Category Archive for Italy & Western Europe

Visiting the Miffy Museum in Utrecht, Netherlands! Nijntje Pleintje statue, traffic lights & Schiphol airport shops.

miffy museum, utrecht holland

As a hardcore Miffy fan, it was a dream come true… to visit the Miffy Museum in Utrecht, Holland!

The recently-opened Nijntje Museum is dedicated to the X-mouthed bunny (that’s her name in Dutch).  I took advantage of a brief Netherlands stopover to visit with Leyla, my fashion blogger and vlogger friend (who made a video of the trip on her LeylaFashion YouTube.)

Get ready for Miffy Madness. We’ll take you inside each room of the museum, as well as the Nijntje Pleintje plaza, traffic lights crossing, and gift stores dedicated to this adorable mascot!

miffy museum netherlands

We couldn’t resist posing with X-fingers to mimic her mouth. However Leyla’s son, Danny, seems ready to go inside…

Address and directions: The Miffy Museum is located at Agnietenstraat 2, 3512 XB Utrecht, Netherlands. Utrecht is the hometown of her creator, illustrator Dick Bruna, and a 30 minute train ride from Amsterdam. The museum is open every day except Mondays, from 10am to 5pm.

How to get here by train: I came straight from my stopover in Schiphol Airport (Amsterdam). I rode the train —  track 1 or 2, direction Heerlen or Nijmegen — and arrived in half an hour at Utrecht Centraal Station. From there, you can walk 15-20 minutes or take a short bus ride. You can also come here direct from Amsterdam Central or any major station.

nijntje miffy museum entrance sign

When you arrive, look for the giant statue of Miffy in a red sweater, and the sign “Nijntje Museum” next to a light-up outline of her head.

Earlier in 2016, the museum reopened after a significant renovation. Now, the two-level building brings Miffy’s universe to life, with colorful and interactive displays for kids and adults.

miffy parade statues, 60th anniversary

The human-sized statue is from the Miffy Art Parade in 2015, a project that celebrated her 60th anniversary.

Sixty artists decorated a gargantuan Miffy statue, in a variety of styles ranging from creepy Goth to rubber ducky. (There are photos of these statues at the end of this post, so keep reading). The works went on display all over the Netherlands and Japan.

nijntje museum kids

Many people mistakenly think that Miffy is Japanese, because of her “kawaii” and minimal look. In fact, she’s Dutch and older than Hello Kitty. (Sanrio even got sued for copying her design; the court ordered them to discontinue their “Cathy the bunny” character.)

Her name, Nijntje, is a shortening of “konijntje,” which means “little rabbit.” Dick Bruna released his first bunny book in 1955, followed by over 30 more. She’s also the face of many fashion and home good products – shop a selection below.

miffy family, bunny characters

Dick Bruna’s storytelling and bright drawings have proved to be timeless. Even today, children are charmed by the Miffy universe he created — including her family, Grunty the pig, and Boris the bear.

The Nijntje Museum puts his deceptively simple illustrations front-and-center. For example, the lockers are decorated with different drawn objects, for easy remembrance.

japanese miffy cafe, restaurant

The Japanese characters spell out “yokoso,” or welcome — because visitors from Asia (especially Japan) are plentiful!

People from all over the world are flocking over to see Miffy’s museum, which has quickly become one of Utrecht’s most popular attractions. I recommend getting tickets online in advance, and arriving early to avoid crowds (doors are open from 10am to 5pm, Sunday to Tuesdays).

miffy exhibition, museum art

The Miffy Museum is designed as a series of magical miniature worlds. There are 10 rooms, which look like scenes from the picture books come to life.

In this one, her star-mouthed mother stands over the family kitchen. Children can pretend to cut vegetables, cook, and even climb through the cabinets.

big miffy stuffed toy rabbit

There are all sorts of interactive displays for fans of all ages. Leyla and I snuggle up to the plush bunny and Snuffy the dog. 

(PS: I’m selling some of my Miffy fashion and accessories here; email me if you’d like anything! My sandals are this Joanie Mule by Sorel Footwear.)

visiting miffy museum utrecht

The museum’s displays encourage you to “play house” and let your imagination roam free. 

