Category Archives: Netherlands

All About Zzzzzzeees

Sunday, September 23, 2018

“Do you know the rest of the alphabet too?”

That caption comes from a book just hitting stores now. Yes, it’s in Dutch and yes, there’s no English translation… yet. But, what we find so wonderful about this book is knowing one of the faces on the cover:  Deborah Freriks!

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Deborah penned VAN DIT BOEK GA JE BETER SLAPEN (literal translation:  FROM THIS BOOK YOU WILL SLEEP BETTER) with her friend and colleague, Catelijne Elzes. Not only did Deborah co-author the book but, being an artist, she also created all of the illustrations.

We’ve witnessed her creative powers over the past two years as she’s researched and crafted this book. And, then last fall they had secured a publisher, one who also represents the Dali Lama (!).

So, to see this appear in a hard cover complete with a book tour launch and multiple promotions on TV, radio, and magazines gives us goose bumps :)

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The formal book launching occurred yesterday, September 22, in Amsterdam at Scheltema, the biggest Dutch bookstore chain.

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We attended the event with Tika and Thijs (whose blue suede shoes called for a photo).

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This past week we had a mini-celebration aboard JUANONA with Deborah, Thijs and Tika as we toasted her accomplishment.

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Knowing many friends who join me in sleepless nights, I crave an English translation of this book.

Other friends of ours we’ve met cruising are published authors as well, such as Daria and Alex Blackwell, to name two. Pretty wonderful to think of people achieving such a feat! So, here’s to the written word and those who make me want to read them.

 

 

PASSAGE PLUS

KIEL CANAL

Friday-Sunday, August 31-September 2, 2018

With a favorable Nothwest wind we left the luxury of Denmark’s Vejrø Island for Germany’s Kiel Canal. The canal is 60 miles long and night-time travel is not allowed for pleasure craft, which usually necessitates a stop at one of the few designated mooring spots along the canal. We chose to moor at the 85.4 km mark near the east end of the canal, a place we’d tied up twice before; last year heading back from Sweden, and this year heading into the Baltic.

Eight hours of steady motoring gives you a lot of time to dwell on important aspects of life such as what’s for dinner… how close can we get to shore without running aground… are we far enough away from the passing ships… are the folks cycling along the canal ‘wave-worthy’… did the folks considered wave-worthy wave back… and, when all of those thoughts run through one’s head, what do our belly buttons look like. 

In short, the first time through the Kiel Canal (end of last year’s cruising) offered a new experience. The second time traversing the Kiel Canal (beginning of this year’s cruising), we knew what to expect. The third time, well, we know what to expect… and it’s a long canal.

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So, reaching the town of Brunsbüttel near the lock on the west end of the canal meant an end to the sameness and the thrill of turning off the engine. 

During our day-long motor several boats going over six knots passed us. We decided to up our speed for now we were afraid the docks at the end may get a bit wee too crowded.

Sure enough, entering the small docking area we slowly edged in trying to find a friendly boat, i.e., one with fenders hanging over the side, welcoming rafters such as us. Spotting one free space alongside the pontoon we aimed for that only to decide at the last minute it looked too small to squeeze into and then easily get out of the next morning, which is probably why it was free. 

Fortunately, the beautiful new 57-foot sailboat in front of that space skeptically said we could tie alongside them. By this point we were pretty much alongside them already so they didn’t really have much choice in the matter. So, we decorated JUANONA with our travel-weary fenders, which used to be bright white but have morphed into not-so-bright-and-definitely-not-as-white hue. We then tied to the shiny boat who now had quickly put out perfectly coiffed fenders complete with pristine covers nice enough that I’d be happy to use for pillows in our main cabin.

This also meant we had to traipse over their lovely you-could-eat-off-of-it deck to reach the pontoon. It was at this point we learned this was Hull #1 of a brand-new Hallberg-Ratsey line, on its way to be introduced at the Amsterdam Boat Show. We quickly told them we would never walk on their boat using our shoes and could even put on clean socks to do so. They laughed and kindly said no need to do so.

With that we headed for the German Tourist Information Office to pay the dockage fee. While providing the necessary info on JUANONA and length of our stay (one night) a young Italian man inquired about the shower code (most marinas use a digital keypad for their shower and toilet rooms). 

What transpired could have been a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit. With a certain disdain and lack-of-customer-service the woman behind the desk reported that he needed to see if his captain had paid the mooring fee in order to obtain the code. The young man said he wasn’t sure if he had paid but the captain was on the boat and would soon be in to pay if he hadn’t already. 

Even though the woman could have asked the name of the boat and then easily checked her records (she had all that information since it’s required when paying the fee), she didn’t. She just kept repeating to the young man’s code request, ‘the captain needs to pay the fee.’

At this point both Max and I were waiting for the sailor to leave so we could follow him out and give him the code. Yet, then the guy asked, “is the code 7492?” (He evidently had the code but something wasn’t right).  In response the woman replied, “yes, but it doesn’t work. I need to unlock the shower with my key.” ! I felt like we had just walked through the looking glass into the realm of the Red Queen… Poor fellow. If he had realized the woman was suspicious and not adept in helping others, he probably would have asked, “Is something wrong with the code 7492?”

Since shops closed early on Saturdays we only found a few fresh ingredients in the one Turkish store still open, then headed back to the boat where we discovered the shower guy was crew on our raftee boat. We began conversations with him and the other crew and the captain, all extremely friendly. Mike, the captain, worked for a delivery service and had been hired by the new owners of the boat to take this to the boat show in Lelystad, Holland.

Both of us planned to catch the early lock-opening out the next morning, which meant an early night; yet, we wished we had had more time with them. At least we exchanged information and travel ideas with Mike who was heading back to Wales after the boat delivery. He did leave us a boat card for the delivery service company saying they’d be thrilled to have someone of Max’s experience as part of the crew. Hmmm, I’ve heard of golf widows… :)

PASSAGE

Sunday-Monday, September 2-3, 2018

The next morning Mike and crew left and managed to catch the lock (the big, beautiful sailboat posing for a shot is the one we rafted to).

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Not everyone was as fortunate. A large powerboat zipped up and nosed a waiting sailboat out of the way resulting in a loud shouting match as the the lock gates closed with the powerboat in, the sailboat out.

Exiting the lock we left for our overnight passage. Originally we had planned to stop in at Cuxhaven, located 14 miles from the canal, then leave the next day for the Netherlands. But the wind forecast looked increasingly favorable to just keep going, and we had entered the river right at high tide, allowing us to ride the current all the way out the Elbe River before it turned against us.

The reason for coordinating sailing with favorable tides lies in the amount of current they generate: up to 4 knots in the Elbe. A favorable current added to our typical cruising speed of between five and six knots, frequently gave us over eight knots over the bottom.

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Having done this passage twice before, this waterway, like the canal, now seemed familiar. The first time (last year) we had to leave Cuxhaven at 3:30 A.M. with a passel of boats jockeying for position in the narrow channel between the beach and the shipping lanes. Not fun (except on that passage we later had a visit from s/v ADIOS with Dick and his son Leo aboard also heading back to the Netherlands). 

This time the overnight passage felt comfortable and straight-forward. With a decent Northeast wind, until the last five hours, and no customs boat hailing or boarding us, we cruised through the day

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and night. Even the main cabin stayed clutter-free.

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We kept the mandatory one-mile buffer between us and the shipping lanes (so called TSS or “Traffic Separation Scheme.”)

 

And kept clear of the fishing boat dragging their nets as we made our way to the Frisian island of Vlieland.

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VLIELAND

Monday-Wednesday, September 3-5, 2018

Within 28 hours we had changed our courtesy flag from German to Dutch

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and landed back at one of the barrier islands between Wadden Sea and the North Sea. Vlieland’s marina has served as our starting and/or ending point for the past two years of summer cruising. And, like Brunsbüttel it, too, appeared much busier than we had expected for early September.

