Sunday, 20 May 2007

The Víctor Balaguer Museum – good for a rainy day

For people like my wife and me, who do not want to seem lazy or uneducated when we travel, vacation can be stressful. Before we leave for somewhere there are usually so many things to prepare first at work and then for the children at home, that we do not have the time to read guide books. Vacation mornings therefore becomes anything but calm. We take turns – one of us checking up the information we need while the other one gets the children and all their belongings ready for hours of city walks to come.

It would be a relief for us to go to a place like Vilanova. Well, at least as long as we would not plan too many daytrips to Barcelona. To be blunt, I would say that there is not anything special to see here. If someone ever claims that you have missed something important, it reveals that that person is even more obsessed with sightseeing than I am. That is not healthy, so just be happy that you spent your days in Vilanova on the beach, rather than in the dusty alleys of the town.

The risk that you will have hours of rain if you come here in the summer is minimal. However, this spring we learnt that Catalonia does not come with a sunshine guarantee, which we almost had started to believe. If this would happen to you and you start to look fordistraction , do not hesitate to go the Víctor Balaguer Museum. Unfortunately, you can not use the museum as an escape from the heat, since the opening hours allow the staff a siesta during the warmest hours of the day.

This museum is idal for children. I have only taken my oldest son here once, so far, but realized what a good place it is to explain what a museum is all about to a young child. The building looks historical in itself and there are statues and cannons right next to the entrance, as if to arouse the imagination. Once you have entered, you will find a limited number of exhibition halls, not more than any child can cope with.

If I have to comment on the details, I am afraid that my enthusiasm will wane. What collectors brought home from their journeys abroad might have fascinated their less experienced fellow countrymen a hundred years ago, but nowadays, collections of weapons from the Philippines, utensils made by American Indians or Chinese Buddha statues rather make you think of a cheap ethnic decoration stores than high culture.

The same goes for the permanent art collection where you will not find many master pieces. However, some of the paintings show what fishermen’s life could be like in Vilanova a century ago. For me and my oldest son this resulted in a discussion on “now” as opposed to “before” and also served as a reminder about the fact that the sea can be a dangerous place. The old fishing boats in the pictures add an interesting background to the modern ones you find in our harbour today.

Personally, I really like the Víctor Balaguer building as such with its decorations and open spaces and I see the library is a key on how to enjoy the museum. The room is full of historic books and very impressive, but maybe it is a blessing that we are not allowed to open and scrutinize the books as such. The façade might be a lot better than the content.

If anything, some objects of this museum serve as a reminder of how much we Europeans allowed ourselves to bring home from other countries without caring about what the native people thought about that. The most bizarre thing you will find is a mummy and it made me realize that if a museum in Vilanova can have a mummy without being famous for it, it must mean that there are plenty of mummies on display in the world. The mummy is of a five-year-old child. Do I have to add that my son found it really compelling?

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