We helped Miffy work in the garden. I must have done something wrong because her dad seems to be watering me with his can…

dick bruna, dutch artist illustrator

I’ve been a Miffy obsessive for years, but I developed a deeper appreciation for artist Dick Bruna after seeing his full oeuvre. 

The museum’s figurehead is his white bunny, his most popular creation (her books are translated into 50 languages and sold more than 85 million copies).

dick bruna doctor nurse illustrations

However, Dick Bruna wrote more than 100 other picture books for children, and also did graphic design for organisations including hospitals. I got to see these lesser-known yet equally impressive works for the first time.

Dick Bruna is known to be a very kind man, and his children’s books promoted the acceptance of everyone, including those who are different or disabled — very progressive themes for his time. This room encouraged children to help others in need of medical treatments.

snow white seven dwarfs dick bruna

Dick Bruna was inspired by Matisse, and his works are tied together by simplistic forms and blocks of primary colors. This room shows his interpretation of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. (Danny loved running up and down the ramp!)

vintage retro miffy nijntne

As we moved through the rooms, we got to see Nijntje’s evolution. In the first books, she looked a plush toy with floppy ears. From the 1960s onward, her face got rounder and her ears stood up.

The rabbit’s simple look and narratives are key to her appeal: anyone can project their imagination onto her. In my case, she’s a creepy-cute minimal Goth icon with her mouth sewn shut, hence the X!

netherlands kids museum toys

Dick Bruna always portrayed Miffy as a regular little girl with universal experiences such as making a new friend (the brown bunny Melanie), or suffering the death of a grandmother.

The museum is full of play areas: matching games, puzzles, funhouse mirrors. As Bruna said in an interview, “The most difficult thing is keeping it simple, to leave plenty of room for the child’s imagination.”

dick bruna museum, exhibit

Danny fell in love with this spacious room, beautifully designed with cars and trains that you can push or ride. 

Bruna’s world keeps children engaged while helping them learn. He wrote a book about safely crossing the road, illustrated in minimal orange and grayscale.

miffy crosswalk, street lights

But as you can see from our funny Instagram shuffle... navigating roadways is a lesson for all ages!

(There’s actually a working Miffy traffic signal, in Utrecht. Keep scrolling down to see the real deal.)

miffy museum shop, toys

Whether you’re a toddler or grown-up, you can’t help but smile as you explore the Miffy Museum. Her world is all about creativity, positivity and imagination — expressed in bold primary paints and outlines.

dick bruna animals, zoo lion

On the upper level, there’s a space that represents a zoo and farm. These two parrots repeat your words when you speak into a microphone. Danny loved crawling through the cages and going down the slide.

utrecht netherlands tourism attractions

Dick Bruna has a genius for conveying the essence of an animal, with only a few brushstrokes. His simple forms add up to a warm, minimal style that’s unmistakably his own.

miffy tshirt, fashion, clothing

The only negative about the Nijntje Museum… It’s hard to say goodbye! Leyla and I felt like this crying child, when it was time to go. We’ll simply have to come back again soon.

(My Miffy top is for sale on my Depop shopand my shoes are the Sorel Joanie Mule.)

miffy art parade statues amsterdam

Thankfully, there are more Miffy sights to see in Utrecht, making it the ideal day trip from Amsterdam.

Right across the street from the statue is Centraal Museum, which features a range of artwork including by locals.

dick bruna's studio, workshop

In the atelier of Centraal Museum, you’ll find an exact replica of Dick Bruna’s studio. Everything from his original workshop has been set up here, from his drafting table to a modern chair in primary colors.

The circular painting shows his simple yet powerful design of the black bears (zwarte beertjes).

dick bruna drawing miffy

I watched a fascinating video of Dick Bruna at work. To this day, he continues to draw with brush and ink: it takes many precise strokes to create the seemingly simple X of Miffy’s mouth. The slight shake in the hand-drawn forms results in what he calls “a line with a heartbeat.”

centraal museum utrecht

Dick Bruna always appreciated his fans, and kept displays of the mementos that they sent him. The studio let us get a closer look at his creative process, and I recommend visiting Central Museum too (it’s just across the street from the Miffy Museum).

miffy traffic lights, street pedestrian crossing

You can’t leave Utrecht without seeing Miffy’s crosswalk. The bunny shows up as the pedestrian traffic signal: red for “Don’t Walk,” and green for “Go.”

