Monthly Archives: March 2017

Bits and Bobs of the Netherlands: PART III


Sunday, March 12

We are so lucky! Our Ipswich friend Anne, a fellow cruiser now in Cartegna with husband Peter, arrived with no problem and she woke to a picture-perfect day in the Netherlands :).

With sun out and wheels at hand we ventured off to Friesland, the northeast province of the Netherlands. Max and I sailed there summer 2016 on our way to and from Norway. When cruising there last July we had taken advantage of traveling via bikes and trains. This time the three of us traversed the IJsselmeer in our rental car via the famous barrier dyke, the Afsluitdijk, landing in Harlingen where we had last been with JUANONA almost a year ago.

Oddly enough we spotted a creature not usually seen in the Netherlands, or, for that matter, in most European countries.

IMG 1917Why it was there, who knows, but it made for an exclamation and a ‘what-the-hell’ head scratch.

For the first time in a while we could enjoy a coffee outdoors,

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then managed to visit a Norwegian sail-training ship alongside one of Harlingen’s quays with very personable trainees aboard.

From there a clockwise drive took us along polders and acres of farmland along roads made for teeny cars. Believe it or not, the lane below is two-way, and this was the case for many of our back-country drives.

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Out of all the towns we visited Dokkum was the highlight with its working windmill. Our friends Gus and Helen had stopped here in their Sabre 38 and tied up in front of one of the windmills. Unfortunately our draft is too deep to easily travel these particular canals, which is why we decided to visit by car. We purchased mustard ground there… and, I took a shot capturing the ‘windblown look’ at the top of the mill. Behind you get a glimpse of the picturesque setting where we strolled soon after.

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A local restaurant recommended by the windmill operator served up excellent kibbeling (fried cod) for lunch before we hopped back in the car to continue our circular route.

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Our Sunday drive, which included Holwerd and a drive-by of Sneek, provided Anne with a feeling for this part of the Netherlands, often missed if one isn’t heading northeast of Amsterdam.

We could have expanded our trip to visit Hindeloopen, a lovely little port where we stayed end of last July, but our stomachs were starting to grumble for dinner. If you thought all we did was drive from one refreshment to the next, you wouldn’t be far off…


Monday, March 13

The one and only time Anne had been in Amsterdam was as a baby, so she and I trained down to explore this canal-ringed city. All I can say is we walked and talked, and talked and walked, interspersed with coffees of course.

The day being sunny and not too crowded with tourists, with the exception of school groups, we ended up doing a counter-clockwise tour of the city. Thankfully, Anne’s navigation skills came in handy as I became completely turned around when approaching the Museumplein from the opposite direction. But, since Amsterdam’s streets are fascinating anyhow, no matter. At least that’s what I told Anne and myself.

Poking into shops, stopping for a lunch at the Rijks Museum cafe, and just experiencing being in a lovely urban culture was enough for both of us. By the time late afternoon rolled around we were both ready for home and one of Max’s meals, a great way to end any day.


Tuesday, March 14

Another day of exploring before we had to drop Anne off in Eindhoven. And, another glorious day of sun, so we drove south to Waterland, located between Hoorn and Amsterdam. Allegedly this area provided the grid-layout of Manhattan in New Amsterdam when the Dutch settled there in the 1600s. By the way, If anyone is interested in how the Dutch established Manhattan’s culture, and its continuing influence today, read THE ISLAND IN THE CENTER OF THE WORLD by Russell Shorto. Max enjoyed it and passed it on to me. The information is not what we get in our history books, possibly because the Dutch (or the Native Americans) didn’t write the history of this area.

Our first stop set a high standard. Di Rijp enchants any visitor with its storybook streets and homes. And, it definitely felt well-taken care of. But, first, the regular stop:  our koffie break.

It was at the cafe that Anne noticed a whaling mural. When we asked about it, the owner said the inland town used to front the ocean, and had been a major port with ships sailing regularly to Spitsbergen. FYI: as per the Rijks Museum about a display we saw last year:  “In 1980 archaeologists investigated the graves of 185 Dutchmen – whale hunters and workmen of the train oil refineries – who had died on or near Spitsbergen during the 17th century. The skeletons were still wearing their knitted woollen caps. Each cap was individualized; the men recognized one another only by the pattern of stripes on the caps. The men were bundled up so tightly against the fierce cold that only their eyes were visible.”. 

Who would have thought it?

The cafe owner mentioned a whaling museum, which we tried to see, but it was closed until later this spring. Yet, like in most of these Dutch villages, just slowly slowly ambulating down the bricked lanes peering at and in houses through their un-curtained windows provides entertainment. Oh, yeah, and having your photo taken next to an old lock :)

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Monnickendam, established by the Benedictines in the 14th century, was our lunch spot. This also use to be a major port but now you see more pleasure craft than trawlers berthed at the local marina.

