Category Archives: Travel

Out of Time

Our Route

I’ve gotten a lot of inquire about where we’ve been. This map may help. I think I’ve got it right. The Red Line is for cars and the Blue Line is for trains. Most were round trips, at least.

There were quite a few narrative threads I had hoped to follow but I have quite literally run out of time. I decided the best way to finish this voyage was to just show you some of my favorites and hope for the best.

Amsterdam, NL

Cologne Cathedral                                                        Cologne, Germany

Aachen Christmas Market                                                                                                                               Aachen, Germany

Aachen Cathedral                                                                                                                Aachen, Germany

Cologne Christmas Market                                                                                              Cologne, Germany

Amsterdam, NL

Monchau, Germany

Our good buddy Sabine at Museum Ludwig                                                                                              Cologne, Germany

Monchau, Germany

Rotterdam, NL

Monchau Christmas Market                                                                                            Monchau, Germany

Liege Christmas Market,                                                                                                                                        Liege, Belgium

Amsterdam,NL

Maastricht Central Station                                                                                                                       Maastricht, NL

The Afsluitdijk is a remarkable structure that has been protecting Holland from the sea for over 80 years. Built between 1927 and 1932 with over 5,000 workers, it is now an icon of the Netherlands’ constant struggle against water. In typical Dutch style solving all problems requires a creative approach. The 23 km long road that stretches across the dyke requires lighting, but not wanting to add to “light pollution” highly reflective surfaces that are activated by car lights and go dark after you pass have been added to the vertical structures.

Afsluitdijk

Maastricht Christmas Market                                                                                                   Maastricht, NL

Maastricht Christmas Market                                                                                                                                 Maastricht, NL

Maastricht, NL

Helpoort ca.1229                                                                                      Maastricht, NL

Maastricht, NL

Maastricht Christmas Market                                                                                                  Maastricht, NL

Valkenburg Caves Christmas Market                                                                                      Valkenburg, NL

Maastricht Christmas Market                                                                                                   Maastricht, NL

The Grand Hall – The Hermitage                                                                                                                           Amsterdam, NL

Asian Tourists at the Cologne Cathedral                                                                         Cologne, Germany

The Nights Watch at the Rijksmuseum                                                                                Amsterdam, NL

Have fun out there.

The Wendi Files – Pet Peeves and Favorite Things

There are certain experiences in life that no matter how much we desire and long for them they still invariably come up a little short. There is one such experience for Wendi that happens much too infrequently and when it does it’s so small that it leaves her craving more. If you haven’t guessed yet, it’s Ice Cubes. For some reason Europeans seem to have a bad attitude about these frozen little wonders that add so much joy to Wendi’s beverage experiences. If the given establishment even has them at all, which they frequently do not, they are parsed out as if they were recently unearthed hidden treasures. She is yet to see someone actually fill a glass with ice cubes. Wendi finds this particularly unnerving in that they still advertise the drink as “iced tea”. You see “iced” is the operative word here, it brings to mind a frosty glass filled to the brim with a “cold” thirst quenching beverage, not a warm glass half full with weak, cloudy and tepid green tea. Now I know you’re thinking that in a larger context this is a very minor annoyance, just a small bump in the road of life, but then you don’t travel with Wendi.

None at all.

Just three little ones.

See, it makes her crazy.

She also hates excessively long stairs.

Getting the phone to work can be somewhat troubling.

But it’s not all bad. She frequently points out her favorite things.

Her favorite sweater.

Her favorite tree.

Her favorite shoe.

Her favorite stuffed bear.

Her favorite statue.

Her favorite mulled wine.

Pointing out her favorite experience, shopping.

Telling Sabine her favorite story.

Showing me her favorite painting.

And standing in her favorite country, Holland.

 

 

Places of Honor

We find ourselves in a region our Dutch friends referred to as the Three Points where Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands all touch. While touring the area we have seen two American Cemeteries. These sites are just 11.5 miles apart and almost all of the over 16,000 soldiers buried here lost their lives on or near this very ground. Ground that is blood soaked indeed. These cemeteries lie close to the old Roman Cologne-Boulogne highway over which Julius Caesar, Charlemagne, Charles V, Napoleon, Kaiser Wilhelm II and Hitler all marched their troops in the conquest of the  strategic Low Countries.

The Henri Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial

Located in Welkenraedt, Belgium, the Henri Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial is where the remains of 7,992 US soldiers are interred.

“Angel of Peace” by Donal Hord

554 unknown soldiers are buried in this cemetery.

Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial

The Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, Netherlands is where 8,301 American dead were laid to rest.