Look for the rainbow colored crossing called ‘Regenboogzebrapad’, and you’ll find her directing traffic. (Location: it’s in front of the shopping mall at St Jacobsstraat 1A, 3511 Utrecht, Netherlands.)

nijntje pleintje utrecht address

A short walk away is Nijntje Pleintje, a dark Miffy statue created by Dick Bruna’s son, Marc Bruna. (Address: 1e Achterstraat 1, 3512 VL Utrecht, Netherlands).

black miffy statue, utrecht holland

Nijntje Pleintje is located in this little grassy square, at the beginning of the Van Asch van Wijckskade. It looks like a flat, black metal, cut-out Goth version of the bunny — which matches our style rather well.

(You’ll laugh when you see the Boomerang Instagram video we did, next to this statue!)

goth miffy statue, art parade

But wait — how can you take Miffy home with you? There are several Netherlands gift stores that you can’t miss — they even have vampire Gothic versions of the bunny. Keep reading the rest of the story below…

More here!

Steampunk boots & Wave Gotik Treffen 2015! Victorian Village fashion, upcoming Goth museum exhibit.

white cut out dress, fashion blogger

As much as I travel, I can’t be everywhere at once. This year, I sadly wasn’t able to make it to Wave Gotik Treffen in Leipzig (the biggest Gothic festival in the world).

Thankfully, my friend Jen was at WGT with her camera, and put together a special report for us! Read on for her German Goth stories, including images of the Victorian Village, flamboyant fashion, and industrial bands.

steampunk boots, heels

If I went to the festival, I would have worn these eye-catching steampunk shoes from Hades FootwearTheir Harajuku boots are my current favorites — such a striking design, with a metal heel and vintage-looking buckles. You can get these exact boots here.

 My dress is by Chaser the Brand. Here’s the link to purchase this exact dress (which comes in a few colors) and a longer maxi version.
– The black wide-brim hat is from Lack of Color Aus.

Shop my outfit below:

steampunk victorian brown boots

I’m a huge fan of Hades Footwear, a California-based shoe company that specializes in alternative, Goth, Victorian and steampunk styles. They make unique designs like studded stilettos or thigh high boots — you won’t find these in regular stores!

hades footwear, goth alternative shoes

If you’re a metal rocker type, you might like their Motorhead chain boots. Retro ladies would enjoy Hades’ steampunk ankle boots

(Click the photos below to browse more Hades Footwear styles.)

cute goth girl, deathrock

Now, let’s hand the keyboard over to my friend Jen (pictured above left, with her favorite corset maker Ludwig Lilienthal). Enjoy her diary of Wave Gotik Treffen 2015 with photos by Seventh Sin, the event photography company that she co-owns.

At the end, Jen invites you to submit photos and memories of Wave Gotik Treffen for a museum exhibition. I hope you’ll consider taking part in this historical project.

victorian village, wave gotik treffen

Jen writes: We skipped the traditional Friday afternoon picnic at Clara Zetkin Park in favor of checking out a new Friday afternoon event, Viona’s Victorian Village, held at the stunning Arena am Panometer. The Village features not only a grassy area to picnic, but also vendors, DJs and concerts.

german gothic lolitas, lolita meetup

Lolita style is no longer as prevalent in Germany as it was a few years back, but the girls who do it go all out.

metal steampunk art sculpture

We saw metal artist Pawel Athanasios Lickas working live at the Village.

victorian picnic, wave gothic treffen

There was a vague dress code to encourage to guests to participate rather than merely goth-stalking, but as you can see from the crowd photos, everyone who made an effort no matter what their personal style, was welcome.

steampunk lady hat, parasol

This made for a lovely atmosphere where we were able to relax and find old friends among the crowd, and have conversations without being trampled by overzealous onlookers.