Max had been here before in search of a boat part, and the Tourist Office had given him a map of the gable stones adorning many of the old homes. These plaques identified the owner by trade, interest, or family name. As we walked down the streets we searched the brick facades matching the stones with the brochure’s description:

The Golden Hand:  hewn by the current owner of the house, the hand represents the “Golden Hand of God” with the palm holding the initials of his beloved.

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Pirate ships:  This one dates from 1763. Pieter Winkes changed from captaining a pirate ship in the West Indies to inspecting the Het Lanselvaare, one of the local, rope-making yards. The reason? To care for his sick wife who took ill while he was sailing.  

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And, this one tells of the five Jews grocers Leo and Lies Hordijk hid during WWII. Fortunately, all survived.

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Since we obviously looked like tourists…

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it’s never surprising but always welcomed when a local stops to ask if we need help. This time our impromptu guide informed us of the 17th-century glockenspiel in the former town hall (from the 15th century). He mentioned the bells were a little off tune (he couldn’t tell and we didn’t care) but in ten minutes some horses would come out and the angels would sound their trumpets. Sure enough, we heard the bells

and then we saw the hooves of the prancing horses with the angels tooting.

Our last waterland town was known for its 17th and 18th wooden houses, some painted a specific grey called ‘Broecker grijs’ like the one in the photo I pulled off the Internet. Interestingly this color, they say, came from the landscapes painted by Monet and other artists. I haven’t found any other reference to that, though.

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Broeck of Waterland (there’s also a Broek op Langedijk further north, which we visited last fall) is known for its cleanliness but, frankly, all of these places look spick-’n-span to me. (Actually, throughout our touring of the Netherlands this past year, litter seems to be just a sprinkle of trash every now and then versus a widespread occurrence.)

We needed to head south for Anne’s flight so this was our last stop in our tour of Waterland. Must say, it’d be great to do a bike trip around here. Of course koffie stops would figure prominently…

Seeing a friend off is always a bit sad, but she promised to keep in touch regarding her and Peter’s cruising plans. They’re headed into the Mediterranean. Hopefully, more reunions are our in our future!

One more ‘Bits and Bobs’ on its way…



Bits and Bobs of the Netherlands: PART II


Saturday, March 11

Fast forward to the weekend and we are eagerly anticipating another reunion, this time with a cruiser friend from Ipswich, UK.

With a rental car for a week we opted to toot around parts of the Netherlands that are harder to reach via public transportation. To use a phrase of our English friend Anne we’re seeing some ‘bits and bobs’. The car also gave us the opportunity to pick her up in Eindhoven.

But before we arrived at the airport we used the day for exploring one of the loveliest parks in the Netherlands with a side stop at a Museum featuring the WWII military operation, Market Garden. Yes, another Max Disaster Tour (MDT) in the works.

Let me just say unless one is addicted to seeing dusty, rusty relics, faded artifacts, and lots and lots of guns, skip this museum. (We later discovered the WWII museum we should have visited–and did so another day–was the Airborne Museum in Osterbeek; but more of that in another post.)

Thankfully our next stop brought us out into the bright sunshine just down the road. The De Hoge Veluwe National Park began as an estate for a wealthy businessman and his wife, Anton Kroller (1862-1941) and Helene Muller (1860-1938).

Helene Müller and Anton Kröller

Since then it’s become a lovely refuge for visitors wanting to wander in a 63-acre expanse of forests and sand dunes.

Hoge Veluwe

The destination had been on our radar for a while, not the least due to the park’s museum, the Kroller-Muller,

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cocooned by mother nature and a sculpture garden.

Map sculpture garden winter 2016

Why Kroller-Muller is a ‘must-see’ is due to Helene’s passion for Van Gogh. She became a big fan of the artist, whether due to her initial taste in art or due to the influence of art critic H.P. Bremer, himself an admirer of that artist’s work. However it started, their collaboration with her money and his expertise resulted in the second largest collection ever of Van Gogh’s work. It was here we spent most of our time at a special exhibit of Van Gogh’s studies leading up to his famous “The Potato Eaters” (hanging in Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum).  All I can say is thank god he didn’t stop at that one.

Potato Eaters

To understand how this 1900s hunting estate fell into the hands of the government I read a little about the Kroller-Mullers, specifically the origin of Anton’s wealth.  FYI:  If you’d rather just skip to the exhibit, just scroll below to the museum photo. 

As the eventual owner of Wm.H.Muller & Co. (he married his business partner’s daughter), Anton successfully expanded the business of distributing corn, iron ore, and timber to global markets, building it up to be ‘one of the most powerful European commodities trading houses’ (Biography Anton Kroller (1862-1941) – Arielle Dekker, University of Groningen).

