Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Allure Of Amsterdam...

Amsterdam, The Netherlands
May 7-9

Amsterdam was where my first cruise ended and my second cruise began so that left me with plenty of time to walk about on my own and savor the sights, sounds, and smells of this city known for its canals and bridges, art museums and monuments, architecture and cozy alleys, food and drink, bicycles and more bicycles, and, yes, its Red Light District. Since there are books and blogs and travel sites aplenty about Amsterdam, I will leave the facts and figures to them and simply share a few thoughts and a range of photos.


Central Train Station

In Memory...Bronze squares in the sidewalk in front of the home of Jews who were deported and sent to Auschwitz

In Memory...An Eternal Flame to remember those who were deported and killed in the concentration camps

I arrived on a cold, grey morning, but left on a sunny afternoon and was, once again, reminded how the weather can greatly affect the way one sees a place. Hundreds of canals meander in and out of the city, framed by lovely old homes with intriguing facades of gabled roofs and hoisting beams that were used for the raising and lowering of goods and furniture. The homes along the canals are narrow because tax was measured by the width of your abode, except for the “Gentleman’s Canal” from Prinsengracht to Herengracht where the very wealthy lived; their homes were wider as paying taxes was not a problem…these were also the people who bought the Rembrandt and Vermeer paintings to cover their walls.

Amsterdam’s history, like so many cities in Europe, knew joy and sorrow, victory and defeat. In the early days, the Black Death, water and fire were its citizens’ greatest fears and in the 1930’s and 1940’s it was Hitler and the Nazi army. Amsterdam of the 21st century is a reflection of all that came before with hints of what is to come. Whether one chooses to get around by foot, bicycle, or tram, there will be surprises at almost every turn and, definitely, something for everyone.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A 17th Century Port Town...

Enkhuizen, The Netherlands
May 6

With a population of 17,000, this quaint town, although not like it was in the 17th century when 40,000 people lived here and a herring fleet of 400 boats kept this place bustling, still has a feel of days gone by. A lot quieter today and with its canals, trees, old-style homes, and just a bit of “something in the air” Enkhuizen is definitely the perfect place to take a deep breath and relax.

This was also the spot where we had a delightful home hosted visit with a local couple who regaled us with lots of stories and made sure we sampled a selection of typical alcoholic beverages!

Remains of a Jewish cemetery
located behind the home of our hosts.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Windmills And WIndmills And Windmills...

Kinderdijk, The Netherlands
May 4

I’ve been intrigued by windmills ever since my first trip to The Netherlands in 1969; there’s just something about their power, their grace, and a certain mysterious allure that captured my interest all those years ago. So, what better opportunity to satisfy my curiosity, but a visit to Kinderdijk, a boat ride on the canal, and a quick peak inside a mill.

My day began with a short morning walk in Rotterdam, a city almost completely destroyed by bombing during World War II. Today, one of the largest ports in the world and a center of commerce and trade, Rotterdam, rebuilt with a very modern flair, has lots of open spaces and parks even though it’s a very busy place. Then there’s Market Hall (Blaak Markt) combining food, leisure, living, and parking all under one roof…an amazing, innovative architectural design well worth the visit. Indulged in the best macaroon I have ever eaten (purchased at one of the bakery stalls) and the story is that Madonna even has an apartment in the complex, although I haven’t verified that.

The Netherlands still has more than 1,000 windmills and the largest concentration of them is near the Dutch village of Kinderdijk where in 1740 nineteen mills were built along the drainage  channel that empties into the River Lek. Although there is now a large pumping station that has taken over their job, in case of emergency, the windmills, no longer operational, can still be used. As in the "olden days" people continue to live in them, although I will admit that the quarters are a bit cramped for me…perhaps I don’t have enough of an adventure-seeking spirit…or perhaps I just need more "creature comforts!"

Sunday, June 25, 2017

It's All About The Tulips...

Keukenhof Gardens
May 3

I love tulips. I really love tulips. So, when I made my reservation, it was after doing research on the “best” time to visit Keukenhof to surround myself with thousands of my favorite flowers. As the weather is so often unpredictable, there was no guarantee that the tulips would be there for me…but they were…and how grand…how splendid…how absolutely perfect.

Keukenhof, (which means “kitchen garden”), had its origins in the 15th century when fruits and vegetables were gathered  from the woods for use in the kitchen at the Teylingen Castle. In 1641 Keukenhof Castle was built and the  gardens grew in size, to be redesigned two hundred years later as an English landscape.

It was in 1949 that a group of flower bulb exporters got together and proposed using the estate as a permanent exhibition of “spring flowering bulbs.” The park was officially opened one year later and has been visited by millions of people from all over the world. 

One can only be joyful when walking on the grounds...the beauty is almost too much to take in. For me, it was sheer bliss…