Category Archives: 2016 Summer Cruising

PART V: Bergen Day One

BERGEN

Saturday, July 2

For yachties Bergen is a lovely harbor to sail into; however, we’d heard from several other cruisers that it’s also a huge party place, especially on the weekends. One boat said they had people stomping over their boat throughout the night and wee hours of the morning while blasting music in spite of quietly asking them to turn it down a bit at 3:00am. The response was even more galavanting across their deck and increasing the volume of their music.

So, we were extremely glad not to be experiencing that, especially since we never would have met Elisabeth and Gunnar in Os if we had continued sailing to Bergen.

The bus was an easy jaunt where we met a woman who had brought her dog aboard. When I said he looked a bit tired, she said he was missing his morning sleep. The pup just rolled his eyes at me then soon slumbered off.

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We managed to get some sun when we first landed in Bergen (a rarity as we discovered it is true that you’ll get two days of rain for every one day of sun here). Immediately we walked to the Tourist Information (TI) office and became part of the crowd of tourists inquiring about sites, bus routes, and special events. We purchased the Bergen Pass, opting for the 48-hour one, which would cover our planned two-days sight-seeing.

Bergen was founded in 1070 c.e. by the King of Norway, Olav Kyrre, who happened to be the son of King Harold Hadrada who died in England at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066. Nestled into an arm of a small fjord it was the largest town in the late 11th century and the capital of a region encompassing Iceland, Greenland, and parts of Scotland (the Shetland Islands use to be part of Norway, which is why some say it’s more Norwegian than Scottish).

Thanks to the exporting of the incredible resource of stockfish (what we saw drying and stacked in pile upon pile in Lofotens last summer)

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Bergen continued to prosper even after Oslo became the capital in 1299. And, it was this rich trading period that became our focus during our first day in this city.

We made a beeline for the Bryggen (Wharf) Area across the harbor from the Tourist Office.

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Here the medieval German enclave was built by and for the German traders representing the wealthy Hanseatic League (aka Hansa, which comes from the Gothic word for ‘gang’ or ‘band or men’). I was eager to learn more about this merchant guild after our spring touring of some of the Netherlands’ ports featuring the Dutch East India Company, the Hansa’s rival and later successor in monopolistic trade.

The Hanseatic League formed out of German merchants’ desire for safe shipping routes while negotiating favorable importing/exporting pacts with key towns and cities. Bruges, London, and Bergen became prominent trading posts or Kontors with local rulers agreeing to grant the Hansa special privileges.

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For example, in 1266 Henry II allowed the Hansa to trade at fairs throughout England while giving those merchants toll-free access to London. Of course the favoritism shown to these foreign merchants irritated their English peers; and, in 1597 Elizabeth the First expelled the League from London; but, that’s after 300 years of surely a sizable profit for the Hansa guys.

With foreign rulers insisting on segregating the Hansa merchants, these German enclaves became their own little city-states with lodging, churches and warehouses all following strict guidelines established by the guild:  the ‘Law of Lubeck’ (Lubeck, a German city, became the dominant player in the league by the late 13th century, overtaking the town of Visby located on the Gotland Peninsula.)

We wandered through Bergen’s Hanseatic neighborhood, where we saw their church, St. Mary’s,

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and obtained a sense of how these ex-pats lived in Bergen, absorbing the medieval atmosphere.

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We peered skyward as we walked through the narrow alleys separating the trading houses, all crammed together facing the harbor. Today they’ve been renovated and/or rebuilt, but even with a great coat of paint, I’d get claustrophobic.

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Part of the trade pact with the city’s ruler prohibited the German traders from fraternizing with the locals except when negotiating deals. Additionally, they were prohibited from bringing their girlfriends, wives or families to live with them in this foreign outpost. Talk about a tough winter…

As an all-male population the schotstuene or assembly room became the focal point for all sorts of activities. Functioning as a gathering place, the schotstuene served as a dining hall, place of festivities, an office, a court, and a school for the apprentices.

In Bergen we toured one of these establishments comprised of original and reconstructed buildings where Germans congregated during the Hanseatic years for approximately 400 years beginning in 1360.

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Yucky initiations occurred here as well with the poor newbies, i.e., apprentices, hazed by the older members during the “Games”. One of these initiations involved hanging the apprentices upside down over a smoking fire where tanning waste (from curing hides) were being burnt. Sounds horrific, but, there’s more:  As these poor lads were suspended head down, the better to inhale the foul smoke, they had to answer questions while being beaten.

We saw the room where this occurred. Nice, huh?

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The schotstuene was a popular place to congregate because it also was the only building where an open flame was allowed in the entire enclave (!). (Like most towns and cities in Norway, Bergen had a history of going up in flames multiple times over the centuries due to their timbered structures.) This meant the trading houses and warehouses where the merchants, their journeymen or overseers, and apprentices worked and slept did so without the benefit of candles or heat. And, no, they weren’t allowed to sleep at the schotstuene. And, this is in NORWAY where it can get mighty cold. AND, they weren’t allowed female companionship. Definitely, a tough winter.

But, money is money, and up to 2,000 Germans lived in Bryggen. Merchants, the top of the pecking order, were required to purchase a house here; yet, they usually returned home to Germany leaving a manager (a promoted journeyman) to carry on the business. Bergen’s Hanseatic Museum located in one of German merchant’s houses offered a fascinating look into this world.

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We walked through the storerooms, offices

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and living quarters,

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one room showing the beds for the apprentices (no flash allowed so not the best pics).

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The league remained a loose federation of merchants as opposed to becoming a centralized political alliance. Not to say they didn’t have power. Anyone familiar with US politics understands the relationship between money and decision-making. In short, you’re screwed if you don’t have money to throw at the feet of those in power; or, really, if you can’t toss it to those who are paid to influence those in power.

