear her over the noise of a very busy Italian train station. Her train had just arrived at the other end of the station and she was fighting through the crowds, the luggages, … but our carriage was at the head of the train. She saw, from the piattaforma, our train departing.  The only thing missing was a handkerchief as our train slowly pulled away.


Thanks to modern technology … we kept in touch. Sue and I arrived without complication two and a half hours later, met our Airbnb host, and checked-in as planned. Sis had more problems. She could not get on the next train because there were a lot of people who also missed their train.  She ended up taking a train that left Milano about four hours later.


After getting situated, Sue and I left the apartment to meet Sis at the nearest water bus (vaporetto) stop, the Rialto.  It was after dinner time and feeling a bit peckish, I wolfed down a few slices of convenience pizza. Eating the individual slices from a paper plate reminded me of New York.


At long last she emerged from the disembarking crowd. Sis had been on the road since 8 that morning. It was a very long day for her. We wanted to find a place to eat quickly but could not bear to go into the tourist traps that face the canal. We started heading towards the apartment, turned a few corners and came across this place – Bacaro Jazz – which happened to serve food.  A traditional Venetian wine bar is called a bacaro, which translates into “house of bacchus” and it serves cicchetti (think Venetian tapas). But this place was more like a regular bar with a proper menu and pictures of famous Jazz players adorning the walls.


We were really happy to finally meet up and start relaxing. Then we looked up and saw the ceiling … that was covered by bras, suspended neatly arranged in rows.


From supersized pink G cups to regular whities. Some were signed by the donors. We wondered what made the ladies so enamoured of the place that caused them to give away their underwear. Or maybe they were simply drunk.


Some of you may remember the Hogs & Heifers in the Meatpacking district in New York. They were also well known for the same decor. When they closed this summer after 23 years in business, they reportedly counted more than 16,000 bras.


The food at Bacaro Jazz was unexpectedly decent … or we could have been just cheerful and hungry. I had my usual Alla Vongole.


Now this photo is priceless. I did not notice her hand until all the photos were uploaded back home. I could not have caught this, even if I tried. Who knows what she was doing.


That’s where we had our first meal in La Serenissima.











In October, we spent almost a week in Venice, primarily to attend the Biennale. We have not been to Venice since moving to the continent and the last time I(Chris) came to Venice was more than 20 years ago.


We stayed on the island in the sestieri Canneregio (not far from the Ponti di Rialto). We explored the islands and the lagoon on foot and by boats.

San Marco Basilica


The most recognizable and visited place in Venice is Piazza San Marco – the social, religious and political center.

San Marco Campanile and Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace)


Surrounding the square are three museums (Palazzo Ducale, Museo Correr, Museo Archeologico Nazionale) that occupied several of the historical buildings which housed past governmental institutions when Venice was a rich and powerful state.


The Clocktower (Torre dell’Orologio), completed in 1499, with the archway into the Mercerie leading to the Rialto.


The piazza is ringed by long arcades which is lined with shops and restaurants at ground level, with offices above.

Procuratie Vecchie


At least three cafes serve the square and erected a small covered stage for musical performance. Popular classical and jazz was played throughout the day and in turns. We have seen musician going from one stage on another after taking a break.


We discovered, in addition to the price of the beverage, Caffè Florian situated on the south side (and likely its competitors across the square) collects a 6 euro music fee per patron even if one sits inside. The inside of the 1700’s cafe is crammed but beautifully decorated in baroque details.


As much as it is a touristy place, the open space, the water and intricate architecture really provide a unique atmosphere – rumor has it that Napoleon called the square “the drawing room of Europe”.

Courtyard inside Palazzo Ducale


The Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri) passes over the Rio di Palazzo and connects the New Prison (Prigioni Nuove) to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace.


Palazzo Ducale – Giants’ Staircase is guarded by Sansovino’s two colossal statues of Mars and Neptune, which represents Venice’s power by land and by sea.


At dusk, the place is mesmerizing to say the least.


Views across the lagoon.


Piazzetta San Marco and Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana


This has to be one of the top sights in the world.


We all fell in love with Venice. Many more posts to come.




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 #186 – high rise – Sao Paulobuildings-1


random photo #187 – cyclist – Reykjavik



random photo #188 – big sky – near Yellowstone

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random photo #189 – axiom – Washington DC



random photo #190 – mattress, truck – Williamsburg



random photo #191 – Han gang – Seoul

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random photo #192 – wave – Sao Paulo



random photo #193 – port – Miami


random photo #194 – me not swimming at the beach – St Martin

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random photo #195 – 艾未未河蟹 (aiweiwei he xie) – Miami



If you are interested in seeing other Random Photos, click on the  random  tag on the left.

This is likely our last post on our visit to Copenhagen.