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We discovered that the good weather had kept people sailing combined with a weekend festival, “Into The Great Wide Open”, which we had just missed.

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“Thankfully” according to one guy’s description of the music.

Yet, this scenic island serves as a popular vacation spot for many, as seen by the tent city we cycled by the next day.

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We managed to meet up with another cruiser, Peter, whom we had briefly met two years ago in Enkhuisen when discussing how to over-winter in his country. A lovely and fun night aboard with him and his partner, Lisbeth, enhanced our Vlieland stay. 

They left the next day for Terschelling, the Frisian Island just to the east, while we rented bikes for some land cruising along dune-laden beaches on the north side and marshy fields on the south.

 

AFLUISTDIJK

Wednesday-Thursday, September 5-6, 2018

Calculating another timed departure with favorable tides, we wove our way through the well-marked channel from Vlieland to Harlingen on the mainland and on to the gatekeeper of Holland: the Afluistdijk at Kornwerderzand.   (if anyone has read the book “Riddle of the Sands” or seen the movie, this screen grab of our chart plotter would appear familiar with green representing very shallow waters that can become land depending upon the tide.)

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We’ve maneuvered through this bridge-and-lock combo several times: at both the high and low season. Unfortunately, we found ourselves at one of the high points equating to jam-packed waiting areas both before the bridge opening and then after, waiting for the lock.

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We initially opted to motor around for over an hour, until the first batch of boats went through. The screen grab below shows our course…

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The only highlight was meeting up with Peter and Lisbeth at the lock, allowing us to exchange ‘motoring-boats-navigating-the-Boontjes-fairway’ photos and for me to snap a close-up shot of our friends.

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After an hour+ and waiting for the first crowd of boats to go through, we caught the next bridge opening. They then were able to make the next lock opening while we just missed it.

Another half-hour wait and then it was our turn with only two other boats. Yet, one of them happened to be a large schooner whose wake made it difficult to get lines around the bollards alongside the lock. While we were wrestling with lines, the other boat, a large beamy sailboat, inched in just managing to snuggle alongside JUANONA as they tied to the other side of the lock wall. 

Both boats got lines secured, and it was then that Max noticed no cooling stream of water jetting out of JUANONA’s stern. We often listen and look for the sound of spitting water. Strong gushes of spitting water means A-OK. No spitting gushes means ‘oh s _ _ _ T’ and a big Uh-Oh because no cooling water equals overheating engine. Great. 

He quickly shut the engine down as we waited for the lock’s water to adjust to the level outside the lock, and then for the doors to open. Max turned the engine back on and we darted to the first outside mooring area where we quickly docked before the overheating buzzer shrieked its alarm.

Luckily he was able to fix the problem (either something had covered the intake pipe–a plastic bag or jellyfish–or the impeller, a small rubber gasket, had stopped working). Huge sighs of relief accompanied by big grins meant JUANONA was a happy boat.

 

HINDELOOPEN

Thursday-Monday, September 5-10, 2018

The next morning we motored-sailed the 14 miles to one of our favorite Frisian towns, Hindeloopen, on the IJseelmeer, Netherlands’ large lake formed by two dikes. We had arranged to rendezvous with our friends, Helen and Gus Wilson aboard their boat s/v WINGS. They live aboard WINGS in London’s St. Catherine’s Docks, a harbor we had checked out in 2014 and definitely would have stayed if not for heading to Norway the next summer (easier to stay in Ipswich on the east coast).

Gus and Helen write detailed cruising notes we have religiously perused, along with others’. They also manage to scout out interesting activities wherever they land. Trust me, accompany them to any locale and you’ll be happily discovering information not many find.

Unfortunately, we missed out when visiting another Frisian harbor, Stavoren, 6.5 miles south of Hindeloopen. The four of us trained it to the town Sunday afternoon and neglected to stop in at the Tourist Information Office. But, Helen and Gus returned the next day with WINGS and explored this small town thoroughly for four hours (!) with a self-guided tour. (The lead photo of the lady looking out stands on a pedestal in Stavoren’s harbor reminding folk of a local tale.)

We were able to spend the previous day in Leeuwarden and Sneek on Monument Days, a weekend holiday they had told us about. On Saturday and Sundays the Municipalities provide access to buildings normally not open to the public. Thinking the capital of Friesland offered the most options, we headed there by train. Well, Leeuwarden’s Monument theme centered on school buildings, and after checking out two of the monuments the four of us looked at one another and made an unanimous decision to skip the “monuments” and head for lunch. Which is how we ended up at Max’s favorite Turkish donor vendor. :)

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In lieu of entertainment via the monuments, we happened upon some fellow Cruising Association members, Americans Mike and Robin aboard their powerboat m/v MERMAID (during the summer, while wintering aboard s/v MERMAID in the Caribbean, a frequent cocktail gathering place fondly called The Mermaid Lounge).

We also caught some large Dutch schooners navigating a narrow lock.

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Note the fender off the bow: they literally use these to bump the canal’s side in order to turn the boat. Quite a surprise to see this maneuver!

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The smaller city of Sneek did provide more interesting monuments, such as the tower view in the city gate….

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and, City Hall with its beautiful Asian murals in the upstairs conference room.

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A bonus was meeting a Swiss trumpeter waiting for his girlfriend who had been working in front of another monument that had just closed. He treated us to a private recital, the Frisian Anthem, accompanied (sort of)…

(I apologize as I can’t load the video correct-side up, but you’ll at least be able to hear the trumpeter and his enthusiastic accompanier…)

He even yodeled when I asked if he did that as well. Although he said his voice had changed so couldn’t really make the proper sounds.

Traveling around these Frisian cities and towns also enabled us to check out several of the recently erected fountains. Because Leeuwarden has been named the European Capital of Culture for 2018 (similar to the Danish city of Aarhus last year), special events and artwork appeared throughout the city as well as in some other Frisian towns.

One provincial art exhibit connected the 11 towns famous for the Netherlands’ skating race, the Elfstedentocht. An old tradition became a formal race in 1909 with skaters covering around 200 km (160 miles) without stopping. Think Hans Brinker and the silver skates.

The ice has to be at least 15 centimeters (6 inches) thick before the race can be run, which due to climate change has in recent times only occurred in 1985, 1986 and 1997. When it does, though, it seems the whole country participates. In 1997 over 300 speed skating contestants and 15,000 leisure skaters joined the fun.

If we ever had the chance to watch, we would definitely join the over million viewers as it would be hard to avoid catching the Elfstedenkoorts (the race fever).

Of the seven fountains currently erected we managed to see four:

Leeuwarden’s…

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Sneek’s…

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Stavoren’s…

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And, Hindeloopen’s (difficult to photograph but there are exotic birds spewing water on the tree limbs surrounded by horns representing the town’s name which loosely translates to running female deer).

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While in Hindeloopen we also managed to catch a concert performed by a young ensemble, Friese Odyssey, who cruise to various locales on one of those traditional Dutch schooners giving free concerts. The four of us enjoyed an hour of classical strings basking in the melodies and the enthusiastic playing.

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On Monday, we sailed the 28 miles back to our winter port, knowing we were home when we spotted Hoorn’s ancient tower.

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Good to be back, especially with a special event coming up…!

Netherlands in Winter

I just wanted to mention a few wonderful events in our Dutch life. This post will be brief (don’t worry, not an overload of  history or art lessons) but some touchstones that make our life pretty wonderful..

A Warm Hoorn Welcome

November 12, 2017

….the first being a surprise welcome package we found nestled in our cockpit upon our return from the States. Left by our Dutch family that morning  it certainly brightened our arrival to a cold boat:

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And, the next day we received an extra treat:  Tika’s homemade cupcakes!

