Monday, March 28, 2011

Haarlem, NL: Part 1

By now you know this about me:

I love Holland and I can't say it in 25 words or less.

Nor can I say it in less than 1000 pictures. HA! So, because this is a looooong one, I'll pretend I've saved you time and energy by splitting it into 2 parts. Actually, I'll publish the second part next Monday, a week from now, when we'll be in Norway boarding our mail-boat cruise of the fjords. But more on that later.

Our day's drive to Haarlem a week ago Sunday was on the spur of the moment. The sun was shining and we wanted to take advantage of it! Besides, when the Dutch see good weather, they are outside quicker than you can say Jack Sprat. Did I mention that I love Holland?! Haarlem is only 50 miles north of us and because the shops were closed on Sunday, we knew we wouldn't be bumping into its 150K inhabitants.

As you know by now, we always head for city center where the architectual action is.
And where we find a café for our koffie met appeltaart, to get us started on the right foot!
It so happens we liked this Stempels café/hotel so much, we went back for lunch later. It's a stone's throw from the grote kerk (= great church), which you can see through the windows.
Stempels used to be a printing company from 1703 - 1992. More on printing in a minute.

And there she is, the Sint Bavokerk, Haarlem's landmark since the 15th century.
And closed on Sunday! But her bell tower is seen both far and wide...never 'closed.'

Not to worry. There's something for everybody.
'A' is for Astrid. Everyone knows that!

Speaking of which, here's her wide-angle view of the church from the Grote Markt!

To the left of the church from Astrid's image above, on the Grote Markt (= Market Square), is Haarlem's famous Laurens Coster statue, c. 1370. Famous because he was believed to be the inventor of the printing press! Since the late 1890s, Haarlem has been willing to concede that perhaps Germany's Gutenberg printed earlier.
HA! The rivalies between the Dutch and the Germans! Don't get Astrid started.

The Vleeshal (= Meat Market) from 1603 also stands on the Grote Markt.
(Thanks again to Astrid for her wide-angle view in the top-right corner above.)

And last but not least, Haarlem's Stadhuis (= city hall) from the 14th century is also sitting on the square.
See how much room there is for a deep breath, especially when it's not too crowded.

Even though the shops weren't open, we had plenty of entertainment.
Always something to see...and 45 was a very good year!

On the Market Square we saw the sign directing us to the Corrie ten Boom Museum not far away.
I remember seeing in 1975 The Hiding Place movie about Corrie's part in saving Jews during WWII. The weird thing is that Astrid never heard the story till she went to the USA in her young 20s. There's no question Corrie ten Boom did more for her country in relation to the war than Anne Frank ever did, but Anne Frank's story has become the more famous.

Those of you familiar with European cities know that wherever there's a market square/city center,
the train station isn't far away...within walking distance.
Haarlem's train station is one of the two oldest in The Netherlands
and is a rijksmonument (= national monument).

Once entering a train station, you almost always have to climb up one floor to get to the tracks.
See the 'track' here at the side of the stairs. It's for your bike. How cool is that!
Usually it's a cement/iron track but this one is wood, the first I've seen thus far.

How's that for a train station! More like a functional museum.

I kid you not. "The art of can" Red Bull poster hung on the station wall.
And once outside the station, we saw the real thing.

Don't you just love how one thing leads to another.
Not far past that Red Bull poster we saw a cigar shop that reminded us of our Norwegian friends who, when asked what we could bring them, said Dutch cigarillos.
Notice the Cohibas which are Cuban cigars...not something you can buy legally in the States.
Romeo y Julieta cigars? Also from Cuba.

Enough already.

Next week I'll show you the most photogenic windmill of Haarlem's 7, plus the Amsterdamse Poort (gate house)...and all kinds of trivia images that make Haarlem special.

Till then, here's a parting shot at all the gevelstenen (= gable stones) I was able to capture:

Some cities are a gold mine! And this is just the tip of Haarlem's iceberg.

A quick switch now to the Norway trip I mentioned at the beginning. Astrid and I fly to Oslo this Thursday night and will spend the long weekend with 2 sets of blogger friends I've known since my early blogging days here. Renny and Diane will host us the first weekend and Tor and Anna the next. We've both been to Oslo previously but expect to see it again with new eyes.

