Royal Palace, Amsterdam

The Dam Square in Amsterdam can be considered the center of the town. It is dominated by the Royal Palace. Here is a Google Earth image.

Dam Square

This monumental building has not always been a palace. It was built in the seventeenth century as the Town Hall of Amsterdam and functioned as such for 150 years. For a long time it was the largest administrative building in Europe and considered by many the Eight Wonder of the World.

In 1808 Louis Napoleon, brother of the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, became King of Holland and converted the Town Hall into a Palace. Not for long, in 1813, after the fall of Napoleon, the Kingdom of the Netherlands was established and the former town hall became a Palace of the Royal House of Orange. Nowadays it is a ceremonial palace, still in use for the inauguration of a new monarch and other official functions.

Left a painting of the Town Hall as it was in 1673, right the present situation.

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When not in use, part of the palace is open to the public. Here is a map of the main floor.

Map

The impressive Burgerzaal (Citizens Hall) was the center of the Town Hall, freely accessible for the citizens of Amsterdam. Galleries lead to the various administrative offices

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Ceilings and upper parts of the walls are decorated by paintings of famous Dutch Golden Age artists

It is not easy to see details of the paintings, because they are very high up the walls. Many of them show historical scenes, related to the fight for independence of the Dutch Republic. Here are two images, taken from the Internet. Left The Conspiracy of the Batavians under Claudius Civilis (1559-1562) by Govert Flinck and right Brinio Raised on a Shield (1661) by Jan Lievens. Click on the link and then on “details” for more information about these paintings.

Claudius CivilisBrinio

It is interesting to note that Rembrandt, the most famous painter of his time, is not represented! Actually he created a painting about the same topic of Claudius Civilis as Govert Flinck and for a few months it was exhibited in the town hall. Then, for reasons unclear, it was returned to Rembrandt, who cut down the huge canvas (5×5 meter) to more manageable proportions . It is now in the Nationalmuseum of Stockholm and considered one of his masterpieces…:-)

Here are two more paintings. Amsterdam,  the leading city of the Dutch Republic, saw itself as the successor to the Roman Republic.  Its “burgomasters” (mayors) liked to identify themselves with the Roman consuls. Left, Fabritius and Pyrrhus (1656) by Ferdinand Bol, shows the consul Fabritius resisting the bribery attempts of  King Pyrrhus. Right, in The incorruptible Consul Marcus Curius Dentatus (1656) by Govert Flinck, the consul holds up a turnip, waving away the gold and other gifts, offered to bribe him.  Again: click on the links and then on “details” for more info.

On the map above, the original function of the various rooms is indicated. When the town hall was transformed into a palace, these rooms became bedrooms, dining rooms, ballrooms etc. They were furnished in Empire style. Even now some of the rooms are used as guestrooms for heads of state and other VVIP persons during official functions.

The admission price for the Palace includes a headset. Explanations are given by a former mayor of Amsterdam. Very informative!

Two contrasting pictures to end this blog. In the left picture you can see the Dam Square and the balcony, from which traditionally the new monarch is presented to the people. This balcony is not original, it has been added in 1808 by Louis Napoleon. The picture to the right is the only part of the ground floor that you can visit. It is the Tribunal, just below the room with the balcony, where death sentences were pronounced. After the verdict the criminal was taken up to the first floor, where a temporary scaffolding was constructed and the execution (by hanging) took place. The executions were public, visible to the people on the Dam square.

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When you visit Amsterdam, you should spend a few hours in this monumental building! And when you can not visit Amsterdam in the real, you can make a virtual tour, using the Google Cultural Institute !  Just amazing, what would we be without Google…:-)

 

Food, food, food

As readers of this blog will have noticed, I am a foodie and Malaysia is a paradise for foodies. But when I am back in my native country, I also enjoy the food there. In this blog you will find no nature, no culture, just food and more food.. 🙂 And me, of course I had my food often in company with family or friends, but in this blog you will only see food and me!

Here are a few pictures of my own home-cooking, when I did not have to entertain friends. Dutch food is basically potatoes with vegetables and meat, but I also like to cook Italian food. Of course no meal is complete without a glass of wine..:-)

A few times I also have invited friends for dinner at my apartment.

But mostly I either go out with friends/family or have food at their place.

One outside dinner deserves special mention. It has become a tradition that during my stay in Holland,  I have a more or less “special” dinner with my lady friend Yolanda. She knows about the fashionable restaurants..:-) This time we had dinner in restaurant Dwars. They specialize in serving beer(!) instead of wine with the various courses. It was a good choice, the food was delicious, the service very friendly, and it was value for money.