The Court of Honor and reflecting pool.

This is Europe’s third largest war cemetery for unidentified soldiers who died in WWII. The walls flanking the sides of the Court of Honor contain the Tablets of the Missing  which display the names of 1,722 Americans who gave their lives in the service of their country and now rest in unknown graves.

“The Mourning Woman” by New Yorker Joseph Kiselewski

This sad but beautiful statue represents all the women who endured the war not knowing if their loved ones would ever return home. The three doves represent peace and the new shoot growing from the war-destroyed tree supports the following quote.

The Memorial Tower

The Memorial Tower

The “Tree of Life” chapel doors.

These are just two of the fourteen cemeteries for American World War II dead on this foreign soil. We have been told that, given the enormity of the horror, these two memorial sites represent but a partial view of the pain endured. It may seem small when viewed in that larger context, but it was most certainly not small for these thousands of soldiers that sacrificed all in the service of others. Each and every one of these somber white markers represents a life cut down in it’s prime and a future never realized. In this age of saber-rattling, these awe inspiring and sobering places should forever remind us that we must strife, above all else, to never sow fields of blood and marble again.

These sites are operated and maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission who’s first chairman, General of the Armies John J. Pershing promised,

“Time will not dim the glory of their deeds.”

Veenhuizen – The Dutch Prison Village

Veenhuizen is the site of the second institution set up by the Society of Humanitarianism, a Dutch private organization established in 1818 by General Johannes van den Bosch to help desperately poor families, mostly from the big cities.

General Johannes van den Bosch

The society considered labor to be the only means to combat poverty and that the path to a better life was one of sobriety, hard work, sacrifice and Christian values. In Bosch’s view, the poor and needy were a natural part of society so that the rich and wealthy could and should show their mercy as a token of Christian charity. Relying on the generosity of the well-to-do to finance the lives of poor vagrants proved to be an unreliable funding strategy and eventually the facility became state run.

The General

Veenhuizen was a very remote and scary place at the time, it being close to at least three asylums. Forced relocation here was generally a punishment for alcohol abuse, sexual abuse, waste, brutality or desertion and was designed to help alleviate the abject poverty in Dutch cities during the early 19th century. In 1859 the colony was taken over by the Dutch state and is now a museum describing the penal colony where vagrants and beggars were locked up and put to work. This forced labor was supposed to cure them of their “work shy behavior”.

One of the schemes incorporated by the Society was the use of short moral and inspirational slogans to help keep “inmates” focused and motivated. These expressions are affixed to every building and were a part of everyday life.

 

  • Orde en Tucht – Order and Discipline
  • Arbeid is Zegen – Labor is Blessing
  • Een van Zin – One of Meaning
  • Voted en Recht – Straight and Right
  • Werk en Bid – Work and Pray
  • Bitter en Zoet – Bitter and Sweet
  • Rust Roest – Peaceful Sleep
  • Zorg en Vlijt – Care and Diligence
  • Flink en Vlug – Smart and Fast
  • Eendracht – Unity
  • Verdraagzaamheid – Tolerance
  • Vooruit – Forward
  • Kennis is Macht – Knowledge is Power
  • Helpt Elkander – Help Each Other
  • Plichtgevoel – Feel of Duty
  • Leerlust – Apprenticeship
  • Humaniteit – Humanity
  • Wijsbeleid – Wise Policy
  • Controle – Control Your Behavior

Please excuse some of my translations. I did my best.

Duplex for prison officials.

Nogerhaven

Nogerhaven

Besides the Museum, the prison village of Veehuizen is also the location of the Nogerhaven jail. This Dutch jail is rented by Norwegian prison authorities and is so popular there is a waiting list as all 241 places are occupied. Prisoners here get more outside time, work less and have extra time to stay in contact with families via Skype.

 

This would appear to be a win-win for everyone involved as the the Norwegians have a shortage of prison cells and the Netherlands has a surplus. The Dutch prison personnel also describe the Norwegian prisoners as well behaved with much better manners then their Dutch counterparts. Seems odd, a prison with no “Machine Gun Kelly” but an “Olav the Polite” and an “Ivar the Courteous”.

In 2016 it was reported that the Netherlands will close five prisons in the next few years as a cost cutting scheme, given that there are thousands of empty jail cells here due to a steadily declining crime rate, where as Norway is seeing an opposite trend.

Yes, there is a gift shop.

Jittery at Jaarbeurs

Jaarbeurs

For 2 days each November, completely over the top, massively obsessed collectors of every conceivable stripe converge on Utrecht in the Netherlands to buy, sell, barter and bullshit at Verzamelaars Jaarbeurs, The International Collectors Fair and Europe’s biggest Vintage Event.

