Monday, May 30, 2011

Roden, Netherlands

Before I start on Roden, it's my turn at Vision and Verb today with a post on euthanasia.
Astrid's former cousin-in-law here in The Netherlands was euthanised two weeks ago after a short bout with incurable cancer. She was only 54.


A week ago Saturday, after my Norway images were finally processed and I was ready to move on, Astrid and I drove to Roden in Holland's Drenthe province (220 km/136 miles) for a photo hunt with other bloggers. Fokkio was the one who set up the excursion for the 10 of us involved, including his wife, Karin. It was the first time for us to meet each other.

What a day! The meet-up started at 1 p.m. at a café in town but since we were in the area, Astrid and I decided to leave early enough to take in some nearby sights: the water tower in Drachten (but of course!) and a nearby special windmill in Roderwolde.

As we entered Drachten in the Friesland province, we first saw their famous bicyclist's bridge.
How's that for mixing art with utility!

By now I'm getting used to such art everywhere we go in The Netherlands,
utiliarian or not.

Drachten's water tower was built in 1959 and is 42 meters high.

After the water tower we continued on towards the windmill in Roderwolde and, you know me, stopped for this quaint Kerkje (Little Church) in Noordwijk and the gas pole outstanding in its field.
I've mentioned before that The Netherlands has its own natural gas reserves. We saw 2 such poles on this trip, where the flame at the top burns off excess fumes so they won't explode or pollute the environment.

You didn't expect me to forget the weathervanes, did you?

Then on to the windmill in Roderwolde, nearby our destination for the day:

This Woldzigt oil and grain mill was built in 1852.
It's the first windmill I've seen like this, extended out so horizontally.

Then we entered Roden, our destination, and walked around the café a bit before everyone arrived.

On one side of the café is the Ot (boy) and Sien (girl) statue.
These are storybook characters that Astrid has heard about all her life.
On the other side of the café is a statue of Hendricus Scheepstra, their author.

Then it was time to meet everyone over a cup of coffee.
All 10 of us from different parts of The Netherlands, even as far away as Haarlem!
The first Winsinghhof café/restaurant gave us free drinks because Fokko, our leader, hosts an ad for them on his blog site. It's next door to the Roden or Catharinakerk reformed church.
Midway through our 4-hour walk, we stopped at another café out in the middle of nowhere.

Then we were off and running. Well, more like stop-n-go walking for 4 straight hours!
Once we rounded Catharinakerk...

...and inspected an interactive stone sculpture...

...and the stork's empty stand but occupied chimney nest...

...we headed into the nature reserve surrounding Roden, fields and forests alike,
all 10 of us doing our photographer's thing at every whip-stitch.

First, the Shetland ponies...and the horses...

...proud of spring's wobbly new birth.

Then the Highlanders, first in brown...

...later in white.

And in bewtween, Mother Nature everywhere to be seen on a sunny day!

Quirks of nature, too...

...and things we didn't expect, like a Mandarin duck, a baby llama, horseriders (well, ok)
and a 'normal' cow!

No excuse for ever losing your way.
The Netherlands is known for its user-friendly signposts for everyone.

See how delightful it was everywhere we went for approximately 12 km.

Astrid and I had a blast and now Fokko is suggesting another excursion for July or August.

We felt like 180-year-old women that night when we fell into bed.
By morning we felt like 80-year-olds.
Maybe by July or August we'll feel back to normal?! :)


A reminder that today I'm on at Vision and Verb...while I work now on the images of our just-past weekend in Ghent, Belgium, celebrating my up-coming birthday early. But more on that next week....

Monday, May 23, 2011

Drøbak, Norway

With this post, our long Norway saga comes to an end. Finally!

And what a place to end it after all we saw in Oslo our April 1st weekend, followed by our 6-day Hurtigruten sea voyage from Kirkenes north to Bergen south. Then we did the cross-country 7-hour train ride from Bergen back to Oslo (last post).

It was Tor's 66th birthday that Sunday when we returned to Oslo (remember, we're twins. born 2 months apart!). The next evening we were scheduled to fly back to Amsterdam, so he graciously took Monday off to show us a part of Norway, in the outskirts of Oslo, that is dear to his heart: Drøbak. His paternal grandmother, Martha, was born there in 1882.

Our parking spot was across the street from the Drøbak Kirke from 1776,
so that's where we started a lovely, leisurely walk around the city centrum.

I love churches that have cemeteries on their property.
Somehow it just seems appropriate.

On the other side of the church is where the commander of the Battle of Drøbak Sound is buried and memoralized, Colonel Birger Eriksen.. The start of the war in Europe began here against the German invasion, 9 April 1940. We stood on that spot almost exactly 71 years later, 11 April 2011.

It was fun to follow the Oslofjord around the back of the church and hilly terrain to the harbor.
It was such a delightfully warm and sunny day, as you can see.

And did I mention...a LAZY day!
Tor seemed to know just exactly what the doctor ordered.

We weren't the only ones!

All good things come to an end...but only to make way for the next good thing, right?
We were on our way to the harbor and had to check everything out.
The top-left image (above) is an old-timey lighthouse, compared to the one on the right!