Scandinavian design is very well respected, especially furniture, think Swedish Ikea – and at the high end, see our post on Illums Boligus.


Designmuseum Danmark is Denmark’s largest museum for Danish and international design and a central exhibition forum for industrial design and applied arts in Scandinavia.


The museum was founded in 1890 and since 1926, it has been housed in one of Copenhagen’s finest rococo buildings, the former King Frederik’s Hospital.


The museum garden, the Grønnegård, serves as a performance space in the summer.


According to the museum’s pamphlet, “Danish designers have always been more engaged in finding practical shapes that can enhance the utility and aesthetics of existing objects for everyday use, than in revolutionizing society with utopian ideas and theoretic artistic manifests.”


Grete Jalk (1920-2006) Sløjfestolen, the Bow Chair – 1963


Not much of a real chair but at least recognizable as one.


The library at Designmuseum Danmark is the largest in Scandinavia in the field of design and the applied arts.


In addition to books, the library acquires numerous periodicals and its use is free and open for everyone. It was a very comfortable and nice place to read.


“Users of the library include craftsmen and women, designers, students and researchers from design schools, universities and museums, pupils from technical schools, set-designers, private collectors and dealers, conservators as well as people with a general interest in the field.”


Piano by Danish design legend – Poul Henningsen


We had lunch at the museum café –  ‘Klint’.


The exhibitions are organized by periods.

designmuseum-15Danish modern and Pop


There was a special section dedicated to one of their best known designer – Arne Jacobsen.


His designs are very much in daily use all over Copenhagen.


There was a temporary exhibition about toys and games as well as clothings for children …


…, furniture for the nursery and graphics for education.

All in all, it was a very nice museum. And about the right size for roaming in one afternoon.


Well, the arrival of 2016 interrupted the 2-part posts on the Carlsberg beer museum. This story took 2 years to complete !

Part 1 is here.  Continuing with the tour of the Carlsberg beer museum …

The brand name Carlsberg combines the founder – J.C. Jacobsen’s son’s name – Carl with a variant of the Danish word for mountain “berg”.

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The museum grounds also house the old labs – Carlsberg Laboratorium (above) and the Carlsberg’s R&D center (below) which appears to have a very oriental-styled roof – there must be some history behind it which is unknown to me.

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We toured part of the old lab. Professor Hansen must have contributed mightily to the quality of life of drinkers worldwide.

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Also on display are vintage beer delivery vehicles. This Ford T was in use in 1922.

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For a modest admission fee, which was already covered by my city tourist pass, I was treated to two beers – one is supposed to taste like the beer made in the old days.

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In addition, they do beer tasting here twice a day but I wasn’t there at the right time.

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The brewery was converted in 1999 into a visitor center and in 2005, the modern microbrewery was established on site.

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The facility is fully functional to produce from malt to bottle – all modern technology under a 1890’s roof.

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It produces beer sold under the J.C. Jacobsen label.

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Six different types.

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Apparently, this brewery were selling beer under the Tuborg brand in Tianjin, China back in early 1900’s. But the lady looks a bit creepy.

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It was a fun visit.

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More giant beer bottle labels – they were designed by Thorvald Bindesbøll (1846-1908) and included in the collection of the Designmuseum, Denmark. See our next post about this institution.

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Cheers !



Dear Readers, Happy New Year !

Continuing with our first post of 2016, this post takes a look back at the places we visited in the first half of last year. In 2015, there were 94 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 650 posts. The post that had the highest number of views in 2015 was about our visit to a durian stand in a night market in Malaysia.

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 from June:

Berlin, Germany in June to see the Champions League final – a part of the wall


München, Germany in April for work, Asam’s church


Catania, Sicily, Italy during Easter – Teatro Bellini


Taormina, Sicily


Siracusa and Ortigia, Sicily


Half way up Mount Etna and Meditterranean sea, Sicily


Langkawi, Malaysia in January


Hong Kong


Georgetown in Penang, Malaysia


Penang, Malaysia in January


Goodbye 2015, Hello 2016.



Dear Readers, Happy New Year !

This is our first post of 2016. It is almost a tradition of this blog – the first post takes a look back at some of the places we visited last year.

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:

Swiss alps featuring Matterhorn – we went up to Zermatt on December 30 – this was taken from a view point at Gornergrat – ‎3,135 m (10,285 ft)

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Piazza San Marco, Venezia, Italy in October


Tree of Life, World Expo 2015, Milano, Italy in October


Chamonix, France in September long weekend


Crozet, France in August, business meeting


BBQ on Lac Leman lake front, Lausanne


Basel, Switzerland in July


Annecy, France in June – day trip ended with surprise firework display


Louisiana Museum of Art, Humlebæk, Denmark in June


Copenhagen, Denmark in June


See next post for the places we went in the first half of 2015.