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A lovely way to be back on JUANONA!

 

Touch of Maine in Amsterdam

November 13, 2017

Now and then we hear of friends being on this side of the pond; and, that’s how we met up with Paul and Kym to wander the canal-ribboned streets of Amsterdam.

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Seeing familiar places through the eyes of new visitors spices up life, and Paul and Kym’s exuberance and interest in exploring new sites reinforced how lucky we are to be living here. And, how great it was to be with them :)

Sinterklaas is coming to town…

December 9, 2017

Our friends, Deborah, Thijs, and Tika ensure we experience typical Dutch events; and, a few days after the official date of Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) eve (December 5th) we shared a fun-filled evening. The Dutch celebrate this day with a wonderful tradition of what we’d call Secret Santas. Only they manage to add a fun twist to it by the giver having to make the gift, create an elaborately wrapped package relating to that gift, and leave it as a present from Sinter Klaas along with a poem that kindly teases the recipient while hinting at what’s in the package.

Fortunately they simplified it for us (we could buy a gift of 10 euros or less and not worry about the wrapping); yet, to give you an idea of how the real Dutch do this, check out these Secret Santa creations exchanged on the actual Dutch SinterKlaas day:  Tika’s (who drew Thij’s name)

 

and Thijs’ (who drew Deborah’s name).

 

They greeted us with our velvet tams (Pete, Sinterklaas’ assistant from Spain, wears one) and exchanged gifts with Sinter Klaas’ help,

 

sang some carols, and spent the night being Dutch celebrants. We loved it, especially since Max was able to take home the specially made present from his secret Sinterklaas (Tika)

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Training it to Utrecht

December 14-15, 2017

Our to-see list of historic Dutch sites included one of the country’s oldest cities, located about an hour southeast of Amsterdam. So, we planned a two-day excursion and trained down and over to Utrecht. Unfortunately, our last minute planning meant we couldn’t see our friends Pascal and Sylvia of s/v Wateraap whom we met cruising the Danish islands this past summer. Hopefully, another time will work out.

As promised I won’t go into a lot of descriptions of the sites we saw but will mention the highlights:

The city’s medieval cobble-stone streets offer a step back in time as we strolled down the Oudegracht  (11th-century ‘old’ canal) one way and up the Nieuwegracht (14th-century ‘new’ canal) during our stay. The impressive Domkirk (cathedral) and Domtoren (its 14th-century tower) drew us to what was once the Netherlands biggest church.

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Here, the cathedral used to cover most of this area until a catastrophic windstorm in the late 1600s collapsed the nave.

Reading about a fascinating tour under the church to see the former Roman settlement, we signed up and killed time by enjoying a bite for lunch. Can you tell how happy Max is? The Art University cafeteria offered one of the least expensive meals here :)  (Max always appreciates a good value)

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We explored the Roman ruins with an audio guide automated by pointing a light beam at a sensor.

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Although the area was small, we got a sense of history such as peering at this Roman ammunition.

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At the Museum Catherijneconvent an amazing exhibit on Martin Luther showcased his writings, including scribbles in his personal copy of the Bible. 

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What I didn’t realize was just how much of a PR guy he was. Using the power of the printed word (in German vs. Latin), he and his pal, the artist Lucas Granach, created a brand to spread his thoughts. Ever the promoter, Luther pushed his printer to improve the quality of Luther’s pamphlets. Five hundred years later we’re still talking about this man. No wonder he has churches named after him. And, you know you’ve made it when LEGOS recreates your image in plastic bricks.

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Down the street a bit we entered the Centraal Museum, Here we viewed another special exhibit, this time on one of Utrecht’s famous sons, the artist Pyke Koch (1901-1991). His early work didn’t attract me…

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But, as I followed a chronological path through his paintings, I did like his later ones.

Pyke’s work sharply details images with perfection, but with a polish alerting you that it’s not real.  His self-portrait from 1937 exemplifies this ability. This painting also represents his membership in a Dutch fascist party.

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However, when the party merged with Nazism, Koch dropped his membership. Briefly banned from exhibting after WWII, he continued his art.  His later portaits, such as the 1948 portrait of Baroness van Boetzelaer,

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reflects his admiration of the 15th-century Italian painter Piero della Francesa.

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Some of Koch’s work mesmerized me such as his Seasons paintings (1948-51)…

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and his 1959 “Football Players V”.

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After walking though the special exhibit we spot-checked some other items, one in particularly being this 17th-century dollhouse.

I’ve seen some of these creations collected by adults but never one with a garden. Pretty amazing.

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Whoops! I’m renegning on my promise! Okay, on to our next site.

We’d read that Museum Speelklok offered a fascinating education on ‘self-playing instruments’. At first we’d pooh-poohed it but, having extra time on our hands before another museum opened, we decided to stop in. Were we glad we did! An enthusiastic young guide led us to the museum’s star attractions.

There was a player piano, one of fewer than 100 in the world still operating, that uses three violins (!) along with the usual instruments to make music:

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Among the street and dance hall organs we saw the largest in the museum, and, yes, it was huge.

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We also saw her favorite one, which became ours as well. I’m including two videos of this Parisian clock from 1870 created by Blaise Bonems (1814-1881) who loved birds.

 

Be sure to check out the second one to see just how involved his creation is.

 

After two days we were ready to head home hoping to revisit this city again.

 

Ushering in 2018

December 31, 2017

Another wonderful afternoon and evening with Deborah, Thijs and Tika beginning with ice skating, something neither Max nor I had done for a long time.

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As Thijs and Tika could skate rings around us, Deborah kindly kept me company while Max ‘sped’ off on his own

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but not before I snapped a photo of him with Tika :)

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Eventually, I felt comfortable enough to join Tika for a lap (when she slowed down :).

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We ended the day playing games, one being Catan, an strategy game created in Germany about 20 years ago (and one Tika typically wins!)

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and another, a  centuries-old Dutch shuffleboard game called sjoelbak .

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Thijs, who’s played this since a child, shared his techniques, although we all would need quite a bit more practice to beat him.

Back aboard we witnessed the glorious display of fireworks popping over the harbor across the way.

A great way to ring in the New Year – with friends and fireworks!

 

 

Revisiting Leiden and The Hague in 2018 

January 2-3, 2018

With Max wanting to collect more research on his ancestors in Leiden, I decided to visit the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden with its special exhibit on Assyria. I found myself amidst a cacophony of families on holiday. Although crowded, the exhibit itself gave an excellent insight into this Mesopotamian kingdom

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focusing on the reign of Sennacherib (705-681 B.C.E.) and his capital, Nineveh.

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Some believe Nineveh could have been the location of the ‘Hanging Gardens’ attributed to the earlier Bablonian Empire. Now this ancient plot of land is surrounded by the city of Mosul in Iraq. Unfortunately what few ruins remained were targeted by ISIS who proceeded to bulldoze one of the gates and some of the reconstructed walls in 2016.

After an hour or so of playing peek-a-boo with other visitors peering into the glass display cases, I opted to meet Max and head for our hotel in The Hague. We were both pleasantly surprised to find our $64/night room to be clean, quiet, and well-equipped with CNN and a Nespresso machine!

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The Student Hotel is a combination dorm and hotel with facilities serving both students and tourists (I wish I had brought my laundry after seeing the line-up of machines). Begun in 2004 by an enterprising young man, he has opened similar hotels in other European cities. Definitely worth checking out his other locations for future stays.

The next morning we first visited The Humanity House, providing the visitor a feel for a refugee’s life. There are stateless people in the world, such as Palestinian refugees, who can’t get a passport (or much else in the way of affirmative ID) because their place of birth isn’t recognized by the world community. With a permanent exhibit of seven displaced persons telling their stories, including a Palestinian, we left this building realizing just how fortunate we are simply to have a passport.