Eventually over 100 municipalities were members of the Hansa with its first Diet or assembly held in 1356. As in Bergen and other Hansa ports, these German merchants established tariff agreements, including setting the prices of goods. The League used both the carrot-and-stick approach to business:  guaranteeing a profitable market for a trading partner’s goods (stockfish in Bergen’s case) while threatening to withhold critical delivery of goods (such as grain) if there appeared an unfavorable glitch in the negotiations.

In the 15th century the forming or reviving of nation-states created an opposing force to the Hansa whose power was derived from alliances with much smaller and less powerful city-states. The Dutch exemplified this evolution with Bruges, Antwerp and Holland becoming one country, the Duchy of Burgundy. They were able to circumvent the trade routes of the Hansa by trading directly with non-Hansa towns, charging lower freight costs. Additionally, the Dutch began to poach the Hansa’s shipbuilding market, which Lubeck and Danzig had cornered over over the centuries.

By the 16th century the Hansa had weakened considerably and limped. By 1669 only three member cities remained (Lubeck, Hamburg and Bremen). Those three cities remained members until 1862 when the Hanseatic League ended.

The museum was fascinating and offered much more detail than I’ve shared here–the process of receiving, preparing, and sorting the stockfish for export, the lives of those sailing on the ships, the elaborate city seals used for official business, for example. Well-worth an extensive visit.

After immersing ourselves in the Hanseatic League we ventured out of this sub-city where we heard the sound of marching feet. Quickly we located the source as a group of uniforms past us in unison on their way to the main square.

We followed this rhythmic centipede to where this military group, the Hans Majestet Kongens Garde (His Majesty’s the King’s Guards) had set up for a noon concert.

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The crowd loved it, as did we. The music added a greater element of festivity to our first day in Bergen. That, along with some hair I spotted. If I were a lot younger, I think I’d try out this color myself. It’s glorious!

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After hearing the band and munching on our picnic lunch we returned to the waterfront where we scouted out a chandlery for a fuel additive (the same one the Coast Guard Organization gave Max in Egersund), then returned to the Bryggens area to visit the Bryggens Museum.

Here we saw the archaeological findings from early settlements including a cross-section with evidence of several fires, the first occurring 1170/71,

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one of the largest collection of runic inscriptions in the world,

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and a sobering exhibit on the great fire of Bergen on January 15, 1916, when a candle flame ignited a bale of oakum (tarred fibre used as ship caulking).

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Exiting the museum we headed for the harbor entrance where we poked around Bergenhus (Bergen’s Castle). We stepped inside the royal apartments housed in a building constructed by King Haakon Hakonsson between 1247 and 1261.

Haakon’s Hall is the largest, secular medieval building still standing in Norway. Destroyed in 1944 by a German ammunition ship, which left only the outer walls standing, this beautiful hall was rebuilt and restored a second time. And, it is beautiful.

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Next door is the 400-year-old Muren (Wall Gate) known as the Rosenkrantz Tower. Built in the 1560s by the governor, Erik Rosenkrantz, this stone structure existed as a fortress and residence. (FYI:  He was an ancestor of Ludwig Rosenkrantz, who, with his Norwegian wife, built the only Barony in Norway, Rosendal, 100 years after Eric erected his tower.)

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Several interesting stories are attached to this Renaissance building. One involves the Battle of Vagen on August 2, 1665. I won’t go into details but it’s a fascinating tale of how this city got stuck in the middle between two maritime powers, the Netherlands and England.

Another historical footnote is the trial of Anne Pedersdatter on March 21, 1590. Accused as a witch she was subsequently found guilty and executed by fire. Gruesomely, they tied witches to a ladder and placed it on the bonfire to ensure they died by the flames versus by smoke inhalation. The thought was the fire would cleanse the soul and improve the convicted’s chances in the afterlife. Frankly, I’d prefer death by smoke and to hell with the afterlife bit.

Finally, both her name and Rosenkrantz’s may sound familiar since both have been used by playwrights, one being William Shakespeare who paired Rosenkrantz with Guildenstern in “Hamlet”.

With our heads filled with the history of Bergen and bodies a bit soaked from some occasional bursts of rain

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we called it a day and returned to Os.

Bergen Day Two coming up :)

 

PART IV: The Magic of Os

OS

Friday, July 1

We left Rosendal and motored further north to Os via a narrow passage way

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in the wispy, blue-gray morning light.

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Speaking with Marit and Even at our last port we were still unsure about docking opportunities; yet, online information mentioned a new, guest mooring site so we decided to check it out. We knew we could always sail on to another harbor if Os’ was too exposed to the winds.

But, it seemed fine when we approached and hunted down a free slip. Now, though, we wanted to do our usual repositioning, which meant both of us getting off the boat and man-/woman-handling of lines to set up JUANONA for an easier departure out of a tight space.

While performing our rope gymnastics with JUANONA serving potentially as an unruly steed part of me was hoping that no one was watching this example of seamanship; yet, another thought was what a great photo op of a watery rodeo act :)

Well, there was someone seeing our docking technique as he appeared about ten minutes later on the pontoon. We started talking and invited him aboard.

And, that was the beginning of one of the most treasured times we’ve had in Norway.

Gunnar, a retired Fluid Mechanics Engineer, and his wife Elisabeth, a retired teacher and art historian, took us under their wings.

Mentioning that these pontoons actually belonged to the condominium complex looking over the harbor,

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Gunnar assured us we were fine as the owner wasn’t using the slip we were in. So, not only did this kind Norwegian welcome us to his home port but also removed any anxiety we had leaving JUANONA in a private mooring.

Later that day we stopped in at their condo (second building from the left, top floor) where we met Elisabeth, who graciously ushered us into their light-filled home.

