Category Archives: Netherlands

Bits and Bobs of the Netherlands: PART III

FRIESLAND

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…

AMSTERDAM

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.

WATERLAND REGION

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

ARNHEM AREA

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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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

LELYSTAD

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.

AMSTERDAM

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.

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HOORN

Thursday – Saturday, January 19 – 21

As Max was leaving to head back to the states, a dear friend from Maine was winging her way to the Netherlands. Nothing quite compares to having someone come visit from home as they always bring a piece of it just by their presence.

She headed over to keep me company during a season typically raw, damp with short daylights. And, she was willing to stay aboard when ice grippers were necessary to gingerly navigate from JUANONA’s cockpit all the way to the marina shower block.

Furthermore, she did it with a smile.

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Eager to show her our temporary home port, I was extremely thankful to Mom Nature when we woke to a sunny day. A clear sky offered perfect weather for touring in spite of an icy glaze skimming the harbor.

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On Max’s and my bikes we headed to one of Hoorn’s most famous landmarks:  the Tower Gate at the harbor’s entrance. We performed chilly poses,

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then rode the fifteen minutes to our friends’ Deborah, Thijs, and Tika’s home for afternoon tea.

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Our early-evening cycle home allowed us to capture the rosy glow of the setting sun before bunkering below with JUANONA’s diesel heater and electric radiator pouring out warmth (augmented by hot water bottles in bunks).

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AMSTERDAM

Saturday offered us a momentous opportunity to add our voices and feet to the Women’s March in Amsterdam. Since we had rented an airbnb in Delft, roughly an hour further south from that city, leaving JUANONA required the usual closing ritual of checking heaters, dehumidifier, propane, bilge, latches, fans, lights, fridge, lines, etc., while opening all lockers for circulating air.

Once that performance was accomplished we hopped off JUANONA and trundled ourselves and bags to the station for the half-hour jaunt to Amsterdam… only to discover a mechanical problem forced everyone heading there to take a circular route adding another 30 minutes to our ride.

We missed getting our pink hats, but we managed to arrive in time for the initial gathering prior to the march. Stowing our luggage at the station we rode the tram to the Museumplein, site of the Rijks and Van Gogh Museums and now the Women’s March.

As we waited for the start of the march, we discovered many, like us, were ex-pats or visitors wanting to join millions of others across the globe in support of the mother of a march in D.C.

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Circling and weaving our way through thousands of other marchers, we’d strike up conversations and were even welcomed to share some signage.

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Tees, posters and banners proclaimed a consistent message that all humans deserve equality, inclusion, and fairness.

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Within that context some pointedly addressed specific behavior.

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Finally in a millipede motion we began to inch our way towards bleachers where some sat for a group photo with various chants echoing through the crowd.

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The final destination was a short walk 90-degrees to the left where we mimicked bullhorn slogans in front of the U.S. consulate office. Sadly, a shuttered brick building stared blindly back at us.

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The march dissolved into pockets of folk heading to various destinations, and we turned our feet towards the train station and Delft. A bit hungry we fortified ourselves with some delicious caramels bestowed upon Colleen from a work colleague. Life was good.

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DELFT

Sunday to Wednesday, January 22 – 25

Ever since Max and I visited Delft in April 2016 we knew others would enjoy this quintessential town dating from the 13th century. Colleen immediately fell under its spell as we strolled around cobblestone streets bordering small canals with buildings dressed in their Golden-Age trimmings.

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Our apartment was a three-minute stroll from the Markt or main square. As a major landmark this open plaza ensured we’d never get lost due to spotting the tall spire of the Nieuwe Kerk (‘new’ church as of the 14th century…) from all vantage points in town.  During our stay, we crossed it daily; and, one late afternoon we found ourselves part of a ghostly mist blanketing the church IMG 1345

and dramatically lighting the storefronts rimming the plaza.

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Our days were filled with wandering to historical sites, one being the Museum Prinsenhof. This building had been a former convent before its walled city became the court of William of Orange (1533-84) (hence, Prinsenhof or “Court of the Prince”). The structure and grounds still retain a peaceful atmosphere in spite of their history. Here, William I, leader of the Dutch revolt against the Catholic King of Spain, Philip II (1527-98), was murdered. (Philip, the same guy who married Queen Elizabeth’s older half-sister Mary I, hired a French dude to gun down this Dutch enemy.)