Due to the Netherlands’ neutrality during WWI, Anton continued to grow rich from supplying both England and Germany based on lucrative contracts he had negotiated. His businesses included shipping, and the amount of shipping he did helped build Rotterdam into a world-class port.

What to do with all of this growing pot of coins? Why hunting grounds, of course. In 1909 Anton began buying up real estate with his company’s money. In 1915 the Kroller-Mullers hired a sought-after architect, Hendrikus Petrus Berlage (1856-1934), to design an impressive lodge to go with the grounds. The Jachthuis St. Hubertus (St. Hubert Hunting Lodge) was completed in 1920 (but only after many strong disagreements between the eminent and controlling Berlage and Helene, the client).

Hubertus Robbert Maas 75

But, what’s a hunting ground without things to hunt, which led to the park being stocked with game (red deer, wild boar and wild sheep). Meanwhile Helene hunted paintings and proceeded to stockpile Van Gogh’s and other artists’ pieces. A fairy-tale for the wealthy was coming to fruition.

Or, so it seemed until 1923.

Anton’s wealth wasn’t quite what it was made out to be… investors and, later, a former accountant, accused Anton of cooking his books (he should have stuck to BBQ-ing his game). Yet, like so many white crimes, Anton wasn’t charged in spite of almost causing the demise of Rotterdamsche Bank due to unpaid loans while leaving his investors stranded.

Later the entire estate and art collection were put in separate trusts by the government with the Kroller-Mullers permitted to live in the house. Evidently Anton donated the estate and art to the state around the time his finances were taking a dive. Good timing I’d say.

But, thanks to the scandal and with apologies to Anton’s victims, we, along with thousands of others, are able to enjoy a beautiful piece of the Netherlands, both geographically and culturally.

One of these days we’ll sign up for a tour of the hunting lodge, but today our focus was on the museum, which hosted a smattering of other artists in addition to the Van Goghs Helene so avidly collected.

This museum was a jewel, beginning with the building nestled among the trees.

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Fortified by a delicious and inexpensive lunch at the cafe we headed to the Van Gogh exhibit featuring his early years.

The first room introduced us to the struggling artist as he began his journey as a struggling artist. Photographs by Henri Berssenbrugge (1873-1959), a Rotterdam photographer, allowed us to step back in time during those years.

Since the curator captured well the essence of what we walked through, here the exhibit’s introduction:

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And, to set the mood, here are two of Berssenbrugge’s photos from that era:

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Below are some of Van Gogh’s sketches from 1881 to 1885 (the second one is of Sien, his mistress for over a year around 1883 when living in Hague).

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You can definitely see the resemblance between Van Gogh’s sketches and the features of his potato eaters. I’m just glad he wasn’t painting moi.

In November 1885 he paints ‘Autumn Landscape’, his last one in the Netherlands.

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Roughly three months later he moves to France and there it’s as if his palette exploded with color. From ‘Pink Peach Trees’

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to ‘Langlois Bridge at Arles’, he enters the major league of impressionists (recognized only after his death, I think) and continues to paint intensely over the next five years until his death in 1890.
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Other artists’ work also captured my attention, and not necessarily because I’d want to hang them my home. It’s just that they caught my eye either due to the artist’s name or the art, such as the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian’s (1872-1944) ‘Composition with red, yellow and blue’ 1927…

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Vilmos Huszar’s (1884-1960) tribute to Vincent Van Gogh (‘Vincent’ 1915)…

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Charley Toorop’s (1891-1955) ‘Old apple tree blossoming’ 1949…

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and Ger Van Elk’s (1941-2014) ‘Alkmaer’ 1983.

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After an hour or so of perusing the inside art we went out the back for a quick stroll around the sculpture garden. There we saw some pieces by some sculptors whose name I recognized…

‘Femme accroupie” 1882 by Auguste Rodin (1840-1970)

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‘Curved form’ 1956 by Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975) …

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and  ‘Animal head’ 1956 by Henry Moore’s (1898-1986)…

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as well as some we didn’t… ‘Hoofdstuk 1’ 2010 by Jan Fabre (b.1958-).

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By now it was time to head further south to Endhoven to pick up Anne, so we entered the back door and exited the front door of this fabulous museum taking advantage of snapping one more photo of two men enjoying the late afternoon air.

The one on the right is by Oswald Wenckebach’s (1895-1962) ‘Mender Jacques’ 1955.

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I must say I’d love to have this one in a garden. Along with the live model, of course.

Onwards we go to retrieve Anne and return to JUANONA where the only sculptures we’d see would be formed by ice and Max’s famous G&Ts.