Our main destination was Vredespaleis, the Peace Palace. The only United Nations building not in NYC, this beautiful structure was erected specifically for fostering peace. Surprisingly to me, the Russian Tsar Nicolas II (1868-1918) began this process.  He asked his cousin, the Dutch Queen Wilhelmina (1880-1962), to host an international peace conference in 1899. This led to 26 countries gathering to discuss disarmament and international jurisdiction, which resulted in the establishment of a Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA).

A decision was made to construct a building specifically to host this international body. Queen Wilhelmina donated royal property and Andrew Carnegie gave $1.5 million with the stipulation a library be part of the design. A second peace conference was held in 1907, this time with 44 countries attending. The building was (ironically) completed in 1913 on the eve of WWI. The League of Nations’ Permanent Court of International Justice soon moved into the building, later becoming the International Court of Justice (ICJ) of the United Nations. The Hague Academy of International Law also resides here.

They don’t allow any photographs, so I grabbed this off the Internet. But, you can get more of a glimpse by clicking here.

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To see the building you have to sign up for a tour, which only operates when the courts aren’t in session. Max had done so online and on Wednesday morning we joined about fifteen others as a young guide led us through the fabulous interior to the two court rooms. In each one he explained a relatively recent case:

In the PCA the guide related the case of Philip Morris vs. Australia over whether the tobacco company had to follow the plain packaging rules (use health warnings with no company logos allowed). Philip Morris tried to circumvent this rule by opening an office in Hong Kong where a bilateral trade agreement between Hong Kong and Australia would allow Philip Morris to continue using their own brand packaging. In 2015 the court ruled against the tobacco company, having seen its opening of a Hong Kong office as a way to avoid following Australia’s law.

In the ICJ we heard about Australia vs. Japan and the latter’s whaling. Japan said they had the right to whale for scientific research; yet, Australia disputed that claim by pointing out that the number of whales Japan was killing far exceeded what could reasonably be used for research purposes. In 2014 the ICJ ruled in favor of Australia; however, a year later Japan rejected the ruling (not something often done) and is still whaling.

We highly recommend going on one of these tours. The building itself is magnificent, with many countries having donated building materials and furnishings resulting in an eclectic but beautifully blended decor. And, just to be in the actual court rooms where momentous decisions are made resulted in my sitting up a bit straighter.

The very last tour was a stop a the Museum of Gevangenpoort or the Prison Gate for an MDT (Max Disaster Tour). This site we wouldn’t recommend, but we did see a horrific torture item: the breaking bench (essentially a place where every major bone was broken).

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This item became more real to me when I read about it’s use in the biography of Peter the Great. Lovely.

But, we did shake off some of the gruesomeness by visiting the Gallery of Prince William V (1748-1806) upstairs. There a collection of 17th-century paintings, primarily by Dutch artists, William had acquired. A small room led to a larger gallery and there we let peace and beauty overtake the horrors from the prison. A much better way to end our two-day tour!

 

HOORN

January, 6, 2018

Our last Saturday in the Netherlands we enjoyed a wonderful lunch aboard with our niece Katie and her partner Yorgos, who both live in Amsterdam.

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The discussion wandered to lifestyles and Yorgos’ working on a blog about saving money. He mentioned the website mrmoneymustache.com, and we told him of how we first heard about this site from our friends Melanie and Anthony. When Yorgos’ site is up, I’ll include it in another post.

All impressive young folk, and we’re lucky to know them.

 

AMSTERDAM

January, 7, 2018

And, I can’t end this post without my next day’s excursion:  Tassenmuseum (Bags and Purses Museum).

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Deborah and I had a wonderful girly afternoon peering at an historical array of these items dating from the 16th century. Men (such as my husband) should appreciate our obsession with handbags.  Upon the invention of pockets, men stopped carrying purses while women’s bags just got heavier… Go figure.

And, with that I’ll close. :)

 

May you all have a wonderful new year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Summer Rewind

August 2017

Once again our summer cruising found us in the company of amazing and wonderful people. Looking back through my posts I’m remembering the chance encounters and hospitality of those we met during our three months in Scandinavian waters:

Thomas, Camilla and Michael aboard sy EQUINOX in Farsund whose cruising enthusiasm enhanced ours…

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Jacob and Bjorn in Kragerø whose stories we still hunger for…

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Snorre and Ingunn in Oslo who reminded us again of our good fortune in meeting fellow cruisers; for anyone interested in taking off on a boat, check out their website (http://www.sy-spinnvill.com) to see how two young sailors did it…

Our friends from home, Paul & Marty and Doug & Dale, and other NAS cruisers such as Ernie and David and Swedish hosts Stephan, Maria, & son John, Pers & Karin, and Lars & Julie–with whom shared traditional, Swedish summer treats…

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Richard, Monica, his daughters Sophia and Lisa, and Maine friends Al and Holly with whom the axiom ‘six degrees of separation’ could have been ‘one degree’ in Gullhomen…

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Two of whom we neglected to take a photo but so wish we had:  Nadia and Bengt in Grindebacken with whom our hour of conversation seemed way too short…

And, Nancy and Mike from Texas and Maine (two on the left) summering in their Gullholmen cottage whom we met when they took our photo on our way back from Nadia and Bengt’s and who postponed their early-evening swim to accompany us on a walk…

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Nina and Peter aboard MISSOURI in Solholmen with whom we spent a glorious evening and another one-degree encounter…

Melanie and Anthony of Boston whose explorations and how they make it happen–at their age-captivated us; check out Melanie’s just-posted blog:  www.notiniowaanymore.com; click on any post and, trust me, you won’t be leaving that site anytime soon…

Ralf & Eva and Jonas & Vivica on Styrsö who invited us to their home for a delightful afternoon of coffee, cake and wide-ranging discussions…

Two traveling Argentinians Federico and Noella whom we happened upon on our walk from Ralf & Eva’s home…

Michael, whom we met in Farsund and the reason we landed on Styrsö–because of him his island with his Öbergska Café felt like a second home…

Michael’s mother Carina, sister Isabelle, and friends Felicia…

Chef Adrian who presented us with delicious meals…

Gin maestro Olaf…

Cecilia and Fredrik who treated us to an al fresco breakfast before seeing us off our last morning on Styrsö…

And Magnus and Kim with Magnus supplying the celebratory surprise of champagne with which we ‘Skoaled!’–what else?–friendship!

Steve, David and Ken whose hospitality made our stay in Ebeltoft so enjoyable it became another place we didn’t want to leave…

Wolfgang and Inge on sy STELLA MARIS in Ebeltoft with whom we spoke of mutual friends Dick & Ginger sailing the Viking route home…

Pascal and Sylvia of sy WATERAAP whom we first encountered on Samsø during our rendezvous with Ingunn and Snorre only to then share destinations with WATERAAP along the way home…

Another two whose photo we missed:  Erik of sy DUTCH ROSE and his brother Dolf whom we met in Rendsburg and talked about their home (Netherlands), boating (of course) and the weather window for heading back (double ‘of course’!)…

And, Gerda, Dick and their son Leo aboard sy ADIOS with whom our reunion in Cuxhaven erased the 14 years since we last shared a pontoon with Dick and Gerda in Rota, Spain 2003.