african goths, black goths

The left photo shows Courtney of Atropos Threads and a friend from Paris, in front of Courtney’s stand at the Victorian Village.

long gothic wigs, ruff collar

Diverse examples of the decadent personal style seen at Wave Gotik Treffen — from feathered collars to braided wigs.

wave gotik treffen costume contest

The smiling participants and winners of the costume contest.

wgt agra black market

One of the best places to meet with friends and look around for new trends is the Agra, the main venue of WGT where the campground, market, and largest concerts are held. The “Black Market” is a huge hall where people can buy dark fashion and accessories.

goth fetish fashion masks

Schnitt Muskel‘s macabre fetish and cyber inspired cuts and misappropriated materials seemed like a stark contrast to puderblonde‘s fashion and accessories in steampunk, gothic, shabby chic style. Nonetheless, the two small designers were working their booths together at the market.

gothic costume headpieces

I admired Benito Alesio’s stunning work for The Original Atelier

horror figurines, monsters

… and these spooky-hawaii figurines from Pandemonium Crafts.

antler horn headdress, fantasy hats

Romantic jewelry and headdresses from Nox Aurum, decorated with antler horns and lace fans.

goth black and white cat

As much fun as these events were, the main draw of the weekend was the 224 concerts and many dance nights on the official program. Our cat Hugin did his best to hide the schedule and keep us home, but in the end, he decided that having so many guests to fuss over him and fluttery black clothing to play with was actually pretty awesome.

harmjoy goth band

This year we focused on meeting up with friends and catching smaller, less known acts. We saw Dan and Olaf of Harmjoy make their WGT debut (above)…

last dominion lost, wave gotik treffen performers

…and the long lived, but still underrated industrial projects Gerechtigkeits Liga and Last Dominion Lost (above photo by Flamisol).

evi vine, goth female band

An atmospheric image of Evi Vine performing onstage, also by Flamisol.

1992 wave gotik treffen photos

Did you know that next year will be the 25th Wave-Gotik-Treffen in Leipzig? WGT has grown from its humble beginning with 6 bands and one venue, to an event that brings in over 20,000 visitors and offers events all over the city. WGT has had its growing pains, but remains true to its ideal as a meeting point for goth subculture.

(These “classic Goth” photos by Muetze were taken at the first Wave-Gotik-Treffen in 1992!)

90s goth, old school goths

I’m thrilled to be working with the City History Museum of Leipzig to present the story of WGT and the goth movement in Germany, in an exhibition that will open next spring. If you’ve been to WGT we would be very interested to hear your stories and see your photos and videos.

We’re also looking for “objects” to display: such as clothing or shoes that you wore, signed albums or posters from bands you met at WGT, or handmade memorabilia. We’re also looking for people willing to be interviewed about their WGT experiences and featured as part of the exhibit, so please drop me a line if you’re interested.

(La Carmina’s note: I hope you’ll consider taking part in this Goth museum exhibit, and will do my best to see it next year!)

travel magazine cover, flyme360

Last but certainly not least, I’m honored to reveal… I’m on the cover of FlyMe360° Travel & Lifestyle Magazine! 

This new magazine is the brainchild of three friends and frequent travellers, who felt they could improve on the current travel publications in the market. FlyMe360° emphasizes personal, genuine travel stories that connect with all types of readers. The inaugural issue is an entertaining mix of first-person accounts, gadget reviews, photography tips, finance and health articles, and more. travel journalist writer articles

FlyMe360° puts a special focus on travels in Asia. I contributed a story about my experiences last year in Cebu, Philippines.  Above is a peek at the pages.

I encourage you to subscribe to FlyMe360 for free! You’ll get access to all of the first twelve issues (including my article), and perks such as prizes. The magazine invites you to contribute your own travel stories too — you can find out more and contact them through their site 

(And if you’re still thinking about my Hades steampunk boots — here’s where you can find these shoes.)

