Journal 12-7-2014

From 29 May until 9 July I have been back in the Netherlands. During that period I have been so busy  that I had no time to update this blog. Here is a journal about what I have been doing. More detailed reports will follow. I arrived on Ascension day and had not much time to overcome my jet lag because two days later Yolanda, Paul’s sister, celebrated her 65th birthday with an afternoon party. Here she is showing her youngest grandchild. It was an animated party, where I met several old friends. The picture to the right shows our former music group, numerous times we have come together to play (classical) music and enjoy  the fellowship (and the food!).

Yolanda My friends

The next few days Paul and I have been done some long-distance walking, an activity we also started decades ago. We had planned to walk three days, a part of the Pelgrimspad  in the southern part of the Netherlands. But the first day I developed a few painful blisters, so we had to cut short our trip. Beautiful countryside, here is a detailed report: The Dutch Pilgrims Path

Pilgrims Path When I am back in Amsterdam, one of the first things I do is to call Inez, my long time friend and soul mate.  We had a nice dinner together in a Turkish restaurant. She is also a proud grandmother now…:-). By the way, don’t laugh at me that I am always complaining that I gain weight when back in Holland (this time it was only 2 kg) Turkish food Inez Turkish food

 

 

Aric arrived a few days later, just in time for the family gathering. My siblings and I always try to have a reunion during my visits, and this time we decided to do it in a grander way, because we had much to celebrate. My brother-in-law and I turned 70 this year, my brother Ruud 65 and my brother Pim 60, nephew Jasper 40, nephew Stefan 35, twin nephews Xander and Aswin 15. And there were several relationship celebrations. So we rented a number of bungalows in a recreation park and spent there the Whitsun weekend. Here is part of the crowd Family meetingAnd here a few more pictures

We had decided to make a trip to Norway during this visit. I had seen pictures of the Preikestolen, near Stavanger in Southern Norway and had become fascinated by this rock, rising 600 meter above the water of the Lysefjord. So we booked a flight to Stavanger and climbed this Pulpit Rock! Here we are. I can tell you that It is quite scary to get close to the edge…:-)

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As it was our first visit of Norway, we also visited a few other places, Bergen and Oslo. Traveling from Bergen to Oslo by bus, boat and train is quite spectacular, beautiful fjords, numerous waterfalls and still a lot of snow in the higher regions. Stavanger and Bergen are picturesque towns with their brightly-coloured wooden houses. In Oslo we visited the famous Vigeland park, an ice-bar and the local nude beach. Our overall impression of Norway is positive, we like to come back. But the country is really very expensive. I took about one thousand picture, here a few. Click here for a detailed report.

After we came back in Amsterdam, we took two days absolute rest, because the trip was interesting but also tiring. The last day of Aric’s visit we decided to go cultural and visit two musea. Not sure if you can call the Erotic museum and the Marijuana museum cultural, but it was fun…:-) After lunch with a pancake, we went to the beach. At 7pm it was still warm and sunny.

Although the water was still very cold (~ 16 C) I even took a bath. It happens not often that you have the beach completely for yourself…:-)! Beach Time flies, so the last two weeks of my stay were quite hectic. One day I met Nellie, my friend of 50 years, in Zwolle.  It was a real cultural visit, the Nijenhuis castle (part of the Fundatie museum) had two interesting exhibitions. We also visited the bookshop Waanders in de Broeren, I was very impressed by the way this old church had been given a new destination.

The next  weekend I did another long (20 km) walk, with two of my former students and the partner of one of them. After heavy rain at the start, the weather became sunny. From the train station of Amersfoort we took a bus to Woudenberg and then walked back to the station. I have documented the walk in an EveryTrail report

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Another tradition during my stay in the Netherlands is that I visit my (only) sister and my brother in law. They live in a nice bungalow near Schagen and this time they took me around the countryside. We visited a plant nursery, specialised in unusual/exotic flowers and got a private guided tour by the friendly owner. Also a windmill, where the miller explained finally what had puzzled me for a long time: why do rotate windmills always counterclockwise! He is living in the mill and was so kind to give us permission to have a look inside. We also went to the seaside. In that particular region there are no dunes, so the hinterland has to be protected by a dyke. And the next morning we visited my brother Arie and his wife Ineke, who proudly showed us their new house in nearby Alkmaar.