What a beautiful and inviting space it was, filled with stunning art, a lot of it being Elisabeth’s. She creates amazing fabric pieces including several that were quilted pillows featuring Cirque du Soleil performers, capturing their tumbling grace. Prints and paintings adorned the walls as well as some intricately woven baskets.

I only wish we had our camera with us to show here just how wonderful it was sitting amidst such enchanting surroundings.

After enjoying some coffee (nice and strong) and delicious treats such as some Norwegian strawberries (if a warm summer day could be tasted, it would be the sweetness of those berries), Gunnar offered to give us a tour of Os.

He drove us across the harbor to the Oselvarlaget, a workshop established to preserve the oselvar, a traditional vessel found on the west coast of Norway. (The name is derived from its origin–”Os” or river mouth–and the person–”Oselva”–who began building these traditional vessels 250 years ago.)

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The oselvar, a rowboat one can sail, is built using a method from the 3rd or 4th century:  the clinker technique where the edges of hull planks overlap, a type of construction the Vikings also used; so, there’s no question of how seaworthy these crafts are.

Gunnar volunteers here, and it was obvious he loves it. He helps keep these beautiful wooden boats in shape while also taking young people sailing, thus giving others the opportunity to appreciate this traditional craft.

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After touring the workshop and the clubhouse, we drove around the city and then out to the countryside.

We soon realized Os was a magnet for artists as we passed by statues created by the Norwegian sculptor, Arne Maenad, a friend of Elisabeth and Gunnar’s, who thoughtfully places his artwork in public areas for all to enjoy.

IMG_8609.jpgOur final stop landed us on the island of Lepsoy at Vedholmen Galleri, a fine-art gallery owned by two artists, Vibeke Harild and Peter Marron.

And, what a delightful environment that gallery is! I immediately thought of all of my artistic friends knowing they’d be spellbound as much as I was perusing the art.

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Recognizing some ceramic boats we had also seen in Elisabeth and Gunnar’s home, Vibeke explained how the popularity of those pieces of art (created by her husband) enabled them to open a gallery, earning a living exhibiting and selling unique work.

No surprise as all of the art was stunning.

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But, soon it was time to return to Os and JUANONA–Gunnar, to get ready for a dinner engagement, Max and I, to prep for Saturday’s touring.

Saying good-bye to Gunnar we arranged to keep in touch over the weekend with him and Elisabeth as we bussed in and out of Os to explore Bergen, only 40 minutes away.

I’ve said it before and I’ll mention it again:  the real gift of cruising isn’t the landscape with its flora and fauna, or the culture found in buildings and plazas. It’s the people one meets.

Here, we had sailed into Os in order to tour the historic port of Bergen, a destination we had been enthusiastically anticipating since landing in Norway two weeks prior.

Yet, the splendor of our travels lies in spontaneously connecting with folk like Elisabeth and Gunnar, strangers who became friends thanks to their hospitality to two salty  cruisers.

Fortunately, we had several more days to enjoy their company, so more to come with Gunnar and Elisabeth!

We’ve felt the magic of Os and we are most definitely under its spell.

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PART III: Man-made & Nature-made Beauties

ROSENDAL

Tuesday, June 28

We left Moster the next morning to continue our cruising north; but first, we walked up the short hill with coffee and digital items in hand where we could check weather and email using the amphitheater’s wifi. All clear for sailing to Rosendal, a town noted for both a barony–the only one in Norway–and being an easy port to visit Norway’s third largest glacier.

Another easy water crossing to the mainland while passing a humorous head left by a creative soul.

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And, another hammerhead (end of a pontoon) made it easy to dock (we love those types of docking). Soon we were in the local tourist office. The woman there gave us loads of information beginning with the must-see site–Baroniet Rosendal–and ending with the bus timetable for the glacier.

Since the Baroniet was only a 15-minute walk we opted to explore that site before it closed. Under a sprinkly sky we headed up the road eventually following a beautiful winding drive surrounded by well-tended gardens, the most spectacular being the Renaissance one laden with roses perfuming the air. The estate (and subsequent town) was called Rosendal, which made perfect sense considering the choice of floral cultivation.

I stuck my nose into a lot of them where, fortunately, no bumblebee was gathering its daily nectar. I tend to do that often, inhaling wonderful scents; and, if you live/lived on a boat, you would appreciate something other than ‘boat smell’ as well.

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Being a bit early for the guided tour we wandered around the grounds, all very green (the beneficial aspect of lots of rain, something we’ve gotten fairly use to this summer), and circumnavigated this gem of a home.

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Constructed in 1665, this Renaissance Palace was the home of a power couple: Danish aristocrat Ludvig Rosenkrantz, the highest-ranking administrator in the fiefdom of Stavanger and Norway’s war commissioner; and, Karen Mowatt, one of Norway’s wealthiest heiress. They married in 1658 and were given the farm Hatteberg, then proceeded to build a house out of stone due to Rosenkrantz’s preference for that over the traditional wooden structures.

The King made Rosenkrantz a baron in 1678, hence the name Baroniet Rosendal, which is displayed over the gate guarding the small courtyard and entrance. You can see a pretend lord of the manor below. Alas, he didn’t actually have the title (or keys) of ownership…

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The tour lasted roughly 25 minutes and was given by a young man who led a group of us, both Norwegians and non-Norwegians, into the stairwell and up to the second floor.

During his walk-and-talk he’d provide a long-winded description in Norwegian then a short, staccato explanation in English (by the way, his English, like so many Norwegians we’ve met, is almost better than ours).

After 15 minutes of trying to gleam what he was saying so spectacularly in his native tongue, one of the non-Norwegians diplomatically asked him to give us the same amount of information in English. This amounted to at least five more words tacked on to the two-sentences.