Then, from Monday to Saturday next week, we'll be taking the 6-day Hurtigruten mail-boat cruise from Kirkenes (north) to Bergen (south), along the entire Norwegian coastline, entering the fjords as the boat delivers mail and groceries/goods. It's a small boat, relatively speaking, at 500 passengers. No onboard entertainment/activities. Just good food and lots of sightseeing. We'll hop off whenever possible and will also have an excursion (Day 3, Wednesday) of the Lofoten Islands.

Then a cross-crountry train ride on Sunday from Bergen back to Oslo, 6 1/2 hours through spectacular scenery. Renny and Tor are so jealous. It's something they've always wanted to do...but you how those backyard things are! Vagabonde and Dutchbaby have done the cruise and are cheering us on. We'll compare notes later, of course.

So, next Monday Part 2 of we board our cruise of the Norwegian coastline!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Follow The Yellow Brick Road

...but first, Spring has sprung!
March came in like a lion and is going out like a lamb, as the saying goes.
And that's what my post is about on Vision and Verb today.
(Don't worry. I'll remind you again later.)

Now, follow these dots. This is fun!

You may remember Ernie and his delightful dog, Laika, who somehow always manage to enter my scene, as they did on this past Santa Run here. The image to the left is from 23 March a year ago when I first bumped into him on one of my citadel walks. Nine months later, when he saw me at the Santa Run, he asked if I'd send him the pictures I took back then. But my bad! I totally forgot until last Tuesday when, because of a citadel-walk post I was working on, I remembered and sent them to him. That's when he wrote back to tell me he had just won the prize for a photo contest related to our nearby Merwede Bridge celebrating its 50th-year anniversary....and that the next day, Wednesday, would be the official opening of the exhibition in the museum at our nearby Old Stadhuis. AND as a bonus, kids would be there in the afternoon building their rendition of bridges out of Legos.

The photo of the bridge above is the winning photo of all the 65+ entries here. Are you still following the dots?

So with one day's notice, I knew I'd want to go check it all out, in honor of my photographer friend and in hopes of some good photos of the kids building bridges out of Legos.

Here's the Old Stadhuis (below), not to be confused with the NEW Stadhuis (scroll down a bit) where all official city-hall business now takes place, including where we got married a year ago.

See the crooked Grote Kerk on the left (above)? It really IS that crooked and sits behind the Old Stadhuis on the market square 2 blocks from our house.

Now, look at this below from last Wednesday when I went to follow the yellow-brick Lego road:

As you see, since the building now houses the city's museum, it has delightful clay 'munchins' welcoming all who pass by. Because I was inside the museum that day (for my first time ever), I was able to take pictures looking out from their perspective.

Incidentally, in the top-right image above, the Old Stadhuis now houses a café/restaurant where we chose to eat our wedding dinner back on 5 February a year ago. We got married in the New Stadhuis and ate dinner in the Old. It made sense to us!

Now, come with me inside for this delightful hour of kids playing with Legos (bringing back so many memories of all those Lego sets we bought for son Mark over the years):

The orange banners outside say This isn't the first time I've seen a big deal made out of Legos here in Holland. Is it a bigger deal than in America, I wonder?

As soon as I walked through the front door of the Stadhuis and turned left there in the lobby, I saw this table in the corner, loaded with bridge-building potential.
As you see, bridge-builder wannabes come in all shapes and sizes...and ages.

That was downstairs, but I wanted to check out the museum upstairs since it's free to the public on Wednesday afternoons and I had not yet seen it. What I didn't expect was...

...another table set up there, too!
Because it was smaller and not as crowded, I spent most of my time there.

Don't you get the impression these are the Dutch geeks engineers of tomorrow!

Do you anticipate what I'm going to say about the above collage?
I just LOVE the juxtaposition of serious play against the backdrop of Dutch-Master paintings!

I also love how the boys often worked together, side by side... much as alone.
I loved watching this GAASTRA boy crouch low to get a different perspective of his work.
GAASTRA. Did you notice the name? It's the nautical brand of clothing with the Sneek waterpoort logo, as seen in this post.

My favorite of them all, certainly not older than 3-4!
I wish I had gotten his name...for future reference, assuming I live so long.

All the dots. The yellow brick road.

Just like that, from meeting Ernie and Laika a year ago, sharing our love of camera serendipitous, chance meetings and fun photo ops.

