Showing posts with label Museum of communism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Museum of communism. Show all posts

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Start of a Week in Provence

My college friend of 35 years, Robin, called me from her home in Provence, France and said, "when are you coming to visit? Don't you have the time now? You simply must come." I begged off because I was hard at work learning Turkish and working on other projects. What is a girl to do, though, when your friend tries to call you three times in one day and says, "come!"  I had no choice. So off I went.
 I help out a representation of "The Kitchen Maid"
a famous Dutch masterpiece by
Johannes Vermeer (painted 1658)
There isn't a very direct way to get from Provence from Istanbul.  I flew first to Amsterdam, where I was able to experience an hours worth of my Dutch heritage.  In the very nice Amsterdam airport, there is a small gallery of paintings from the Rijksmuseum, the famous Dutch Art Museum full of Van Goghs.

Isn't that a fabulous idea - to have an art gallery in an airport? To share the very best of one's culture with people who are stuck in an building with no place to go?  I'm surprised there aren't similar art galleries in airports all over the world. Good job, Dutch people, you made me proud. And you made me want to come back.

From Amsterdam, I then flew to Marseilles.  It was an utterly gorgeous day without a cloud in the sky.  Southern France has the soft, balmy Southern California-type weather only without the pollution.  When the plane flew out over the Mediterranean and the Southern France coastline of majestic rocky fjords, it was simply breathtaking to take in the coastline, the sea, the sailboats and yachts, and the sun-washed city of Marseilles. I had no idea there was such a pretty, craggy coastline to Southern France.

I knew Robin would not be there right away to pick me up, having never once arrived on time to get me at any airport in the world. There is a comfort in knowing someone so well. I knew eventually she would show up and I would no longer have to loiter around the lobby, sneaking peaks at the amazing weather outside.

Robin and her husband live in Singapore now full-time where Robin has started a new job as a Senior International Government Affairs Advisor for a large oil company.  She has her hands full between her new executive position, two daughters, and her husband's health care. Robin's husband has been recovering the last couple years from the surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy involved with having a brain tumor.

While my friend Robin employs a terrific Filipino man to help her physically care for her 6'4" husband, I wanted to give my dear friend lots of love and appreciation and make sure someone was taking care of her. We had last seen each other in Prague when she came to visit for some serious girlfriend time and I dragged her to the Museum of Communism rather than letting her see the art she wanted to see (hey, she worked for the State Department then, I was doing my duty as an American citizen).
La Mourrade
Eventually, my beloved friend came to the airport and we packed ourselves off for the trip to Provence and her fairy wonderland home "La Mourrade."  Robin and Jim rent their home out much of the summer, when they do get to spend time there, they practically cry leaving the place, life is so beautiful there.
 My bedroom window
Overlooking the terrace, the Lubéron,
and the spectacular mountain painted by Cézanne,
Mt. Sainte-Victoire
Along with their spectacularly-sited La Mourrade provencal home, this is the beautiful lunch Robin had prepared that greeted me upon arrival:
 Oysters on the Half Shell
Al Fresco
A fresh, healthy Provençal salad
 Grilled Sardines Stuffed With Lemon
A life-long friend
is a blessing.
I am truly grateful for
my friend Robin.
Lemon sorbet
with Black Currants
and Cassis
and a sprig of homegrown mint
A beautiful cappuccino to end the meal
Later that night, while enjoying champagne poolside, Robin asked, "Now aren't you glad you came to Provence?" Yes, I was.  It was the start of an amazing week.
Poolside at La Mourrade

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Two "Capitalist Running Dogs" Visit the Museum of Communism

Lenin and me -
there's something about Communist kitsch
that gives me the giggles
My friend Robin posing with
ideology frozen in a museum
like taxidermy

Soviet President Josef Stalin
and Kurt Gottwald,
the Czechoslovak Communist Premier

Gottwald was known for his drinking and his womanizing

(George Washington he was not)

Hey, isn't a decesive (sic) strike
against American Aggressors

what gets YOU up in the morning?

I practically expected this Communist victory
over Nazi, British, and American aggression
to be needlepointed!
What came first?
Young Pioneers or Camp Fire Girls?
The story of this monstrous ego trip
on Stalin's behalf was fascinating
and I was learning about it for the first time.

What's the difference between this and Mt. Rushmore?
Mt. Rushmore doesn't get dynamited with enthusiasm
when the administration changes.
This picture gives perspective on just how massive
that Stalin statue was going to be.
Communists like to make their art enormous
so the workers see it whether they want to or not.
This poster ACTUALLY SAYS:
No American agent shall get through our village!
Help the National Safety Corps protect your
United Agricultural Cooperative against Western Imperialists.

This one said:
"We know what to do with Bourgeois Imperialists!"

The interrogation room
The Communists finally messed with
that which can not be messed with:
rock and roll!

When they tried to surpress this
rock band, the Velvet Revolution started
with dissidents who signed a Charter
demanding that the Plastic People be allowed to play.
A facsimile of the Berlin Wall
The Museum of Communism was created by two Americans. It would take Americans to start it, because it will be years before Czechs are interested in the subject. They lived Communism and have no need to revisit in a museum.

The Museum has an irreverent tone which is part of it's charm (as witnessed by the title of this post).  One friend, a former Communist himself, hates this about the museum. "They don't capture the heartache and the tragedy and treat these crimes with all too frivolous an attitude." I do think that's a fair criticism.

One of the most shocking things in the museum is news footage from Wenceslas Square before the Communist regime was overthrown. Plainclothes policeman would infiltrate the crowds of people congregating to demand a better government. Then they would tell the uniformed police which ones to beat up. As to be expected, the young men in the crowd got it the worst. But there were many, many more bodies than they could possibly beat there and control was no longer in the government's hands. They couldn't beat them all.

One death is a tragedy,
A Million Deaths is a Statistic.
~Josef Stalin

I wish the nighttime footage from the Velvet Revolution was on display. I think that would interest the Czechs. They could show to their children the history of their admirable regime change. To this day, I remember it all and am inspired by it. I would like to show it to my children when they come to Prague. I would tell them this is the first of many things that I want you to know and respect about these people, the Czechs, that I'm living amongst.
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