When my friend Pola Singh asked me last week if I would like to join him for a durian trip to Bentong, I accepted immediately. I love the King of Fruits, but here in KL they are often very expensive. The trip was organised by his schoolmates from Malacca High School
Meeting point was the Bentong market, where we started with breakfast in the popular Yuen Kee Kopitiam.
We had Yong Tau Foo and of course Wan Tan Mee, the specialty of the shop.
Leo, the organiser of the trip, had started his working life as a teacher in Bentong and still knew his way. He showed us a few of the tourist attractions of the town. Apparently the Bentong Walk is similar to the Jonker Walk in Melaka, a Saturday night market.
These days there is a proliferation of mural art in Malaysia. It started in Penang, followed by KL, Ipoh, Taiping, Gopeng, KKB and now also in Bentong. There are probably more, but these are the ones I have visited.
Actually I am a bit unhappy with this mushrooming. As more and more suitable walls in Malaysia will be covered with mural art, its impact will get less.
Having said that, I must admit that the murals in Bentong are well done. It is nice that you can interact with many of them.
And that is of course what we did 😉 .
A few more examples.
After our walk we walked back to our cars and went on our way to the durian farm. On our way we passed the attractive Pasar Besar and the Mosque.
The durian farm can be reached from the road leading to the Chamang waterfall. Parking our cars beside the road, we walked the last part to the farm , where we were welcomed by the owner, Law Kam Kuan, a former student of Leo. She explained that no pesticides are used, accepting that squirrels or monkeys will sometimes damage the fruits.
The next hour I had no time to take pictures, because I was busy tasting the different brands of durians 🙂 . We started with Kampung Durian,, followed by D24 and finally Musang King. Here are some pictures I took after I had eaten enough.
Our next stop was at the Chamang waterfall. It is one of the popular waterfalls in Malaysia, access is very easy, there are toilets, changing rooms etc. I have visited the fall many times, but the last time was already 7 years ago.
The fall is powerful, but also dangerous. Almost yearly people drown here!
I took a short video of the waterfall.
The program for the rest of the day included lunch, ice cream, tea, but we didn’t feel hungry anymore, so we decided to drive back to KL after the waterfall.
A nice , well organised trip. Click here for a video report by Pola.
The first time we met Pat and Roger must have been around 2002, when we were living in Goodyear Court 7. Soon we became friends, they attended my 60th birthday celebration, I visited them in Basildon (UK) and later in Melbourne, they visited me in Amsterdam, we went on trips together to Macau, Chiang Mai and China and of course we had numerous outings in Malaysia 😉 .
Last month they were back in Malaysia, we met them for dinner and discussed where we should go for our next outing. We decided to make a 2D1N trip with an overnight stay in Ipoh.
We started with breakfast near our condo. Half-boiled eggs and toast, and buns with dry meat and chicken floss. Of course with coffee.
Our first destination was Sekinchan, where we visited the taoist Nan Tian Temple, dedicated to the Nine Emperor Gods. The temple is surrounded by paddy fields. Pity that the paddy had been harvested, so the fields were rather brownish.
You can climb the pagodas beside the temple. We climbed the left one, Aric the right one to take a picture of us. Likewise we took a picture of him…:-)
Of course Aric had to take some “artistic” pictures.
Our next destination was Parit Baru where Aric was born. Instead of going back to the main road, we took the parallel road through the paddy fields and that was a lucky decision, because we passed a field where they had planted the paddy seedlings. Beautiful fresh green color.
While we were passing by, workers were collecting the seedlings to transport them to the fields where they would be planted. Fascinating to watch. I took a short video.
In Parit Baru we made a short stop at Aric’s birthplace, before continuing to one of the many seafood restaurants in the region.
The Yuan Yuan restaurant is run by the family, the interior is basic and the food delicious.
After lunch we made a short stop in Teluk Intan to see its leaning tower. Like its famous partner in Pisa, you must choose your location to see the slanting 🙂
We had booked two rooms in the Ipoh Bali hotel. Aric and I had stayed here already two times, we liked the atmosphere, and expected Pat and Roger to appreciate it too. They did 🙂
We had made reservations for rooms on the ground floor, which have a verandah with a koi pond. So relaxing. The reception provides you with fish food, don’t use other food!
After a little rest, we met our friend Keith Ong at the Yum Yum restaurant, where he had booked a table for us. Very nice food!
After dinner we drove to Ipoh Old Town, for a short walk. The town hall, one of Hubback’s creations, was beautifully illuminated. In front of the Railway Station, another of his masterworks, colorful fountains created a playful atmosphere.
I have said it before and will say it again: In my opinion Ipoh is much more a Bandar Warisan (Heritage Town) than Taiping, the “sleepy hollow” which I love and consider as my second hometown.