This is really a restaurant you should try, when in Amsterdam. Even when you think,  like me, that wine suits a dinner better… 🙂

Here is a selection  of food pictures with family and/or /friends.

Did I gain weight? Yes, but surprisingly little  😉

A Grey Sunday in Amsterdam

Usually I come back to the Netherlands when spring has started, but this time I was earlier. The weather was cold and grey, not inviting to go out and enjoy the countryside. Maybe visit a museum?  But which one, Amsterdam has more than 50 of them! Two of them are housed in patrician canal mansions and I decided to visit those.

The famous Grachtengordel (“Canal Belt”) of Amsterdam, clearly visible in the GE map below, has been declared an Unesco World Heritage site in 2010. The three concentric canals were dug in te 17th century, the Dutch Golden Age

Map

First I visited the museum van Loon. This merchant mansion was built in 1671, has had many tenants  (for example the painter Ferdinand Bol, a pupil of Rembrandt)  and owners and was finally bought in 1884 by the aristocratic family van Loon, who still owns it, but doesn’t live there anymore.

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Here is a collection of pictures. These mansions have a big garden, with at the back the coach house. The kitchen is in the basement, the (elevated) ground floor has reception and living rooms, the first floor the bedrooms. The second floor (not accessible nowadays) contained the servant quarters. The museum gives a good impression how the rich merchants lived in those days.

During my visit there was an interesting special exhibition. The van Loon family belonged to the Dutch aristocracy and many exhibits show their personal fashion style, from 1850 until present.

My second visit was to the Willet-Holthuysen museum. Built for Jacob Hop, mayor of Amsterdam, around 1685. Also here many owners, the last one was Mrs. Willet-Holthuysen, she bequeathed the entire house to the city of Amsterdam on condition that it became a museum in 1895.

Similar design as the van Loon mansion. Elevated ground floor with diningroom and sitting room and a large ballroom. Kitchen in the basement, with access to a town garden. Bedrooms on the first floor. Notice how the 17th century building is flanked by ugly modern buildings

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Also for this museum a collection of pictures. The Willet-Holthuysen couple were part of what you would call nowadays the jetset. Traveling a lot, giving parties, collecting art.

When I was searching the Internet for opening times etc, I found that there used to be another townhouse museum, the Geelvinck-Hinlopen mansion, unfortunately closed indefinitely last year. But the regular concerts of classical music, given in this museum, arestill being organised, only in a different location, in the Huis met de Hoofden (House with the Heads). This mansion was built in 1622. The interior is under renovation, only one room is accessible for concerts. Impressive facade.

There is a legend that the six heads represent thieves, beheaded by a servant, when she noticed a burglary. Not true, they represent Greek gods…:-)

It was my lucky day, there was a concert on this grey Sunday afternoon! Musica Batavia , three musicians, on harpsichord, violin and recorder, were playing music by Bach, Telemann, Vivaldi and others.

They played very well, here is an example of their musical style, a sonata by Pietro Locatelli (an Italian composer who, by the way, lived most of his life in a canal house in Amsterdam!)

 

I really enjoyed this Grey Sunday in Amsterdam!

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Alkmaar

During my last visit to the Netherlands I have visited quite a few historical cities. Utrecht, Dordrecht, Maastricht, Middelburg and Alkmaar. In 2009 Aric and I  had visited the famous cheese market in Alkmaar, no time to explore the town. Recently my brother Arie has moved to Alkmaar and Ineke and he had invited me to visit them. We had an interesting walk in the historical center of the town. Alkmaar has a rich history. During the Dutch war of independence , the siege of Alkmaar in 1573 was a turning point: “Victory begins at Alkmaar”

The House with the Cannon Ball is one of the few wooden houses in the town. During the Siege the Spanish army fired a cannon ball, which destroyed part of the house. The Fish Market dates back to the 16th century, the present fish tables were built in 1755.

In many historical towns in the Netherlands you can still find so-called Hofjes , courtyards with almshouses. Financed and built by rich merchants for (generally) poor people. With rules and regulations. The Wildemanshofje has 24 houses and is only for ladies (even now) . The Hofje van Splinter (1648) is a hidden gem, with only 8 (now 7) houses. The Hof van Sonoy is bigger and is now a restaurant.

I did not know that Alkmaar has many Jugendstil (Art Deco) houses. Next time I must find more, as it is one my favourite architectural styles.

We continued our walk, admired the spectacular town hall and had a look at a few churches. We walked along the ramparts, where the Windmill of Piet is the only one remaining, in the past there were ten. There is so much to see. But we were thirsty and needed a beer…:-)

Arie and Ineke have a very nice house, on walking distance from the center. We had an enjoyable evening with very nice food.

