Monday, November 29, 2010

Blowing in the Wind...and Den Bosch

Yup, it's my turn again at Vision and Verb and I'm there to talk about the weather. Seriously.

Lucky for me, it so happens I had already chosen this V&V topic long before we had our first snow this past Saturday. What a koinky-dink! We had also already planned to drive to nearby Den Bosch, 45 km south, to see the city and visit friends, but when we woke up to the falling snow, we second-guessed going. Astrid isn't keen on driving on snowy roads, especially if they might turn to ice! But once we heard temps would remain just above freezing the rest of the day, we decided to go. And we're so glad we did.

's-Hertogenbosch ("the Duke's Forest") is still hard for me to wrap my tongue around, so I'm glad it's been reduced over time to simply Den Bosch. And it's in the Hart (!) of Holland's North Brabant province. To enter the city while the snow was still falling was heaven for me. I made sure I started snapping right away because I knew it could all be gone in an hour or so...which it was. But not before I had a chance to document our first snow of the season.

Surely you've heard about people who lurk at blogs on the Internet. Maybe you have some of them yourself. You know they're there but you've no clue who they are. Believe it or not, we recently discovered I have had a couple of lurkers since my Hannover, Germany, days, which is from at least 4 years ago. Suddenly they popped out of cyberspace woodwork and made themselves known in order for us to connect, since we live so close. But true to lurkerdom, they do not want their names or faces known. So for the purposes of this blog, they will henceforth be known as The Girlfriends! Are you following me?

The plan was to meet at the Jeroen Bosch statue on the market square, one of the city's landmarks. He happens to be one of Holland's early painters (c.1450 - 1516) but I wonder if he ever used snow as one of his mediums?

This is the second time in a row, now, that we've had our own special tour guides for a city. Like Philine in Münster, Germany (last post), The Girlfriends knew exactly where to take us. Again, I don't intend to tell you what everything is but to only give you a feeling for the place. The one building to definitely point out, however, is the one with the pointy tower in the top right-hand corner (above): it's Holland's (not just Den Bosch's) oldest brick house called the Moriaan, from the 13th century.

And because you know the city halls are also important to me, that's Den Bosch's in the lower left-hand corner (above), right on the market square. As is typical all over Holland, there is almost always an outdoor market on the market square every Saturday, regardless of the weather. They're all used to it!

Another thing of note, as you see in the top left-hand corner (above), is how so many churches have been turned into museums, apartments, clothing stores or whatever. Church attendance is that low here in Holland, yes. But at least the buildings are not left empty to be vandalized.

You knew I'd get my water tower in, right?! There was an art exhibition going on when we walked by. We could have have gone up the tower but didn't...not this time. But look at that fancy artwork over the front door.

If there was a windmill, BTW, we never saw it. Saved for another day.

One of the fun things about Den Bosch, city center, is all the poetry everywhere...on the sidewalks and on the sides of buildings. For instance, the bottom right-hand corner (above) says:
"Ow. You're walking on me."

Most of you know by now that I 'collect' gevelstenen everywhere I go, since Amsterdam days. Den Bosch did not disappoint. In the old days, these house stones/markers took the place of house numbers and typically told you what the business was there.

The Girlfriends mentioned early on that there was a lot of whimsical art like this around the city... now I want to know more about it, of course. Is it the same artist, I wonder?
[Addendum: The Girlfriends have told me these characters are Jeroen Bosch sculptures, based on his paintings, I presume? Check out these here.]

But this was my favorite of all the art sculptures near the end of the afternoon at a busy intersection. Can you imagine driving by this every day!

Astrid's face (bottom right above) tells it all, doesn't it. We were having such a great time walking around at near-freezing temps. There were so many wonderful pedestrian-only streets with myriad cafés and restaurants. It still boggles my mind that people eat outside at these places even in the wintertime. See the throws in the bottom left-hand image (above)? We actually had our late morning koffie and appeltaart outside another café, under the overhead heaters.

And now, saving the best for the last, here's Den Bosch's Roman Catholic Sint-Janskathedraal (Saint John's Cathedral):

No, my lens is not dirty. Those are snowflakes.

We parked just after 10 a.m. off the church square while it was still snowing. I knew instintively that I needed to take pictures right then and there, even though we were on our way to meet up with The Girlfriends. Some of these pictures are from the end of the day, after all the snow melted. So thank God I paid attention!

You'd need a hawk's eye to see these little munchkins statuettes that sit high up on the flying buttresses. My 300mm lens caught their backsides. One day we hope to climb up somewhere to see them from the front...if that's possible for the public?

How can you not be impressed by a cathedral like this!
We're trying to figure out how the four of us can attend their Christmas concert together. We're working on it. Can you imagine the sound in a place like that.

Speaking of which, the organ alone would be worth the entire concert...

...with its over-watching topper... say nothing of the stained glass windows.

I haven't even told you how much fun we had getting to know The Girlfriends and how we're already planning to get together over and over again...even to play Spades. HA! Astrid will learn how to play here for when we go back to Atlanta to play with my kids the next time.