To be fair this was close to the last tour of the day, and he must have been quite tired of giving the same spiel over and over. It just would have been nice to hear more descriptions, not only about the few rooms we saw and the decor but also about the families who inhabited this lovely dwelling.

One interesting tidbit we did receive was the Londeman family, who purchased this in 1743, appeared to be aware of the social strata separating the wealthy from the not-so-wealthy. They treated their servants well and even had portraits made of them, which lined the walls outside one of the main rooms. This family lived here until 1927 when they donated the estate to Oslo University.

One of the elements that made this house so unique was the family respected the history enclosed in these walls, thus keeping certain rooms ‘as is’. No photos were allowed but we did remember some key components such as pictures of Napoleon Bonaparte of whom at least one family member was enamored and one room decorated with Roman statues due to another’s fascination with Pompeii.

Ushering us quickly outside to end his tour we took a few moments to snap more photos of the greenery

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The barony was a lovely destination and one definitely worth visiting. With a wistful last glance at this fairy tale setting and a final sniff or two of the roses, we strolled back down the driveway towards the town.

On the way back to the marina we decided to take the high road to pass by another of Norway’s spectacular stone churches, Kevinherad Kirke. This Gothic church from 1250 could have been the wedding site of the original Rosendal owners. It was certainly large enough and probably splendid inside (no, we didn’t get in but did try a few doors).

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And, just look at the view! Makes one just want to sit on a rock and gaze upwards.

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and realized if we had only looked up from JUANONA we could have spotted this church (which we did before we left for another port).

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But, that was two days after our tour so let me go back to the day after the Baroniet Rosendal.

Wednesday, June 29

Another bus stop–only this time we made sure we knew its location–where we caught the bus to a small town an hour north.

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From there we’d be able to take the 1.5-hour walk up to a lake where the Folgefonna glacier offered a view of its icy magnificence. If you look up from the center of the National Park to where it says “Sunndahl” on one arm of the fjord, that’s where we started, ending up a the lake just below a wee bit of the glacier.

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As promised it was an non-challenging stroll up a well-marked road, wide enough to walk side-by-side. As we climbed up rushing water boiled down, accompanying us most of the way up

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with Max testing out the temperature.

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With sheep mowing the grass all around us there were signs on gates with instructions for visitors. I had to take a snapshot of one of them for the illustration is from the British, clay-animation comedy series, WALLACE AND GROMIT, which is a great show our friend Robbie introduced me to a long time ago.

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Pretty soon we were at Lake Bondhus (Bondhusvatnet) located at the edge of Folgefonna National Park, inaugurated in May 2005 by Queen Sonja. Looking across and up the mountains we saw where the glacier was sticking out its icy tongue.

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It reminded us of the one we saw last summer, the Svartisen glacier, only this time we didn’t get that close except with the zoom lens.

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The road up to the lake was known as the “ice road”. In the mid-1800s locals use to carry ice from the glacier down to be exported. It was then exported to parts of Europe, the first time in 1822 when the ice was carried down on the harvesters’ backs (!) before the road existed. At that time the glacier extended almost all the way to the lake.

In the late 1800s the glacier attracted tourists and, since then, this trek up to the lake has been a popular way to see one of Mother Nature’s magnificent creations. And, what a view.

A sign documented some history with photos of some ice-gatherers and tourists

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as well as the retreat of the ice (top taken in 1997, bottom in 2004).

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Scary to realize how quickly the ice is melting.

We pulled out our packed lunch at one of the convenient granite picnic table and benches,

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while ensuring Dolly Doughnut (for Gracie :), also enjoyed the view.

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As we were munching away (I always perk up around food) a mother and her daugther strode by. A conversation was started about the glacier and other sites; and the mom shared some information about the dangers of getting too close to glaciers. Evidently it’s fairly common for people unfamiliar with ice behavior to not heed the warnings resulting in horrible endings. Such as falling ice crushing two parents in 2014 with their children nearby.

They then showed us a picture on the mother’s phone from their hike yesterday with the daughter posing with a friend at Keragsbolten, a famous rock suspended between two cliffs. They mentioned another famous landmark, Pulpit Rock (Prekestolen). Tragically, a young Australian woman fell off last summer when trying to step around some posing tourists.

Holy moly. Stuff from horror stories.

Both are located along Lysefjorden, one of the prettiest in Norway and one where we’re planning on going. Now, all I can think about are the poor souls who lost their lives up there and if I’ll be able to tamp down my fear of heights to claw my way up to those famous landmarks.

However, all were good reminders of giving Mother Nature and Norway’s beauty full respect, and I appreciated the woman’s advice, which we fully intended to heed.

We did go part way around the lake but then turned around to make sure we caught one of the very few buses back to Rosendal.

Which we finally did after waiting for an hour or so entertaining ourselves with crossword puzzles.

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Well, somewhat entertaining ourselves.

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And, yes, he’s alive. I poked him.

On the ride back we were treated to the careful maneuverability of sharing the roads around here with the bus backing up to give a tractor-trailer space enough to pass (there’s a good reason why seatbelts are supplied on these buses for most times you are jerked to upright due to sudden braking; no fault of the driver, just necessary when navigating one-lane roads for two-way traffic).

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IMG 8542We The bus also passed a company that produces those bullet-shaped life boats we see on ships.

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IMG 8546Testing them must be exhilarating. I don’t know if I’d have my eyes open or closed. But, I do know I’d be hollering all the way down. At an extremely loud volume.

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Thursday-Friday, June 30-July 1

With Thursday being a rain day with wind in the wrong direction we stayed for another 24 hours and were rewarded with an arching rainbow that evening.

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as we prepared the next morning for leaving.

I said goodbye to Marit, who with her husband Even shared with us local information. We’re only sorry we weren’t able to spend more time with them but they had friends aboard, one who was launching a book at a local gallery.