We thought it would be a perfect fit for us, but as we approached the building the sky darkened, the clouds began to roil and it all started to feel, you know, funny. A peculiar vibe emanated from the doors and we soon discovered that the hall was filled to capacity with very strange creatures indeed.  I can’t prove it, but I just know, they’re watching us.

“The odds are you’ll find what you’re looking for, but there are even better odds that you’ll find something else, because this happens to be The Twilight Zone…..”

“Marsha White, in her normal and natural state, a wooden lady with a painted face who, one month out of the year, takes on the characteristics of someone as normal and as flesh and blood as you and I. But it makes you wonder, doesn’t it, just how normal are we? Just who are the people we nod our hellos to as we pass on the street? A rather good question to ask . . . particularly in the Twilight Zone……” The After Hours – Season 1 – Episode 34

Collection of Curiosities

To lighten the mood we thought a quick stop at the University Museum might just hit the spot. This small museum has a lovely botanical garden which only serves to hide many curiosities.


The Skeleton Collection

Prepare to quiver with horror as we approach the Bleuland Cabinet.

All these artifacts come from the private collection of professor of medicine Jan Bleuland.

Jan Bleuland (1756-1838)

Jan Bleuland (1756-1838)

I think I may be permanently scarred. There’s also babies in bottles but my partner says they’re just too much.

Utrecht’s Number One Citizen

Meet Miffy

Holland has produced some amazing characters, both real and imagined, but none more perfect then Miffy. This quiet unassuming gender bending cartoon character has captured the imagination of generations of Dutch children. I say gender bending because there seems to be a bit of a divide out there. Apparently, creator Dick Bruna didn’t dab a flower onto the rabbit’s smock until 1970 and folks born before that were free to assign any gender they chose to the little bunny.

Miffy is a worldwide phenomenon with more than 120 books that have sold over 85 million copies, a feature length film and three television series.

Why so popular? Miffy appeals to children all over the world, but especially here. She, like the Dutch that adore her, is unpretentious, uncomplicated, has a very positive attitude and, even though innocent, is always open to new experiences.

But she’s no push over. Miffy has been forced to duke it out with Miss Kitty over copyright and trademark infringement and has won.

The dismayed creator has simply said, “No, don’t do that. Try to make something that you think of yourself”

She is no more revered then here In Utrecht, Bruna’s hometown. Called Nijntje in Holland, there is a square named after her, the Nijntjepleintje (Little Nijntje Square), the Centraal Museum has opened a permanent exhibition called the dick bruna huis (Dick Bruna house), there is a Nijntje Museum and there are even street lamps shaped like the little bunny.

 

 

 

 

On February 16, 2017, Dick Bruna died at the age of 89. Miffy would be 62 today.

 

 

 

 

 

More Interesting but Useless Facts;

In the Netherlands, Miffy is known as “nijntje”, which derives from the Dutch word “konijntje”, meaning “little bunny”. This is a very logical name for anyone who speaks Dutch, but not in any other language. Because “nijntje” is difficult to pronounce for non-Dutch speakers and because there are so many different words for “bunny” in other languages, the rabbit is simply known as Miffy. The name has no special meaning, but is easy to pronounce in all languages.

See how practical the Dutch are?

Happy Town

Utrecht

Utrecht is the fastest growing city in The Netherlands and with a population that is the youngest of any Dutch city it is considered by many to be the country’s beating heart. With a very walkable medieval city center small enough to explore on foot, Utrecht is still large enough to enjoy world class festivals, modern architecture and numerous quality museums. It is developing from a medium-sized provincial city into a regional capital of European importance. Public health first in all fields of public policy. Residents and stakeholders in the city are encouraged to take the initiative and to seek to forge partnerships that will help make Utrecht a healthier place to live. According to the United Nations, it is one of the most happy cities on earth.

 

The Dom

St. Martin’s Cathedral, or Dom Church, is dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours. This Gothic church was the cathedral of the Diocese of Utrecht during the Middle Ages and is the country’s only pre-Reformation cathedral. It has been a Protestant church since 1580 when the Utrecht city government took the cathedral away from the Diocese of Utrecht and gave it to the local Calvinists. From then on only Protestant services were held in the building with one brief exception, in 1672 and 1673, during the Franco-Dutch War, when Catholic masses were again held in the cathedral. Following the Reformation, Catholics were legally obliged to worship discreetly in clandestine churches (schuilkerken).Over the subsequent centuries the cathedral fell into a pitiable state. Major renovations are ongoing.