Oh, and did I tell you one of The Girlfriends is German, the other American, so we're all in a learning-Dutch mode, with Astrid willing and ready to answer all our questions. You wouldn't believe all the links I now have for Dutch-learning courses online. I feel like we've hit the mother lode in more ways than one.

Please don't forget this all started with the weather barometer and my Vision and Verb post today. IT SNOWED! And it's not even December yet. YES, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!


  1. This is absolutely interesting post for me-I love Bosch's paintings- I have a huge copy made by my sister of the "Garden"-so when I saw on your pictures those statues or sculptures based on the painting I was really amazed - I would love to see this place personally. I udnerstand that you do not have any snow now - all the clouds must have gone to Poland as we have a big snowstorm from the morning today:)

  2. I can't recall if I took a quick visit to this city back in 2002, but I know I've come close to it! Your pictures are amazing..

    I still can't believe how much you can pack into the short time you are there. But then again, when you have a patient photographer with you, it's a little easier!

    We too had our first snow last week and more than just one but it is gone for now which is fine with me.

    I do love the inside of the cathedral too. It's just like the one we have close to where I swim.

    And for learning online, wonderful!!! Oh so much... always, but it brings smiles. :)

  3. Oh, you gals do get around to some wonderful places! The many outstanding photos are always much
    admired and appreciated, the only way we will ever get to see these exotic happy that you share!

  4. I am glad that we will be back in Den Bosch, there is so much to see and to do.
    Meeting the Girlfriends was great, they are wonderful City Tour Guides.
    Every time I am amazed by your quality and quantity of pictures, thank you for making and keeping the memory alive.
    I am looking forward in learning spades!!! and I might even throw in 'from now only Dutch for 30 minutes', this is the way to leartn it I think.
    Thank you for this wonderful post, MLS

  5. Wow - such artistry in the Cathedral - is there talent like that today? I think of all the donations from the poor that made this possible. I was told once that the poor really funded so much of these magnificent churches - it was their slice of a beautiful place they called their own - and they WANTED the beauty that is here now. I certainly hope so! I'm sure the wealthy helped support them as well, but the poor really didn't have much to give and they did!

    What camera do you use? I asked somewhere before, but I can't find the where and I do so love your photos. Do you leave the settings on auto or do you shoot "raw" and adjust all the iso and other settings? I am up for a new camera soon, and I so no better photography than yours on the internet. Well, almost, You should check out "A Day Not Wasted" He does some amazing work - it is on my side bar.

    Well, thank you for sharing your journeys! I think I have a shot of the tower from Epcot - I will have to post it and see if you tell me it is from your neck of the woods - the kids were in a hurry and it was night and I never got to take a look as to where we were in the world at that moment.

  6. Ola: I love it that you already know about Jeroen Bosch. He's new for me, so I'm just getting acquainted with him and his work. In fact, I just added an Addendum to the post above that gives a link to those whimsical characters, based on his paintings. I'm learning so much. :)

    We got our second snow late yesterday afternoon (Monday), so we DO have snow on the ground as we speak. As long as everyone is safe, I love it!

    ET: We love seeing these places, Jen. I can never get too much of these cities. I feel like we're ususally only hitting the tip of the iceberg, however. Now with The Girlfriends there, we'll have opportunities to see much more. YAY. I'm glad for the smiles. Keep them coming. :)

    WS: I'm so glad to show these places to you, Susan, because they have become part of my heart and soul these days. If I don't collect them all into these posts, I'm afraid they'll all run together as one.

    Astrid: You know how much I love these photo hunts together with you. To share them now with The Girlfriends will be something new. We are so lucky. It feels like a good anniversary gift, now that I'm ready to celebrate one year here. And yes, we'll have to start those 30 minutes of "Dutch only" the next time we're together. How else will we ever learn!

    Margaret: I'm sure you're right about all the money coming from the poor penance, I assume? Sigh.

    Your words are very generous and humbling about my photos. Thank you. Could you please send me your e-mail address and I will write you more there, if you don't mind:

  7. Den Bosch is so charming. The architecture (almost ancient!) is quaint and beautiful, all those bricks. But the cathedral! Such majesty, just splendid.The light that draws your eyes up to those arches is unusual, I think. Wouldn't you love to be hoisted up there for a look on a rope swing like Hana in "The English Patient"?

    Wonderful that you hooked up with the Girlfriends and can look forward to many more times together. No doubt Astrid will pick up Spades in no time, and you will keep finding ways to add to your Dutch.

  8. Ruth: Yes Yes Yes and Yes, Ruthie. We feel so lucky to have this kind of architecture and art almost always at our fingertips! I do like the image of Hana up on a rope in “The English Patient.” I wouldn’t mind seeing that again!

  9. Just time for a quick comment, Ginnie, before I fold up my laptop and jump on the tram. Dutch winter looks much less difficult than a Canadian one - and we certainly don't have quite the same fascinating architecture and historical sites. I find myself looking around my own city as if I were you - looking for the unexpected, the beautiful, the whimsical. Maybe I should do a travelogue about my home town!
    Very cool that you connectd with The Girlfriends - what a fabulous thing it is to meet up with people through blogs.