Having seen the spot before I led Colleen to the stairwell where the bullet holes from 1584 were framed in perpetuity.

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But, another feature attracted us to this museum, one we’d seen promoted at the local Tourist Office, and we excitedly made our way to this exhibit:  the Strandbeest of Theo Jansen (b.1948 in The Hague).

Educated at the Delft University of Technology, Jansen began creating kinetic sculptures out of PVC tubes, plastic lemonade bottles and rubber tubing. Having seen his work on YouTube, we eagerly awaited the promised demonstration held in a cavernous room warmed by portable heaters.

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Unfortunately the explanation was in Dutch, but not understanding the verbal description didn’t detract from the magnificent and mesmerizing movements of these walking-stick beings. We even had the opportunity to experiment with these creatures ourselves, something I couldn’t (and didn’t) resist.

But to truly witness these creatures coming to life visit his website: http://strandbeest.com.

Another Dutch attraction involving moving legs was Colleen’s wish to cycle out of town, which we did for one glorious day.

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The bike shop didn’t offer a lot of sizes, which caused a small mishap or two as Colleen couldn’t stop without hopping off. But, this inconvenience didn’t put a halt to our exploring on our two-wheel mounts.

A helpful motorcyle-postman gave us directions to a tiny village described as one of Netherlands’ smallest. From there we made a circuitous route back to Delft passing green gardens, some wild, some not so wild.

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Thanks to posted maps along the bike paths we were able to gauge our progress along the way.

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Famished, we found a seat at a sunlit table where we enjoyed a late lunch and took time to pen cards while luxuriating in the golden light.

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We also documented a slightly busted lip, a momento of our biking adventure.

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AMSTERDAM

Thursday – Saturday, January 26-28

For our final two nights we had found a great B&B in Amsterdam, close to the train station. We said good-bye to Delft and took the train back to Amsterdam where we had been the previously Saturday.

During our stay we independently set our own agendas, with Colleen doing some site-touring, such as the Van Gogh Museum, and I, some errands, such as a Dutch Immigration visit. We ended up cruising around together Friday afternoon, strolling up and down and through some of Amsterdam’s historic streets, something of which neither of us could tire.

Our last night culminated in a rendezvous with a college friend. And, what a perfect way to end Colleen’s visit.

Meeting at the same hotel where my sister had stayed in December, Colleen and I found Rod and a surprise visitor, his daughter Emma. We’d miss Joanne, Rod’s wife, who was flying in the next day for a full-family reunion (their other two children would be joining them), but at least we had the opportunity to see Rod and meet Emma, who added to the enjoyment of the evening.

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From drinks in the hotel bar to dinner at a typical Dutch Cafe the evening was another highlight of Colleen’s visit. We ended up discussing politics as it’s a natural topic these days for anyone concerned about the plight of our nation and its affect on the world. Seemed rather appropriate considering the Netherlands’ history of secularism and our dining setting.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, being with good friends is another way of bringing ‘home’ into one’s world. I treasure times such as this and hold fast to the memories made.

But, just to show what stuff we’re made of, here’s a requested photo–two with and two without:

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I mean, truly, how lucky can one get? :)

‘Tis the Season

HOORN

Friday, November 11, 2016

Tika had invited us to witness a traditional holiday event:  the Feast of Sint-Maarten (Saint Martin of Tours), who, legend has it, was a Roman Soldier-turned-monk known for his kindness towards strangers (and children and the poor), in short, an all-around-good guy.

On the eve of the fasting for Advent (November 12) a former harvest festival has become a popular children’s affair. What once was an occasion for poor children to beg for alms during a winter month has been transformed into an event similar to our Halloween. Children carry lit lanterns and a sack door-to-door. When the door opens the child sings a song and receives some sweets as a reward.

We’d been looking forward to this ever since Deborah told us Tika wanted to show us a typical Dutch celebration; so, we set off on our bikes for their home where we joined Deborah, Thijs, and Tika for a delicious dinner of home-made soups (it was Thijs’ night for cooking and we had a duet of hearty pea soup and squash soup along with a smorgasbord of tasty dips). With very satisfied tummies, Tika, Deborah, Max and I set off leaving Thijs in the role of door-opener-candy-giver.

