Posts Tagged ‘museums’

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class="post-5995 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-misc tag-europe tag-eurotrip2018 tag-ghost-tour tag-museums tag-photos tag-stockholm tag-sweden tag-tours tag-travel">

Stockholm expeditions

July 4th, 2018

During my six sunny days in Stockholm I tried to squeeze in as many expeditions around town as possible without exhausting myself too much. It’s a big city with a lot going on — you could probably spend a couple weeks in Stockholm and still leave with that nagging feeling you missed something.

Here’s how I spent my time:

Stockholm Stockholm Stockholm

 
Free walking tours
Note: These are all free, but you’re expected to tip the guide if you enjoyed the tour.

  • City Tour by Free Walking Tour Stockholm. This tour’s kind of a grab bag, but wanders around mostly in the new-ish parts of Stockholm to the east of the old town. Much of it focuses on the era around the beginnings of the era of the constitutional monarchy.
  • Old Town (Gamla Stan) Tour by Free Walking Tour Stockholm. When I first set foot in Gamla Stan I couldn’t help but to roll my eyes — yet another beautiful relic of a medieval European city turned into a tourist trap. Sigh. But this tour helped breathe some life, or in some cases death, into the stories from the old days. Can’t say Gamla Stan is my favorite place, but by the end of the tour I appreciated it the history enough to not hate its current incarnation.
  • Subway Art Tour by Free Walking Tour Stockholm. If you’ve seen the amazing photos of the subway stations in Stockholm this tour needs no introduction, and if you haven’t go Google it right now! My only complaint about this tour is it didn’t take me to enough stations. I’ll follow up with another blog post about Stockholm’s subway art in the near future, there’s too much to say here.
  • Söder Tour from Free Tour Stockholm. I was staying in the Söder neighborhood/island so most of the ground we covered was already familiar, but the history of the neighborhood was new to me. Somehow this part of town went from a battlefield to the poor part of town and eventually became a the hip part of town.
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      Stockholm Stockholm Stockholm

       
      Other tours

      • Stockholm Ghost Walk. This somewhat theatrical tour covers both the historical stories from the old town (Gamla Stan) as well as the more… shall we say, legendary tales. A crypt is included, though the bodies were moved long ago.
      • Guided tour of the Riksdag (Parliament). This tour shows you around the building where Sweden’s government operates. The building’s a mishmash of old and new, modified over time to fit the needs of the day. It’s completely free, just show up at the designated time and prepare to go through an airport-style security check.
      • The Nordic Food Walk. This one’s pricey but worth it since it includes samples of many different Swedish cuisines you won’t find elsewhere. They’ll try to cater to your dietary needs, and as a pescetarian there was only one dish I didn’t get to try — a meatball. The tour ended in the basement of a restaurant for a “fika,” or Swedish coffee break.

       

      Odds and ends

      Aside from the tours here are some other places I stumbled on during my time in Stockholm.

      Stockholm
       

      During my first day in Stockholm my Airbnb host suggested visiting Monteliusvägen, a lookout point near where I was staying. There’s a panoramic view of the city from there and it’s not much of a climb. The place was pretty crowded, but there’s a long trail along the cliff with a few lookout points where you can take in the view and snap some photos.

      Stockholm
       

      A few rooms of the Royal Palace were open to visitors for free. The photo above is the chapel built into the palace but there are several other rooms you can visit without taking the tour. The courtyard is also open to the public.

      Stockholm
       

      The Stockholm Public Library is like a temple for reading. The circular main room has three levels of narrow hallways with books on one side. There’s a small section of English books, though like many visitors I was just there to admire the architecture of the building. According to a sign outside the building this was the first open stack public library in Sweden.

      Stockholm
       

      The idea of an espresso tonic never appealed to me until I was in Stockholm during a heat wave and happened to walk into Johan & Nystrom. Normally at a fancy espresso bar I’d order an espresso, but it was such a hot day I almost gagged at the though of drinking a hot beverage.

      Noticing an espresso tonic featured on their summer menu I went ahead and ordered it. The barista made an espresso, which he poured over iced tonic water. I liked it so much I came back for two more during the trip.

      Stockholm
       

      Everyone who visits Stockholm seems to agree there’s one museum you have to visit: the Vasa Museum. They’re right. This is one impressive museum.

      Back in the 1620’s, the king of Sweden wanted a modern warship with two gun decks in order to intimidate his neighbors. This proved to be a little too cutting edge for the time as the ship sank on its maiden voyage. The wreckage was mostly forgotten until the 1950s when it was discovered again.

      The museum tells both the story of the ship and its historical context as well as the monumental effort that went into getting the ship to where it is today. But the initial “wow” factor for me was walking in past the ticket counter right up to a massive wooden ship that nearly fills a five story building. You don’t see that every day.

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class="post-5597 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-misc tag-culver-city tag-humor tag-los-angeles tag-museum-of-jurassic-technology tag-museums tag-travel">

Museum of Jurassic Technology

February 17th, 2018

Museum of Jurassic Technology
 

Over the past few years I’ve told pretty much anyone who’ll listen about my fascination with the type of real life interactive adventures from the likes of Nonchanance, including their Jejune Institute, Elsewhere Public Works, The Latitude, etc. [citation NOT needed] and every now and then someone responds by telling me about this oddball thing in LA County called the Museum of Jurassic Technology.

From Venice I took a reasonably fast 30 minute bus ride (good thing I’d ordered and pre-loaded my TAP Card in advance) down Venice Boulevard to this strange museum in Culver City.

After buying your ticket — technically it’s a donation — there’s no prescribed order to the museum, but if you enter the exhibit area and make an immediate left there’s a TV screen which shows a video at the press of a button explaining what you’re about to see… sort of. It starts off in a long-winded explanation of the history of museums, then finally hones in on the (fictional) history of the Museum of Jurassic Technology.

