Tag Archives: museum

Model Trains and Old Dolls at the Toy and Miniature Museum in Stellenbosch (2017-09-16) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 03 NOV 2017

Tucked in among all the old period buildings that form the backbone of the Stellenbosch Museum complex is a rather fascinating little find – hidden around a corner and housed in a beautiful classic Cape Dutch style home is the Stellenbosch Toy and Miniature Museum, home to an eclectic mixture of vintage toys from days long past.

Inside the small museum you’ll find a large collection of antique toys and collectibles for both boys and girls, with some of the dolls on show for example being more than a century old!

The first thing that you’ll see on entry is a large doll house that is actually a replica of the neo-classical, double story, flat roofed Georgian style manor house of the Uitkyk Wine Estate on the outskirts of Stellenbosch.

The doll house is fully furnished with accurate, to scale dolls, furniture and household wares from the period, similar to the items that you would find in the old house museums that make up the Stellenbosch Village Museum.

Also, as you would expect given the amount of times these things show up in horror movies, a lot of the old dolls are pretty creepy looking – meaning that neither the girls nor I spent too much time looking at any of them!

There are loads of dinky toys, cuddly bears, tea sets, doll houses, room boxes, and model trains to browse through, though of course the most exciting of all is when you spot something that you yourself may have owned or played with when you were young – like this translucent brown United piggy bank that I fondly remember stashing all my coins into back when I was a young boy!

The small toy museum’s biggest attraction is however is its detailed model train build, depicting South Africa’s famous Blue Train and its journey from a miniature Stellenbosch through the Cape Winelands and over the mountains to the Karoo, passing Matjiesfontein before making its return back to the fertile grounds of Stellenbosch again.

(A simple R5 coin is all you need to set the train off, and without a doubt this was by far the best part – and probably only bit they liked – of our visit for the girls!)

The museum isn’t particularly large and you could easily breeze through it in a couple of minutes. However, if you take your time to work through some of the rather interesting exhibits, then you can most definitely while away a bit of time as you dip back into some fond memories of your own youth.

Honestly, the toy museum is not the greatest of activities when it comes to entertaining one’s kids, but as an adult I did rather enjoy the trip down memory lane.

(Oh, and if you are wondering about that last photo which appears to be a shot of a bowl of chocolate pudding with ice cream, well that is exactly what it is. Thanks Mom!)

Related Link: Stellenbosch Toy Museum

Tycho to the Moon at the Iziko Planetarium and Digital Dome in Cape Town (2017-08-20) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 24 OCT 2017

The Iziko Museums of Cape Town (Iziko is isiXhosa for “hearth”) is an amalgamation of 12 national museums located near the Cape Town city centre. The Natural History sphere consists of the venerable Iziko South African Museum (founded in 1825) and, most pertinent to this particular blog post, the Iziko Planetarium, a project technically launched in the late 1950s, but which only became relevant to the public after the 1987 installation of the Planetarium’s star machine.

Built as an extension to the aforementioned Iziko South African Museum, the Planetarium is a familiar fixture for any of Cape Town’s former schoolkids – I’m not aware of any scholar that didn’t experience an school outing to the planetarium at least once during their school career!

Of course, as it inevitable does, technical equipment becomes outdated, and as such, after investments totaling R28,5 million were poured into the upgrade project, May 2017 saw the reopening of the new Iziko Planetarium and Digital Dome (the planetarium’s new, official moniker), now extensively updated and most important of all, featuring cutting edge fulldome digital technology.

The result is beyond spectacular. The new Planetarium is now what is known as a “world-class digital fulldome theatre”, allowing for multimedia image projection and data visualisation on a scale not previously seen in Africa.

Apart from now being able to present interactive teaching and visual learning across multiple disciplines (essentially, there is now no reason that the Planetarium is solely focused on the field of astronomy), the biggest takeaway for this state of art digital dome is the fact that the Planetarium is now also very much an scientific instrument – capable of crunching and displaying complex and important data visualizations, exactly like those produced by the exciting SKA (Square Kilometre Array) project for example!

That said, I have a 3 year old and 6 year old daughter – meaning that our first experience of this glorious new piece of technology was a viewing of Tycho to the Moon – a supposedly educational, Australian produced 21 minute long feature about a dog and his kids that travel to the moon.

Spoiler, while the girls did enjoy the experience as a whole, Tycho to the Moon itself isn’t very good and kids seem to get bored of it VERY quickly.

The adverts for the other science show offerings, not to mention the star/universe gazing segment tacked on by our operator at the end of the show, were on the other hand ENTHRALLING – so definitely a return trip to the Planetarium for both Chantelle and myself is now VERY much in order!