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Photos and videos don’t really provide the true wonder of hearing the sweet singing of a young child as she serenades the greeter; but, as you can see from the photo below, opening the door to such a vision is truly a gift to behold.

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And, to hear.

While Tika joined her friends for more neighborhood singing for treats, we returned to the house where we enjoyed conversation and tea.

As we hopped on our faithful two-wheeled steeds and cycled back to JUANONA, we were anticipating the next day’s tradition:  SinterKlaas’ arrival. Yet, both of us felt it would be hard to beat the magical night we’d had hearing a young girl’s voice lilting through the night bringing warmth to those who were fortunate to bask in such a gentle air.

Saturday, November 12

The previous night’s lantern-lit singing was the prelude to the loud and cheerful day of SinterKlaas. This tradition evolved from the true personage of St. Nicolaus, the Bishop of Mira from Turkey, who loved children. Somehow he popped up in Spain and then made his way to the Netherlands by boat. His assistants are called Zwarte Pieten, ‘Black Petes’, something of a controversy due to their black-face make-up, a look associated with slavery as opposed to their historical reference:  Moroccan attendants.

To avoid any connotation of racism, the Zwarte Pietnen may evolve into multiple hues. After all, the point is SinterKlaas had helpers, similar to other countries’ morphing St. Nicholas into a rosy-cheeked, white-bearded jolly man with elves. By the way, I’ve read that Coca-Cola was the catalyst for St. Nick’s current portrayal. So much for tradition.

[To follow up on SinterKlaas, children place their shoes out in hopes of receiving a gift in the night. If good:  chocolate letters and marzipan; if bad, coal. Then on December 5th, the eve of the feast of Saint Nicolas, he drops off a burlap sack of gifts before returning to Spain. The custom is for the gifts to be home-made and to be accompanied by light-hearted poems.]

The morning of November 12th dawned crisp and chilly, perfect weather as a backdrop for a winter event. Searching for a good vantage point to witness SinterKlaas and his assistants’  landing, we ended up next to the tower gate close to the marina.

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As I said it was freezing,

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but that didn’t stop the crowd from hooting and hollering a welcome as various boats escorted the barge carrying this ‘royal’ entourage.

The hordes of people, the bright colors, and the festive air reminded me of our time in Fowey, England, during our coastal hopping from Falmouth to Ipswich. And, it was just as loud…

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We followed SinterKlaas as he rode through the streets on his white horse Amerigo with his helpers handing out candy and pfefferneusse (peppernuts, which are small gingerbread-type cookies).

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Being a bit old for receiving any treats, we opted for a hot snack, one, which always brings a smile to my husband’s face: kibbeling.

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In spite of the warmth from the fried fish nuggets we needed to keep moving, so we headed to the main square, Grote Maart, then merrily returned to JUANONA and prepared for the arrival of friends and family from home.

HOORN, HAARLEM, & AMSTERAM

Wednesday-Wednesday, December 20 – January 4, 2016

Our holidays post-SinterKlass entailed a reunion of Fletchers, Bruces and Sumners. In 2014 Max and I were joined by my sister Betsy and our friends Smokey, Traci, Michelle and Danielle Sumner. Then we shared a house in Amboise, France and created our own Christmas spirits with food, wine, charades and laughter. Realizing another opportunity had arisen due to Danielle being back in France for the year, we planned another time of merriment expanding to include Max’s son Chris, and Smokey’s brother, Jeff, with his wife Lisa and daughter Nicole (son Matthew was braving frigid temps in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, juggling waiting tables and skiing slopes).

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Traci, Smokey and Danielle (since graduating from college she’d taken a job teaching English in France while studying for her LSATs) travelled down from Haarlem for the day,

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and we had a wonderful reunion aboard JUANONA with, what else, kibbeling for lunch.

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On the 23rd Deborah, Thijs and Tika joined us for dinner and provided some Christmas carols with Tika and Deborah accompanying us on the recorder while the three Americans shamefully substituted a lot of ‘tra la las’ for words. We also received some lovely, home-made gifts, including a second Dutch book created by Tika to help Max and I learn the language.

