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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Baltics - Day 14, Part 2

"No degree of dullness can safeguard a work against the determination of critics to find it fascinating." - Harold Rosenberg


Baltics trip
Day 14 - 29th May - Museum of Occupations of Estonia, Mikkel Museum, Tallinn; Estonia
(Part 2)

Estonia must be the first place I've ever been to or heard of which has museums closed on a Thursday.

World Heritage plaque for the Historic Centre/Old Town of Tallinn. I was very surprised that there was no French here.

Hotel L'ermitage's very modern look

Information plaque for building built with 2 symmetrical apartments

Next was the Museum of Occupations of Estonia. We visited it in our quest to show that all 3 countries' Occupation museums were the same, but we were pleasantly surprised.

Estonia's was the smallest but it used the best technology (not surprising given that it's the most developed of the 3) and had the best layoput and narrative. There were a lot of videos which were good but time-intensive (there was 3.5 hours of video in total). The place was also less emo, focusing more on what occured (Lithuania takes the cake with the claim of "genocide"). The museum also focused more on daily life during the Occupations, so the items were quite boring.

Statues beside toilet: Viktor Kingissepp, Mikhail Ivanovich Kalinin

The museums in Latvia and Estonia said the German occupation was worse than the Soviet one; I got the impression from Lithuania's that the German was worse. nw.t thought Estonia's glossed over the German Occupation (interestingly there was no talk about Estonians' collaboration with the Germans and tellingly there were few mentions of Jews), as they gushed about the Germans rescuing them from the Red Army and how life was better under the Germans. In fact, the only bad thing they said about the Germans was that they didn't free them and used their resources for war.

Rowboat used to flee to Sweden during WWII


"Instead of reversing the downturn in the economy, those in power generated propagandistic double-talk that offended the senses." - HMM, this sounds familiar

Communications devices

The only cars worse than Protons (the one on the right is especially hideous)


Communist flags


The interesting sliding door

Their shitty independence monument

Another fair maiden at town walls

We then went to St Nicholas' Church, which housed the Medieval Art collection of the Art Museum of Estonia. It didn't allow photography: many places in Estonia didn't - it seemd to be correlated with economic development (and thus, the potential for selling books and postcards). Yet, although the collection was decent - the best we'd seen in the Baltics - almost without exception (much of it viewable on Wikipedia, including an excellent Danse Macabre fragment by the Lübeck master, Bernt Notke) I didn't mind the no photo rule since the correction paled compared to less scummy places elsewhere in Europe.

There was evidence of medieval globalisation: there were Low Country altarpieces which'd ended up in Estonian churches.

St Nicholas' Church


After the museum we split up - I went to the Mikkel Museum, which "我们去吧!" claimed had the only Rembrandts in the Baltics.

Girls blowing bubbles, sitting on town wall

Consulat De Monaco and Monaco Restaurant

My lunch: Geisha chocolate (I bought some back and people asked me if it was from Japan; it's made in Finland). It was very good actually.

The Mikkel Museum had a special exhibition: "Restored Estonia: Restoring the Cultural Heritage of the Estonian Republic from the 1920s and the 1930s"

"A 'gentleman from the Republican era' or a 'lady from the Republican era' never became Soviet folk. It was there for everybody to see how World War II and the Soviet occupation ruined the everyday life of Estonia...
While the adoration of heritage from the 1920s-1930s might have been replaced with a more sober and critical attitude, this also forms a part of Estonia's free and natural development. Growing up shatters many illusions, both for the people and their country. At the same time, grown-ups have the ability to look to the past and the future simultaneously and to contemplate their role in shaping the two neighbours of the present."
Again, I found it admirable how they faced up to reality so readily.

Sketch for "Bearers of the Cross of Liberty" by Raudsepp

Little Alma, Ants Laikmaa
"When the seven-year-old Alma went to pose for her artist uncle, she had to utter the following code upon knocking at the door of Laikmaa's studio in the back of the house: 'This is the Estonian lass, uncle's dear friend"
This sounds very dodgy

Flower table with gypsy locks, made by a farmhand
Functionality evidently isn't a major consideration

Kristjan Raud, Kalevipoeg Returns Home

I then went upstairs to see their permanent collection.

Russian porcelain, 20th century

A Midnight Modern Conversation, Unknown German Follower of William Hogarth, on the ills of drinking

Berlin Porcelain, 18th c.

The Finding of Moses, Jean Francois de Troy, 1714-7

Bird Yard, 19th c, Unknown German artist

Meissen porcelain, 18th c.

Berlin Pottery, 19th c.

Copenhagen Pottery, 19th-20th c.

They had a nice China collection also, but even I was not hardcore enough to take the laminated information sheet and match everything.

Goddess with a lion; Guanyin, Goddess of mercy

Seated Lady, 19th c. Unkonwn artist

Christ at Emmaus, 2nd half of 17th c. Unknown artist
Notice the bad restoration

Susanna at her Bath, unknown after Rubens
Far inferior to Rubens's original "Susanna and the Elders"

Christ with the Samaritan Woman at the Well, 19th c. Unknown German artist.

Information on Meissen pottery from Germany

Angel. This was one of my favourite works.

Dancer with a wreath of flowers. 19th c. Unknown, copy after Antonio Canova

After seeing all the museum had to offer I still couldn't find any Rembrandts (I looked carefully). I asked the museum staff who said they never had any; further research reveals there were supposed to be etchings by him, but I don't know, so.

Be that as it may, "我们去吧!" (Let's Go!) was still more accurate than "孤独地球" ("Lonely Planet"), which had named as Author's Choice this restaurant in Juodkrante, in the Curonian Spit in Lithuania, which had never served the writer's highly recommended variety of potato pancakes and which had, over the years, many tourists coming in to ask for the dish in question.
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