Middelburg

Middelburg is a town in the south-western part of the Netherlands and capital of the Zeeland province. It takes about 2.5 hour by train from Amsterdam, very remote according to Amsterdam standards…:-). So  I have visited Middelburg (en Zeeland) a few times only. A friend of mine, Henk,  is living in a small village near Middelburg, we know each other from our University days, more than 40 years ago! Since a few years we have a more or less regular contact again,  because we are both interested in astronomy and cosmology.

Finally this year we met for the first time in many decades. I could stay overnight in their “garden house”.   Did I like mussels, Henk’s wife Nel asked me? Sure, I did and Zeeland is famous for its seafood.

Henk met me at the station and had planned a walk in the historical center of Middelburg. Nice weather. MIddelburg has a rich historical past, in the Dutch Golden Age (17th century) it was after Amsterdam the most important trading center. Many lavish 17th and 18th century merchant houses and storehouses (some of them  restored after bombing in WWII) can still be admired. Center of the town is the Abdij (Abbey) with the Lange Jan (Long John) tower, built in the 14th century

We decided to climb the tower, one of the highest monumental towers in the Netherlands (91 meter). Beautiful view of the town , the abbey and the impressive town hall

We continued our walk, admired the Town Hall and had coffee on a terrace at the Market square. I tried the Zeeland specialty, a cinnamon bun called bolus. Bolus means “turd” in English, quite an apt name, I think…:-)  In May 1940 part of the historical center of Middelburg was destroyed by bombing and fire. I include one picture of the St Joris Doelen as it looked like in 1940. What a beautiful restoration. The same holds for the Abdij.

After our lunch we had a look at the beautiful sundial of the Stadsschuur. Not everybody looking at this sundial will understand the meaning of the figure eight “decorations”. They are analemma’s. See the Equation of Time for technical details.

From Middelburg it was only a short drive to Serooskerke where Henk and Nel are living in an attractive bungalow, with a beautiful garden. When they told me I could stay overnight in their “garden house”, I expected simple accommodation, so I was quite surprised that it was actually a full-fledged apartment.

We had a very pleasant evening. Nel apologised that the mussel season was over, instead we had lobster. Yummy!  And a dish with zeekraal (Salicornia, glasswort in English) and baked mussels. And ice cream with strawberries. What a treat.

We had a lot to talk that evening…:-) Memories from our shared past, stories about our respective family backgrounds. We will hopefully meet again next year. In Zeeland or in Kuala Lumpur…:-)

Homage to the Vondelpark

When I moved to Amsterdam in 1961, as a 17 year old freshman, I had lodgings near to the Vondelpark. Later, after I became a teacher, I have been living again close to this park, which can be considered the “Central Park” of Amsterdam..:-) Time for a homage.

Vondelpark

The Vondelpark was built in four phases between 1864 and 1878. Below is the situation around 1882. Notice that Amsterdam was still a small town, mainly contained within the “Singelgracht”. Where I would live ~100 years later, was still farmland. Note that the map has been rotated slightly and that the park (lower right) has a separate detailed map at the left

Kaart

Being back in Amsterdam at the moment, I decided to visit the Vondelpark and take lots of pictures. It was beautiful spring weather. I started at the western entrance. Here I am looking back to this entrance. You can see clearly that the park is below the street level

West entrance

There are a few cafes in the park and on a sunny day many people will come here to enjoy a drink. Others will just relax in the grass, or even take a sunbath..:-). The sycamore avenue (Platanenlaan) was originally designed as a race course. For horse riding, in the beginning bicycles were not allowed in the park. Now it is the other way around..:-)

People walking their dog, joggers, roller skaters, bicyclists, sunbathers. Or just resting in the grass, enjoying another type of grass…LOL. At some places the smell of marijuana is so strong, that you almost can get high, just walking around.

Vondelpark

Vondelpark Vondelpark

Gradually I walked/biked eastwards in the park. On the south side of the park, a affluent neighborhood developed, so the park entrances from that side became more posh and elaborate..:-)  The rose garden was a later addition (1936). By the way, this rose garden is one of the most popular (and dangerous!) gay cruising areas of Amsterdam…:-)

There are three more cafe’s in the park. In the Groot Melkhuis opened in 1874, you could drink fresh milk. Now it is a popular self-service cafe-restaurant with a playground for the kids.Here you can read what Tripadvisor says about it.