Wave Gotik Treffen 2014: festival dates, bands & travel tips! Steampunk Victorian picnic fashion.

elizabethan goth fashion, adora batbrat

Every summer, the streets of Leipzig are strewn with black feathers and glitter… for the world’s biggest Gothic festival, Wave Gotik Treffen! This year’s celebrations are from June 6-9, 2014, and musicians like The Cruxshadows, UK Decay and Apoptygma Berzerk will be taking the stage.

japanese goths at wave gotik treffen

A trip to WGT is at the top of many Goth bucket lists. I still think back fondly to my experience in 2012. If you missed it, you can look back at my Wave Gotik Treffen posts and travel video.

white face paint goth girl with dreads

If you’re thinking of going to Treffen, you’re in luck: my friends Jen Hoffert and Holger Karas wrote this post with all the details you need, including where to stay and how to get around. They attend WGT each year, so you could’t ask for better experts. Enjoy their photos from the 2013 festivities, and find out more on their Seventh Sin Tumblr.

steampunk men's fashion goggles, wave gotik treffen

The first 145 bands have been announced for the 23rd annual Wave­Gotik­Treffen and we’re eagerly awaiting the arrival of our friends from around the world to our home city of Leipzig, Germany. Wave Gotik Treffen is one of the largest gothic and industrial festivals in the world, with over 20,000 visitors and roughly 200 bands playing at dozens of venues throughout the city over four days. In our opinion, it’s also the most stylish festival, where people go all out to express themselves.

steampunk victorian picnic wgt

This year WGT falls quite late, June 6­-9, so the weather should be perfect for exploring the city. In addition to the concerts and parties, there are dozens of other events: operas, musicals, films, a display of historical hearses, and more. Many of the museums and galleries in Leipzig will features works of particular interest to the Gothic crowd such as the Grassi Museum of Ethnography’s global exhibitions on celebrations of death from Sumatra to New Orleans, a special showing of H.R. Giger’s work at the SansvoiX Gallery, and a multi­media presentation from Slovenian electronic pioneers Borghesia at the counter­culture gallery Kultúrny dom B31.

leipzig germany goth festival

Our dear friend Danarama of TwoKnottyBoys from San Francisco will be presenting a bondage workshop on Friday evening at a special downtown location. Dan will also be releasing the first EP “Inside Out” from his project Harm Joy with Olaf of Tyske Ludder at WGT. You can find out more about the many unofficial events surrounding WGT here at the online gothic event calender Schwarzes Leipzig.

goth punk mohawk

The Victorian Picnic at Clara Zetkin Park is a highlight of WGT for those who like to dress up. Hundreds of beautifully costumed participants gather here on the shores of a lake in a manicured city garden, the perfect setting for Lolitas, Steampunks and other romantics.

romantic goth clothing, haute gothic

The pedestrian road running thorough the WGT’s main venue, the AGRA, is known as “the catwalk” for good reason. There will be many people strolling up and down, wildly costumed in every imaginable version of dark attire with photographers, and even a few video crews taking it all in.

goth picnic in park

If you find yourself missing the perfect piece to finish your outfit, one of the massive halls of the AGRA hosts the WGT Black Market for vendors of clothing, house­wares, music, and just about anything else your little dark heart desires.

steampunk men, top hats, eyepatch

You can purchase your tickets to the festival when you arrive (which is much easier than using a wire transfer to purchase them online), but hotel rooms in Leipzig are notoriously hard to come by during the festival weekend. One alternative is to seek private accommodation on the official WGT sub­forum called “Do you need sleep?” Here you can browse through the offers made or post your own request. Leipzig also has a number of good listings on AirBNB. Private accommodations including a bed and use of the bathroom and kitchen generally run about 20-­50€ a night per person.

neon gothic cyber dreads hair

For the truly adventurous among you, there’s a large official campground set up for WGT visitors (25€ for the weekend). Although for the life of me, I’ve never been able to figure out how people manage to come out of their tents looking so good.

green hair german goth girl

Confirmed performances for WGT 2014 include well known acts such Anne Clark, Apoptygma Berzerk, Hocico, Mephisto Walz, Six Comm, The Crüxshadows, and UK Decay, as well as hidden gems such as Antichildleague and Sieben. Naturally there’s a smart­phone app for WGT to help you plan your concert schedule, keep track of where your friends are, and find the best tram connection between venues.

