Wandering Basel: A Night at the Museums

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Last Friday (January 18) was the annual Museums Night (or Museumsnacht) here in Basel. It’s an annual event every January where most (all?) of Basel’s museums are open from 6 pm to 2 am with special programs and giveaways throughout the city. It was something I wasn’t going to do at first because I assumed it’d be a night of clubs and loud music all night, but the programs sounded interesting. I figured I could check out a few spots for the 24 CHF of admission and be home by nine if it truly wasn’t my thing.

The night turned out to be a lot more of an adventure than I expected. I didn’t expect to see so many people wandering the streets and in all of the museum. You also don’t get the full impact of how many museums that are in Basel until they’re all at your disposal in one night. I started off the day with a general itinerary of activities I wanted to hit during the night. At some point, though, the true joy of Museumsnacht was just to wing it and follow the mood, crowd and your whims.

I started the night at the Basel Paper Mill. Sure, it seems strange to start with one of the museums that I have been to, but the museum continues to be a great place to geek out at. That and they were using a printing press to press text onto noodles.

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The noodles were edible too, or at least I hope they were because I may or may not have eaten some. I also spent quite some time on the top floor of the museum watching some artists engage in art of Scherenschnitt, which is the traditional Swiss paper cutting craft. It absolutely mesmorizing to watch and I could have stayed there for a while. The designs were so elaborate. But, alas, it was Museumsnacht and I had places to go and things to see.

I made an unplanned stop at the Kunstmuseum Gegenwart location as it was just up the street. There was a lot of modern art and most of the exhibits were centered around a big war games exhibit that I’d seen advertised for a while. It was fascinating, if not a little unnerving at times.

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After a brief interlude for some glühwein, I continued on my adventure. My next stop was actually the Cartoon Museum because they had a whole crime solving event going on and that sounded exactly like something that I would go all out for. Unfortunately, as I approached, I could tell that many other people found that event appealing as there was a long line leading out the door.

Instead, I ended up at the Antinkenmuseum, which is full of ancient statues and antiquities. There was a big exhibit on nudity in classic art and there were supposed to be live statues wandering the event, but I saw none of them. Aside from a surprise baby mummy in the Egyptian section, this one was a lot of fun and I probably could have spent a lot more time in there. Unfortunately, it was also incredibly hot and stuffy inside, which is not something that blends well with glühwein.

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From there, it was up to the Munster to walk along the cloisters in the dark. There was soemthing a little eerie about how dark it was. There were several musicians preparing to play music, but I cut out before any of it started. What I did end up catching was the inside of the Munster, something that I realized that I had never seen.

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My plan was to either grab some quick food and then either go to the Natural History Museum because it’s the Natural History Museum or get on the bus to see the Picasso events at the Foundation Beyler. Instead, I decided that a sit down restaurant would be a welcome break after a couple of hours of walking. Then I got distracted after dinner from my path to the Natural History Museum and ended up getting some boba. It was perfect.

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I don’t remember what museum I was trying to get to after that point, but there was a musical performance going on that I wanted to check out. I somehow got museums mixed up (as one does) and ended up at the Basel History Museum. The coolest thing about this museum was the exhibit dedicated to the Dance of Death painting.

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One thing I noticed throughout the city on the adventures from the night was that there were a lot of people wearing top hats with rabbits in them. I really wanted one and didn’t know where to get one until I saw an enormous line coming out of the Dollhouse Museum. I remembered that they’ve had a hat thing going on for quite some time and it all suddenly clicked and I knew where to go.

The line took forever, but I got to see bits of the museum on the way up to get it. The museum had a bit of a creepy Pretty Little Liars vibe to it, but it was also impressively jam-packed with stuff. The hat collection was the best part, though. After about an hour, I got my hat too.

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Somehow, it was 11 pm at that point. While I probably could have thrown a few more stops into my itinerary, I had also started to get very sore from what turned out to be a lot of walking. For some reason, this meant that I had to take a relatively long walk out to the Sculpture Museum because they had a whole Harry Potter theme going on. Most importantly, there was a Harry Potter trivia/scavenger hunt event, but it was in German as was the lecture on what looked like comparisons between ancient folklore and Harry Potter characters. I walked around the Sculpture Museum a little longer, but decided that it was probably time to start heading home.

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I honestly did not expect to have so much fun during Museumsnacht, but I was pleasantly surprised. What’s crazy is that I only hit a small fraction of the events of the night. There was so much more that I had flagged to do for the night when I was planning my agenda. In the end, though, there was something fun about the somewhat aimless jaunt around town. I saw a number of museums that I don’t think I would have otherwise seen while I was here. I should still try to get out to the Natural History Museum, though.

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Weekend in Vienna

Vienna was one of the stops on the Alea’s 2018 Christmas Market Tour. The Christmas markets, which I will speak of in greater detail in a separate post, are pretty big in Vienna and I’ve been meaning to see the city for a while, so it worked out well. Vienna is a city that I could have easily spent more time in, despite my very full itinerary in the city. I ended up missing a handful of things that I wanted to do (including the big Nachtsmarkt).