But, I can’t say good-bye to the summer without mentioning those some of whose names we have missed but whose encounters we haven’t forgotten:

Kyla and John aboard sy SULA in Mandal whose posts we used for our previous Norwegian cruises and (another two whose picture I neglected to snap)…

The family who came aboard in Selor and shared local knowledge…

The gracious employee at Grimstad’s Marine Museum who let us in before it had officially opened for the season…

The welcoming and informative greeter in Fredrikstad who patiently explained the history of her town…

The new volunteer at Fjallbacka’s tourist kiosk who helped us even though she had just opened up to drop off some brochures…

The Marstad bus driver who allowed us to be the last riders on an already jammed-packed bus…

The Pittsburgh natives touring their son’s partner’s home island who told us of a stone-age burial mound…

The kind gentleman who picked up two Mainiac hitchhikers in Æørskøbing…

And, the fellow sailor with whom we shared greetings in Oslo, again in Rendsburg and– yet again–in Cuxhaven, all with smiles and, unfortunately, without exchanging names.

How lucky we are to have been in their worlds, and to be returning to one where Thijs, Deborah, & Tika and Ingo & Maartje reside as JUANONA heads back to Hoorn.

Life is pretty spectacular.

 

A reminder of just how wonderful life can be

HOORN

Tuesday-Friday, March 18-21

Another crew member hopped aboard JUANONA Tuesday night, an adventurous free spirit with her feet on the ground and now on the water.

We’re fortunate to have so many amazing young folk in our life, Danielle being one of them. She joined me the night before Max returned from Maine, so we had a girly night sharing two huge pizzas (which her mom was glad to hear the two of us did not finish off :) ) and talking into the night and early morning.

When Max arrived he was lugging rented scuba gear for checking the zincs on the prop*, which he did on Thursday. Danielle and I acted as his assistants, rowing a raft around like Huckleberry Finns to serve as a platform,

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then peppering him with questions such as “how do we know if you need to be pulled out because you’re stuck down there?” and “did you warm up your wet suit with the traditional liquid?” (the latter being Danielle’s father’s question as well).

It was brisk but with a great surfing wetsuit given to Max (these are the times I’m so glad it didn’t fit me) by our nephew Iain. Of course, the trial run of getting into and out of it required some emails to Iain and my brother Cam who provided excellent advice.

So, aptly prepared Max entered the water and within 20 minutes of bobbing down and up, he announced the zincs were still intact and doing great.

Danielle and I rowed the raft back while Max showered and then proceeded to dry the wet suit, hood, gloves, and boots. The boots required extra ‘drying out’ due to smelling like a really gross fish swam in there and died. My attempt of stuffing an empty coffee bag into one of them didn’t quite do the trick; so, Max researched how to make their odor less offensive. We’ll see how well that works. Fortunately, there’s always the cockpit locker for storage…

* I won’t go into the scientific explanation here but, basically, you should have this less ‘noble’ metal attached to more ‘noble’ metal submerged in the water. With water, especially salt water, acting like a battery, you want to attract the electric current to the zincs so they get ‘eaten’ before your steel/aluminum bits and pieces do, such as your prop. To ensure you have enough goody food for that big bad electricity, you need to replace any zincs that are corroded; and, the cycle starts all over again until they’ve bit the dust and you replace them with new ones…

 

HINDELOOPEN

(with some day trips sprinkled in)

Friday-Friday, March 21-28

Friday morning we left our winter berth in Hoorn, but not before Max performed some fantastic bow-sprit gymnastics to retrieve our chafing gear on the bow line.  With both him and the gear back aboard, we headed up to Enkhuizen to go through the lock with our new crew member handling the lines like a pro.

An easy, two-hour sail across the IJseelmeer

landed us in our next port, Hindeloopen (JUANONA is on the far right).

We last visited this lovely Dutch town July 2016 on our way back from Norway. It was here we met up with Deborah, Thijs, and Tika, our friends from Hoorn; and, we were looking forward to introducing Danielle to this quintessential (an adjective I find myself using a lot around the Netherlands) Dutch town.

In spite of the chilly weather with multiple showers on and off during the week, the sun shone enough times for us to enjoy wandering around Hindeloopen. Several days we braved the wind and cold temps to walk the yellow-bricked streets with a self-guided brochure.

I hadn’t realized that this town once served as the main timber port for Amsterdam ship owners importing wood from the Baltic. At one point the population grew to 2300 during the 17th and 18th centuries; however, the closing of the Zuiderzee (South sea) by the large dike in 1938 played havoc with the fishing industry with the town’s population dropping to 870 . Now, visitors from afar, such as the bus of Wisconsinites Danielle and I met one day, stroll the streets of this storybook village to ooh-and-aah.

And, we’re among those enjoying Hindeloopen’s ambiance. With spring beauty surrounding us we posed for photos on picturesque bridges and streets.

More portraits were snapped when both Danielle and I spotted this flowering tree, a perfect backdrop to document our time together.

As a cousin of Max’s who’s from the Netherlands stated the photos reflect a Dutch spring in Friesland, aka Freeze-land, perfectly:  blossoming trees and winter coats.

Speaking of Brrrrr weather, Hindeloopen is one of the towns featured in the famous Elfjstedentocht (“Eleven Cities Tour”), the 200km skating race held in Friesland. Unfortunately, due to the ice not being thick enough these past years, the last race was held in 1997, which is another fatality of climate change. Fingers crossed for next year!

Tied to the town dock provided easy access to the town; and, one, two, or all three of us would hop off a various times to stretch our legs. It was when Max and I did so that we happened upon a small MDT (Max Disaster Tour) component:  the patch of land where they use to execute people on Galgepolle (translated as Land of the Gallows) in the Middle Ages…

Ahhh, one happy-man smile.

We couldn’t be in Hindeloopen and not visit our favorite kibbeling restaurant thanks to sharing a meal last year with Thijs, Deborah and Tika. Ordering both our usual (kibbeling) we added a sampling of smoked eel, a local food around here. After a taste I was content with just the kibbeling.

We met the owner and the man responsible for such fresh fish:  Spike Bootsma .

It began when Max commented on what a great shirt he had on (one Max later tried to find to purchase but to no avail). Spike promptly brought out several books, one featuring photographs and stories of locals, another being a cookbook. Both books had photos, and one related in Spike’s own words his love of the sea and fishing. Pretty powerful especially when he spoke of how the dyke wiped out not only the fishing industry but also the traditional culture of Friesland’s shore towns.

Just down the street from Spike’s stands the Fries Museum, which documents the way life use to be. The museum captures local history, similar to Enkhuisen’s large Zuiderzee Museum, which covers all of Friesland’s coastal villages.

Must say, one of the highlights was Max’s comment when looking at a traditional room display. While I was peering at all the items filling the display, all of a sudden out pops “That baby has a fat head” from Max’s mouth.

Well, that’s all it took for peals of laughter to erupt from Danielle’s and my bodies. And, that remains as one of the best memories of the day, one we didn’t let poor Max forget.

It seems free coffee with admission is common; and, we imbibed some cups after our walk-through while speaking with the woman managing the ticket counter. She proudly showed us her photograph dressed in the traditional Hindeloopen costume from yesteryears,

which mirrors the one in this 1860 portrait of Meinke Willems (1773-1855). Willems is either not too happy or didn’t have any teeth but the dress is fabulous in its uniqueness.

On another day Danielle and I roamed the streets and found more opportunities to document her time in Hindeloopen…

And, one of my favorites:

But, walks weren’t the only activity for Danielle’s explorations. Being a marathoner (she had just completed the Paris race two weeks prior), she took off running a lot of the mornings. We’d wave good-bye to her while lounging with coffee in our v-berth only to have her return two hours later…

Thankfully, we never felt the need to escort her as she proved perfectly capable of finding her way around the tulip fields and canals.

 

WORKUM

The surrounding towns offered easy day-tripping, many we’d visited last summer. One, contained a true gem, the Jopie Huisman Museum.  So, we caught the bus to Workum. Actually, the bus could have been our personal jitney as we were the only passengers. The guy reminded us of a Hobbit-Leprecaun blend and couldn’t have had a bigger smile. That, alone, was worth a trip.

