Olive Oil on Brac


Half olive oil producer, half museum, Muzej Uja (Museum Uja) is in the outskirts of Skrip, itself south of Splitska. The towns here are tiny so ‘outskirts’ means a whole five minute’s drive. It’s been in town for a long, long time, and the man who runs it told us his great grandfather had started it.


He spent some time showing us around, pointing out interesting bits and bobs. This is the main attraction of the museum, the old fashioned olive press. It’s pushed and pulled around over and over, squeezing the olives down into pulp and oil.


From above we got a great view of the massive stone slabs that it was made of. Quarried right here on the island no doubt. It was in use for almost 100 years, until the industrial revolution caught up in full with the oilery business and hydraulic presses replaced the old fashioned turn-wheel.


The upstairs of the museum used to be a residence, but they turned it into a sampling room.


The interesting part here is the piled stone roof. Nothing holds it together except pressure and the skill of the craftsman who created it. The owner told us it took forever to find someone skilled enough to repair the roof when it broke, and he thinks soon enough no one around will know how to.


The view from up here is pretty fantastic too!


Back downstairs, the new cold press machine takes on the duty of making olive oil for the family. They’re hoping to expand with a second machine sometime in the future, but in the meantime this is apparently as good as it gets in terms of oil presses.


When the owner found out we were traveling around the world, he asked us to sit and eat a bit with him. Before we could even thank him, a small assortment of home made spreads was in front of us, and we were enjoying the just-around-noon sun. Thank goodness for hats. We talked for a long time about our trip, his business, it’s history and plans, his family – especially the education of his kids and their hopefully bright future. When the afternoon tour group came by, we said our goodbyes and wished each other luck and happiness. This is really the best part of traveling. Meeting people and making a connection, despite the vast distance between our lives. We hope everything goes well for Kruno and his oil museum – we’d really like to come back someday.


P.S. The tasting is well worth it. Their olive oil is fresh and delicious, and they sell a fantastic sort of cherry liqueur that we took on with us. Plus, right outside the oilery, kittens!

Moscow, the capital

Photos from the the capital of Russia, celebrating the space race, architectural grace, and its ever-growing consumer base.

A relief of Yuri Gagarin and the scientists who made spaceflight possible at the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics.
A larger-than-life statue of Yuri Gagarin, first man in space, beside a model of Sputnik, first man-made object sent into space.
A twist on the traditional Matryoshka at the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics.
The top of the monument at the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics.
Spasskaya Tower on the Red Square, one of the ceremonial entrances to the Kremlin.
Workers assemble scaffolding to prepare for an event in the Red Square.
The State Historical Museum on the Red Square
A waxing moon over Moscow’s downtown and the Kremlin.
Men construct a new bridge across the Moskva River, causing traffic delays.
A man jogs through a construction zone while on his cell phone.
A view down the escalators of the Metro.
GUM, the historic shopping mall on the Red Square, is conveniently located across the way from Lenin’s mausoleum.
Odd Matryoshkas for sale at a souvenir shop on the promenade.
A man sweeps the promenade in front of a summer display, part of a month-long festival celebrating artisinal jam and honey.
Tourists take photos of their ice cream in front a fountain in GUM.
The Moskva and Cathedral of Christ the Savior at dusk.

The National Museum in Jakarta

A view of the National Museum’s new wing.

It’s Thursday, and we’re gathered in the main foyer of the National Museum’s new wing for an English-language guided tour. With the old wing under renovation, the tour is limited to the new wing exhibits. But between the artifacts, scale models, and multilingual tours, the exhibits in the new wing alone paint a detailed portrait of Indonesia’s history.

A Sanskrit tablet from ancient Indonesia


Depiction of a mythical creature, possibly the Indonesian version of a Qilin.