Given the fact that the planetarium stands as part of the museum, with the Company’s Garden right on its doorstep, there is no way that this shouldn’t be on your list of things to do with kids in Cape Town.

Related Link: Iziko Planetarium and Digital Dome | Iziko Museums of Cape Town

Cape Dutch Architecture in the historic Church Street of Tulbagh (2016-12-10) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 30 JUL 2017

The Boland Earthquake of 1969 wreaked massive damage across the historic town of Tulbagh, but it was also thanks to this very disaster that the restoration and preservation of the town’s history became a reality.

The discovery of a photo taken in the 1860s allowed for the town to get together and restore every historic structure on Church Street to its original state, leading to 32 provincial heritage sites standing in one street alone, the largest concentration of National Monuments in South Africa!

I jumped at the opportunity to amble down Church street over the course of our weekend away at the African Tulip Guest House last December, taking my time to admire all these fantastic, well kept examples of Cape Dutch, Edwardian and Victorian architecture.

Other than those acting as museums, most of these historic houses are privately owned, with many operating as businesses, including the likes of restaurants, guest houses, art galleries, or quaint little shops.

Church street is also home to two churches (on either end of the street), a rugby field, a communal green space, and a organic community vegetable garden.

Outside of each house there stands an official, nifty little signboard, detailing the structure’s history and design style, not to mention the dispensing of some fascinating tidbits of local lore.

Naturally, plenty of photos were taken during the course of my stroll – I mean, who doesn’t love taking photos of classic whitewash and gables!

Well, well worth taking the time to amble down Church Street, and even better if you can organise to join one of the historic walking tours!

Related Link: Tulbagh | Cape Dutch Architecture

Things to See in Ukraine: The Motherland Monument in Kiev Travel Attractions 01 NOV 2016

One of Kiev’s most striking skyline elements is the massive Motherland Monument, also known as Rodina-Mat. Standing at a colossal 62 metres high and visible from just about all over Kiev, there is no surprise in it often being described as one of the capital of Ukraine’s most distinctive features.

motherland-monument-in-kiev-ukraine-1-tanks-in-foreground

Referred to as “Brezhnev’s Daughter” by the locals, the Motherland Monument is a giant stainless steel statue modelled by Vasyl Borodai and built in celebration of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in the Second World War.

The sculpture is a part of the Museum of The History of Ukraine in World War II, and as a whole, its structure measures 102 m in height, with it weighing in at around 560 tons.

motherland-monument-in-kiev-ukraine-7

The sword in the statue’s right hand is 16 m long weighing 9 tons (interesting fact – it had to be shortened so that it no longer stood higher than the cross of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, aka the Kiev Monastery of the Caves), with the left hand holding up a 13 by 8 m (43 by 26 ft) shield emblazoned with the State Emblem of the Soviet Union.

The Memorial hall of the Museum displays marble plaques with carved names of more than 11,600 soldiers and over 200 workers of the home-front, honored during the war with the title of the Hero of the Soviet Union and the Hero of Socialist Labor respectively.

motherland-monument-in-kiev-ukraine-2-soldiers-marching

The slightly controversial (mostly around cost and choice of premium building material) statue was opened in 1981 (following a short two years of construction) in a ceremony attended by Soviet president Leonid Brezhnev. Interestingly enough, April 2015 saw the parliament of Ukraine outlawing all Soviet and Communist symbols, street names and monuments as a decommunization attempt, but luckily for Mother Motherland, World War II monuments are excluded from these laws.

motherland-monument-in-kiev-ukraine-8

The sheer scale of this statue makes it an interesting  attraction to seek out, and of course, for military history buffs, the associated museum is an absolute treasure trove of information, gear and machinery.

motherland-monument-in-kiev-ukraine-6

(Also, check out Destinations if you are looking for a good Travel Guide about Ukraine)

motherland-monument-in-kiev-ukraine-4-drone-view

motherland-monument-in-kiev-ukraine-5

motherland-monument-in-kiev-ukraine-3-cityscape

Related Link: Motherland Monument | Wikipedia | Kiev

Things to See in USA: The USS Midway Museum in San Diego Travel Attractions 28 JUN 2016

If you are down in California, paying a visit to San Diego, and perhaps have just the slightest of interest in all things military, then it would be particularly foolish to skip out on making a trip down to the USS Midway Museum!

uss midway museum aircraft carrier naval museum in san diego, usa 1

The massive decommissioned aircraft carrier USS Midway, previously America’s longest-serving aircraft carrier (1945-1992) is now a dedicated museum ship, housing an extensive collection of naval aircraft and over 60 ship exhibits brought to life by a self-guided audio tour.