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Our guests noticed some oddly shaped items drooped over our electric radiator, and we explained they were ‘Max’s rice socks’ or, as my cousin Lynnie L. labeled them, Buddy Sox. We used them back home to warm up our bed and tried them aboard (although we have now graduated to small hot water bottles which worked a heck of a lot better). As you can see below more than beds can be warmed.IMG 0460

The next day we took the train to Haarlem where Chris, Max’s son, met us. Originally we had planned to use JUANONA as a B&B for the boys while Betsy and I shared an airbnb apartment, but the plan changed to renting two apartments due to logistics of getting JUANONA down and back within a reasonable time.

Betsy quickly spotted some holiday flowers, as we trundled our luggage around Haarlem looking for our apartment. FYI: neither of us can resist the abundance of beautiful and inexpensive flowers decorating the stalls and shops around the Netherlands. We later discovered Traci had also fallen under the spell of these botanical beauties.

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With everyone together on the 24th, Max, Betsy, Chris, Smokey, Traci, Danielle, Michelle,  Jeff, Lisa, and Nicole landed at a restaurant featuring Euro-Asian meals and lots of excellent gin and wine. After five hours we realized we’d missed the Christmas Eve service at historic St. Bavo’s churchbut could still catch the al fresco singing in the Grote Markt, where we joined our voices to the hundreds singing along.

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As Christmas week continued we enjoyed wandering around Haarlem and various day trips, including a night-time river canal trip in Amsterdam to experience the Light Festival with Deborah, Thijs and Tika.

One of the nights we managed to meet up with our brother-in-law’s niece, Katie Stover, who works for New Earth Films as a production manager. She joined us for a meal with the Sumners, which Betsy and I hosted and Max cooked (good combo!),

Another day Betsy and I toured the Frans Hals Museum. The museum was featuring a special exhibit of Dutch Masters from the Szepmuveszeti Muzeum located in Budapest, Hungary, and currently undergoing a renovation.

No matter how often I see paintings by these 17th-century artists I’m still in awe of just how they managed to create such works of beauty. The pictures below were snapped with an iPhone so not the best, but you get the idea. Just look at how the gold braid actually glitters,

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the translucent sleeve reveals the young woman’s arm,

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the metal shines as it reflects the polished light,

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and, the green goblet captures pure water. Unbelievable (to me).

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With everyone having different travel arrangements (Belgium, Ireland, and the USA) the four of us celebrated a rather subdued New Year’s Eve with sparklers spelling out “2 0 1 7” while standing in a deserted Grote Maart. Surprisingly most Netherlanders celebrate new year’s eve by staying home. Katie, Craig’s neice who lives in Amsterdam, said it’s primarily due to it being the only day of the year when the Dutch can purchase and set off firecrackers. This results in a night punctuated by loud bangs and others taking sanctuary away from potential explosive injuries.

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Our last few days were spent in Amsterdam where Max, Chris, Betsy and I rented another airbnb right on a main canal street, Prinsengracht. Betsy and I took another canal boat trip, this time during the day; and, like what happens on JUANONA, we were boarded by the police. When I asked the captain afterwards he said it was expected as the company had been given notice a month earlier by the police and the owners were still working on complying with the regulations. All of that aside, this Classical Canal Boat tour was a relaxing way to see parts of the city while hearing bits of its history.

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One of our last festive events was a post-New Year’s dinner thanks to brother Cam and Carmen; and, thanks to Betsy, we had a wonderful restaurant in which to celebrate due to her having stayed at the hotel earlier with friends.

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After two weeks of family-and-friend festivities we found ourselves alone and back aboard JUANONA. A rather quiet re-entry into January after such a jovial holiday.

Yet, there’s always the possibility of another two-year reunion in 2018… :)

A weekend stretched into a week

AMSTERDAM

Friday, October 28

A wonderful surprise came by email in October. Some friends from Maine were heading to our neck of the world and would be visiting Amsterdam beginning October 28. Not only were we going to be in the Netherlands but also in Amsterdam for an appointment on that very day.

Arranging to meet at a cafe in the Rijksmuseum we managed to find one another quickly and hugs abound.