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The Blauwe Theehuis is another popular venue. It was built in Modernist style in 1937, after an earlier tea house had been destroyed by fire. The Vondelpark Pavillion is a beautiful building, designed in Italian Renaissance style and built in 1878. Along the north side of the park, the Vondelstraat houses beautiful villas for the happy few..:-). Two churches can also be found here. The Vondelkerk was designed in neogothic style by famous architect Cuypers (Rijksmuseum, Central Station)

Originally the park was named the “Nieuwe Park” but later renamed Vondelpark after Holland’s most famous poet Joost van den Vondel. A statue of the poet was placed in the park in 1867. The bandstand was built in 1873. Several more sculptures can be found in the park and about each of them a story could be told. I will mention only the Mama Baranka sculpture, which was placed here in memory of Kerwin Duinmeyer, a 15 year old Antillean boy, who was killed by skinheads in 1983 because of his skin color.

It was difficult to stop taking pictures on this sunny day in spring…:-) Nice cherry blossom, Egyptian geese with their chicks, a hot dog vendor, and everywhere people relaxing.

Vondelpark

Vondelpark

In the eastern section of the park, it is crossed by a bridge, the Vondelbrug. After the park was created, north and south of the park new neighborhoods came into being. Divided by the Vondelpark! Here is the situation in 1905.

Vondel bridge

City planners wanted of course a connection road “through” the park, connecting the two streets, indicated with a blue line. But for many years the association managing the park, resisted and it was only in 1947 that the connecting bridge was opened.

Passing under the bridge we reach the eastern end of the park, with the main entrance, near the Leidseplein.

Vondelpark

Vondelpark

Much more can be told about the Vondelpark. Here is an interesting video (13 minutes, in Dutch) about the history of Amsterdam’s most famous park

Family gathering

When I am back in the Netherlands, we always try to organise a family gathering. This time on 18 April, one day after my 71st birthday. First we met in the family house at the Conradstraat, where we grew up and where my youngest brother and his family are now living.

Conradstraat

Conradstraat

It was a beautiful day, so we decided to take a walk through our hometown and see how much had changed..:-). Here are the six Stuivers, as we call ourselves. A stuiver was the popular name for a 5 cent coin, before the Euro was introduced.

The Stuivers

With the perfect weather, our native village (now a town) looked very attractive with quite a few historical buildings still standing and well-conserved. For Dutch readers of this blog, our Reformed Church is the Gereformeerde Kerk, the other one is the Hervormde Kerk. In English they are both “Reformed” and it would take many pages to explain the difference..:-)

Of course also a lot of renovation has been going on. The modern town hall (2003) has an eye-catching architecture. Next to the railway station a bike storage facility has been constructed in the form of a green apple :-).There is modern sculpture and some of the new residences look quite special

We had booked for our dinner in Casa Havana, a buffet restaurant inside  Avifauna This bird park was opened in 1950(!) as the first dedicated bird park in the world. We have been here regularly in our youth, but for me if was the first time in many decades to revisit the park. Before our dinner we had a stroll through the park. Of course birds in cages, like the hornbills and the flamingoes, but many also roaming free. Very nice, we should have come earlier, as the dinner was waiting for us…:-)

The buffet restaurant turned out to be a popular, crowded and quite noisy venue. A table had been reserved for us and we had a very friendly waitress. Starting wih a welcome cocktail, free flow of wine and beer, a large variety of food, even port with the cheese! Value for money.

“Shall I take a picture of your group”, the motherly waitress asked me. Here is the result

The family

The problem with buffet restaurants is that my stomach is not big enough..:-( Here is what I managed to consume (hm, actually there was such a variety of starters that I had two plates).

dinner

After the dinner we walked back to our cars. Spring is a few weeks late this year, so many trees still were barren. It gave the pollard willows (knotwilgen) an almost magical appearance

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Before going home, we had a farewell drink in the family house. A very nice and satisfactory reunion!

In the Conradstraat

The Dutch Pilgrims Path

In medieval times pilgrims from all over Europe walked to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain. Nowadays there are still pilgrims, but also many people who like long-distance walking. My late friend Yian walked the Camino, as it is called, from the French border to Santiago, a couple of years ago and kept a fascinating diary of this pilgrimage. Four years ago my friend Paul and I walked a part of the Dutch Pilgrims Path, which starts in Amsterdam and connects near Maastricht to the Belgian Camino. You can find a report here. We walked from Weert to nearby Heerlen in four days. This time we wanted to continue our “pilgrimage”, so we took the train from Amsterdam to the small village of Nuth, where we had ended our walk four years ago. Walking in the southern part of the Netherlands is a pleasure, it is an undulating landscape, mainly agricultural, with picturesque villages and castles. Pilgrims Path Here is a collection of pictures showing the paths we have been walking. It is not always possible to avoid the tarmac, but most of the time we walked on unpaved roads

The Limburg province is famous for its asparagus. Easy to recognise. Potatoes also no problem. But the different kind of grains? The two grain varieties in the middle picture could be rye and oats, but I am not sure
Asparagus Grains Potatoes

Nature was in full bloom, it was a pleasure to see so many flowers. Here is a small collection

On our way we passed small villages and nice manor houses. Each village with its church and sometimes a windmill. Farmhouses in the characteristic black and white architecture.