Waiting for the museum to open we wandered to a square featuring the Waag (weigh house), a ubiquitous building in most Dutch towns due to centuries of bartering goods such as cheese and butter.

On the square was a church we also had toured last summer. Not seeing any signs saying when the public could visit, Max pulled on the door, it opened, and in we went.

The light in this church is amazing, most likely due to extremely generous, ie., HUGE, windows and no stained glass but alternating plain and light-green panes. What one misses in brilliant colors lit from behind is more than offset by the airiness created by day light streaming in.

We checked out the impressive pulpit,

penned our names in the guest book, and headed out only to be greeted by three guys who laughed and said good thing they were here doing some tasks otherwise we couldn’t have gotten in. In other words, we opened a door and just walked in when we probably shouldn’t have. But, no harm done!

I have to say the Dutch appear pretty tolerant of others’ mistakes. For example, you rarely hear horns blaring at other drivers, and you’re more likely to be politely corrected if mistaken than forcefully implied you’re an idiot. Makes traveling here relaxing vs. stressful (except for docking and undocking!).

Back to the museum, which was officially open.

Jopie made his living collecting and selling used metal and rags. In his spare time he reverently documented people’s lives by painting their possessions.

He also used his art to express his own feelings, such as these overalls painted after a despondent period in his life. The realistic detail is hard to believe.

He loved this area, and a short video showed him catching eels with a friend and later smoking them. Seeing those eels made both Danielle and I rethink ever sticking our toes into what once seemed inviting water…

Being back in this museum reminded me of how much I liked this guy. How great would it have been to be able to drop in for a chat during an afternoon walk? He just seemed that welcoming of a person.

Fortunately, Jopie’s art impressed Danielle as much as it had us. The three of us enjoyed an hour of art gazing, then left to stand at the windy bus stop for our ride back to Hindeloopen.

 

SNEEK

Another day we headed to Sneek (pronounced ‘Snake’) lured by photos of the town’s water-port gate

and the Fries Scheepvaartmuseum. The maritime museum gave us a place to eat our picnic lunch before touring multiple rooms in this three-story building.

Unfortunately, the majority of displays explained themselves in Dutch only. The English audio guide provided some highlights of major artifacts but not enough to let us truly absorb the history of Sneek and its maritime tradition. Still, just viewing objects from long ago and hearing that this town was a major city for silversmithing made it worth the entrance fee (and the free coffees that came with our admittance fees :).

HINDELOOPEN

Being in Bike Land means a bike ride is a must. Danielle and I rented two on one of the sunnier and warmer days (55º?).

For three hours we cycled a circular route south. Stopping at a bridge we met a nice woman walking her small pup.

Come to find out she was leaving soon for their vacation cabin in Bulgaria. That prompted both Danielle and I to ask how it was, which she responded ‘lovely.’ I then asked if she spoke the language, and she replied she was learning it. God, she spoke English perfectly, obviously Dutch, and now Bulgarian. Talk about feeling like a lamebrain American! If we had more time, I’m certain the three of us would be sitting around her table sipping tea and discovering more about Bulgaria.

But, back on our bikes to continue east, then north and finally south back to Hindeloopen.

Of course, the Dutch mountains (wind) kicked up and into our face for the last 10 kilometers. As my sister once commented to me during an outdoor adventure, “I don’t know if you realize this, but I stopped having fun a long time ago.” That expressed my sentiments exactly as the young marathoner pedaled breezily while I pantingly kept up (barely). Turning those nasty beasts back to the rental shop was (almost) the highlight of my ride…

Several nights were movie nights showing LION followed by an Austin Powers flick the next evening. You can tell which one they were watching when I took this pic.

In addition to christening Danielle with AUSTiN POWERS, Max promoted the use of his favorite health item:  the nety pot. And, here, also, the photo captured the true feelings with one exhibiting more nety-pot enthusiasm than the other.

 

LEEUWARDEN

Our last full day with our crew happened to be Koningsdag or King’s Day, a celebration of the king’s (was queen’s until she abdicated in favor of her son) birthday. Last year the blustery, freezing rain made for a pretty abbreviated walk around Haarlem. With a better weather forecast we made plans to visit Harlingen, a city north of us. Not finding much action there we took the train to Leeuwarden, and we knew it was ‘the’ destination for locals by the kids piling onto the train for the same destination.

And, with sun providing some element of warmth, we enjoyed wandering amidst the crowded streets. About ready to call it a day, Max heard some live music down one of the alleys we were walking by. And, what a great find that was! It made our day as we joined a small but exuberant audience standing in attendance of a wonderful brass band.

But, don’t take my word for it.  Just listen to this and tell me you, too, would have been dancing in place :)

Content with finding at least some wholesome partying, we left to catch the train but not before Danielle found an abandoned crown that begged to be tried on by all:

I think we know who looked the best, especially with her new-found Austin-Powers move:

Our last Koningsdag pic was in front of the Waag where a butter-churning-maiden statue offered Danielle and me another opportunity for a pose (I think this is catching…).

 

Early the next morning the three of us walked the mile to bid farewell as Danielle left for Bordeaux where she’d been teaching for the year.

Soon, she’d be returning to the states but we were so thankful she put us on her itinerary. Having her as crew made the start of our 2017 cruising memorable in the best sense ever.

with love and hugs to you, Danielle,

xox

Lynnie & Max

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bookin’ it to Maastricht

Sunday, April 2, 2017

“Wait? You can go anywhere you want in the Netherlands for free if you have a specific book?!”, which is what we asked our friends Maartje and Ingo at dinner one night. And, their answer was ‘yes’ with the explanation of why and how.

To promote Dutch authors and reading the country allows you to use a specified book as your train ticket for a day. To get the book you just have to purchase another Dutch book for 12 euros or more. Then, on the official travel day, April 2nd, you use the book with its barcode on the back as your ticket.

This year’s book was MAKKELIJK LEVEN, which Google translates to EASY LIFE.

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The author is Herman Koch, and in looking him up I discover his 2013 book, THE DINNER, was made into a Dutch film I saw; and, soon an American version will be released in the states starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney among others. NOTE: it’s a great story.

I haven’t actually read THE DINNER nor could I read this new one since it’s in Dutch, but that didn’t stop us from getting two copies and picking an interesting destination in the Netherlands the furthest from Hoorn. We chose Maastricht, an historic city nestled in the southeast toe of the country.

Maastricht, bordered by Belgium and Germany, retains a multi-European flavor having been captured over the centuries by almost all the European powers that be. As THE LONELY PLANET states, it’s thus appropriate it was here the treaty creating the EU was signed.

We hadn’t ever thought of heading there, but, hey, for the price of two books we got train travel worth 100 euros and a new place to explore; so, early Sunday morning off we went to catch our train south and soon found out others had the same idea (you can just make out Koch’s book in a fellow traveler’s hand).

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Matter-of-fact by the time we reached Maastricht on our second train there was standing room only.

A few hours later we exited the station in lovely spring weather and headed for the medieval section of town along with the rest of the horde. Having read about the city on our way here we knew there were some churches to check out as well as a fort.

We were both surprised at how beautiful the city was, especially the old town with its cobblestone streets and gracious buildings.

One church had an interesting entrance with lots of folk going in and out,

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so we decided to peek in and were glad we did. It just happened to be the book store we’d read about called Selexyz n’Dominicanen.

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I could easily spend a good part of the day here perusing the shelves of new and used books with coffee intermissions at the cafe.

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I tried to buy a used book only to find out the guy who ran that section was off for the day, which meant they didn’t know the price resulting in not-for-sale. Back to the shelf it went only to happily locate it online for about $7 :)

A large plaza (Vrijthof) appearing down one street opened into a beautiful square lined with restaurants on two sides and churches and museum on the others.