Part III of Bits and Bobs coming up…


Bits and Bobs of the Netherlands: PART I


Friday, March 4, 2017

Following our visit to the States, we arrived back in Hoorn and were greeted by our Belgian Family – Koen, Ta, Seppe, Frieke, and Wannes. What a warm way to transition from house-living to boat-living. Theirs was a quick visit due to the timing of our arrival and their available dates, so we made the most of it by touring one of the Netherlands iconic, land-reclamation projects at Lelystad, the capital of Flevoland, the 12th and youngest province.

The Zuiderzee or ‘South Sea’ (a body of water in the interior of modern-day Holland) was caused by years of sea water washing over sand dunes and barriers at the top of the Netherlands. Created before the 13th century, this sea provided fishing grounds but resulted in the loss of valuable farmland. After constant flooding the pro-farmlanders won the political argument, with the government planning on barricading the sea and reclaiming lost land.

In the 17th century plans were drawn up to block off the Zuiderzee at the barrier islands (noted by black lines joining the islands in the diagram below)

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but the engineering feat wasn’t possible until Cornelis Lely proposed making a dyke further inland. He drew up plans for one that was begun in 1927 after yet another devastating flood in 1916. This was the Afsluitdijk or ‘Barrier Dyke’ that sealed the Zuiderzee from the Waddenzee. Fresh water from the IJssel river which flows from the Alps eventually flushed out the salt forming a huge lake, the IJsselmeer.

With the completion of the Afluisdijk in 1932 the Dutch began draining low lying tracts of land and creating polders (arable land lined by canals). More reclamation was planned with the construction of a second dyke In 1972, which bisected the Ijsselmeer while creating another lake, the Markermeer. However, some of the land was never reclaimed due to environmental concerns and cost (which is a good thing as Hoorn would have lost its historic harbor).

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Lelystad, located on the opposite side of the second dyke from Hoorn, is where we drove to view the Nieuw Land Museum and a 17th-century replica of a Dutch merchant frigate, the Batavia.

The museum is a haven for kids who want to play with water, but for me the most interesting parts were the maps delineating the actual reclamation, an exhibit showcasing the New Stone Age residents of the area who built terpens (islands of earth and clay) to live above the marshy sea, and the wooden carcass of an old ship (approx. 17th century) used by the Frislanders to ferry live fish to the market

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(note the holes in the hull where sea water washed in and out of the hold where the fish were kept).

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Exiting the museum we all headed to the Batavia. Commissioned by the Dutch East Indies Company (VOC) in 1628, it struck rocks off the western coast of Australia during its maiden voyage with tales of the survivors being much more interesting than the TV show “Survivor”.

Launched in 1995 the replica took ten years employing the same techniques as those used in the 1600s.

Along the route to the ship we saw the various workshops used by different trades–such as carpenters and blacksmiths–to recreate this ship which was used in the Dutch West & East Indies trade. There was even a workshop with looms to weave sail cloth,

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and a volunteer was actually sewing one of the massive sails … all by hand.

Aboard the ship a guide explained various features including navigation using a traverse board (on the right below). A sailor would record estimated course and distance during his four-hour watch. The information would eventually be recorded in the log by the captain while the navigator used the information to dead reckon the route on a chart.

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With the tour ending it was time for a group shot, a tradition whenever we get to be with our Belgian family.

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They left for home that night reminding us once again how lucky we are to have them close by.


Tuesday, March 7

One of the many benefits of living in Hoorn is its proximity to Amsterdam. That, and the annual museumkaart means we have unlimited visits to major museums. Having heard of a special exhibit at the Hermitage museum, we combined an errand in Amsterdam with a tour of the Romanov Family and their demise.

Focused on the lead-up to their murders, the display began with the sophistication of St. Petersburg in the late 1800s/early 1900s. The love marriage of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra (granddaughter of England’s Queen Victoria) created a happy family life for them and their five children

but also led to an insular existence, one ignorant of current affairs. The ignorance and incompetence of Nicholas II, who really didn’t want to be nor should have been a ruler, meant Russian autocracy was doomed.

As we perused the exhibits it became so evident that the Tsar and his family were living in a golden bubble within a nightmare it made me feel like hitting them upside the head saying “You idiots! What don’t you see?!” This was especially true when confronted with photos showing some of the grand duchesses merrily roller skating aboard the royal yacht STANDARD

and later followed by one of the bayonets used in their execution on July 17, 1918 in Ekaterinburg.

The gruesome killing of the Tsar and his immediate family wasn’t the only royal murder. Information on other family members’ demise appeared at the end of the tour. Just read what happened to Alexandra’s sister:

Leaving the Hermitage to head home all I could think was what an excellent example of how countries can be led by stupid leaders who rose based on entitlement; however, at least Russia’s excuse is it was by heredity…

Stand by for PART II.