Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Bolsward Christmas Concert with Martin Mans

'Tis the season!  And we're in it full blast (except, alas, without snow...yet).

Two weekends ago we drove south (A) to the Christmas market in the limestone caves of Valkenburg (an upcoming post), but this past Saturday we drove northeast (B) into Friesland, to our Christmas concert of this season in Bolsward.

  As Astrid says, we drove the entire length of the Netherlands in two weekends, 328 km (204 miles).

But I want to start with the Christmas concert first while it's still fresh in my mind.  We won 2 tickets for the price of one on the Dutch VakantieVeilingen auction site for the Christmas concert with Martin Mans in Bolsward.  You might remember that we did this last year for the Christmas concert in Amersfoort with Pieter Jan Leusink.  We've decided we'll do this every year, as long as we can get tickets for half price!

Since we chose a 3 p.m. afternoon concert, we decided to leave early enough for a small photo hunt ahead of time...first to Workum, 12 km from Bolsward.  After all the wind and rain a couple days before, we wanted to be near the coast to check it out.

 But first things first, you know!
A potty break and a koffie break...or in this case, a hot-chocolate break with gevulde speculaas!
 It's a pie-shaped tart/spiced cookie filled with almond paste, a Christmas specialty.

And look at the quaint Pottebakkerhûs where we were served.
Sometimes you just have to be seeing the little mouse tile near the floor in the bathroom!

Directly outside our café window, across the street, is the St. Gertrude Church of 1480,
with its free-standing tower.  This for a town of 4,000 inhabitants!

 The old weigh house and town hall are in the market square next to the church.
Everything is right at your fingertips, I always say.

And with a weathervane and a good gable stone, what more could you ask for!
It doesn't take much to make us happy.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

But it was Bolsward we wanted to see before the concert.  So back into the car to drive those 12 km...

It's a city with a population of c. 10,000.  How charming.

The stand-out tower of the city center is its city hall from 1614.
The dark image is from after the concert around 5p.m.

 City halls in Europe really do take the cake...apart from the grand cathedrals.

Speaking of grand cathedrals, just a block away from city hall we found this shell.
What in the world!

This is the Broerenkerk (Brother Church) built in the 13th c. as a monastery for the Friars.
It burned out in 1980 and has since been made into a national monument.

It's hard to describe what it felt like to be inside there...
but I couldn't help but think of how you can't put new wine into old wineskins!

 On that note, we found a place to eat lunch.
Did I ever mention that we always share half-n-half of what we get when we eat out?
In this case it was a farmer's omelet and a tuna salad.

By this point we had seen plenty of gevelstenen = gable stones...

 ...and all those things I love to "collect" wherever we go.

Impressions.  Imnpressions.  Impressions.

Even the oliebollen vendor was out selling his Christmas goodies.

 While walking to our concert, we passed the St. Francis Church from 1932 (bottom left)...

...and then saw the Martinikerk nearby, the protestant Great Church from the 15th century.
This was the day's destination.

It was almost packed by the time we arrived at 2:30p, half an hour early.
This was when I'd have to trust the 1200mm range of my new camera, I told myself.
I'm not used to sitting in the back of a church, but sometimes it does have its advantage.

 And I had plenty of time to look around...

 ...especially at the organ, just behind us, built by Albertus Anthoni Hinsz in 1781.

 I even captured some of the Urker men in back before they filed down the aisle to sing.
Now look at the concert program below...

 How cool is that, using the provincial costume of the Urker men for its program!

Urk is a municipality and town in Flevoland, south of Friesland, whose economy is based on fishing.
Martin Mans is the director of these fishermen singers... well as the larger group of VOICE singers in black.
That's Martin Mans himself (bottom left), a man of many talents, including organ playing.

It was an incredible concert with acoustics to die for.
After the second piece of the program, God and God Alone, I was in heaven.
Tears in my eyes.  A song in my heart.  Joy in being alive.

And I knew we'll do this every year, somewhere, as long as we are able!


  1. Charm, charm, charm! You two get to do and see some GREAT stuff. I love it and am so happy for you.

    1. There is not a day that goes by, dear sister, that I don't pinch myself or wake up without a Thank You on my lips. Thanks for sharing my happiness. It means the world to me.

  2. Ginnie, that breakfast tart still has me salivating. And that wonderful lunch is making me more hungry. What a beautiful has moved up on my places to visit soon. We had a foot of snow overnight with temperatures around 10 degrees F this morning. At least it is not windy but it is festive looking.