During the 16th century, the influence of the Reformation was growing. The dissatisfaction over the abuses of the Church had become so strong that it resulted in a revolt during which statues, furniture, altar pieces and carvings in the churches were destroyed.

 

Wijnstraat aan de Werf

The passageway

The passageway

We are staying in a lovely little canal side apartment in the middle of the old city center. You literally have to walk down a small passageway and then along the canal to get here.

Wijnstraat aan de Werf -Our Street

Wijnstraat aan de Werf – Our Street

The Oudegracht - Our Canal

The Oudegracht – Our Canal

Our idyllic little shelter was rocked at 7:30am this morning when the construction crew arrived to begin work on the new canal wall directly in front of our window.

Got to go. I have things to do. 

The Wendi Files – The Dutch Edition

drents12

My Tour Guide

Our trip has drawn to a close but, as usual, I can’t end without a final nod to my intrepid companion and chief motivator, the person who forces me off the couch and into the world.

With Anne Frank in North Amsterdam

With Anne Frank in North Amsterdam

Gemeente Museum in Den Haag

Gemeente Museum in Den Haag

With Banksy at the Moco in Amsterdam

With Banksy at the Moco in Amsterdam

On the beach in Bloemendaal ann Zee

On the beach in Bloemendaal ann Zee

At the Bazaar in Beverwijk.

At the Bazaar in Beverwijk.

Russian Tough at the Drents in Assen

Russian Tough at the Drents in Assen

Don't touch the art at the Drents

Don’t touch the art at the Drents

With George in Bloemendaal

With George in Bloemendaal

Art supplies in Haarlem

Art supplies in Haarlem

Wanders In De Broeren - Zwolle

At Waanders In De Broeren in Zwolle

Museum De Fundatie - Zwolle

At the Museum De Fundatie in Zwolle

Posing for Vermeer in Den Haag

Posing for Vermeer in Den Haag

Selfie at the Kuntshal in Rotterdam

Selfie at the Kuntshal in Rotterdam

Stay well my friends.

A Fast Train Through the Netherlands

This year’s adventure flew by faster then a bullet train. I didn’t get even close to pointing out all the remarkable things we’ve seen in this outstanding country. Let’s finish with an assortment of the wacky, weird and wonderful.

The Bloemendaal Train Station

The Bloemendaal Train Station

Rommelmarkts

I’d characterize almost every flea market and bazaar we’ve been to here as a Jumble Sale. I’ve never seen such an odd collection of used clothes, broken toys, rusty tools and assorted junky stuff.

Rommelmarkt in Haarlem

Rommelmarkt in Haarlem

Rommelmarkt at Wijk Ann Zee

Rommelmarkt at Wijk Ann Zee

The Rommelmarkt at Appelscha takes place in what appears to be an abandoned amusement park for kiddies. The only thing left are the creepy forlorn creatures that have been abandoned and left to  fester like captives in an old Twilight Zone episode.

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flea1

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flea7flea10

flea14

flea15

IJHallen, in North Amsterdam, is probably the longest running Rommelmarkt in Holland.

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ijhallan20 ijhallan19 ijhallan23

pirates ijhallan22 ijhallan21 ijhallan28

ijhallan26

ijhallan16

The Bazaar in Beverwijk is a whole other animal. It was billed as a long established mixed use affair. There are huge warehouse type buildings filled with most everything you can imagine. No collectibles or antiques but tons of cheap underwear, toys, tools, jewelry and Middle Eastern food. Kind of a free trip to Turkey.

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Waanders In De Broeren

The Broerenkerk, Church of Brothers,  was part of the Dominican monastery from 1465 until the monks were expelled in 1589 and the Protestants took over.

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Now it houses Waanders in de Broeren, one of the coolest bookstores I’ve ever seen. A joy to wander around or just have a snack.

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zwolle3 zwolle5 zwolle4

A Few Loose Ends

Art Supplies in Haarlem

Art Supplies in Haarlem

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Leeuwarden

leeuwarden1

The St Bernards of Leeuwarden

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Den Haag

denhaag16

Den Haag Central Station

The Passages in Den Haag

The Passages in Den Haag

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Bloemendaal Ann Zee

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Bloemendaal Ann Zee

Druggist in Zwolle

Druggist in Zwolle

Lunch in Zwolle

Lunch in Zwolle

The Dutch Appetizer of Choice - Bitterballen and Mustard (They're pretty good)

The Dutch Appetizer of Choice – Bitterballen and Mustard (They’re pretty good)

 

Museum Crawl – Dutch Art 101

We’ve been on a Museum Binge. We happened to buy a couple Museumkarts and have been drunk on art ever since. The Museumkart gives you access to most of the best museums in the Netherlands and is the deal of a lifetime. You don’t even have to wait in the ticket line. In an attempt to squeeze every last drop of goodness out of the card we have attacked this part of Holland with a vengeance and been to 14 museums so far. Here’s just a couple.