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We untied, pushed off,

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then looked back at Rosendal,

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yet another lovely port for exploring more of this beautiful country.

Next, a magical Os.

PART I: Starting our Norwegian summer adventure

SKUDENESHAVN

Thursday-Monday, June 23-27

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Egersund offered an easy harbor to recoup from three days at sea, which Dolly Doughnut also appreciated. Being tied to the main town quay, it was easy to hop off and on as we took care of the usual errands of cleaning bodies, clothes and boat as well as replenishing some fresh provisions.

Max had discovered a hint of “diesel bug” in our reserve fuel tank, and went in search of a more powerful anti-dote than the additive he’d been using. There was none available in the local shops, but when he asked the friendly guys on the rescue boat (the large white boat to the right of JUANONA in the picture)  they immediately poured him a bottle from their supply of what they consider the best product available. Many of the countries in Europe have maritime rescue services that are highly trained and widely respected, and we’re glad to know the “Redningsselskapet” as it’s called here in Norway is available if needed. Even if it’s not an emergency, these life savers come to a boater’s aid!

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After 36 hours of enjoying land, we left Egersund but not before Max had started to track down potential relatives. Since his great-great grandfather was born on the island next to Egersund, we inquired at the town hall where we could locate any of his kin. We ended up at a local church office where a kind lady entered into the search with gusto, printing out an address list of all in the area with the last name Assersen. Four postcards later,

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we left the harbor passing the naked woman statue’s back…

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and front…

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then turned north for a 50-mile sail to Skudneeshavn, a town on the southern tip of Karmoy Island.

What we’re discovering as we cruise around southern Norway is how different it is from the Lofotens, last summer’s north-of-the-Arctic sailing. There, when we landed in a town or at an anchorage, we often were the only souls exploring the shoreline. Our adventures entailed wandering through the natural landscape, like our anchorage in Gullvika,

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as opposed to delving into the cultural sites found around here. This summer we’re immersing ourselves in the history of this magnificent part of the world.

For instance, we actually sailed on the waters that gave this country its name:  Nordvegen (the “Northern Passage”) from which “Norge” or North Way comes. Kamroy Island sitting like a shield between the North Sea and the mainland comes from karmr (protection) and we sailed on Karmsundet, a shipping channel between Kamroy and the mainland, which is part of this ancient Nordvegen. Pretty cool.

It was an easy sail to Skudeneshavn, described as one of the best-kept small towns in Norway and an award-winning Summer Town. It’s also known for over 130 original timber homes and seafront wharves, which blossomed thanks to successful herring harvests in the early 19th century.

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The entry into the small harbor was stunning as we motored past brilliant white houses into the innermost harbor. We nestled into a space right in the town’s center, nudging aside a beautiful wooden rowboat at our bow while carefully avoiding the long bowsprit at our stern. Then we gazed around at the “White Empire Town”, a term often used to describe Skudeneshavn. (Interestingly, the city we left–Egersund–became known for homes painted a variety of different colors because soot from the porcelain factory, the town’s historical industry, wouldn’t show as much as it did on white.). Below is the view looking aft from our tie-up.

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Because we know the feeling of trying to find a spot when mooring space is limited, we welcome rafters when we see another yacht heading in with the captain peering around for a tie-up; and, that’s just what happened. A Norwegian boat came in and we invited them to raft with us. Which is how we met Lars and Asbjorn (and, Asbjorn, if you’re reading this, I apologize for I know I’m misspelling your name, which I hate doing!), friends who met when skiing in Utah in the mid-1990s and who also share a passion for mountain climbing.

Lars had purchased his boat two years ago and had lived on it with his wife and young son. Then they moved into a home ashore, which enabled him to start prepping his boat for a tour to Greenland, a climbing destination of his. I look forward to reading about this adventure as I have no doubt it’ll occur.

Lars’ pursuit of sailing in conjunction with climbing led to a discussion of the feats of Bill Tillman, another climber-sailor, then flowed into  Ernest Shackleton’s voyage to Antarctica followed by the importance of liberal arts (Asbjorn is a teacher in Stavanger and had initiated the school’s music band; he also just happens to look like Max’s son Chris who’s also a teacher).

While tossing thoughts back and forth, another boat came along with the captain looking for a mooring. The end result being three boats rafted side-by-side

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with Brits Judy and James joining in on the evening’s discussions. As I’ve surely mentioned before, this is definitely one of the joys of traveling.

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With Lars and Asbjorn leaving the next morning, the usual choreography occurred with captains and first mates doing the dance of releasing one boat while keeping hold of another.

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As you can see from the photo above it was a rainy day as forecast but this was offset by another wonderful evening of being with Judy and James.

By Saturday morning, though, we were once again neighborless as they, too, set off for another destination, heading south while we were planning on making our way further north.

After the grayness of Friday, this day sparkled and we used it to bus up to Avaldsnes, Norway’s oldest royal seat and the site of a medieval church and Viking Museum. But, more of that later. For now I’ll continue with current affairs, the next one proving just how small the world is. For what occurred almost defies belief.

After our day’s activities, we settled in for the evening. As he was cooking dinner, Max glanced out the galley window and noticed someone securing a business card to our rigging. He jumps up and shouts, “Paul!”.

Well, the abbreviated version of this you-won’t-believe-what-happened story begins with Max hoping to locate a friend from Maine who used to race with Max and his family. Max knew this childhood friend lived some where in Norway but, not knowing his address, email or phone number, didn’t have a way to contact him; so, we thought that was that.

But that wasn’t that. Paul, who lives in Stavanger, a city on the mainland, had just purchased his 23-foot sailboat. He had taken her out for a maiden cruise and thought he’d pop into Skudeneshavn having always wanting to sail here. (Afterwards, Max realized he had seen Paul enter the harbor.)

