AMSTERDAM

Monday, May 9

Rudy arrived and we introduce him to the quick ferry ride across to Sixhaven Marina then whisk him back across the river for a walk-about, which ended at the Van Gogh Museum covering this artist’s life (1853-90).

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Renovated in 2014-15 this museum provides an easy to digest biography of this artist’s life, beginning with his childhood in the mid-1800s.

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The space was crowded but not overwhelmingly, so it was easy to stroll from one floor to the next. Some of the most fascinating tidbits to me were how he interacted with his fellow artists, many of whom being his friends, and how much of a craftsman he was in relation to learning his art. I had always assumed he was an impulsive artist, splashing and coloring his canvases without much preparation. I quickly understood this guy practiced and practiced and honed his skill, experimenting with various techniques and subject matter, one being a japanese interest.

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What was truly wonderful was the love he had for his brother, Theodore, a successful art seller who supported Vincent financially and, even more importantly, emotionally.

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With beautiful weather beckoning us we finished our fairly quick review of Van Gogh then strolled to our ferry and home to JUANONA.

HOORN

Tuesday, May 10

We had been keeping an eye on weather for heading to another historical site further north. Hoorn, once a port of the Dutch East India Company (the West India Company was created in 1621) , sits on the Markermeer, a lake due to the dyke built in 1932.

It was an easy sail involving an initial lock out of Amsterdam. Within six hours we were approaching the narrow opening to Hoorn’s 13th century harbor under the watchful gaze of the Hoofdtoren, dating from 1532. This tower served not only as one of Hoorn’s defenses but also as the home of the Northern Company (a cartel founded in 1614 and operated until 1642) focused on whaling.

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Entering this historical harbor was magical with a lovely park on one side and the old buildings on the other. We love tieing up to town walls because you simply step off the boat and immediately become part of the local landscape. Plus, it’s a wonderful way to meet people walking along the water’s edge.

We found the Tourist Information Office, purchased a walking tour map for the next day’s exploring, then settled into an easy night ending with the obligatory OH HELL game, something Max and I had been missing since the last time a third crew was aboard.

Wednesday, May 11

Another lovely day dawned and off we went matching our route with noted sites listed in two tourist brochures. With my two companions willing to dramatize the brochures’ descriptions I was thoroughly entertained as we traipsed through this beautiful town.

We walked to the oldest house in Hoorn constructed in 1593 only to read it burnt down in 1945 and was rebuilt two years later. Hmmm.

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As Max likes to recount, this falls in the same category as the sign we had heard about:  Antiques made to order.

You can’t walk down these streets without noticing the decidedly forward tilt to the buildings. Several theories have arisen for these ‘in flight’ houses, from rainwater drainage to gain more space above to presenting a more imposing appearance, the latter supposedly being one reason why they weren’t straightened.

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Then, a puzzling description about plaques like a ‘comic strip’ atop three joined houses or Bossuhuizen dating from the 17th century). Comic Strip? Well, that turned out to be a bas-relief frieze depicting the October 12th 1573 historic Battle on the Zuiderzee between the Dutch and the Spanish led by Count Bossu with the Dutch as victors. Not too comical. What was intriguing was identifying the harbor entrance (check out the second panel) that we passed through the day before.

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Another stop placed us in the main square opposite the Waag (Weigh House from 1609) and next to a statue of a prominent resident, J.P. Coen (1587-1629), a Dutch merchant and governor-general of the Dutch East India Company. Yet, then the brochure continued saying the guy wasn’t liked very much due to his use of violence to achieve his goal of a trade monopoly. Sounds like a great opportunity for replacement while stowing him in a museum.

Jan Pieterszoon Coen statue

Another historical building showcased a coat-and-arms facade,

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while an elaborate entrance provided the perfect spot for two men in repose:

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I mean how lucky can a women get?! :)

And, then there was the aviary we stumbled upon where my husband further endeared himself to me when he tried to get a little birdie to join him in whistling…

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while one nearby displayed her distaste in ruffled pink plumage.