We're not in Kansas anymore, Folks.

Addendum: Astrid just found this YouTube of the official ceremony where you can see the kids winning their bridge prizes (one for a lttle girl and one for a boy). Also, Ernie's winning photo is being hung at the end:

Just another reminder that it's my turn again at Vision and Verb.
Spring has sprung!

Monday, March 14, 2011

GOUDA, as in The City

So, after we left the cheese shop, loaded with our bag of cheese from the last post...we continued our photo hunt of Gouda, the city of 71K inhabitants. Actually, it took us two seconds to figure out we could leave the bag at the shop and come back for it later. Which we did.

Gouda the city is surely most known for its cheese. Duh. But it's also known for its clay smoking pipes with looong stems, stroop/syrup waffels (both of which I didn't take bad!) and for its candles:

Gouda kaarsen (= candles) are considered to be the cream of the crop.
They're made of stearine/natural wax with a special prepared wick, with hardly any soot or smoke,
almost never dripping and burning for hours.

And that reminds me of what Gouda is also known for, it's famous Stadhuis, one of Holland's oldest Gothic city halls, built between 1448 and 1450:

This magnificent structure sits in the middle of Market Square, as seen here from above.
At Christmas time, Astrid says all the windows are lit with Gouda candles.
Definitely on our list to see this next holiday season.

Speaking of the Stadhuis, later in the afternoon as we ate lunch on the square, I was able to zoom in on this wedding party just coming out. You may recall that weddings in the Netherlands take place at the city hall,
as ours did here in the city where we live.

On the same market square, behind the Stadhuis and just a couple buildings from where we ate, is Gouda's Waag (= weighing house), built in 1668 for weighing goods to levy taxes.
It is now a national monument.

As happens in most of these Dutch iconic cities, there's always one big church that stands out from all the others, and that would be Sint Janskerk:

A UNESCO monument known for its stained glass windows, the church was built in the 15th-16th centuries, dedicated to Gouda's patron saint, John the Baptist.
The church was open to the public for an entrance fee (€3,50 each, as I recall) but no cameras allowed.
Sorry, NO. We'll look online. Sometimes we're cheapskates, just for the principle of it.

...but as you know by now, that doesn't keep us from walking all around to see what we can outside.
I'm a glutton especially for such arched walkways attached like this.

I'm also a glutton for seeing such a steeple while out-n-about town and knowing whose it is!

Since we're in the vicinty of the grote kerk (big church), let's cross the street to Gouda's history Museum....

...with another archway. I love those walk-throughs...
(notice Sint Janskerk so close behind once you're inside the courtyard)

...and all the gevelstenen (= gable stones) inside the courtyard.
We didn't enter the museum proper but enjoyed the inner courtyard as its own museum.

The other church that sticks out like a sore thumb while you're out walking around is the Gouwekerk, over by the vismarkt (= fish market):

In the bottom right-hand images (above) you can see the 2 pillared structures on each side of the canal (with the church in the background). In days past the fishing boats would pull up alongside these open-air structures and unload their catch for market selling.

On the way to the vismarkt, by the way, we passed the following bridge being restored:

...and as we passed it...

The top row was the foreplay, the bottom row 'the act.'
HA! It was a real 'quickie!'

How can you ever beat Mother Nature!

Well, we try, don't we. Look at this bit of whimsy. Is this, too, foreplay???

Now, change gears, if you can, and check out these two windmills:

't Slot (= the Lock) was built in 1832 as a grain mill.

De Roode Leeuw (= the Red Lion) was originally built in 1727, also as a grain mill.

And to tell you why we love these photo hunts so much....

...just before we rounded the corner to see the Roode Leeuw windmill, we spied this sewing machine outside in a yard, suffering from the elements. As we started taking pictures of it, this gentleman, so seemingly hungry for conversation, came out to tell us all about it. He even offered it to us...if we wanted it!

And then, just to the left of the windmill, there on the canal where we had first seen the mill from afar after first parking.... as they know it on the canals of The Netherlands!

Bid yourselves tot straks, now, to Gouda....

...a city of so much of what I love, like more gevelstenen (= gable stones).
You can actually see the whole shootin' kaboodle here on the Dutch database.

Enough impressions for a lifetime of enjoyment.

Gouda, the city. I have a feeling I barely got started (and you thought this was long!).