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Marcia and Steve are inveterate travelers and generally rent apartments while immersing themselves in the culture and everyday-doings of the local inhabitants. We’ve corresponded with them on several trips, exchanging information on various destinations. Since they had just hopped off the plane and checked into their airbnb accommodations mid-morning, we all decided to stretch our legs while locating a place for lunch. Which we did find while walking and talking and dodging the ubiquitous cyclists.

After lunch we strolled back towards the train station, taking them through the Beguinhof, the oasis we had visited the prior weekend. During our walk Marcia exclaimed that some bags hanging outside a shop were designed by a company from Massachusetts, one with which she was very familiar considering she owned at least three of their designs.

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And, a backdrop providing a perfect opportunity for a photo-snap.

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With some trial and error on our part (still get lost in this city) we located the Red Light District. This neighborhood surprises one because the surroundings appear like many other parts of the city until you notice what the shops are selling, and some narrow alleys that boast plate glass windows with semi-clad females posing. (Two days later they enjoyed a fabulous meal thanks to the suggestion of Deborah who used to live in Amsterdam.)

Since they’d basically been awake for 24 hours we all decided to head to our respective berths, and we parted company as they meandered their way back to their apartment and we, to the train station and Hoorn. Hoping our paths would cross again during their visit, we invited them to Hoorn; yet, with only two more days in Amsterdam (and plenty to see there) before visiting Belgium sites then ending in a favorite haunt of theirs (Paris), we at least knew we could communicate in the same time zone via email.

We bade them good-bye but not before Max took a photo documenting this reunion of Mainers.

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Seeing friends from home when we’re on JUANONA is such a gift to us. With all of their traveling we hope to see Marcia and Steve again in the not-too-distant future. It’s hard to say good-bye when we just said hello.

HOORN

Saturday-Monday, October 29-31

The Belgians are here! The Belgians are here! We obviously didn’t cry out loud with this news but we eagerly awaited a visit from our Belgian Family.  In May they had come up for a visit when our nephew Rudy was aboard, so they were familiar with Hoorn.

This family of five are quite easy to have aboard being content to while away the days with talking, laughing and just catching up on everyone’s news. Max had made a delicious chili for dinner. Actually he had made two batches, the first being too spicy due to following the recipe exactly, which called for a quarter-cup (!) of chili powder. Even when cutting the hot spices more than half, it still was on the verge of scalding one’s taste buds.  But, maybe the chili gave us the impetus to play charades, a first on JUANONA.

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With an empty aft berth we had asked if one of the kids would like to sleep aboard. Frieke opted to try it, and she adapted to our slow-morning tempo of waking, making coffee, then heading back to the berth for online newspaper perusing (a behavior our friends Ellen and Carter know well from when we’ve stayed with them).

After 48 hours they needed to head back to Belgium on Monday. We took a photograph before we let them go…

(From the left:  Koen, Frieke, Max, Seppe, Wannes, Ta)

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but, this time we knew our good-byes would quickly be followed by hellos due to our heading to Belgium the very next day.

MDT 1:  BASTOGNE

Wednesday, November 2

As I mentioned above, we took a road trip starting Tuesday. Knowing we needed to complete another step in our application for temporary residency, we decided to combine it with, what my sister has aptly termed, “Max’s Disaster Tours” (MDTs). This tour would entail visiting three battle sites, beginning with Bastogne, a key location in WWII’s Battle of the Bulge, followed by the 1815 Battle of Waterloo, and ending with Ypres (Ieper), a site of WWI trench warfare and decimation.

Fortunately, we offset the sobering realities of horrific wars with the comfort of being with our Belgian Family in the town of Bolderberg, situated between Bastogne to the east and Waterloo and Ypres to the west.

The next morning five of us bundled into Ta and Koen’s car to head to the Bastogne War Museum, opened in March of 2014. This modern museum provided a full afternoon of immersion into one of the bloodiest and most desperate battles during WWII.

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To begin your tour you’re greeted by four people who actually lived and/or fought in Bastogne:  a young boy of 13, a young woman in her early 20s, an American soldier, and a German soldier. Each subsequent event was narrated by one of the four, providing a real-life glimpse into the brutality and tragedy associated with this battle.