Exhibits range from the crew’s sleeping quarters to a massive galley, engine room, the ship’s jail, officer’s country, post office, machine shops, and pilots’ ready rooms, as well as primary flight control and the bridge high in the island over the flight deck.

uss midway museum aircraft carrier naval museum in san diego, usa 3

Included in the ships restored aircraft inventory is a cornucopia of naval fighters stretching from World War II to Operation Desert Storm. Expect to view planes like the SBD Dauntless dive bomber, the TBM Avenger, F9F Panther, F-4 Phantom, A-6 Intruder and F/A-18 Hornet just to name but a few!

The museum is berthed at Navy Pier which has more than 300 parking spaces. It also is within walking distance of public transportation and other downtown San Diego waterfront attractions.

uss midway museum aircraft carrier naval museum in san diego, usa 5

Opened on 7 June 2004,d by 2012 the USS Midway Museum’s annual visitation exceeded 1 million visitors. As of 2015, Midway now also boasts the tag of being the most popular naval warship museum in the United States!

In other words, a massively popular attraction.

uss midway museum aircraft carrier naval museum in san diego, usa 6

uss midway museum aircraft carrier naval museum in san diego, usa 7

Related Link: USS Midway Museum | Wikipedia

Japan 2014 – 41 Yoshinaka Yakata Museum in Miyanokoshi (2014-10-09) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 24 DEC 2015

Stomachs full following our soba noodles at Zcobo, the next stop on our day out with Yuko and the Brown family was a leisurely (more or less, thanks to some wrong turns and narrow town streets) drive through to the town of Miyanokoshi, where Yuko was very keen for us to visit the Yoshinaka Yakata Museum – important because of her ancestral link to the Minamoto clan.

(Ryan and I were just excited that at last we were going to encounter some samurai exhibits!)

IMG_20141009_150054 tomoe gozen with minamoto no yoshinaka at the yoshinaka yakata museum in miyanokoshi

The first thing that greets you as you enter the grounds of the museum is a striking bronze statue of the great Kiso Yoshinaka with the legendary Tomoe Gozen standing guard next to him.

IMG_20141009_151747 view of the grounds of the yoshinaka yakata museum in miyanokoshi, japan

Popularised in the epic Tale of the Heike, Minamoto no Yoshinaka (better known as Kiso Yoshinaka) was a famous shogun and war hero that fought during the Genpei War (1180-1185) which was the culmination of the struggle between the Taira (aka Heike) and Minamoto (aka Genji) clans for control of Japan at the end of the 12th century.

His army defeated the Taira army on numerous occasions and eventually drove them out of Kyoto, only to finally perish at the hands of his own clan in battle, after his plotting to setup a separate government came to light.

IMG_20141009_150734 samurai armour and drum at the yoshinaka yakata museum in miyanokoshi, japan

(Tomoe Gozen also features heavily in the displays, she being Japan’s most famous female samurai, with many legends proclaiming her brilliance in battle.)

The small museum does a great job at telling Kiso Yoshinaka’s tale through murals, reliefs, costumes and dolls – though luckily for us we had Yuko on hand for translation because this certainly isn’t intended as a museum for tourists!

IMG_20141009_151113 kiso yoshinaka story murals at the yoshinaka yakata museum in miyanokoshi, japan

Very much an interesting look into the samurai history of the area, and if you have a Japanese-speaking guide, then worth a recommendation.

Related Link: Minamoto no Yoshinaka | Tomoe Gozen

Japan 2014 – 32 Kyoto’s Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum (2014-10-07) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 19 DEC 2015

Umekoji Park is a large green space in rather crowded Kyoto, and thus quite popular with the locals. Of course, the newly built (2012) aquarium took quite a bite out of the space, but I have to say that as tourists, Ryan and I kind of enjoyed the new attraction.

Next up for us though was something a little less nature and a lot more man-made – Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum was beckoning from literally next door!

IMG_20141007_122509 entrance to umekoji steam locomotive museum, kyoto, japan

The Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum was opened in 1972 on the 100th anniversary of the start of railway operation in Japan.

At the center of the museum is a 20-track roundhouse built in 1914. It was built surrounding a turntable, and houses and exhibits the preserved locomotives. The roundhouse is an Important Cultural Property designated by the government of Japan as the oldest reinforced-concrete car shed extant in Japan.

IMG_20141007_125521 train yard at umekoji steam locomotive museum, kyoto, japan

The former Nijo Station House is the oldest wooden railway station in Japan. The station house was built in 1904 and also served as the main office for the Kyoto Railway Company, a private railway in operation at that time. In 1997 the station house was relocated to the museum site as a railway cultural asset, where it is now used as the entrance way and display hall for the museum.

