Category Archives: travel

Deutsches Museum

On an island in the middle of the River Isar in Munich is one of the greatest museums in the world. I can say that advisedly. The Deutsches Museum on Museum Island is overwhelming.

It is one of the earliest museums of science and technology in the world, and, I am told, if you were to walk every exhibit, you would walk more than 17km.

In truth, what happens is you walk into the first section, which is full of boats and model boats, you get knocked backwards, and never really recover. They have a terrific aviation section. They have an amazing aeronautical section. They have a mindblowing collection of clocks and weights and balances. They have every sort of textile weaving system. Every sort of printing press that you can imagine. Every sort of ceramic you can imagine. A terrific model railway. A terrific collection of keyboard instruments.

They have holograms.

Most importantly, they have 2 Enigma and one Lorenz cipher machine, plus a bunch of other cipher machines. And an IBM 360 with a punch card reader. Every sort of adding machine and calculus machine or analogue calculator that you can imagine.

The entry fee is eight euro fifty. It is worth every cent and you will come out a complete wreck having not seen everything.

Brittany, my Brittany

Last night, Nationwide from RTE had as its mandate to provide a look at Brittany and how it might appeal to Irish people. I was disappointed in the program for various reasons, but the primary one is that it didn’t reflect my Brittany, the one I lived in and visit regularly. If you do want to watch the piece, really, the most interesting clip is the submarine base in Lorient which I haven’t seen yet because when I lived there, it was still in the hands of the French Navy. It’s a good while ago.

Anyway, to get to Brittany, you can fly into Nantes year round and then, during the summer, there are occasionally flights to Rennes, Lorient and Brest. Ferry wise, your best option is a service into Roscoff; the one from Cork with Brittany is the shortest. I have been known to fly in to Paris, and get the train across to Vannes or Quimper. Usually I pick up a car and there are car hire places close to most major rail stations in France.

For me, one of the most beautiful places in the world is the Pointe du Raz, not far from Quimper. I’ve seen some beautiful sunsets there; it’s very peaceful, mostly, although during the summer can be very busy. Lots of gorgeous cliff walks.

The city of Quimper, twinned with Limerick is utterly beautiful and has a lovely cathedral and a rather nice central shopping area. The art museum is fantastic and occasionally features work by Irish artist Roderic O’Conor. Especially noteworthy are any exhibitions of Paul Gauguin who spent a lot of time just up the road in Pont-Aven. Outside Quimper are a couple of villages which are well worth seeing, namely Concarneau and Locronon. Concarneau is a walled city on the coast. Locronan is a stunning village which looks frozen in time, built mostly from stone.

The city of Vannes, historic capital of the department of the Morbihan is another gorgeous city, stuck in beautiful scenery. It’s also close to a lot of beautiful beaches, particularly on the Quiberon peninsula. This area also includes the prehistoric stone alignments in Carnac which you really should visit if you’re in the area. Also close by are a few passage graves not unlike Newgrange, and the one in Locmariaquer is fascinating both in terms of ease of access and the artwork on the inner walls.

Sports wise, sailing and biking are big in Brittany but it is also a very good place for other water sports like surfing, kitesurfing, windsurfing, sandsailing. Most beaches have a decent children’s play area.

Brittany is a gorgeous part of the world. I strongly recommend.

Museum of Musical Instruments

I lived in Brussels until 1999 and at the time that I left it, it suffered from quite a lot of dereliction. I was back there in Decemer 2012 and it was still, in many respects, quite grey. The fact that it was winter probably didn’t hugely help there though.

However, I was there last week and obviously, in summer, the sun was shining and it was a bright and dressed up city. Quite a lot of the dereliction has been cleaned up; they have retained a lot of the building frontage so that renovated buildings still retain what are often beautiful art deco exteriors. I’d forgotten some of the more beautiful parts of town as well.

One building which really is worth a trip – particularly if you are a musician – is the Museum of Musical Instruments. The collection has been building up over time; there is a very fine collection of traditional instruments from across the world, including sets of pipes which I did not know existed, for example. They have a phenomenal collection of European stringed instruments and every variety of a violin which you did not know existed. When I was there, they also had a significant exhibition of the instruments of Adolph Sax.

The building it is housed in was completely derelict when I left Brussels. It was built at the end of the 19th century for a chain of department stories called Old England. I’m not fully au fait with the commercial history of the company but the shop was long past to history by the time I arrived in Brussels more than 15 years ago. It was an iron built building.

The interior has a lot in common with multistory department stories of the time (the old Samaritaine building Paris was not dissimilar for example) and there is, in addition to the musical instrument collection a rather interesting exhibition on the subject of the building as well.

All in all, I really enjoyed the trip in there so am glad to have gone and I would recommend it pretty much to anyone in the vicinity.