The Mauritshuis - Den Haag

The Mauritshuis – Den Haag

The Mauritshuis - Den Haag

The Mauritshuis – Den Haag

The Fotomuseum - Rotterdam

The Fotomuseum – Rotterdam

The Fotomuseum - Rotterdam

The Fotomuseum – Rotterdam

The Fries Museum - Leeuwarden

The Fries Museum – Leeuwarden

Dutch Art 101

In this neck of the woods you are going to see lots of paintings from  the Dutch Golden Age, a period in Dutch history generally spanning the 17th century that rang in the new Dutch Republic and helped make it the most prosperous nation in Europe. As you can imagine we have managed to see a whole lot of great paintings, but I won’t bore you with all that. Describing images to people is like telling them about your dreams, you really had to be there. I think most people are somewhat familiar with Dutch paintings anyway. If you’ve seen a cigar box, you can probably imagine a Rembrandt. I’ll just talk about two of the big dogs and try to keep it short.

“The Night Watch”  is a 1642 oil painting by Rembrandt that hangs in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

"The Night Watch" by Rembrandt 1642

“The Night Watch” by Rembrandt 1642

To better understand the significance of this Dutch Masterpiece in contemporary terms lets first discuss that iconic TV show “Law & Order”, the longest-running hour-long primetime TV series in history. Created by Dick Wolf, this show ran for 20 seasons and spawned an entire Law & Order franchise. One of the chief successes of the show was it’s distinctive look. This was, in part, achieved by a technique brand new for TV, the “Walk & Talk”. This is done by using a steady cam and backing through the set as the main characters walk down hallways and go room to room discussing their next move. This gets the actors out from behind those boring old desks, propels the story forward by making it look like talking is actually doing something and it keeps the viewer actively engaged. This is so much a part of the show that it’s even in the intro.  I thought it was so original until I finally realized this is exactly what Rembrandt did in 1642. Until then these group portraits of prominent citizens and military leaders were pretty staid affairs with everyone lined up like bowling pins or sitting around a table trying to figure out what to do with their hands. In this enormous painting, 142.9″ × 172″ , Rembrandt got them up off their considerable duffs and turned them into giant men of action who just might step right out the painting and do what needs to be done.

Rembrandt van Rijn

Rembrandt van Rijn

In the process Rembrandt cemented his place in art and is generally considered the greatest painter in Dutch history.

 

 

 

The Young Bull “  is a 1647 oil painting by Paulus Potter that hangs in the Mauritshuis in The Hague.

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The Mauritshuis- Den Haag

At 92.7” x 133”, this huge painting approaches life-size, allowing space for very detailed realism, including flies, frogs and cow pies, a fact that was much criticized originally. But fortunes changed and by the 18th and 19th centuries the painting had gained much traction and was highly admired. Today it is considered one the Dutch Golden Age’s greatest paintings. Potter was only 22 when he completed this work and died of tuberculosis at the age of 28 having succeeded in producing about 100 paintings by working continuously.

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“The Young Bull” by Paulus Potter 1647

Besides the staggering craftsmanship, what makes this painting so unusual is the sheer scale. Up until then extremely large paintings were reserved for the rich, the royal and the Gods. This is the first time that a farm animal has been afforded such reverence. The life size image forces us to look into the Bull’s penetrating gaze and it becomes almost difficult to perceive it as anything but a sentient being. This painting  with its almost heroic treatment of an animal alters our perception of the Bull’s place in the universe and, by extension, our own. Whether he meant to or not Potter moved the art world in fundamental ways and by the 19th century this monumental treatment of virtually the entire animal kingdom would become somewhat commonplace.

Paulus Potter

Paulus Potter

Still I find the whole notion that a mere 22 year old, with some paint and a few brushes, has that kind of power utterly remarkable.

 

 

 

Interesting But Useless Facts #289 & #290:

As large as “the Nightwatch” is, 20% was cut off the left hand side in 1715 to make the painting fit its new position at the Amsterdam town hall.

“The Young Bull” was at least 20% smaller when first painted. Potter added extra strips of canvas on both sides and at the top of his original composition, which just included the bull itself.