  10. What a beautiful town – and snow! We just came back from Central America where it was in the high 80s in the shade- we had forgotten we were in the fall.
    I am not religious as you know, but I love listening to the big organs in old churches. When in France at Christmas I used to go to eglise St Eustache in Paris where the organ is so much more powerful than Notre Dame de Paris. It was built between 1532 and 1632 and Mozart chose it for his mother’s funeral. It is true that many of these old churches in Europe were built with the poor people money. You know, this was one main reason for the French Revolution that people don’t know about – to get rid of all these religious taxes (and the church people) It is now the most secular country in Europe where they really practice separation of church and state.

  11. Deborah: From everything I know about Canadian winters, I'm sure you're right. Holland would be considered mild by fact, not much different from Atlanta snow-wise, but colder. I would love for you to do a post about your own home town. That would be fun to see...especially if everyone did it. We'd learn so much from/about each other! :) I'm still amazed about all the people I've met over the years through blogosphere. I guess that's the age we live in so might as well get used to it!

    Vagabonde: I love that you get around all over the world! You're amazing. And yes, I feel the same way about these huge cathedrals...more artistic or achitectural specimens for me than anything else. But the organs are something else. I want to hear a good one this holiday season!

  12. Your post this morning inspired me to post two Camellia blossoms on my blog... blooming NOW in spite of the fact that they are meant to bloom in spring. The weather can be a flaky thing and our unseasonably warm fall weather (after an early cold snap) has clearly confused the plants in my garden. Meanwhile, once again, I am in awe of all you manage to do and see when you go off exploring and am SO enjoying the lovely images. I know what you (and others) mean about organ music... if you are ever in the Washington, DC metropolitan area visiting (we have a guest room), you would probably enjoy hearing the organ in the National Cathedral (which I've heard is amazing but have not heard myself) or the one in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall (which I HAVE heard and which is also amazing).

    Your blog has me visiting more often than any other... I do so enjoy your writing and your adventures!

  13. PS - I like what Deborah mentioned about doing a travelogue of her home town... I should add a write-up of our area to my vacation blog... but first I have to catch up with past trips and I'd need to get out and visit some spots not yet on camera. (and, apropos of the comment I left on V&V, it is now POURING down rain here but still no thunder and lightning)

  14. Your photo mosaics are a visual feast, Ginnie! Keep up the great work.

  15. Victoria: Mother Nature seems to whack her ownself out from time to time, doesn't she! I'll be sure to go see your Camelia blossoms. Wouldn't it be something to listen to organ music together sometime somewhere...anywhere. Stranger things have happened, to be sure. I'll keep that on my back burner...for a rainy day.

    I would LOVE a pooring rain right now...but not with these freezing temps. I'll just enjoy it through your ears.

    And yes, let me see your home town. That would be so fun...if everyone did it!

    Karen: You know how to make my day. Thank you. :)

  16. Dutch painters from 500 years ago was very well accustomed with snow and ice and frozen Kanaalen. No doubt.

    Great report.And I say that Holland, a tiny piece of land, enlarged with dikes (the old ones still have Norwegian Oak in the center) is very exciting and have so many wonderful secrets. Our friend Wim told us it is about 5,000 Castles around in Holland. I think we saw about 15 in a very short ditance from Huizen in -99.

    I understand your challenges regarding dutch pronounciation. Just a matter of traing - but do not laugh;-)
    In Dutch Village, Holland, Michigan, they do not speak duch like you do right now;-)

    Here in Oslo there is not much Snow, but very cold: -15 C. Just some kilometers away it was down to -25 C last night.

    You must of course go back to this wonderful Town.

    big hugs to both of you

  17. Tor: If anyone knows about snow and ice, it is indeed the Dutch! They've been a bit more like the rest of the Western world lately, not getting as much snow as in the good ol' days, but that could change this year, by the looks of it. It's snowing this morning as we speak! And I love it.

    I love your mention of your Norwegian oak in the center of the Dutch dijks. How fun is that, to be connected at the hip! :)

    The next time I'm with my Holland, MI, relatives, I will check out their Dutch. HA! You may be right.

    Maybe we can plan on a trip to Oslo this coming spring. Let's work on that....

  18. Another rich post, chockful of beautiful photos, friendship, art, culture...

    What a coinky-dink; we use that word too! I guess in Holland you'd have to spell it with a leading "k".

    How great that the lurkers delurked themselves. It now leaves me wondering...

    Love the snowy palette of Bosch. I didn't know his Dutch name was Jeroen; such an ordinary name compared to the Latin Hieronymous. I got a kick out of the Bosch sculptures perched on the posts.

    Yes, you left the best for last. That church is magnificent - Roman Catholic or not... I hope you hear an organ concert there soon.

  19. DB: Don't you love this country! You have a lot to be proud of. I love the name Jeroen and how to pronounce it, especially since that's the name of Astrid's son. We plan to go back to this great city many times, now that we have Girlfriends there. I'm sure I'll have much more to show in times to come. :)

  20. Those little figures are fun! And how impressive the architecture in your photos!

  21. Tim: Thank you for your comment, as always!