We start with the natural history of the world and humankind (Man and the Environment), where the guide shows us replicas of proto-human skulls and patterns of human migration. We then follow her up to the second floor, where the tour of Indonesian culture begins. It’s an epic tale of cultural evolution driven by what Indonesia does best: trade. The cultures of Indonesia adopted new ideas that flowed along the trade routes, starting with Hinduism and followed by Buddhism, Confucianism, and Islam. The result was a cultural melting pot unrivaled by any other pre-modern civilization.

Decorative belts from ancient Indonesian cultures


A ornate ceremonial gold, silver, and quartz crown.


An intricately-woven basket in the exhibit

The number and variety of artifacts in the exhibits is staggering. We pass ancient stones carved with Sanskrit, ceremonial jewelry worn by the islands’ various ethnic groups, and scale models of temples. The guide stops at one of these scale models and introduces it as Borobudur, the largest Buddhist temple in the world. Inscribed in its walls are the stories of Buddha and his enlightenment. I think Stoytcho and I have found our next destination.

A scale model of a traditional house–NOT Borobudur, which had poor lighting and was difficult to photograph.


Necklaces, bracelets, and other adornments that were potentially used as funerary gifts.

We end our tour on the top floor, with the treasures of Indonesia. We’re not allowed to take photos, due in part to a heist that happened here in 2013. But the pieces here match those of Europe’s crown jewels: gold rings, necklaces, and brooches threaded with diamonds, emeralds, and rubies. Ornate Kris blades, encrusted with jewels. It’s stuff from the dreams of Ali Baba. While we’re finishing up in the exhibit, the lights flicker for a moment and go out. We’re left in darkness, and fumbling for our phones, manage to shed some light on the glass displays. Thankfully, this isn’t a heist; the museum has been suffering intermittent outages thanks to the construction next door. We wrap up and head downstairs, into a sea of fidgeting, giggling schoolchildren waiting for their own tours to begin.

A student rests behind an Indonesian depiction of a dragon.

Medellin : Parque Explora

A dinosaur behind a tree at Parque Explora
Surprises lurk around every corner in Medellin

It’s our third day in Medellin and we’re on a mission. Four stops north of our hotel at San Antonio lies University station. There, we’ve read, are the beautiful Medellin botanical gardens, home to flora from every Colombian climate, a magnificent orchid garden, and even a butterfly house. Empandas on the go for breakfast, we climb the steps of San Antonio station and stop in confusion – the train we need is on the other side of the tracks, with no apparent way to get there. Our lost looks catch the attention of a friendly local man who stops his commute just to help get us on our way. Safely on board, we travel the four stops to University and hop off.

Just outside the station is a cluster of public works and spaces. On one side are the botanical gardens, neighbored by Parque Explora – an interactive museum – and Parque Norte – home to a huge pond and a startling number of Christmas lights for the holiday festivities. On the other are a mall with accompanying food court, and next to it an outdoor stage for public concerts.

The entrance to Parque Explora
An illusion at the front of Parque Explora

Our planned route is to go to the gardens, spend an hour or two, then check out the museum and head to another part of the city. Outside the gardens we find a small group of would-be visitors milling around. The fruit vendor nearby tells everyone the gardens are closed, just for today, for a special event. The security guard confirms. Our disappointment quickly abates as we head over to the Parque Explora and look around.

Natalie climbs the outdoor rock wall
Natalie climbs the outdoor rock wall

The front of the building is a garden with interactive exhibits demonstrating basic physics, dinosaurs, and even a rock wall. Despite the slightly higher tourist price we decide to go in and play. Standing waves, levers and pulleys, projectile motion, angular momentum, they’re all found here in the playground that is the outside of the museum. We move from station to station, pulling on handles, spinning wheels, shooting water jets. The stations that move you quickly – the human sized gyroscope and the standing spinner, are manned by friendly volunteers who explain the physics behind the effect and make sure you step off impressed.