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A multi-media experience awaited us with videos, narrations, photographs and text capturing our attention as we slowly toured this museum with our audio guides.

For background, Belgium was invaded by the Germans in May, 1940 with the Belgian King Leopold III (1901-1983) surrendering. He is placed under house arrest and the country begins its five years of occupation by the enemy. (FYI:  Leopold’s surrender cost him his kingship and, in 1951 he abdicated, passing the throne onto his son, Baudouin (1930-1993.)

Bastogne is located in the Ardennes forest, and on December 16, 1944 this area on the western front became the site of Germany’s last major offensive. The Germans wanted to push the American front line to northwestern Belgium and, in so doing, created a bulge, hence the name “Battle of the Bulge” (aka “Battle of the Ardennes” and “Operation Mist”).

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They mounted a surprise attack but were halted by the American sector in this particular area. During three weeks of intense fighting in the fierce cold and with fewer and fewer resources, the allies defended Bastogne but not without paying a heavy price in terms of casualties (approximately 75,000). At one point Bastogne was entirely surrounded by the Germans. Which led to a famous exchange between the Germans and U.S. General McAuliffe, acting commander of the 101st Airborne Division. When asked by the Germans if he would surrender, his delivered, typed reply was:  “To the German Commander:  Nuts!  The American Commander”. Evidently there was a lot of head scratching on the German side when trying to decipher just exactly what “Nuts!” meant…

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Fortunately, a change in the weather allowing air reinforcements and General Patton’s arrival from the south meant the 101st Airborne would hold onto Bastogne. By January 1945 the Americans had regained all of the ground they had previously lost in the fight.

With the pressure of waning supplies and manpower, this battle is actually the site of USA’s first, desegregated fighting troops as all soldiers were used to fight the Germans. Shamefully, it still took four more years for the military to formally end segregation. Even the willingness to sacrifice one’s life for one’s county didn’t crack the ugliness of America’s racism.

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Bastogne was only one of the many towns decimated by the fighting in this area.

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Residents of other Ardennes towns (Malady, Houffalize, La Roche-en-Ardenne and Saint Vith) were also caught in the crossfire of the savage and destructive warfare.

The Battle of the Bulge was instrumental in crippling Germany’s ability to continue the war. Hitler’s orders were to push through the Allies’ line in just a few days in order to reach the deep-water port of Antwerp. To do so required moving many of Germany’s soldiers and equipment from the eastern to the western front (the weakened eastern front made it easier for the Soviets to take Berlin in April 1945). Several German commanders tried to argue against such an unreasonable plan but to no avail. Subsequently, they never really recovered from the losses of troops and gear while the Americans were able to draw on more resources.

In one of the exhibits a copy of a newspaper some of you may recognize was displayed, with a map showing the bulge:img_0220

My recollection of military battles is not the best, but anyone who’s watched HBO’s excellent “Band of Brothers” series knows how this particular military engagement played out. If you haven’t seen it, do so. It’s well worth the time, and, I’ve been told, an excellent re-enactment of the actual battle. Max and I saw it a few years ago and plan on doing so again having been in one of the key sites. Frankly, it’d be worth watching again just to hear General McAuliffe’s famous exclamation :)

We actually know a veteran of this battle, Dr. Philip Sumner. I believe he has visited this area where he fought; and, it would be interesting to hear what he would say if he returned to the Ardennes.

Leaving this museum you take with you the horrors of war but also the unimaginable bravery and sacrifices individuals made, all in the hopes of making the world a safer place.

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Although many died, we discovered at the end of our tour our four narrators survived.

Exiting the museum we first visited the impressive memorial, shaped in a star with the names of all 50 of the USA states carved on its pillars and walls.

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Climbing a spiral staircase to the top provides a 360º panoramic view. At several points of the star, maps indicate sites where the Battle of the Bulge took place over seventy years ago.

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The somberness of the war was lightened due to seeing the bronze statue created by American artist Seward Johnson. One of the four he sculpted depicting the famous victory kiss published in LIFE Magazine

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was on temporary exhibit at the Bastogne War Museum. This statue illustrates perfectly the exuberance we all must feel when a war ends.

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If only it had been the last one ever fought.