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Of course, when in the Netherlands one must try on wooden shoes; and, my fellow walkers obliged me by doing just that.
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At times we felt the tourist bureau had been really searching for tourist sites such as listing the 18th century wallpaper one could see. This was hung in the antiquities room located at the Dutch Cape Horners Foundation. (Captain Willem Schouten who, with Jacob Le Maire, named that part of South America having sailed from here in 1615. We couldn’t help but think of our friends Rob and Shawn due to Rob having rounded the horn with Max in 1985).

We did end up seeing the wallpaper and, I must admit, it was pretty spectacular; plus, the two members who greeted us made us feel very welcomed. Definitely a return visit is warranted.

All antics aside, Hoorn is a lovely port to visit. We strolled by an old gate topped by a residence

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and a remnant (the 1508 defense tower called the Mary Tower due to the Mary Convent, which helped pay for the defense of the city) from when the city was rimmed by a wall.

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One of the most puzzling and sobering sites we saw was a sculpture depicting two hands in chains clasping one another. We tried to read the bronze plaque written in Dutch but to no avail.

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Later we inquired about this as well as similar sculptures we had seen around town. A local recounted the atrocity, which occurred during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. On January 4th, 1944, five POWs were taken from their prison, walked through the streets to the Grote Kerk (church) and executed. The killings were in retaliation for the assassination of a Nazi collaborator by the resistance. In 1990 four, hand sculptures representing departure, anger, despair, and support were placed along this route of remembrance where it ended at an earlier monument of a bound man mounted in 1947 at the place of execution.

Gazing at those held hands in chains one can only imagine the feeling of helplessness and the men’s poignant determination to share this tragic destiny as one. Astonishingly, neither of the two tourist brochure bothered to mention this event. Would be well worth adding.

We ended with asking our boat neighbors, Kiki and Henk, aboard and had another wonderful time sharing cockpit conversations. They also gave us some pointers regarding marinas and places to cruise.

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Friday, May 13

Tied to a town’s quay provides one of the best ways to become immersed in the local habitat, which is what occurred when Thijs, a local sailor, stopped by after spotting our American flag. He had cruised the South Pacific in the early 2000s and was eager to talk with fellow cruisers.

Thijs told us about his marina just on the other side of the park from us. Mentioning it could be a possible winter berth, he took us over there and kindly introduced us to the harbor master.

Wanting to spend more time with Thijs, we asked him and his family to join us after his wife returned from work; and, later that day Thijs, his wife Debra and young daughter Tika came aboard with some traditional Dutch fare and a lively exchange began.

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I have to say these conversations typically beginning with cruising then meandering through a range of topics become one of the gems of cruising. I can never get enough of hearing how others live their lives, many with fascinating episodes.

Saturday-Monday, May 14-16

The next morning we awoke anticipating a reunion long overdue. Our friends known to us as our Belgian family–Ta, Koen and their three children, Seppe, Frieke, and Wannes–were visiting for the weekend. Not having seen them since 2009 we eagerly awaited their arrival.

Because JUANONA couldn’t offer enough berths they had booked rooms on Oostreiland (Eastern Island), a short walk across a bridge to the main harbor. The hotel previously served as 17th-century residences and warehouses, which were converted to a poorhouse (1817-28) and later a prison until 2003 (Seppe’s basement-level room still had the bars on the window and original cell door.).

They arrived around noon, and the celebrations began after Max and I got over the shock of seeing now three teenagers who were small children the last time we had set eyes on them seven years ago…

Frieke Wannes Seppe NOV 2009

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After a walk around town we headed back to JUANONA for some card games and Max’s famous (and only) card trick.

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We discovered it was Ta and Koen’s wedding anniversary, which enhanced the festivities and toasts with the bottle of champagne brought by Koen. (FYI:  this is one of the few appearances Ta made below due to getting extremely seasick; she normally is perched on the top step of the hatchway.)

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A Belgian team hat was presented to Max who quickly donned it yet realized wearing it off the boat may not be appreciated by our Dutch hosts.

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The next day was cloudy but another stroll around town and through the park offered a chance to catch up. We learned about Seppe’s fascination with astronomy, Frieke’s interest in art and history, and Wannes’ eagerness to travel US Route 66. Ta was continuing her photography degree with an upcoming trip to Peru on a paid assignment while Koen was working towards a pilot’s license. To say we were thrilled to be with them doesn’t do their visit justice.