After docking he walked around town and then noticed the American flag. Coming up to the boat he saw it was from Orr’s Island and figured perhaps he might know the owners; and, it was in the process of leaving his card that the surprise connection was made. Another evening of celebration began. Paul mentioned that he had been thinking about Abbot (Max’s father) that very day, and the sailing lessons he had learned from racing with him.

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Once aboard we discovered we both had been at Bayeux (France) and both had been mesmerized by the 11th-century taspesty, enough so the scene on his ball cap matched the one on our pillow.

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One thing led to another and the three of us ended up at a local piano bar where live entertainment kept the place hopping.

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The next morning was a bit of a slow one for all. We waved a farewell as Paul left, planning on meeting up in Stavanger in a few weeks.

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With the sky now drizzling rain we set off on a self-guided tour of the town (after Max stopped communing with the local swans, which always reminds us of our friend Gracie who befriended a swan in Ipswich and upon whom she bestowed the name Frankie)

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using a route mapped out by the Tourist Office.

As we strolled down narrow, highly-piggly streets

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we admired the well-maintained homes in the old section of town… most of them white but not all…

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with some built into right onto the stone landscape.

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A standing bust and building, now a cafe, honors the father of the fog horn, Ole Christian Hansen (1850-1935). I had to have a photo of that since my Dad always said my nose blowing sounded like one. Must admit I couldn’t argue with him about that.

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Our last stop was seeing the mounted figurehead

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close to the entrance of a pretty little park where a moon stone,

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later discovered to be not from the moon but still notable being 800 million years old and most likely deposited here 10,000 years ago by ice.

On Monday it was time to leave. Wanting to top up our diesel we found a pump in the outer harbor, but no one was around. I hopped off JUANONA to see if anyone was in another building down the way only to find someone who kindly called another guy on his phone. In a few minutes someone came striding up to help us. He mentioned we could probably use our credit card to pay (as in the Netherlands, our credit card doesn’t always work here) but, if it didn’t, he offered to use his and have us reimburse him in cash. Now, this is hospitality.

Figuring it was safer to use his, we did just that and then settled up. Not only was this guy friendly and helpful, he also had a great sense of humor:  as the photo was being taken with me in it, he said he’d better not have the money out; and, if you don’t get it, don’t worry. But, it was a good joke on me!

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And, with that we left Skudeneshavn but not without wonderful memories of the town and the people we met.

Have I said how much I love this country? :)

Island Escape

HARLINGEN

Thursday, June 16

Within 36 hours of Max arriving back in Enkhuizen (having extended his trip home to attend a funeral) we began staging for a passage to southern Norway. All winter we’d been planning to head into the Baltic (East Sweden and Denmark) and had studied those areas extensively.  But in the past few weeks, largely due to customs and immigration considerations, we changed our plans entirely and decided to head to southwest Norway instead. The change of plans forced us to do a crash course to figure out the tides, routes, harbors, and “harbors of refuge” (places to duck into in severe weather) for our new itinerary.

Our original plan of exiting to the North Sea via Den Helder changed after some excellent advice from Henk and Kiki, cruisers we had met in Hoorne. They suggested crossing the inland lake, the Ijseelmeer, for Harlingen, a port on the North Sea, then heading for Vlieland, one of the Frisian Islands. Not only did it make better sailing sense, it also provided the opportunity to explore another fun cruising destination in the Netherlands. Harlingen it was.

It felt great to be moving again even if it was via motor and even though there were tons of itsy bits gnats. Within an hour they covered JUANONA. Fortunately, they weren’t biters, just minor annoyances as we swatted them away from faces and necks and, in one instance, swallowed a few.

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We went through a lock at the eastern end of the enormous dike, called the Afsluitdijk, which ran across Northwest Holland and keeps the North Sea out. The 20-mile-long dike was built over five years from 1927 to 1932 and is an engineering marvel.

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We sailed on to Harlingen where a pair of bridges opened and led us into a narrow harbor full of cruisers, mainly from the Netherlands. And, was it packed! We wondered how on earth boats maneuver during the busy months of July and August if this was how the harbor looked in June; yet, the Dutch ability to navigate such crowded harbors never ceased to amaze me and, once again, I was in awe of their docking skills.

Spotting a good-size boat tied to the wall we asked if we could raft with them (a common event in this populous country). No problem as they took our lines then helped us spin JUANONA so our bow was facing the exit (we always try to position ourselves for the easiest exit as wind and current can play havoc when endeavoring to steer a 39’-long vessel with one propeller pushing from the last few feet).

Thanking them with a bottle of wine they asked where we were going, etc., and in discussing possible winter harbors they suggested their small club marina in Amsterdam (just east of the one we had used when moored in that city). Always wonderful to have fellow cruisers provide good advice, and we’ve found the Dutch to be extremely helpful in this regard.

With JUANONA tied off we went to the harbor office to pay our one-night fee. Here, we found another friendly helper in the form of the harbor master, and she smilingly filled us in on the details we always request:  shower block codes? garbage disposal? grocery store?

Hearing we had at least an hour before the store closed we strolled through Harlingen’s cobble-stone streets threaded by canals and bordered by stunningly well-kept, 16th- to 18th-century homes.

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This Frisian port gained fame and prosperity during the 1700s due to the whaling industry. Today the town maintains its connection to the sea as a transportation hub for ferries darting to and from the islands as well as a convenient harbor for cruise ships and recreational boats.

VLIELAND

Friday, June 17

Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time to explore the rich heritage of this lovely, mainland town because we wanted to reach Vlieland, one of the less-inhabited Frisian islands, on a favorable current. So, freshly showered and with a few more provisions we left with a flotilla of other boaters to head across the Wadden Sea (the south-eastern part of the North Sea).