A school of blue and orange fish at the Parque Explora Aquarium
A colorful school of fish at the aquarium

For a change of pace we enter the calm and dim environment of the museum’s aquarium – included in our ticket! Fish swim past large windows while touch-screen terminals display information about the animals. Tourists and locals mingle quietly in the blue-lit halls, most gazing silently at the schools of fish, some running and yelling when they find Nemo. A large central tank full of tuna and giant catfish dominates the first floor, and a staircase leading up gives another view of the large fish inside.

A chameleon at the reptile house
Here’s lookin’ at you! A chameleon at the reptile house.

Above the aquarium we find the reptile house and the main exhibit halls. The first continues the physics theme from outside, expanding on light, sound, and energy, all interactively. Changing your world view are sets of googles, each with the lenses mounted far apart and in various configurations. A wind tunnel takes you through to a category 4 storm, and upstairs friction and balance are demonstrated in a slippery beam crossing. Tired from testing our jumping and pulling abilities, we eat a quick soup-based lunch and head to the second exhibit hall, focused on the mind.

Dancing in front of a color-separating screen
Dancing in front of a color-separating screen

Displays showcase what different animals would look like if their body was sized according to how much sensory information each part provided. A giant blown up brain and explanations of its sections take up the center of the first floor, and ants and mice crawl through nests and mazes demonstrating different animal behaviors. A volunteer joins us to explain the exhibits – a student from the university nearby, studying physics and engineering. In English and Spanish, he and Natalie have a long and entertaining conversation on the similarity of science words between the languages and on the state of education locally and abroad. He tells us not to miss the mind-bending tunnel upstairs, and we’re glad we didn’t. A whirling kaleidoscope of lights tricks your brain into perceiving rotation while the walkway underneath you sits perfectly still, resulting in a wonderfully comical wobbly walk across the tunnel – one that I took several times.

A still shot of the rotating colors in the tunnel
A still shot of the rotating colors in the tunnel

Nearly exhausted from the now full day of museum going, we pass through the last exhibit, Time. Except for the room of giant proportions, meant to simulate the experience of being a child again, the rest of the exhibits are generally a bit complicated for our level of Spanish, and our tired state does not permit a close study. We hopefully will return when our language skills have improved.

Outside, night has fallen. The local food stalls have opened, but we were directed away from them by the museum staff, on the idea that they might make us sick. This led us to mall food, and an after dinner trip through the stalls confirmed that, as always, the best food is found on the street. Full, we vowed to come back and sample the delicious dishes and desserts on offer. For now we head to the Christmas festivities in Parque Norte, which Natalie wrote about here.


Museo Soumaya

One of the great things about Mexico City is that many of the museums we visited had free admission, making them accessible to everyone. Museo Soumaya, one of Mexico City’s newest museums, is no exception. Unlike many of the museums around the city though, it’s not dedicated a specific theme. Instead, most of what’s on display here is the collection of Mexico’s richest man and CEO of Telmex, Carlos Slim. He funded construction of the massive museum building and provided his private collections for display, naming the museum after his late wife (Soumaya).

The works on display are diverse. While there are a total of six floors, we only explored the first two. The ground floor was dedicated to sculptures and murals, including a bronze cast of “The Gates of Hell”, a massive and incredibly detailed work by Auguste Rodin. Here’s one tiny part of it:

Here’s another of runners, racing toward the finish line: IMG_0495

The first floor was dedicated to Mexican and Hispanic art and artifacts, including religious works and early coinage from the Mexican republic. One intersting highlight was an entire cabinet-full of hearts of Jesus and the Virgin Mary:

The second floor was dedicated to Asian ivory carvings, consisting of work from China, India, and Japan. There were pieces carved directly into tusks, like the one below: IMG_0501

There were also smaller pieces, including this one of Guan Yin:

Overall, we thought Museo Soumaya was a fantastic way to spend a day looking at religious and cultural works. While researching the museum online I came across a lot of criticism for both the art collection and the project, one of which was that Slim spent millions on this museum while most Mexicans make a fraction of this. But art and culture aren’t the sole privilege of the developed world. Just like a free museum, like the Soumaya, it’s something for everyone to enjoy.

– Natalie