And before we could say Jack Sprat, there they were: the Three Mermaids.
They're a gift to the city from Ingeborg Lane, sculpted by Reinard Finsrud. They're not as famous as Copenhagen's Little Mermaid but just as impressive, if not more so.

Now you know why there are THREE mermaids guarding this lovely harbor.
I have been to the harbor in Copenhagen where the Little Mermaid sits: no comparison!

From the harbor we started walking through this idyllic seaside town to the town square...

...and to the Christmas shop.
See the Santa sign Tor is holding? He bought that for us because the Drøbak Julehuset is open year-round with its own postmark. A big deal for children of all ages (which we are!).

Astrid was able to capture one of the signs as we entered the city.

Then it was time for lunch. Tor knew exactly where to go.
It was the perfect way to end our delicious day and trip...before leaving for the airport.

But first, one last surprise from Tor...a collage I have already shown when he took us to the vantage point high above Oslo, showing the same mountains in the background where Edvard Munch was inspired to paint his "Scream."

Remember my Opera House post? What a different vantage point!

...and 4 more churches to add to our Norway collection...

And one last weathervane captured by Astrid! A perfect one for ending the trip, sending us off on our brooms back to The Netherlands. HA!

Talk about the trip of a lifetime. How many times have I said that! We can't recommend it enough, which is one of the resons why I worked hard on all these posts to finish them. If you ever have the chance, GO. You'll never regret it.

But then, you could also just come here to visit us and be equally as entertained. I promise.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The World's Best Train Ride: Bergen to Oslo, Norway

From west to east across Norway's bottom-heavy configuration, starting in Bergen, ending in Oslo, is billed the finest train trip of the world. I believe it. All 7 hours of it. (click on map to enlarge)

When we first had the idea to do it, at the end of our Norway trip, we had nothing but confirmation that it was the thing to do. In fact, it would be a sin not to do it. Our 6-day Hurtigruten sea voyage ended in Bergen and we had to get back to Oslo for our flight back to Amsterdam. It was a no-brainer.

We didn't know what the weather would be like but thankfully, it did not rain at all the entire time. It wasn't always sunny, but not to worry. We were able to see!

Our MS Vesterålen ship had arrived in Bergen on Saturday afternoon at 2:30. That meant staying the night in Bergen before catching our train at 10:28 the next morning. No problem, since we visited with blogger-friend Charles and his husband, Odd.

So, first thing Sunday morning, we were packed and raring to go to the train station just 10 minutes away...taking pictures, of course, as we moseyed along.

Astrid and I are both on the same page when it comes to time: we'd both rather be waaaaay too early than even on time. It helps us calm down before we get started.
These are important things to know about each other, of course.
Once we walked into the station, we had plenty of time to get the lay of the land, look at the art, and people watch. Oh, yes, and to grab a bite to eat for breakfast!

Did I tell you how much I love trains?!
Don't worry, I set up the laptop only long enough to upload the images from the night before,
after which it was shut the rest of the trip.
Notice the outside temp of 20 °C at almost 5 p.m. I believe it was 6 °C when we started
and went down to 3 °C once we were in the snow-covered mountains.

Did you see the knitter in the collage above this one? She sat behind us,
creating this very typical Norwegian sweater. Don't you wish you knew her!
My guess is she is not a tourist but a frequent traveler on this train.

It didn't take too long before our tickets were carefully scanned and confirmed.
He was so cute and dedicated, coming through the train after every stop.
I should have asked him how long he's been doing this?

In 7 hours, we had 20 stops, including Oslo:
Arna, Dale, Voss, Myrdal, Hallingskeid, Finse, Haugasøl, Ustaoset, Geilo, Ål, Gol, Nesbyen, Flå, Hønefoss, Vikersund, Hokksund, Drammen, Asker, Lysaker, and Oslo.
Every station was unique.

At some of the stations we saw other varieties of trains,
some older than the hills, others fit for the future.

You should have seen me!
I was up and down, passing from one empty seat to another on both sides of the train to get in as much as possible. Sometimes Astrid stayed put on her side and I on the other, just so we could both take pictures of the different things we were seeing.
Thanks to Astrid for a few of her images here-n-there!

In a second I'll show you the part of Norway in the center where snow was still in abundance
and skiers were still having a heyday, even on 10 April.
But on either side of that, we saw the rivers and lakes of Norway's middle earth.

And structures of every kind....

And churches, of course!
(I doubt if one is a church but I included it anyway--2nd from the top right.)

And all kinds of Misc.

But it was the snow that blew us both away!
THAT is a LOT of it....

A paradise for skiers!
No wonder Norway wins so many Olympic medals during the winter games!

With this post I am winding down on our Norway trip, with one more to go for next week from when we visited Drøbak with blogger-friend Tor. For over a month now, Astrid and I have stayed put around home, partly for me to get these posts done before adding other photo hunts into the mix.

But all that is changing this weekend when we will visit Roden on a photo hunt with other bloggers...and the following weekend in Gent, Belgium. But more on that later. Don't want to jump the gun!