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Whimsical statues danced in the plaza as we slowly twirled around for a 360º view.

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Referring to our guide book we spotted Sint Servaasbasilek, a building not difficult to locate since it’s the most imposing one in view.

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The church is named for St. Servatius, a 4th-century diplomat and bishop. He died here in 384 and his tomb is in a crypt under the church floor. He became saint of the Carolingians, the descendants of Charlemagne (b.740s, d.814) who was King of the Franks, the Lombards, and emperor of the Romans. Both Max and I believe it’s the oldest grave we’ve seen in Europe.

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The entrance to the crypt is worn down by thousands of pilgrims’ feet beating their way to his graveside,

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passing the tomb of a Charlemagne descendent:  Charles III (also called Charles the Simple, which means ’straightforward’ versus stupid), who lived 879-929 and ruled West Francia and Lotharingia.

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The church has evolved over the centuries, including hosting an imperial abbey with plenty of riches to go with it. A small room showcases some of the church treasures, a few being quite large chunks of gold.

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The most precious is the 12th-century Chest Reliquary or ‘Noodkist’, which contains what remains of St. Servatius and other bishops. During times of distress they’d parade this thing around. Now they do it every seven years, although I think they could make an exception and do it this year considering the world’s state of affairs and who’s in power.

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Religious decor surrounded us as we made our way through the church with the help of a detailed map. Even without much knowledge of this type of architecture and art, standing in the aisle you can just imagine how imposing this building must have seemed to folk coming to worship or pay homage to the guys in the basement.

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And, if you didn’t feel like going below, you could always stand over Sint Servatius’ grave noted by a brass marker in the aisle:

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We felt the power and it’s not as if we’re what one would call true believers.

Right next to Sint Servassbasilek stands Sint Janskerk. You can’t miss it with its bold red color. Being closed for the day didn’t stop us from admiring this perky, 17th-century Gothic church.

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Enough of churching it. We began walking towards another end of the plaza only to see a sign for a Taschen exhibit. I had just been gazing at some of his company’s art books when picking ones to purchase for our ‘book tickets’. Of course, being huge, glorious art books they wouldn’t have been the best choice for a boat library, but, still their books are stunning. And, here, right in Maastricht was a museum showcasing this publisher’s work. It’s a sign. Or, so I said.

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In we went, into the Museum Aan Het Vrijthof, a 16th-century building where Spanish King and ruler of the Netherlands Philip II (also, husband and then widower of England’s Queen Mary I) denounced his first lieutenant, Wilhem the Silent ( the founder of a free Dutch republic) during the Eighty Years War, aka, the war of Dutch independence (1568-16480.

But, first, what else, lunch and a koffie/cafe next to the sky-light courtyard.

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IMG 1514Then, the exhibit, “A passion for Taschen, a collector’s view”…

I really didn’t know what to expect for my knowledge about this publisher was nil; however, I was soon presented with an informative timeline of the brilliance behind this Publishing Company, the German Benedikt Taschen.

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The timelines made for an easy bio of this man and his company (if anyone’s interested, I can email you the rest of them covering years through 2016).

His first foray into books began at age 18 with the selling of new and rare, comic-book collections at Taschen Comics shop in Cologne, Germany 1980. Some success led to producing his own catalogues with collaborators Ludwig Konemann and Hubertus Roder. The focus on great comics didn’t translate into great sales, so in 1983 Taschen turned from anime to more traditional art. He bought up 40,000 copies of a book featuring Magritte in English, and 40,000 Germans snapped them up. By 1988 Taschen is selling fabulously printed books of all types of art for extremely low prices by controlling distribution costs.

And, his range of art, architecture, and people runs the gamut:  from artists

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to the rock and rollers…

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to the Moon Walk…

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(and, even though the glass glare confuses the eye, I have to add the one showing women building the spaceship as it reminded me of the movie HIDDEN FIGURES)…

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to sharks.

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His books reproduce art to the nth degree; and, even if I don’t like the subject (one room displayed photos of deadly car crashes) I can’t help but appreciate the quality of his printed works.  When I espy one of his books all I want to do is open the cover and reverently caress the pages as gorgeous image after another reveals itself.

Yet, not everyone was as taken with the exhibit as I was… Don’t worry:  he was just sleeping.

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From 10 euros to over 12,000, Taschen books are both affordable for us regular folk as well as candy for collectors. To give you an idea of this company’s popularity, an edition of MAD MEN reputedly sold out worldwide in 12 minutes…

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The exhibit’s ending lands us in a library created just for visitors to peruse a range of his books. Entitled the ‘please touch room’ we did just that with my initial choice in honor of Cammy and Carmen and family

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not quite jibing with Max’s,

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at least at first.

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Discovering there are 13 Taschen stores, I noted one is in Amsterdam, a store which is definitely on my ‘to-visit’ list.

Satiated with Taschen we continued to wander through Maastricht just absorbing the european air of this old city.

Yet another church caught our eye, the Onze Lieve Vrouwebasiliek with some parts dating from the 11th century. When we entered we found a candle-lit shrine honoring Mary Star of the Sea (traditional title for Virgin Mary) and a pilgrimage destination.

Exiting into a park on the other side of the Heliport, (built in 1227) the oldest surviving town gate in the country,

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we continued our leisurely stroll passing some eye-catching graffiti close by.

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Of course, strolling around means losing ourselves; and, what’s a trip with Max and Lynnie without the thrill of trying to find out exactly where we are…

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Once we had id’ed our location, we crossed the Maas River, which gave us some of our best views of the day.

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Our last stop was on the east side of the city at Fort Sint Peter built by the Romans and reconstructed based on how it looked in 1701. The fort sat atop limestone hills originally mined by the Romans for building blocks. In later years the resulting tunnels and caves became places of refuge and escape routes during battles.

By the time we reached the site everything was closing, but it was a beautiful day; and, it being rare to stand on a hill in the Netherlands, the mini-climb was still worth the exertion.

Time to head home.

After thirty minutes we arrived back at the station and swiped in using our book-ticket,

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only to join many of the same crowd with whom we’d travel this morning. This time we sat opposite fellow passengers actually reading the Koch book. I would have asked how they liked it but didn’t want to interrupt their enjoyment.

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A few hours later we’re back at the start of our journey and truly thankful we had booked it to Maastricht for that city is definitely worth a visit or two!

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Bits and Bobs of the Netherlands: PART IV

Wednesday, March 15

TEXEL

Unbelievable! Another gorgeous day in the Netherlands and off we go to catch the ferry to the western-most Friesian Islands, Texel (pronounced ‘Tessel’).

Just over an hour car ride due north and a 20 minute ferry ride brought us to the harbor where we checked out marine supplies. If there’s a boat store, there’s Max. Along the way we passed a trawling net being repaired. I wish I had gotten a close-up of the guy working on the netting because it appeared to be similar to the way they must have done the task way back when.

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At the marine store we asked for, what else, fresh kibbeling and were directed to a local restaurant with instructions ‘not to go to the one directly over the dyke but the one called Van der Star ‘. By now I’m surprised we haven’t sprouted fins; yet, if we did, they’d be fried ones…

Then off to see the island’s landscape (a lot of farmland bounded by dunes and seas). On the windward side is a small marine complex, Ecomare. This site evolved from rehabbing marine animals and releasing them to the wild.

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Now it’s an educational site as well as tending to sick or wounded sea animals.

The museum part of the building provided information on the Wadden Sea (between northern Netherlands’ mainland and its outer barrier islands) where half of its area is exposed twice daily. In 2009 UNESCO designated the area as a World Heritage site. Like many museums these days the exhibits appear to be geared towards youngsters, which actually is wonderful as who better to absorb valuable information for future decisions about their surrounding sea and the life that populates it?