deathrock fashion, traditional 80s gothic

However, it never fails that two of your favorite bands will be playing at the same time at opposite ends of the city. Don’t despair, you’re still going to have a great time and you’ll see an unbelievable number of great performances over four days. The WGT organizers know their stuff about this music, which means that each venue will most likely host a particular sub­genre. It’s often worth staying at one venue for multiple bands to discover new bands similar to one you showed up to see.

military goths, elder goth couple

After the concerts and cultural events shut down each night, DJs from all over the world will invite you to dance at clubs throughout the city. From Neo­Romantic parties held in ballrooms and Batcave themed old school nights in cellar vaults, to the hardest industrial and noise and even one of the largest fetish parties in Germany, no matter what your taste is there’s something, somewhere in the city to keep everyone on their feet from Thursday night till the sun comes up on Tuesday morning. We hope to see you there!

goth parents, baby carriage

Back to La Carmina. Thanks to Jen and Holger for the report and photos, and I echo their words: I hope you’ll make it to Wave Gotik Treffen one day, to see the inspiring fashion and culture for yourselves. One is never too young to enjoy, as you can see from the “baby Goths” in Victorian prams

punk boy carrying baby girl

While you may not want to take a youngster into the crowded concert halls, they’ll enjoy the outdoor food courts and fashion stalls.

Want to see more of the “black market” clothing and bands? Watch my Wave Gotik Treffen video (it includes tons of travel tips), and peruse my blog posts about the festival.

wave gotik treffen 2014 travel events

What do you think of the dark outfits in these photos? Do you know any Goth or punk parents? If you have more Treffen tips for newbies, please share them in the comments!

Wave Gotik Treffen, Prague & Berlin Goth travel guides. Tokyo Japan bagelheads gone viral. Part 2 of 2012.

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As we approach the New Year, let’s reflect on the second half of 2012. One of my favorite moments was doing this professional photoshoot, involving latex feather dresses and sugar skull makeup, with my talented Vancouver team. The images were published in Sugar Heart, and Gothic Beauty Magazine — a total honor. (More images and full credits here.)

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I also did a pro shoot with a blow-up bear, in a potato field…

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… and it ended up making the cover of Vanity Magazine! I blogged more of these Goth modeling photos.

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I got to cross off a “bucket list” travel destination, thanks to Go With Oh. The wonderful apartment rental company sent me to Wave Gotik Treffen, the largest Gothic festival in the world. I also explored Prague with Rock n Roll Bride, and Berlin with Yukiro, DJ SiSEN, G-sus and spooky friends. View our adventures in my Germany Goth travel guide.

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After Europe came Asia. I spoke on the fashion blogger’s panel at Hong Kong Social Media Week. It was great to see family and John Skeleton, and do some hardcore shopping — especially at the Hello Kitty shop. See more of my favorite Hong Kong stores.

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In between, I hopped around the USA. I was Guest of Honor at Animegacon in Las Vegas. Spoke at PRSA Travel & Tourism conference in Ohio. Flew to New York City to be a guest on Discovery TV’s Oddities (my appearance will air early next year). Did some heavy pre-Halloween partying in Los Angeles, and hosted Gothic club night Bar Sinister with Amazing Race’s Kent Kaliber.

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I’ve been writing about Tokyo bagelheads for years, and nobody paid much notice. But then, my Tokyo TV company worked on National Geographic’s “Taboo” episode about saline forehead inflation, and the extreme body mod went viral! I even flew to LA to be on “The Doctors” talk show, where I discussed bagel heads and deflated misunderstandings about body mods.

What a colorful year! What’s coming up in 2013? More TV work and global travels (stay tuned to see where I go next). I’ve just completed a press trip to Phoenix, and will be in Tokyo to appear in a documentary. And I’ll be in a warm destination this January… announcement to come.

Above is a compilation of my television presenting clips; full videos are on my La Carmina bio page. PS: thank you to Hostelbookers for interviewing me about my life of travel blogging and cat-craziness.

Do you have any goals for the New Year? What do you hope to accomplish or improve? Any “bucket list” items you’re determined to cross off? Here’s to a grandiose 2013!