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Although there were many memories shared one anecdote does stand out:  this family has been traveling all over the world since Seppe was less than two months old; and, they were telling us about one of their more recent trips, this time to Sicily. One of the kids was flipping through a book in a museum shop and finally called Ta over. With a puzzled expression the child asked who was this guy? Followed by, ‘whoever he was he must have been really popular’ because he was featured in so many paintings. Ta peered over the shoulder, then quietly mentioned he was Jesus… Got to love it.

On Monday we were sailing up to Enkuizen (about 11 miles north of Hoorn) in order to leave JUANONA at a marina for an upcoming trip home. Steppe, Frieke, and Wannes joined us, and we arranged to meet Ta and Koen there after they made a quick trip to Amsterdam. We had just left the harbor when Seppe’s cell phone rang. It was his parents calling asking for the car keys. Good timing!

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A wind kicked up enough for a wonderful sail, and the six of us enjoyed a morning out on the water with some hot chocolate to take the chill out.

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Captain Max shared the helm with Rudy

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with the sail ending in a group portrait:

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A spectacular ending to a memorable visit with some Belgian chocolate labeled ‘Norway’  and ‘FOBF’ (from our Belgian family) (they had been a bit stunned when I told them I had separated our provisioning last summer between non-Norway & Norway)…   IMG_7995

and a thoughtful gift from Seppe as a reminder of time spent with our Belgian Family.

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ENKHUIZEN

Wednesday, May 18

We had heard from several other cruisers about Zuiderzee, a must-see, living museum located in Enkhuizen. We decided to visit this site while here, which we did under another warm blue sky.

First, just a bit of background on the history of the Zuiderzee… Enkuizen once sat on an inland sea due to salt water constantly breaching flimsy land barriers creating the Zuiderzee (literally ‘South Sea’). Today, this town straddles the waters of two, large lakes, the Ijseelmeer in the north and Markermeer in the south, created by two dykes: one in 1932 following a devastating flood in 1916;

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the other in 1976 to reclaim more arable land.

This immense watery engineering saved the Netherlands but at a price of the Zuider Zee fishing fleet; yet, these fresh water lakes provide a lovely playground for vessels and waterfowl alike.

A short stroll from the marina brought us to the entrance of the Binnenmuseum (indoor museum) housed in a former Dutch shipping merchant’s residence and warehouse and Peperhuis (where pepper was stored). The rooms featured customs and costumes of various fishing villages on the shores of the Zuiderzee.

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It was here I learned that the women’s stiff-winged bonnet symbolizing all of Holland to many actually is from just one small region whose village is Volendam (just south of Enkhuizen and next to Edam).

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Exhibits provided examples and information about residents’  lives and the various forms of commerce, such as herring fishing, harvesting of rush–documented by a short feature film, which I think could have used better editing,…

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tile factories, and merchant trading.

Like many small villages, prosperity ebbed and flowed with the times. Yet, the human spirit survived as witnessed by a poem, which captured both Rudy’s and my attention:

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Continuing in the spirit of levity, we took advantage of some exhibits begging for visitors’ particiipation, which Rudy and I jumped at:

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Max, however, showed more reserve.

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Exiting the Bennenmuseum we headed to the Buitenmuseum. This outdoor site opened in 1983 and is composed of a collection of transported buildings placed in a re-created village to show life as it was from 1880-1932. Here, we could travel back in time as we walked along the streets stopping to explore various shops and homes.

It’s also where we found more ways to entertain ourselves, beginning with the display on the lifesaving crews…

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followed by an impressive demonstration on creating a fishing net…

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obtaining sustenance in company of wandering ducks

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(where some patrons had yet to learn the danger of feeding spare crumbs to feathered friends)…

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mailing a card to Max’s mom from a former post office…

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and ending with my two manly cohorts trying their hand at bailing water the way windmills did,

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One manly man tried to outdo the other manly man…

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I’d say it was a draw.

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Our tour of the Zuiderzee Museum had come to a close but not before one visual captured our attention by summing up the challenge facing the Netherlands. Here, truly, a picture is a 1,000 words:

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Next up:  Well, who knows? We keep adjusting our plans. Welcome to cruising life :) 

One thought on “Idylic Days

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