I started with a walking tour of Vienna. We spent most of the time in the old town and learned a lot of the history of the city. It was a nice tour, but it was also ridiculously cold. It didn’t help at all that I apparently did not pack socks on this trip (-10 points from Ravenclaw).

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The tour ended around St. Stephan’s Cathedral, which is also conveniently near an H&M, where I was able to get myself socks. Having resolved the big sock issue, I made a failed attempt at going up the spire in the cathedral. There was actually a long line coming out of the cathedral, so I dropped it all together in favor of food.

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Now, this is where my plans went awry a little. I was going to grab something on the go to maximize sightseeing, but it was so cold that my Kfood spidey senses brought me to a Korean restaurant. Soup would have been perfect, but dolsot bibimbap also hit the spot.

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One of the things that I learned during the walking tour was that they do daily tours of the opera house. I didn’t expect to be able to get to the opera that night and theater tours make me incredibly happy, so I figured I’d try even though I had a reservation for the guided tour of the Spanish Riding School at 3. When I got to the opera house, I quickly found out that the line to get tickets was significantly longer than I expected and the tour was too late for me to try to do both.

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So, I did what anyone else should do when they have time to kill in the Christmas season, I had some mulled wine and waited for my tour to start.

The Spanish Riding School tour was pretty fun. I had looked into tickets to go to one of the shows, but it was either showed out or not available the date didn’t work out. I did the tour instead. The best part was obviously the horses, but we weren’t able to take photos for safety reasons. I did learn that one of the horses in the horse hall of fame was named Alea. …Okay, maybe not something to brag about, but yay horses!

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The National Library of Austria was right around the corner from the Spanish Riding School and that was quite an experience. The library is beautiful. Sure, I read the exhibits that were up in celebration of the library’s 650th birthday, but I could have just sat in there pretending I was living the best parts of Beauty and the Beast. Look, the love story and message about beauty being on the inside is great and all, but the library the Beast gives her is the true life goal of the movie.

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Next on the tour of Vienna was the Viennese coffee shop experience at Cafe Hawelka. The cafe was on the list of historical cafes recommended by the tour guide earlier in the day. Stepping into the cafe was like taking a step in the past. The cafe was significantly more crowded than I expected, but I somehow managed to get a table. I got some coffee, tried a sachertorte (delicious) and mapped out my plan for my evening Christmas market hopping. I probably could have stayed longer. Given the crowds, I didn’t want to take up space for too long and headed out for an evening of market-hopping (which we’ll discuss in a separate post).

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I spent a lot of my next day doing some museum-hopping. A few weeks before the trip, I read an article about the opening of an exhibit at the Kunsthistorisches Museum that was curated by Wes Anderson and his partner Juman Malouf. This appealed to the faux-pretentious Wes Anderson fan in me and I had to go. I heard on our tour the day before that the museum gets crowded, so I tried to go as close to the museum’s 10 am opening as possible. When I bought my tickets, the person at the ticket booth wanted to make sure I was okay with the fact that the big Bruegel exhibit was sold out. Little did he know that I was at the museum because I have watched Rushmore more times than any person probably ever should.

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The exhibit was pretty delightful, too. It was so Wes Anderson. The exhibit is centered around a coffin of a spitzmaus mummy (hence the name, Spitzmaus Mummy in a Coffin and Other Treasures). It was practically empty when I got there, which was nice because I took my time in the exhibit. The audio guide with commentary from Wes Anderson, Juman Malouf and a very goofy Jason Schwartzman (!!!!) was worth the five Euros. I’ll make fun of myself for the fact that I love his movies, but the exhibit was worth it.

I actually really enjoyed the rest of the museum as well and spent most of the morning there. There were even mummies, which actually make me more uncomfortable than anything else, but were pretty cool. At some point, the museum did start to get very crowded. I felt like that was a good time for me to leave.

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I left the museum right around lunch time, so I went to the 7 Star Brewery nearby to finally try wienerschnitzel and the unique beers they have at the brewery. I went with the hemp beer (kind of hoppy without the aftertaste) and the chilli beer (super intense at first, but not too bad).

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From there, I went to the Theater Museum, which I felt was the best replacement that I could get for not being able to do the opera tour Saturday or Sunday. Surprisingly, they had a whole exhibit on the Bosch painting and art inspired by it. I used to be fascinated by the painting, but it kind of reminded me of the Good Place when I saw it this time. I’m a sophisticated person, I know. There were a number of things to see there a little more theater-related. I enjoyed going through the exhibits, but many of them were in German. Also, there was also a dog marionette.

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So that was Vienna. I fit a lot of stuff in a relatively short span of time and had a lot of fun doing so. With a little more time, I probably would have done another cafe on Sunday and I wish I had time to get to the opera in some capacity, but I think it was a pretty full trip already.

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