Here are a few more pictures of my activities. From left to right, visiting my former vice-principal and good friend Dick, dinner with Yolanda, lunch with Edmund and Johan and dinner with my ex-student Raoul and his Thai husband Aunn.

On the last evening for my departure I had dinner with Pim and Inez in a restaurant in the northern part of Amsterdam. A pleasant surprise, we had to cross over the river by ferry to an industrial area, the restaurant was located in a former machine factory. Delicious food and very friendly service. The name of the restaurant is Hotel de Goudfazant

Then it was time to go back. The last days it had started raining, maybe the country was crying to see me leave…:-) But I was looking forward to Malaysian food and to celebrate Aric’s birthday…:-)

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Down Memory Lane

In 1964, fifty years ago, was a young student at the Free University of Amsterdam. With two friends I went to Austria during our summer holidays. Both also named Jan, so in the following pictures you will see Jan St (me) , Jan V and Jan Str. Camping in Tirol, hiking in the mountains. On one of these hikes we met Robert, a friendly German and an experienced mountaineer, who took us to the summit of the Wilder Freiger, 3418 m. It was a fascinating experience.

We were hooked and wanted to become mountaineers ourselves!

Robert

Wilder Freiger

We became members of the Austrian Alpine Club and the next year we followed a training course at the (in those days) famous Kaunergratschule. Here we got a thorough instruction in the handling of rope, ice axe and crampons, how to rescue somebody who had fallen in a glacier crevasse, we learned how to rappel down steep rock faces, to brake our fall on the snow and much more.

The course took two weeks, a balanced mix of theory and practice. As a part of the program we climbed several of the majestic mountains around the hut. Most impressive was the Watze Spitze with its hanging glacier.

After the training program, we felt confident enough to make our own alpine tours. We stayed in the same alpine region, but hiked to another hut, from where we climbed a few beautiful mountains, culminating in the Wildspitze, the second-highest mountain of Austria at 3770 m.

Here are more pictures, taken during these holidays. Most of them still in black and white. I found them in one of my photo albums, it was quite fun to reconstruct this part of my past, as I had forgotten most of the details. The last picture is a scan of the trip diary I kept during our stay. With information about weather and snow conditions, information about the route chosen, the difficulty (I – VI, I = easy, III= difficult)

To keep my family informed, I sent them postcards regularly. Later they had given back these postcards to me and I had put them in my album. Had completely forgotten that I had written on the backside of these cards. It is in Dutch, it gives a nice “travelogue” of our holidays.

A nice trip down memory lane!

Europe trip 2013 Barcelona & Amsterdam

After our two-week trip through Europe we needed some time to relax and do our laundry. Only a few days because we had one more destination on our program: Barcelona in Spain. The town of Gaudi, the country of paella and sangria!

It was a short visit of three nights only. Instead of looking for a hotel we found a nice apartment, a loft on the fourth floor of an old building, near to the Ramblas and in the middle of the Red Light district…:-) The dimensions must have been something like 30 x 5 meter!


Of course we spent most of our time in Barcelona visiting and admiring the wonderful works of art created by Gaudi.. A pity that we were not the only ones! I have created a separate album about Barcelona on my Stuif’s Adventures site. Here only four pictures of the places we visited
We had lots of tapas and sangria. Not always top quality. One night we had really a wonderful meal in a local tapas bar suggested to us by the hostess of our apartment. Spanish style, We started our dinner at about 10 pm..:-). Delicious food. The name of the restaurant is Cañete and you should not miss it when you visit Barcelona!
Back in Amsterdam, we had a few days left before Aric went back to Malaysia. The weather was still ok, so we looked for some more of the KLM houses. And we visited the Rijksmuseum, opened last year after an extensive renovation. With a spectacular result, I will post a separate blog later about it. We had a look at the Night Watch by Rembrandt, one of the most famous paintings in the world. Also here we were not the only ones…:-)
Night Watch

Here are a few more pictures of these last few days in Amsterdam

Europe trip 2013 part 4

My idea was to travel back from Switzerland to Amsterdam via France. Last year I had visited a few Loire castles with my brother Pim,  and I wanted to show their beauty to Aric, so I booked two nights in Blois. However, planning in more detail, I found that the distance between Grindelwald and Blois was almost 700 km, a bit too long for a comfortable drive. Therefore I looked for a suitable stopover halfway. Beaune! To be honest, the name did not ring a bell. Now I know better.