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During our brief, 15-mile crossing we watched as boats, small and large, criss-crossed our wake or motored parallel to and from our heading.  Gazing around us we could truly see how these waters must have looked when covered with trading and military ships of yore. I finally understood that the centuries-old paintings depicting a bustling array of sailing vessels didn’t lie but were true representation of those times.

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One magnificent boat, s/v ADELE, passed us with friendly waves. Max later discovered this yacht has sailed all over the world including South Georgia, Antarctica and Cape Horn. As a friend of his wrote even I might enjoy cruising the Southern Ocean on a boat like this :)

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Reaching the carefully buoyed entrance to Vlieland’s one harbor we exited from the main channel and entered into a marina chock full of sail and motor boats alike.

We were fairly confident we’d find a place to dock because we had heard from other boaters, including a friendly cruising couple, Ineke and Willem, whom I had met in Enkhuizen, that most weekenders were headed to the larger, more populated island, Terschelling, for its Oerol Festival. “Oerol” translates to “everywhere” due to farmers letting their cows go free one day each year (why, I don’t know). This annual, ten-day event sounded wonderful with live performances in dance, theater and art but not something we could manage this year. Which meant, hopefully, more space on Vlieland, Terschelling’s quieter neighbor.

Sure enough we located a convenient hammerhead where we quickly docked then did our usual pivoting of JUANONA for a future exit.

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This marina was alive with weekenders enjoying the summery sun with kids crabbing, adults relaxing, and lots of people bike riding (the island doesn’t allow automobiles unless you’re one of the few 1,200 residents). And, if there was ever any doubt about where we were cruising one glance down a pontoon solved that as the Netherlands’ flag streamed off of majority of the sterns.

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Our friends Henk and Kiki, whom we had met in Hoorne and who have provided us with invaluable information along our most recent sails, mentioned their son Michiel, daughter-in-law Barbara and children were aboard their boat s/v POPCORN in Harlingen and also were headed to Vlieland. We managed to locate them and enjoyed meeting this sailing family who gave us tips on what to see and do. Renting bikes seemed to be a no-brainer, one echoed by POPCORN, which became our plan for the next day.

Saturday, June 18

In Vlieland we’d be waiting for a weather window to cross to southern Norway, and it appeared Sunday, June 19, would offer decent winds for the short 340-mile passage. Knowing we had a free day to enjoy this beautiful, wind-swept island we rented bikes and began our tour. Passing through the pretty, one-street town of Oost-Vlieland.

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Heading west I got a jolt of nostalgia, all brought on by seeing a dream house sitting atop a small hill and tucked into a verdant landscape. It reminded me so much of my Douglas Bruce cousins’ home in Corning, I had to take a photo. Boy, did that bring back wonderful and powerful memories.

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Continuing on our way we cycled along a beautiful (flat :) ) road with the wide-open sea on one side

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and forested dunes on the other.IMG 8042

Stopping to take in the sights such as the local horses

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and clever counterweights on fence gates,

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we understood why this coastal area is part of the UNESCO Wadden Sea World Heritage Site, the world’s largest, unbroken system of intertidal sand and mud flats.

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On the north side of the island we climbed the dunes and spotted sailing dune buggies. I saw Max keenly eyeing these sand vessels and knew we’d be on them if we had had more time.

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But, prepping for Norway beckoned, and we returned back to JUANONA to finalize our passage planning.

Our Netherlands cruising was coming to an end. We knew we’d be back. How could we not return?

But, first, a return to another land whose people and natural beauty seduced us the first time we saw it…

 

AMSTERDAM

Monday, May 9

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

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

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

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

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

HOORN

Tuesday, May 10

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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while one nearby displayed her distaste in ruffled pink plumage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, May 13

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

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

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

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

Saturday-Monday, May 14-16

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

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

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

Frieke Wannes Seppe NOV 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Captain Max shared the helm with Rudy

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with the sail ending in a group portrait:

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

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

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ENKHUIZEN

Wednesday, May 18

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

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

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the other in 1976 to reclaim more arable land.

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

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

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

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

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tile factories, and merchant trading.

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

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

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Max, however, showed more reserve.

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

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

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followed by an impressive demonstration on creating a fishing net…

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obtaining sustenance in company of wandering ducks

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

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

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

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One manly man tried to outdo the other manly man…

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I’d say it was a draw.

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

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

Further north to Amsterdam

AMSTERDAM

Wednesday, May 5

(Remembrance Day)

Our time in Haarlem ended as we untied under a bright sky and retraced our steps up to the Noordzeekanaal, only this time turning right towards Amsterdam versus left for IJmuiden and the North Sea.

Due to a timed bridge opening, we hurriedly went through the first lock only to be put on hold awhile for the second. For the latter we really didn’t have to tie up to wait because we discovered we were gently ‘resting’ on the bottom of the canal…

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Further up in Spaardnam that lock became a can of sardines (or herring, more appropriately here) with everyone jockeying for position as the Lock Keeper waved for the stragglers to hurry up. There was a bridge up ahead opening at 10:30am with the next one not until 2:15pm. We piled in amongst a plethora of motorboats, headed off on a rally together.

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But, all of us did make it (note the traffic having to stop on this major highway crossing but the Dutch take it in stride),

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and we followed the canal to our destination.

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Since it’s difficult to tie up to a canal wall in Amsterdam this time we entered the Sixhaven Marina suggested by friends. With only a short (free) ferry ride to the center of town, docking here offered a perfect spot for exploring the city. Many others thought the same as we joined a herd of boats in this jammed marina. Although, we were once again stunned by how easily and comfortably the Dutch seem to pack in boats, such as waking up the next morning to find a sailboat docked behind the sterns of two other boats.

