Oran – National Museum Ahmed Zabana

It’s quite a title for a museum that has a vast area available to display its exhibits. Ahmed Zabana is of local and national importance (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahmed_Zabana). I think it’s his photo hanging in the entrance hall. entranceInside the museum, photography is not allowed. Hence there won’t be any pics of all the bones, stuffed animals (including a goat embryo with a double head), swords, painted landscapes, clothes or pottery. You see, the collection is holistic rather than specialised.

On the whole, I think the way the exhibits are presented leaves a lot to be desired. There’s a name, sometimes a year and place of origin. For animals, the Latin name of the species is given. Other than that, next to no context. So not as informative as it could be, and also a bit dull. Having said that, I realise that keeping such a vast and diverse collection must put an enormous strain on the curators even just in terms of day-to-day house keeping. And I also appreciate that all labels are in Arabic as well as French.

My favourite object was a 20th-century bamboo stick from New Caledonia. I guess that’s a reminder of French colonialism – how else would the stick have ended up in Oran? Anyway, it was beautifully and intricately carved with animals like cats and humans.

On the outside, the museum looks very different again. The murals seem to commemorate Algeria’s distant past during Numidian or Roman times. Judge for yourself:


Exploring the East: Levoča

If you’ve been following this little series, there’s one more post to come after this. For now, let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of Levoča. This tiny town is part of Slovakia’s UNESCO heritage, and it has some splendid architecture and artworks to offer.levoca

The area has been inhabited for several thousand years. Visible now, on the other hand, are mostly structures from the Renaissance period or younger, plus a bit of gothic stuff. The museum inside the town wall will tell you much more.

The town wall is almost completely preserved. It makes for a lovely one-hour long walk to follow it around the centre, especially in the evening. There are also a handful of restaurants inside the wall, sporting their own terraces. Highly recommended.

There must have been quite a bit of reconstruction going on over the years, but there’s always something to be done.

The area around the main square looked really spick and span. I felt it was almost a bit too much to be real.archive

Levoca is well-connected to public transport as well as near to a major highway. What’s more, hiking paths do start right off the main square. The closest place to go to is a Basilica Minor on the hill north of the town.basilika

From the top of that hill one has fab views over the region of Spis. If you’re in Slovakia, this is a place not to miss.view-from-hill

Exploring the East: Rožňava and Betliar

On my journey to explore the eastern part of Slovakia, I went on from the border with Ukraine to Rožňava, a lovely little town close to the Hungarian border. The bus connections worked very well, and the weather played along too, so I could just watch amazing landscapes flying by.

In Rožňava I met up with one of my students, Vojto. He had invited me over to show me around his patch and I stayed with him and his mum for a few days. I had a really great time – thank you both very much again!

Rožňava is a small, but beautiful town, which used to be extremely significant for mining, especially silver and other metal ores.

plaqueToday, it’s a rather quiet place where there’s not much work to be had, so many people are leaving. For tourists, however, it’s still a fab place. If you’re interested in mining & geology, there’s a big museum to introduce you to all you ever wanted to know about that.

For those who prefer the open air, you can climb up the clock tower and enjoy the views.

roznava-tower roznava-view-1 roznava-view-2The tower plays a little tune every full hour, and it’s always a different one, from folk music via classical to jazz. A bit tacky, but I liked it.

The whole region is also called Gemer, which is an old Hungarian name. I really like the way how those names bring back the history of a place! There’s so much to see, both in terms of cultural heritage and outdoors, I only scratched the surface. A good overview is on this website: http://www.retep.sk/indexe.htm

If you’re there, and castles or manor houses are your cup of tea, you shouldn’t miss the Manor House of Betliar. It’s only a handful of kilometres away from Rožňava and can easily be reached by bus.

betliar-castleThe guided tour (in Slovak, but German and English are on offer, other languages come on leaflets) took just under an hour. If you’ve ever watched those ‘Sissi’ films about the Austro-Hungarian empress Elisabeth – this is the castle of her Hungarian attaché Andrássy. I was more impressed by the open-mindedness of the family, especially compared with contemporary Slovak politicians.

betliar-koran-curtainThe manor house also comes with a huge park with a lake and little rivers. What impressed me most, however, was of course the library. betliar-library