MDT 2 and 3 coming soon…

 

 

A Weekend in the Netherlands

HOORN

Friday, October 21, 2016

Did I say we were lucky to be here? Well, three of the reasons why are our friends Deborah, Thijs, and Tika. And, a fourth reason was our time spent with them at the beginning of the weekend. Only a 20-minute walk through the center of town landed us on their doorstep just in time for koffie and morning nibbles.

We met the new household residents, Emma and Tommy, and got a tour of their enchanting home, totally renovated when they moved in some years ago.

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Having been fortified with coffee and good nibbles we headed for Deborah’s art studio out back. Standing at the end of a lovely wild garden, the robin-egg-blue cottage with its welcoming white interior appeared to me to be the perfect spot to sit and gaze back into the greenery, while sipping another cup of coffee.

But, that wasn’t why we were here. We had offered to help with prepping the studio for Deborah to paint it while Thijs would concentrate on doing the same on roof trim and come help us afterwards.

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In just a few hours and a wonderful lunch interlude, we finished the washing and lightly sanding of the cottage. Mission accomplished.

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Not only did our friends provide us with an easy and fun day but also the use of Deborah’s old bike, including its adornment of flowers. Thanking them for such a perfect loan for spending time in Hoorn, we stopped at a used bike shop on the way back to JUANONA to see if we could find a second one.

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In spite of the owner not speaking English and our not speaking Dutch, Max pantomimed his question and the owner pantomimed back; and, before we knew it a bike was purchased and prepped for sale,

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a bike sister Judy would appreciate since it’s painted in one of her favorite colors.

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Second mission accomplished. Then, the two of us toodled back to home, feeling we blended into the local town scene a wee bit more as we navigated the cobblestone streets on our two wheels.

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And, arrived home without mishap, which was even better.

AMSTERDAM

Saturday, October 22, 2016

After a brief appointment in the morning we headed to two sites in Amsterdam, both located in Spui, a central square known as the cultural books neighborhood.

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One was Begijnhof or ‘beguine house’. Beguine refers to a Catholic lay group of single women who performed good deeds as nuns do but without being secluded in a convent and without the dictates of a religious mother-hen nun or big-papa Pope. Thus, the Beguines could live together in a compound (termed beguinage) or individually, didn’t take a vow of poverty, could own their own property, and even had the freedom to leave in order to marry or return to husbands who had gone off to war. By not belonging to any specific religious order, the Beguines made up their rules by which to practice their form of Christian spirituality. (FYI:  male counterparts were called Beghards.)

Originating in the aristocratic ranks of women in the late 12th century then embraced by the middle-class, this group supported themselves through nursing, lace- and cloth-making, farming, and other commercial activities; and, here in Amsterdam, they formed this elegant and tranquil beguinage.

Sadly, the Catholic Church with capital “Cs” felt threatened (oh, Quel surpris), and these independent-minded women were persecuted, with one even burned at the stake in Paris in the year 1310.

Although persecution by the Catholic authority forced many Beguines to become nuns and monks in France and Germany, the lowlands continued to protect them. Even when the country converted from Catholicism to Protestantism and no public praying by Catholics was allowed from 1578 to 1795, this enclave remained and carried on its traditions. Part of this protection derived from the Beguines owning their own homes and, technically, their homes weren’t part of a religious order.

The current buildings date from the 17th and 18th centuries with one of the old wooden houses from the mid-15th century restored after the two horrific fires in Amsterdam in 1421 and 1452. in the midst of the courtyard is a Gothic Church (consecrated on October 7, 1419) and later given to the English in 1607.

In the church is a stained glass window over the altar. It documents the fact that Puritans worshipped in this church and depicts pilgrims boarding a ship. Evidently a sister window exists in Massachusetts showing the Pilgrims landing.

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Vincent Van Gogh worshipped here on Sundays when living in Amsterdam documented by his writing: “Tomorrow morning I am going to the English church; it lies there so peaceful in the evening in that silent Beghijnhof among the thorn hedges, and seems to say: In logo its dabo pacem: In this place I shall give peace, says the Lord. Amen, so be it.”

Here, in Amsterdam the last beguine died in 1971; yet, the tradition of single women living in this lovely oasis remains.