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We were welcomed by Joise and Hennie, who thankfully alerted us to a two-minute of silence at 8:00pm in honor of those who died during WWII. It would have been great to have experienced this in the city (where everyone and everything comes to a halt, and the popular King and Queen make an appearance) but we were a bit late in planning so we just observed this aboard. Tomorrow we’d begin our exploring.

Thursday, May 6

(Liberation Day)

Folks in Haarlem had warned us about the crowds in Amsterdam; yet, it was still surprising just how many people fit into this city space. Being another holiday leading into a beautiful spring weekend increased the flow of pedestrians and bikes and cars; but, we enjoyed the places we had mapped out:  Rembrandt’s home and studio after he moved from Leiden with two excellent demonstrations, one being how he mixed his paints, another how he created his prints (FYI: Anyone interested in the 17th century art business and bankruptcy should read about Rembrandt’s life from a commercial aspect. It would be a fascinating look into those times.)

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the Resistance Museum, featuring some very brave souls, such as Hannie Schaft, known as ’The Girl with the Red Hair’.

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and, the Gassan Diamond Tour (which was really a two-minute breeze-through of trying to watch some employees polishing the stones and a thirty-minute sales job… at least we managed to skip the Madame Trousseau ‘Museum’).

During our walk from one exhibit to the next we met a friendly pup who reminded us of our friend Sue H.’s Portuguese Water Dog. So, we had to stop and pet him while talking with his even friendlier owner.

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After a day of soaking up some of Amsterdam’s history we opted to grab a beer and glass of wine in the Waag’s square (because a lot of trade was conducted via bartering most municipalities had these Weigh Houses to ensure one was truly getting the correct of amount of cheese, butter, etc, bartered for). With trucks offering refreshments and picnic tables providing seating, we found a seat and then sat back to enjoy the partying going on around us.

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We had thought we’d only be there for one drink then head back to JUANONA, but, we were wrong, oh so very wrong. Within thirty minutes the table changed over and we found ourselves with a German Couple (Ilse and Werner) here for the weekend and three, thirty-year-old locals who had grown up together (Ditske, Koen, and Erik who’s taking the picture).

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We decided to participate as one of the table team’s in the trivia pop-quizzes (five rounds of ten questions each),

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and, well, one thing led to another,

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ending with our strolling through the Red Light District to a local pub

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for one last beer.

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We made it home by 1:00 am along with other revelers enjoying Amsterdam’s night (and morning) life.

 

Friday, May 7

Well, we DID get up the next morning (Friday) and continued our sight-seeing with the focus being the impressive Rijksmuseum. A major, ten-year renovation meant the art housed here was splendidly showcased. In fact there is so much art and history (1100-present day) covered in this beautiful building that we limited our ogling to several centuries while casing the joint for hopefully a return visit.

Not wanting to overload you with tidbits I picked up, I will post one portrait painted by Theresa Schwartze (1851-1918) who, I believe is our artist friend Ellen’s ancestor. She was the go-to painter for the Dutch elite and one of the few, recognized females during that time. Below is one she painted of her niece, Lizzy Ansingh, also an artist.

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As you can imagine on a beautiful holiday weekend the galleries were wall-to-wall people with Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” painting drawing such a crowd I just peeped over some shoulders then moved on. After two hours we exited to the garden with its nearby water pool and walked through the park connecting the Rijks with the Van Gogh Museum, another extraordinary art feast,

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one we decided to save for another day.

Sunday, May 10

Having felt the elbow-to-elbow squeeze on the sidewalks as well as in museums, we opted out of Saturday sight-seeing and toured on Sunday. We ended up at one of Amsterdam’s House Churches, the Lord in the Attic House museum (love the name as it compliments what mom said we use to call the guy in Sunday School, “Jesus in the basement”, which basically was the end of my religious instruction). This site offers a fascinating view of how Catholics worshipped when they, along with some other non-Calvinist, religious groups, could practice their religions but just not in public. Consequently, some ‘secret’ churches were constructed in homes, this being one of them.

The self-guided tour takes you up three flights of narrow stairs, where you stop on each floor to walk around rooms furnished from the 1600s. On the top floor you step into a three-story-high ‘attic’ that features a beautiful altar. This house church was in use until the late 1800s when Catholics could again worship in public.

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I had also read about the World Press Photo Exhibition being held in the Nieuve Kerk, so we stopped in there for some eye-opening pictures. It made for a relaxed stroll surrounded by current events.

Then back to JUANONA while spotting a rather unique mode of transportation:  a centipede of beer guzzling partiers propelling a cart by pumping with their legs while enjoying some brew…

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with women doing the same.

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Monday, May 11

Our brother-in-law Doug mentioned his brother John and wife Bette had toured the Flower Auction just outside of town. Saying that it had been the highlight of their trip we caught an early morning bus to Flora Holland.

Billboards provided background info and explained the process but it was enough just watching a beehive of buzzing human bees moving here and there.

Following a suspended walkway over the warehouse floor we landed outside the glass-enclosed auction room where buyers bid electronically on flowers from around the world (also possible to do remotely).

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And, it’s complicated.

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I tried following the little red dot but my eyes started spinning in my head alerting me it was time for a coffee break.

Outside we saw more evidence of the commercial trafficking of flowers as we watched truck after truck stream towards the highway loaded with freshly cut flowers. If only that natural floral scent could be bottled for JUANONA’s head.

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Back in town we met our crewmate Rudy, who had arrived from a two-week archaeological dig at Vindolanda, a Roman fortress town at Hadrian’s Wall.  We were fortunate to have him aboard in between his dig and visiting his Belgium Family (whom we also call our Belgium Family :) and were looking forward to some cruising, exploring, and games of OH HELL.

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To say life can be grand just doesn’t do it justice.