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One rooms showcased the skeleton of a sperm whale, which had washed ashore in 2012 .

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Outside small pools held seals and dolphins either in various stages of rehab or, sadly, kept for life here due to no possibility of survival in the wild. Some of the baby seals let out mournful cries, which almost made me cry.

Others bobbed perfectly vertically as they took in the afternoon sun.

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All during our self-guided tour I thought of our friend Andrea who works with an organization (Marine Mammals of Maine, I believe) saving stranded seals; so, this one’s for you :)

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Wanting to catch the late afternoon ferry back to the mainland and JUANONA, we left Ecomare and drove the 15 minutes to the harbor. During the drive we compared this island with Vlieland, just to the east and the one we cruised to last summer. Although the terrain and offerings are similar–expanses of beautiful beaches protected by dunes and patches of green forests–Vlieland, to us, would be the one I’d want to return to due to feeling wilder, less cultivated. Part of the ambiance comes from no cars being allowed (except for locals) and part due to being a smaller island. But, Texel warrants seeing for, I imagine, during the busy summer months you can experience an explosion of vacationeers squeezing every ounce of summer out of the magnificent beaches adorning this island.

Thursday, March 16

OOSTERBEEK

Back on the road we pointed south to tour the WWII museum we should have seen as opposed to another we followed our GPS to a week earlier. Located in a wealthy suburb 5km west of Arnhem, The Airborne Museum covers one military operation code name “Market Garden”. Conceived by Britain’s Field Marshall Montgomery and supported by General Eisenhower, Operation Market Garden became the largest airborne battle in history. Buoyed by the success of Operation Overload (D-Day) and the Battle of Normandy many believed they’d be home by Christmas.

British, US and Polish forces along with Dutch resistance fighters prepared to retake Arnhem and the surrounding area by seizing the bridges over the lower Rhine. Once the area was secure then the Allies would continue to push the Germans back into their homeland, right to the heart of Berlin.

If anyone’s read the book A BRIDGE TOO FAR or seen the movie, then you know what a disaster this turned out to be. I’ve read that Market Garden was the Allies’ only major defeat of the Northwest European campaign thanks to multiple factors. As Stephen Ambrose identified in his book, BAND OF BROTHERS (which, by the way, is an excellent HBO series based on the book), there are five reasons for the Allies’ failure:

  1. German opposition out-manned and out-gunned Allied paratroopers.
  2. Allied paratroopers lacked weaponry necessary to take out German tanks.
  3. Allied intelligence failed to detect the presence of the experienced German 2nd SS Panzer Corps.*
  4. American infantry and British armor failed to coordinate.
  5. The Allies failed to adequately protect its long 80-mile supply line.

* In the museum we learned a British intelligence office named Urquhart alerted Allied command to two German Panzer divisions just outside of Arnhem; however, this information was pushed aside (possibly due to being past the deadline for stopping the operation) and Urquhart was put on sick leave. The Dutch Resistance also warned the Allies of a new group of tanks at Arnhem. Like Urquhart, they too were ignored.

Lots of articles and even conflicting opinions can be found online regarding this military operation; some believe it weakened the Germans’ defense while others think it was a major disaster. However, there’s no denying the suffering battles such as this cause.

Begun on September 17th and running for nine bloody days, Arnhem was destroyed, and over 30,000 soldiers and civilians died, were wounded or captured. Under the Nazi’s continued occupation over 22,000 Dutch citizens died of starvation during that winter. The single road running south to north, from Eindhoven to Arnhem, was termed “Hell’s Highway”, another indication of the brutal fighting incurred during this battle

Over 95,000 civilians were forced to evacuate, and we recently met someone whose family spoke of having to leave at a minute’s notice only to return after the war to find nothing survived. Yet, the museum made it very clear that the Dutch never blamed the Allies for their loss of family, friends, and homes. Not only did they never blame them but many also created close bonds with the Allied soldiers. A monument at the entrance to the museum speaks to this bond and to the Allies’ recognition of how these people welcomed them as liberators.

The Museum is located in a mansion, which served as both German and British HQs during the war. Now, a lovely building surrounded by peace and tranquility I found it a bit difficult to imagine the mayhem and destruction caused by that September battle;

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yet, this museum quickly immerses one into the horror of war, including the opportunity to experience the hell of the fighting by walking though a Disneyesque-like movie set filled with the sights and sounds of the battle.

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Quotes of those involved, both military and civilian, adorn the walls. We began with the soldiers optimistically hoping it’d be an easy battle

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only to have that wish morph into surprise and despair as the Germans fought back and kept control of the city.

The following maps display the maneuvers for anyone interested (blue = Allies, red = Germans).

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What the charts don’t show is what the troops called ‘Hell’s Highway’, the road running from Eindhoven north to Arnhem. I’m sure it’s a road I never would have wanted to travel.

Photographs and artifacts added to that feeling of being there followed quickly by thank god we’re not. A piece of wallpaper brought you right into the house where some soldiers voiced their feelings,

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and a group of airmen standing in a British airfield waved good-bye to fellow soldiers heading for the fight.

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In the gift store I noticed a book about Audrey Hepburn. Thinking this was a bit odd I later found out she had lived in this area during the war. Born in Brussels to a British father (who later divorced his wife) and a Dutch mother, Audrey’s childhood was spent in England and then the Netherlands.

With the start of the War, Audrey’s mother returns to the Netherlands thinking it would remain neutral; however, the subsequent invading by the Nazis and with one of her brothers shot in retribution, Audrey’s mother ceases her support of fascism and, like many others, focuses on surviving the war.

During this time Audrey continues her love of dancing begun at a young age. She stages secret blackout performances and earns money for food by teaching dance to younger pupils. She made it through those years becoming both the glamorous and gracious actor I remember

as well as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF . I’m sure the latter position outshone any starring role in a Hollywood movie.

Out last stop in Oosterbeek was at the war cemetery where 1,700 pristine tombstones stared back at us. I can’t tell you how many times both Max and I think or utter outloud ’there but for the grace of god/spirit/luck go I’.

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s’-HERTOGENBOSCH (translates to woods of the Duke)

Before heading north we continued south to the hometown of an artist whose work fascinates and repels me:  Hieronymus Bosch (1474-1516). Having seen his work in various museums I wanted to visit where he had created fantastical creatures populating his religious landscapes and portraits.

Ironically, none of his original artwork hangs in the town from which he took his name. His most famous, the triptych “The Garden of Earthly Delights”, is in Madrid’s Prada Museum.

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Why Spain? Well, this prized Dutch painting may have landed there due to Philip II, King of Spain, being an admirer of Bosch’s work. And, in case you forget, Philip easily created his own little hell by championing the Inquisition during the 16th century. He got his comeuppance thanks to William of Orange, aka, William the Silent, joining the northern rebels and starting the Netherlands on the road to independence in the 1560s.

But, I digress. We had wanted to see the special exhibit held February-May 2016 when 17 paintings (out of 24 remaining) and 19 drawings (out of 20) found their way back to their original home here in s’-Hertogenbosch; but, it was sold out months in advance. Yet, the beauty of this museum filled with copies of his work means you can get as close as you want to stare at the mind-blowing scenes Bosch created from his imagination.

His drawings appear to be individual features of his paintings versus whole scenes; but, they were fantastic in detail and well-worth any time spent gazing at the fine-lined figures.

Bosch drawingWhen viewing art such as this I think how amazing it would be to hear the creator speak of hs inspirations. Even more wonderful would be to sit at a table with two artists living in that same time period and hear their discussion. Just imagine such a conversation between Bosch and Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)!

After an hour we’d were totally Bosched-out and with heads filled with both nightmarish and whimsical beings we drove home to JUANONA and ended our week of bits and bobs tour of the Netherlands.

 

Next… a rendezvous with a friend… :)