Tag Archives: Van Gogh

Germany – a week in Frankfurt and Heidelberg

I braved the rather chilly climate of Germany in December. I have really enjoyed seeing more of Germany over the past two years and it’s a great opportunity to practice the language too. I like the variety of the places you can visit, the culture and love of art, the food (I grew up eating a lot of it) and the fact that everything and everywhere you stay is spotlessly clean and everything works!

First a visit to Frankfurt which I have to say is not the most exciting city to visit in Germany. It is very much a trade fair and convention town and lacks much in the way of personality.

However this was all made a lot better by two things – firstly, the Staedel Museum which unexpectedly had a fabulous exhibit of Van Gogh with a focus on how his works were bought up early in Germany (before he became a desirable artist) and also how he influenced subsequent German artist. I loved it.

Van Gogh portraits

One is a famous fake and one is the even more famous real thing – any guesses?

“Floating” (no shadows so distorted perspective) Books first by Van Gogh and then by Scharl

I also liked the Staedel as it has a Vermeer I haven’t seen before – the Geographer who is apparently staring out of the window imagining the places he is mapping out.

Vermeer’s The Geographer

Tischbein’s portrait of Goethe – there are very few of him so this is popular but not as popular as wondering why he has two left feet – it remains a mystery to this day?

The other plus was that I decided to stay about 20 minutes outside of Frankfurt in a place called Kronberg in a grand hotel that was formerly the home of Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter (also Victoria) who built it after her German husband Wilhelm died. It was a lovely spot to be located and very different from Frankfurt.

Living in a grand royal house is good!

My second location was the charming town of Heidelberg – about an hour’s drive from Frankfurt. This town is often called the most beautiful in Germany and I can see why. It has everything you want from an old medieval town and is especially cute during this time of the year. As it is primarily a university town (oldest university in Germany) it is also lively with a strong international student body having a good old time as the semester was ending.

Heidelberg has an eclectic style castle (which was really a fortress) in the hills looking down on the town. It was started and added to at various time between the 1200s and the 1600s – thereafter it was captured in a battle and was no longer used and is therefore lacking things like roofs and windows but it is still very cool and beautifully lit at night. The wiggly path below leads up to another well known place – the Philosopher’s Walk. By the time I had staggered up the slope to follow the walk apparently completed by many famous writers (Mark Twain is said to have finished the Huck Finn book here) and philosophers I was thinking more about my pounding heart than things of great meaning. Then I read that these slopes used to terraces for growing grapes for making local wine so now I understand why everyone felt so philosophical! It is a wonderful walk though and gives a lovely perspective of the town.

Heidelberg Castle and the road up to Philosopher’s Walk plus this year’s Heidelberg Gluhwein mug

The castle up close and personal and views down to the river

The castle hosts the Pharmacy Museum – which i thought was great – love those bottles and jars – beautiful enough to cure you of anything without even sampling the contents!

A wooden cable car takes you to the top of the mountain you see behind the castle – it’s a long way up and I was wearing everything I had with me- nippy up there

Oh yes, and that Xmas thing was in full swing too – markets all along the Main Street of the old town with the flood lit castle in the background. Very authentic.

The Netherlands, Three day trips from Amsterdam – Giethoorn, Haarlem and the Kroner Muller Museum. Last post from the Netherlands

While Amsterdam is a wonderful city which can easily keep you amused for a week, I also wanted to take the opportunity to get out of town and visit some places in other areas of the country where I had never been before.

First visit was to Giethoorn – a picturesque village built totally on small canals. It is very popular at this time of year but when you get the chance to see through the people it is quite cute. It’s interesting claim to fame is that it has a place on the official international Monopoly board. They achieved this very cleverly. The place is very much loved by Chinese visitors and the locations to be chosen for the Monopoly set were to be set by a global vote so every Chinese visitor was asked to vote for the town and to ask their mates back in China to do the same – and Bingo – there they sit alongside London, New York and Sydney. The power of social media! Best to do Giethoorn via a coach trip as not easy to get to with public transport.


Next stop Haarlem – just 15 minutes out of Haarlem on the train and a lovely smaller version of Amsterdam with far less people so great place to visit in August when the city crowds get a bit too much. The artist Frans Hals was born here so there is also a museum about his works (I didn’t like how it was curated) and a very large church. The place has a great vibe.

Then finally to the Kroner Muller Museum. My friend Heleen who I first met in Melbourne and who now lives back in her home of the Netherlands kindly took me to this museum. It is another collection where a wealthy woman bought some amazing works of art and has shared them with the public. Unbelievably, since I’d never heard of it before, it has the second largest collection of Van Gogh paintings in the world – and this time pics were allowed so I am enclosing a chunk of his works plus others in her collection. It is also situated in a massive park so you can wander around enjoying the sculptures too and we got a glimpse of the Royal Family’s hunting lodge. Great day out.

Australia, Victoria , Melbourne – World class art at the Van Gogh exhibit but my fave piece is a simple black and white drawing

Back home but always lots to do here so visited the NGV as they have Van Gogh as their Winter Masterpieces exhibit. Of course it is hard not to love Van Gogh’s work – some of it is so passionate in its colors and vibrancy that it brings a lump to my throat. There are not many artists who can do that. This exhibit takes a seasonal approach to his work and displays the pieces by season rather than in any other chronology. Apparently he loved Autumn the most but I think his summer works are the most spectacular (but then I am rather fond of European summers). 

Given my recent visit to Japan I was interested to see that he had been heavily influenced by Japanese block prints (which are also prone to a seasonal focus) and these were shown in the exhibit also to provide context before the Van Gogh exhibit started.

Below are the Japanese block prints, some of my favorite summer paintings and finally the one that drew me back again and again. I had not seen it before. It is a simple drawing of a peasant reaping at harvest time – it was done close to before he shot himself so whether there was any double meaning with the “grim reaper” I don’t know – but there is something about it that I couldn’t stop looking at.

See what you think?

Japanese block prints that influenced Van Gogh and which he collected avidly

My personal faves

The Reaper