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Wine lover friends will scold me, because Beaune is the Wine Capital of the Burgundy region. The most important wine auction of France is held here yearly, but we were too early for that. Besides, Burgundy wines are too  expensive for me.

It is a medieval town with a famous tourist attraction: the Hospices de Beaune, a hospital for the poor, founded in 1443 (!)

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Well worth a visit, here are some pictures.

The hospices also possess a very famous medieval work of art, The Last Judgment (1445-1450) by Rogier van der Weyden. Impressive.

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After a nice dinner and a good night sleep we continued the next day to Blois, situated on the banks of the Loire river. The weather had changed, it drizzled when we arrived. We did a short walk in the town

After our walk we had a delicious dinner

Haute Cuisine in les Banquettes Rouges, Blois

Haute Cuisine in les Banquettes Rouges, Blois

The next day it was raining cats and dogs! Still we decided to visit the two castles. And we were not the only ones. It was the National Heritage weekend, there were special activities everywhere and the admission was at a reduced rate or even free. Resulting in crowds of people. First we visited Chenonceau, my favourite.

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Because of the rain we skipped the beautiful gardens and spent more time inside the castle. In its present state it dates back to the 16th century. The castle was acquired by king François I and later given by his son, Henry II to his mistress Diane de Poitiers. She commissioned the building of the famous arched bridge across the river Cher.

Next destination was Chambord, the largest of the Loire castles. If Chenonceau is androgynous, Chambord is alpha-male…:-).Built by the same king François I and possibly designed by Leonardo da Vinci.

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The rain had become heavy now, we were soaked already, so we spent only a short time on the roof with its many chimneys. Pity for all the people who took part in the activities. The castle was never inhabited continuously, the kings of France just moved in a for a couple of weeks. Lous XIV, the Roi-Soleil had a ceremonial bedchamber here, where VIPs could watch how he woke up and was dressed..:-)

Wet and cold we came back to our hotel, bought some food in the supermarket and had a simple meal in our room. This was the only day during our trip that we had bad weather, so we consider ourselves lucky…:-)

The next morning there was sun and blue sky again! But we had to be back in Amsterdam that evening, so we could only make a hurried visit of the castle of Blois. The Chateau de Blois is located in the center of the town, from our hotel room we could see the backside of the François I wing. Here is the entrance from the square:

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There is a lot to see in the castle, the famous octagonal staircase in the courtyard, the François I wing, the Salle des États Généraux and much more. But we had not much time. Here are some pictures

Are you interested in philosophy? Then you may think about the caption with Aric above: “The present king of France is Chinese” True or false?

We arrived in Amsterdam just in time to return our car. About 3500 km in two weeks time.

Europe trip 2013 part 3

When I was discussing my travel plans with my Malaysian friends, one of them mentioned Liechtenstein. It is a tiny country (160 square km, population less than 40.000)  between Austria and Switzerland. We decided to have a look and spend a night there.

On our way from Hall we had lunch in Feldkirch, another medieval gem in Austria. It would be easy to spend a full holidays in Austria!

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Liechtenstein is not part of the European Union, but belongs to the Schengen zone, therefore no border control or passport formalities. It is rich and expensive, has nice countryside, but nothing special. In the (characterless) main street of the capital Vaduz we met a VIP (the prince of Liechtenstein?) with his security guards. We found a supermarket, and bought food for an alfresco dinner…:-)

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The next morning we had a look at the castle of Vaduz, where the Prince is still living. Then we crossed the border with Switzerland.  It was the first time we visited this country and probably it will also be the last time.

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Our destination in Switzerland was Grindelwald. This mountain village is situated at the feet of the mighty Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountains. With a special train you can reach the Jungfraujoch, at an altitude of ~ 3500 meter. This was the main target of our trip, to see the snow and walk on it. But would the weather be favorable? We arrived in the rain and the next morning we could see fresh show on the mountain slopes. The pictures show a lake on our way to Grindelwald, the view from our hotel room and the fresh snow the next morning.

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We decided to try our luck and bought tickets for the trip. Expensive, ~ 145 Euro pp. The train is a rack train and the ride consists of two parts. First you go from Grindelwald to Kleine Scheidegg. It was quite cloudy but sometimes we could see the mountains, which gave us hope.