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And, while penning this I just read off the photograph of the sign I took that taking pictures in the courtyard was prohibited. Yikes, talk about an UAA (ugly american act). I’ll do some penance. I promise.

Just through another courtyard door we entered an alley leading to our second destination of the day:  Amsterdam Museum.

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Here we looked forward to gathering an overview of the city’s history, adding to the little knowledge we have of this city named for damming of the River Amstel.

Housed where the city’s orphanage operated for 400 years, the museum greets you with a large hallway dotted with portraits both old and new and paved with a diversity carpet created by artist Barbara Broekman. To celebrate the multi-ethnicity of this city she created 184 carpet squares, each one representing a specific identity associated with a particular country.

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Mesmerized, I stood and stared at the floor wanting to soak up the bright hues swirling at my feet, only to look down the hall and spot a huge statue dwarfing Max. This gigantic wooden statue of Goliath used to entertain 17th-centrury strollers in a pleasure garden.

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Uncannily, his eyes move (!) thanks to mechanical engineering.

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I made my way past familiar portraits from the 17th centuries, familiar only because we’d viewed lots of these civic paintings in other museums during our Netherlands explorations, this one featuring the governors of the Coopers and Wine Rackers Guild

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juxtaposed against startling modern ones, such as the 2001 “Amsterdam Civic Guards”, with the Maid of Amsterdam, holding a joint in one hand and carrying a tattoo of Rembrandt on her breast, surrounded by prominent historical figures, such as Anne Frank and Alfred Heineken. (FYI:  “Mokum” is a nickname for Amsterdam. Derived via Yiddish from the Hebrew ‘makom’ meaning ‘place’, the nickname was bestowed by the Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe in the 17th century.)

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These two paintings really sum up the country’s, as well as this city’s, history. Commerce has been the underlying force since the founding of the city with just a few hiccups along the way due to foreign rule:  Hapsburg’s Philip II of Spain, which led to the 80-year war of Independence (1568-1648); France’s Napoleon and bro Louis Bonaparte (1795-1813); and, the Nazis (1940-1945).

With no sovereign or religious head posing as an absolute authority, Amsterdam and the Netherlands focused their energy on trade. By doing so, they developed a more tolerant view of others since any and everyone could be a potential customer. And, as we walked through rooms describing the life and times of the city’s residents, we realized just how much this city was built on civic dreams.

The overwhelming sense of the importance of commerce is inherent in:

the portraits of wealthy merchants and their families versus none of any king or queen… the painting of the ‘new’ city hall, constructed during the country’s golden age (below) and capturing the moment when Louis Bonaparte is given the keys to the city in 1808…

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the accruements of daily living, such as a plate displaying the initials (VOC) of the Dutch East Indies Company…

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and a painting showing Amsterdam in 1600 with the surrounding countryside composed of polders (reclaimed land).

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As population grew, city inhabitants took over more and more land. Urban planning helped direct the expansion with one of the major developments being the ring of canals, construction of which began in 1613. The methodical layout makes for a wonderful stroll throughout this city. (Although, I have to say, everytime I see this photo, the colors remind me of rare roast beef. Not appealing when out of the context of sitting on a plate with roasted veggies and salad.)

We discovered some surprises in this city’s history, one being the Miracle of Amsterdam. I tell you, this is bizarre and pretty unbelievable to even think this a miracle but, for the sake of history, here’s the story, and I quote:  “In 1345, in a house on Kalverstraat… a priest had given a man the last rites. The patient was so ill that he coughed up the sacramental wafer. The nurse threw the vomit onto the fire, but – a miracle! – the wafer remained unscathed. After the Pope recognized the miracle, Amsterdam became a pilgrim city.”

Yes, really.

And, of course, where there’s a way to do a goofy pose, I’m there. As is my husband who, as I’ve said often, puts up with me.

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Our visit was relatively short (just a few hours) but well-worth obtaining an overview of the city, one reminding us of how wonderfully liberal Amsterdam can be (the first gay marriage in the world occurred here on April 1, 2001) and just how steeped in civic leadership (history of the guilds and lack of a dominating ruler or religious head).

Back to Hoorn where, alas, no roast beast dinner awaited us. But, another wonderful weekend does!

Stay tuned… :)