It’s worth noting here the word “Jurassic” is intentionally nonsensical; once you get past this the meanings of the exhibits start to fall into place. Nothing here is at it seems, and furthermore it’s all a series of stories that parody the very concept of a museum.

I don’t want to spoil too much because it’s sort of against the rules (no photos are allowed) but I’ll describe some of my favorite exhibits in my own words.

  • A pair of western scientists explore a “savage” people’s demonic experiences only to find the phenomenon is the result of a species of unusual bats.
  • A room full of paintings of dogs pays tribute to each dog in the Soviet space program.
  • An exhibit of early 20th century motor homes inexplicably compares them to Noah’s Ark and the Garden of Eden.
  • An ordinary stairway features dioramas of staircases.
  • A series of “cat’s cradle” string manipulations is treated as a major exhibit across two rooms with interactive exhibits.

This “museum” originally opened in the late 1980’s and has expanded since then according to one repeat visitor I spoke with. Some of the exhibits were not operational during my visit, though despite spending over an hour and a half I didn’t see or hear everything before it closed for the night. While I usually ignore museum gift shops, I wound up buying a book detailing the museum’s exhibits because it was just that good.
 

My recommendation: If you’ve ever read this blog you’re probably the target audience for people who enjoy subtly bizarre humor. This is the museum for people like us — by all means pay it a visit.

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class="post-4710 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-local tag-cable-car tag-muni tag-museums tag-photos tag-san-francisco tag-tourism">

The Cable Car Museum

April 3rd, 2017

Some museums require a complicated explanation about how to get there; not so with the San Francisco Cable Car Museum. Both of the Powell Street lines stop outside of the museum, and the California Street line has a stop a few blocks away.

Despite living in San Francisco for almost a decade and a half, I’d never visited the Cable Car Museum, and decided on a whim today to pay a visit.

Most of SF’s tourist attractions fall into one of two buckets: a horrid tourist trap (Pier 39, Grant Avenue in Chinatown) or are actual gems that you shouldn’t miss (Telegraph Hill, Musee Mecanique, Cliff House.) The Cable Car Museum, I’m happy to report, falls into the latter category. That said there’s not much to the museum itself. The real show here is watching how the cable car system works.

I suspect an average tourist doesn’t give much thought as to how cable cars work — it’s just a weird old wooden train with a bell, right? Just like a big version of Mr. Rogers’ trolley? Anyone with that notion will be in for a shock if they visit the museum and watch the motors pulling the cables. More on that in a moment.

The Cable Car Museum is free to visit and is open most days. There are bathrooms open to the public, and of course a gift shop with books and trinkets. Much of the museum consists of panels explaining the history of the system, how it was invented, etc. Most of these factoids you could just as easily find on Wikipedia.

The most interesting of these exhibits explain in detail how the mechanisms that power the cable cars work, for example the grip and the truck pictured below.

 
Cable Car Museum Cable Car Museum
 

Another cool feature are the old cable cars. Did you know that at one time they had two cable cars hitched together? Or that ads on public transit apparently go way back further than you may have thought? These are the quirky little details you won’t find anywhere else.

 
Cable Car Museum Cable Car Museum
 

But like I said earlier, all of this is really secondary to what the museum is really about: seeing the mechanism that powers the cable cars up close. It’s like a factory tour in a way — the museum’s located inside the building that powers the entire cable car system in San Francisco.

Several enormous wheels spin a thick braided metal cable, one for each line. That cable is what the “grip” mechanism in each cable car latches to, which is what propels tourists between Powell and Market and Fisherman’s Wharf. Normally you can’t see those cables since they’re underneath the street, but here they’re in full view.

Apparently it’s some guy’s job to sit there watching the cables, checking for damage as they wiz by, and if there are any frayed bits they have to be repaired at night when the cable cars aren’t in service. While I’d assume this is the sort of job that could be easily automated, in the spirit of preserving a historical system maybe that would be cheating.

 
Cable Car Museum Cable Car Museum
 

In the basement of the building you can see the wheels that act as pulleys, tilting the cables into different directions for each line. Unfortunately it was too dark down there to get a usable photo.

A portion of the building is devoted to a machine shop. The cable cars are custom made, so if a part needs to be replaced it’s not like SFMTA can go on Amazon and order a new one. I spotted several fresh looking grip mechanisms sitting in one corner, ready to be installed as needed. Since it was a weekend there was unfortunately no activity in the machine shop. There might be more action to see if I’d visited on a weekday.

One last fact to mention here is the noise level. With the motors driving the giant wheels and the cables spinning around, this is not a quiet museum. Check out my very brief video below to look and listen to those motors in action.
 

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Strandbeests at the Exploratorium After Dark

June 3rd, 2016

Strandbeests at the Exploratorium

Strandbeests at the Exploratorium Strandbeests at the Exploratorium Strandbeests at the Exploratorium Strandbeests at the Exploratorium Strandbeests at the Exploratorium Strandbeests at the Exploratorium Strandbeests at the Exploratorium

Last night I attended the Exploratorium’s After Dark series. While there were not any flying toasters present, there were numerous Strandbeests from Dutch artist Theo Jansen.

The Strandbeests range in size from not much bigger than a human to stretching across a large room. Some of them are relatively simple contraptions that can be pushed around by humans or sails, whereas others operate on a system of a wind-powered compressed air mechanism. All the “beests” on display at the Exploratorium are built from PVC pipe — which is a yellowish color in the Netherlands for some reason — though Jansen has experimented with wood in the past.

If you’d like to check out the exhibit yourself it runs through September 5th. And you’ll have a chance to revisit your favorite Exploratorium exhibits while you’re at it, of course.