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The second part goes through a tunnel in the Eiger mountain. The train stops at two locations in the tunnel where windows have been made, so you can look out. The first stop showed only mist and fog, but at the second one, Eismeer (Ice Sea), the clouds were breaking and we had a good view of the glacier. Impressive!

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When we reached the Jungfraujoch station, this is what we saw.

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Difficult to describe our feelings. Exhilarated, almost emotional. You just could go out and walk on the glacier. Yes, it was very cold…:-)

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You can easily spend hours here. But go slowly, or you can get dizzy because of the high altitude. The highest point we reached is at the Sphinx observatory. It is possible to walk to the Mönch hut, but we were not equipped well enough for that hike. There is also the Ice Palace, dug out in the glacier with ice statues, freezingly cold but interesting.

The Jungfraujoch is called the Top of Europe and it certainly was the Top of our Europe trip. Worth every Euro. We have been very lucky, both one day earlier and one day later the weather conditions were bad!

Europe Trip 2013 part 2

From Salzburg it is not far to the romantic small town of Hallstatt, situated on the shore of a lake.We stayed there three nights, to explore the region. Besides enjoying the atmosphere of the place, we visited a few popular tourist attractions.

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On our first day we took the cable car to the Ice Cave and the Five Fingers. The Ice Cave fills up completely with snow and ice during winter, even in summer this ice remains there.

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We also visited the nearby Mammoth Cave (not that interesting) and then took a second  cable car higher up. Fabulous views of the Hoher Dachstein massif (2995 m). Nice flowers. And a mountain hut, with food and beer, reminding me of my younger days as a mountaineer..:-)

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After our lunch we walked to the famous Five Fingers. A metal construction, resembling a hand with a beautiful view of Hallstatt deep down. Not suitable for people with fear of heights…:-) A popular place for paragliders

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The next day we visited the salt mine. Hallstatt has a glorious past because of this mine. In the past miners mined the rock salt and to take it out they used slides. These slides are now a tourist attraction. Big fun!

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An “attraction” of a very different kind can be found in one of the churches. Because of its location, Hallstatt had only a limited space for a cemetery. Therefore after not so many years old graves were emptied to make space for new burials. The skulls of the deceased were treated with respect, painted with names etc, and kept in a chapel. Very impressive.

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After Hallstatt we continued our trip in the direction of Switzerland, passing on our way the Krimml waterfalls. Impressive falls, the highest in Austria and, according to the website, the 5th-highest in the world. That however is cheating, as the falls consist of three separate tiers!

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We had planned to spend one night in Innsbruck, but instead decided to stay in the small, medieval town of Hall in Tirol, not far from Innsbruck. An unexpected, pleasant surprise.

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Europe trip 2013 part 1

I will split this post in a few parts, because it covers a two-week trip through Europe, visiting Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein (!), Switzerland and France. I took more than 1000 pictures. Don’t worry, I will publish here only a few..:-)

We started with a long (750 km) drive from Amsterdam to Regensburg in Bavaria. This is a very old town and a Unesco World Heritage site.

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It is located on the Danube river, has many beautiful buildings and is famous food-wise for its sausages. Less touristic than its neigbours Nürnberg and Salzburg, it was a nice surprise for us.

The next day we crossed the border with Austria on our way to a tiny hamlet with a funny name: Fucking. There is nothing to see, there is not even a shop, but every year thousands of tourists come here to have their picture taken with the signboard for the village. And so did we …:-)

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Salzburg was our next destination, the town where Mozart was born. We stayed in Hotel Mozart, had dinner in Cafe Mozart, visited the house where he lived and went to a concert where his music was played. The Salzburger Festspiele had just finished, but there were still many tourists. A beautiful town with the castle Hohensalzburg high above the town.

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We stayed two nights in Salzburg, the weather was splendid. We really enjoyed the Hohensalzburg castle, spent almost a full day there. The Hellbrun Palace, just outside the town, was fun, with its trick fountains. Unbelievable that an archbishop was responsible for it. Here is a collection of Salzburg pictures.

From Salzburg we continued our trip to Hallstatt, that will be part two of this report. Here already two galleries about the whole trip. First some pictures of the places where we stayed overnight. We like Guesthouses, Pensions, Bed en Breakfast places better than the big hotels.

And of course we had lots of food…:-) The German and Austrian cuisine are not very refined, but they serve in general huge portions. With lots of beer.In France we had a few times really fine dining.