    1. You sound like my sister Ruth, Donna, about food. In fact, I'm surprised she didn't mention it herself. :) You'd absolutely love the Netherlands. It's become my heaven on earth, if that makes sense? Now...if only we could get some snow!

  3. Such wonderful places you get to wander on your way to and from song! I assure you, the snow is coming. We have a few inches on the ground right now, and I passed up going out to shoot in the snow on Tuesday because I was working on my presentation. Now I have time, and it is blinding light everywhere. It is a message to eat the cherries when they're ripe and photograph the snow when it's coming down.

    I'm back from a visit to my editor and I'm content that all is on an even course. I had to drive a lot further for a single photo, and it's not much of a photo at that, but it at least provides something as picturesque as those wonderful, ancient towns you get to shoot. Alas, it comes with a price of a bit of karmic violation.

    Have a very happy holiday,

    Ted & Jane

    1. You know how much I love all your antics there in your own world, Ted. You have so much to offer and I'm delighted to be one of your many recipients. Carry on!

  4. started a beautiful christmas tradition here.

    i cannot get enough of the beautiful and charming architecture there.

    ginnie, if we visit there on our own would we find that we don't speak the language a big stumbling block?

    1. After 4 years here, Maria, we are well on our way with several good traditions. That's fun, isn't it! I feel so lucky.

      Re your question about the language barrier, you will almost always find people who can speak and/or understand English, especially if you are in the tourist areas. Most people here grow up learning English. You'd love visiting here!

  5. Beautiful post again..... amazing what we saw that day. Workum was a delight, the chocolate and the gevulde speculaas, a treat. The pictures show that we do LOVE these trips.
    .....and your big lens, I know you loved it, but I can see how this camera is a great match and does not do any less than your other camera. The weight sure is less too.
    I am glad that it is such a great performing camera.
    We will make these Christmas-concerts into a yearly tradition, each year a different town.

    1. For my kind of travel photography, this new little point-n-shoot is just what the doctor ordered. I'm delighted. And yes, it has made a big difference on my sciatic issues. Thankfully.

      I just love how we are able to get around and that you love it, too, as my Partner in Crime. And I love that we've been here together long enough to have some traditions. We really are so lucky. Thank you, MLMA.

  6. O.M.G. is right! That's looks 'bout perfect with the lucious hot chocolate ( Larry & I always do the food share thing, too! ) and the view out the window, so lovely. All the big churches, like the Brothers Church, are awesome but I really love the smaller, white one with the high roof and deep red doors.
    I can imagine what a wonderful trip this was and then there was singing ... excellent.

    1. Sometimes you can have your cake and eat it, too, Susan. That's how we feel on these trips! I know what you mean.

  7. Oh Ginnie and Astrid, what a gift it was to see a little bit of Christmas in The Netherlands. The markets, the food, the churches (I can just imagine the music...), the unique bits that make travel the joy that it is. I LOVED this exploration and it transported me to many memories of living in Europe over the holidays. Ginnie, glad to hear this camera is helping your back, that's a plus! Hope this works as a google account !?!

    1. You're ON, Susie, and I thank you!!! I used to have the Canon 28-300mm lens that weighed a ton and really aggravated my sciatic problems. It actually wasn't hard to sell it, believe it or not, especially after seeing what this new "miracle" camera can do. For my kind of travel photography, it works just fine. Thanks. I still have my Canon 100mm macro and 24-105mm lenses, which are enough for me right now.

      I know you must have wonderful memories of your years in Europe. I totally understand that thrill and am glad if I can recapture some of the bliss for you.

  8. Jeez, Louise, I can't stop thinking about the cake in the first pictures. I think your Christmas concert tradition is a good one to continue. You two have too much fun and I'm so glad you share it with us.

    1. We just love our outings, Mary, and like "eating them up," too. HA! We feel so lucky. It's even more fun when friends share them with us! Thank you.

  9. This kind of music to hear in a church is the best place ever. Back in Germany, especially around Christmas time, I went to many concerts performed in churches, like Bach's Christmas Oratorio or Haendel's Messiah. As you said, acoustics to die for.
    Oh, and that speculaas - another thing to die for as it looks like!!!

    1. I wonder if the acoustics-to-die-for is why it costs to go to these concerts in Europe, Carola, and not in America. Even at full price, I'm finding them to be totally worthwhile...though we will keep trying to get discounted tickets each year. And we will try to find a different location each year. It's also a way to visit other cities we haven't yet seen. How lucky we are!

      And yes, yes, yes about that gevulde speculaas. But you have your lebkuchen, which we are savoring this season as a gift from our German friend, Philine. Sometimes you can have it all, right?! :)