On many crossroads you will see small shrines with a crucified Jesus. The Limburg province has a very Roman-Catholic background. Shrines We always try to find accommodation in the villages we pass, but this time there was nothing suitable, so we took a bus to the nearby town of Heerlen, where we enjoyed a beer on the main square and nice (Greek) food.

Our original plan was to walk three days and reach Maastricht, but on the first day I got painful blisters on the soles of both feet….:-(  The next morning I bought Second Skin in a pharmacy, but it did not help enough and after a few hours walking/limping I decided to stop and take a bus and train back to Amsterdam. Paul continued that day and came back later. So we still have to complete the final leg of the Dutch Pilgrims Path Limburg

Journal 17-10-2013

The last three weeks, after Aric went back to Malaysia, I have been busy with many social and cultural activities. I started with visits to my GP, my cardiologist, my diabetician, my ophthalmologist and my dentist….:-)  Everything is under control.

My dentist used a new torture contraption, which made me look like a breedbekkikker (wide-mouthed frog, rana ore lato, can only be found in the Netherlands, lol).

Breedbekkikker

I visited two more musea and went to two concerts. In the Concertgebouw I listened to Maria Pires, playing Beethoven. She got an ovational applause which she rightly deserved. With a friend I went to the Gauguin, Bonnard & Denis exhibition in the Amsterdam Hermitage museum. A bit disappointing, although the museum itself is worth a visit. Another concert was given in the impressive Neo-Gothic Dominicus church in Amsterdam. My friend Yolanda sings in a choir, they performed works by Bach and Mozart. Beautiful music, especially the Bach cantata Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu dir . With another friend I went to an exhibition of Hundertwasser  in the Cobra museum in Amstelveen.


The Hundertwasser exhibition was a pleasant surprise. I knew him only as an architect (here is is picture I took of the Hundertwasserhaus in Vienna, 6 years ago), but first he became famous as a painter, in the 1950’s. Here are some of his paintings. Both from these paintings and his buildings it is clear that he did not like straight lines, he called them devil’s tools..:-)

When I am back in the Netherlands, it has become a tradition to have dinner with Yolanda in a  ‘fine dining’ restaurant. This time we went to restaurant Vandemarkt and had a delicious dinner there. The presentation of the food makes it almost a work of art.The reason that in the picture the main course looks messy, is that I could not control myself, I started eating before I thought about taking a picture…:-)

vandemarkt food

Yolanda

Another tradition during my stay in the Netherlands is a reunion with my siblings. This time it took place at my sisters place. My brother Ruud could not be there because he just had had a hip replacement operation, but in these days, with webcams and skype, he still was able to join virtually…:-)

Just before coming back to Malaysia I went to Groningen to meet Ruud and his loved ones. He was already able to walk in the garden with his crutches and could point out to Jur where the walnuts were hanging. I stayed overnight and met his two sons, my favourite nephews.

Harvesting walnuts

Two nephews

 

 

I also met many friends, former students, ex-colleagues etc. Often for a drink and food, so not surprisingly I gained weight again, will have to work hard to slim down. The weather remained nice and warm with often spectacular sunsets.

It was only during the last few days of my stay in the Netherlands that the weather became autumn-like, with some heavy rain and lower temperatures. But altogether I have been very fortunate, the weather gods must love me. On  my way to Schiphol airport I finally could take a picture of the trees near my apartment in autumn colors.

I will end this post with a picture of my new watch. It is a Pebble watch, synchronised with my iPhone. It gives a warning when a SMS or email has arrived and you can choose between many different displays of the time.

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Flower Corso Zundert 1-9

A few months ago one of my Malaysian(!) friends forwarded an email to me with pictures of a spectacular flower parade in the Netherlands. In Zundert. Had I heard about it or even visited it? No, I had not, hardly knew the location of this village near the Belgian border.

But the pictures were really spectacular, so I decided to visit this corso during my next visit to the Netherlands. It has been held already 72 times, on the first Sunday in September.

We were not the only visitors…:-) Luckily I had booked seats on one of the stands, so we had a good view and could take many pictures.

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Here is a collection of pictures. No captions for the time being. Mind you, almost everything is made of flowers. Detailed report later