Monday, July 21, 2014

Best Garden for Impressionists

This summer I had the wonderful opportunity to return to one of my favorite spots ever: Monet’s garden at Giverny. At first I was confused when I started reading about Monet’s life. Why would anyone spend decades painting a single garden? A decade ago I visited the site with another Impressionism nut. Between the two of us we took 6 rolls of 36 shots each! As I walked around I realized why this garden had become so important to Monet and why he was content here. He created his whole universe just inside.

D.R. at the Clos normand section of Monet's grounds

What struck me during this visit to Giverny was that each step I took made for a different impression, a different view, a different painting. It took me a couple of hours to walk through the garden! Granted, the flowers were in bloom and sometimes I had to stop to watch interesting people. But most of all, I was trying to think about Monet and how to understand his wonderful work.

The Japanese bridge in the water garden

I spent a couple of hours circling his water pond as well. The water lilies boasted flowers and the weeping willows spilled into the pond. Clouds hovered in the distance. Crowds perched on the Japanese bridge doing selfies or shouting at their friends to hurry up and take the shot.

Water lily reflection

I kept trying to notice as much as possible, anything I might have missed the first time through.

Every shot a different possible painting

The experience was delightful. I was thankful I had time to slowly examine the garden and to take picture after picture. After all, I had to take the garden home with me, didn’t I?

A gentle gift of nature

Here’s a good thing: these days Giverny is easy to reach by public transport.  From Gare St. Lazare you take the train to Vernon. Special buses cart people between the train station and the small town of Giverny.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Travel the Whole World in the Town of Schwaz, Austria

One of the most interesting museums I’ve been in this summer is found in the small town of Schwaz. Although I suspect it’s often overlooked, the museum founded by Geri Chesi in 1995 is a gem I’m thankful I had the chance to experience.

Chesi had a great idea for his museum. He wanted to share non-Western cultures with his hometown. The museum has pieces from Buddhas from Thailand, Burma, and Laos. It was wooden doors from India, and colorful costumes from Togo. It has photographs of voodoo ceremonies and other unfamiliar practices taken by Chesi himself.

The thirty-entry audioguide offers a wealth of extra information to help visitors understand the pieces and their cultural significance. (German or English)

Although I’ve been to Thailand a couple of times, I was thrilled to find such beautiful examples of Buddhist artwork all in one room. I was also thrilled to find stone guards from China. Best of all: I got to view handiwork from countries I’d only vaguely heard of.

I kept wondering why my friend and I made up half of the museum’s visitors. This saddened me; such a complete, complex museum should be on every must-see list. Many tourists come to this region, but they get sidetracked before they get to Schwaz. One distraction is the Swarovski Crystal World which is only a few kilometers by the road. I understand those tourists; in fact I’ve been to the Crystal World in Wattens several times myself. I love to visit that place too! But the Museum der Völker is in many ways more important. It gives the whole Tirol a way to see parts of the world that might otherwise be inaccessible to them.

For me the museum served as a reminder that I’ve been lucky to travel the world yet no matter where I go, there are always brand-new things to learn.

Gert Chesi

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