IMG_20141007_122446 entrance to umekoji steam locomotive museum, kyoto, japan

Although Ryan and I didn’t hop on for the short 1 km trip in a steam locomotive, we thoroughly enjoyed browsing all the displays and artifacts in the station house museum, before moving on to the outside area to admire the 19 steam locomotives on display – all lovingly restored, cared for and in working order!

The beasts are pretty magnificent in their own right, and each with their own bit of history attached.

That said though, I kind of forgot that steam locomotives were generally all painted black. Which means that visually, this wasn’t the most exciting of things that we had come across in Japan!

IMG_20141007_124100 black train at umekoji steam locomotive museum, kyoto, japan

Note: Turns out that we were pretty lucky to see this after all. The museum has subsequently been closed, in the process of a major construction overhaul which will add a massive footprint and a whole lot more trains – including a couple of shinkansen (bullet trains).

From a Japanese  news article:

“The opening date for one of the largest train museums in Japan has been set for April 29 2016, West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) announced Wednesday.

The Kyoto Railway Museum, being developed on a 30,000-sq.-meter site, will exhibit a total of 53 locomotives and train cars it inherited from the former Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum, which was on the same site, and the Modern Transportation Museum in Osaka, which is also closed.”

Related Link: Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum

Japan 2014 – 15 Yushukan War Memorial Museum in Chiyoda, Tokyo (2014-10-04) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 18 NOV 2015

Having now wandered around the grounds of the solemn Yasukuni Shrine complex in Chiyoda, Tokyo, we turned our attention to the actual reason we had headed out this way in the first place – my hunt to see a Mitsubishi A6M Zero WWII fighter plane.

DSC07341 kamikaze pilot statue at Yushukan War Memorial Museum in Chiyoda, Tokyo

Situated inside the Yasukuni Shrine complex is the 1882-established Yushukan War Memorial Museum which is self-declared as Japan’s oldest and first military and war museum. 

As a museum maintained by a shrine which is dedicated to the souls of soldiers who died fighting on behalf of the Emperor of Japan, it contains various artifacts and documents concerning Japanese war casualties and military activity from the start of the Meiji Restoration to the end of the Pacific War.

DSC07350 world war memorial at Yushukan War Memorial Museum in Chiyoda, Tokyo

Accused of containing revisionism in its accounts of Japan’s actions in World War II, as well as glorifying Japan’s aggressive militaristic past, the museum obviously courts a lot of controversy, but nevertheless remains an extremely interesting place to visit for war buffs.

DSC07345 war dog at Yushukan War Memorial Museum in Chiyoda, Tokyo

Outside of the museum is a number of statues dedicated to among others, horses,  dogs, carrier pigeons killed in war service, war widows with children, and even kamikaze pilots!

IMG_20141004_123745 craig lotter next to mitsubishi a6m zero figher plane at Yushukan War Memorial Museum

I was of course there for one thing and one thing only – to see a full scale Mitsubishi A6M Zero, one of my most favourite warbirds as a child – and as a luck would have it, the museum has one standing right there slap bang in the middle of the free to enter entrance hall!

Needless to say, I took a lot (and I mean a lot) of photos of it. Absolute 7th heaven for me I tell you!

DSC07359 mitsubishi a6m zero figher plane at Yushukan War Memorial Museum in Chiyoda, Tokyo

As I mentioned, the first floor entrance hall is free of admission, and contains the Zero fighter plane, a Class C56 steam locomotive, a Type 89 15 cm Cannon, and a Type 96 15 cm Howitzer (with shells) as well.

DSC07360 artillery gun at Yushukan War Memorial Museum in Chiyoda, Tokyo

Floors one and two is then obviously where all the real exhibits are to be found, but having seen the Zero, and to be honest, running a little out of time, Ryan and I decided that we didn’t really need to pay in order see any more war relics (or try to decipher any more Japanese information boards), meaning that we bid the war museum farewell and headed off in the direction of Kitanomaru Park, with our sights now firmly set on the Tokyo Imperial Palace grounds as our next Tokyo point of interest!

(Extra Note 1: Even the police aren’t immune to using cute mascot characters – as indicated by this lost and found sign outside a police station).

IMG_20141004_114303 ryan lotter in chiyoda, tokyo

(Extra Note 2: In South Africa we’ve gotten accustomed to the decline in terms of smoking in public thanks to all the anti-smoking laws that have been passed over the years. Japan used to be a heavy smoking nation themselves, but these days more effort has been made to calm things down a little – like forcing smokers to congregate in very small, marked public smoking areas!)

DSC07347 smokers trailer at Yushukan War Memorial Museum in Chiyoda, Tokyo

Related Links: Yushukan Military Museum | Yasukuni Shrine | Mitsubishi A6M Zero