In 2016 I visited Ipoh to have a look at the mural art created by Zacharevic, one of my favourite artists. I wrote a blog about it: Ipoh Murals. Pat and Roger had not yet seen them, so we showed them a few.
There is something interesting about the Hummingbird mural 😉 . When Zacharevic created the mural in 2013, the bird was hovering in front of a tree. In 2016 the tree was gone, probably cut down. And now there was a tree again! Can it have grown in three years or was it replanted?
As in Penang, also in Ipoh there has been a proliferation of mural art in recent years, which is regrettable, IMHO. Soon all suitable walls will be covered with mural art, its impact getting less, a law of diminishing returns.
Here is a selection of what we saw during a walk in Ipoh Old Town. They are of varying quality, sometimes in the style of Zacharevic, often very mediocre.
There is another a bit worrying development going on, similar to Penang. There is beautiful heritage, like the Han Chin Pet Soo museum. But around the corner, Concubine Lane has been “spruced up” for tourists and now has losts its character. And not far away, still in Old Town, there is the new Upside Down museum, not related at all to heritage. I would be happy if the development and maintenance of Old Town Ipoh would be more consistent.
Before going for lunch, we had a look at the J.W.W Birch Memorial. Birch was the first British resident of Perak, very unpopular with the Malay nobility and assassinated in 1875. Two Malay noblemen, Dato Maharaja Lela and Dato Sagor were seen as the leaders behind the killing and hanged in 1877. The memorial was built in 1909 behind the town hall, between two roads, Station Road and Post Office Road.
Why am I telling all this 😉 ? Well, nowadays of course the two Malays are seen as as “freedom fighters” ! To honour them, Station Road has been renamed as Jalan Dato Maharajalela and Post Office Road is now Jalan Dato Sagor !
We had lunch at Chang Jiang White Coffee, another gem we discovered during an earlier visit. Not only is the coffee good, the food is also nice and the atmosphere is very relaxed, with a young crowd.
Before driving back to KL, we visited one more temple, the Miaw Yuan Chan Lin temple. We had found this remote, little known Thai Buddhist temple on the slopes of Gunung Rapat during an earlier visit, see my blog Gunung Rapat Cave Temples .
Before exploring the temple we had a look at two cages with monkeys on the temple grounds. They looked aggressive and unfriendly, not clear why they were kept there. The walls of the cages were made of a mesh with small openings. But not small enough, when we stood watching the poor animals, suddenly one of them put his arm through an opening and grabbed Roger’s glasses! We were shocked. What to do?
The residing monk came to help us, by spraying the monkey with a garden hose. That did not work, he got more angry and still kept the spectacles in his hands. Next the monk tried to give him some bananas, that worked better, the monkey dropped what was left of the specs, fortunately next to the mesh, so Aric was able to retrieve the twisted frame and two glasses
Roger can hardly see anything without his spectacles and had no spare with him. But Aric has been working in an optical shop, long time ago, and managed to repair the specs provisorily. While he was busy, I inspected the monkey cage and saw a notice we had overlooked!
After recovering from this unexpected “adventure”. we explored the temple a bit. The friendly monk didn’t mind having his picture taken, the other monk also didn’t mind because it was a statue 😉 .
The reclining Buddha is quite impressive.
Two statues of the Buddha. Left a very common asana with the left hand in his lap, and the right hand held upwards, facing outwards. Right a laughing Buddha, carrying two balls in his hands.
Two more pictures of this interesting temple. Some beautiful limestone formations.
It was a nice outing. We will not easily forget the adventure with the monkeys!
A few weeks ago my friend Henry Chan whatsapped me about a”new” waterfall in the Sg Siput region, Lata Penyel, and a cave south of Ipoh, Gua Air. He had visited both places. and when I showed my interest, he said that he was willing to guide me there.
Henry and his wife Soon Lay live in Lunas, but they also have a house in Taiping, my 2nd hometown 🙂 . During my recent visit to Taiping, they also came to Taiping, and from there we made a day trip to Ipoh. A long trip, because we had decided to include a second cave, Gua Naga Mas, located not far from Gua Air.
They picked me up from my hotel at 7 am and first we drove to Bercham for breakfast at Restoran New Paradise. Food is another shared interest, the restaurant is famous for its Char Siew Pao. We bought a few for lunch, I had Yong Tau Foo for breakfast. A good start of the day!
Our first destination was the Gua Naga Mas (Golden Dragon Cave). We had never been there, but Bernard, another friend of mine, had visited this cave and given us coordinates and directions.
October last year the Kinta Valley has been declared a National Geopark, hopefully the vulnerable limestone hills and caves will be better protected now against the ongoing quarrying onslaught!
With Bernard’s directions we found the location easily. The limestone cave is part of a Buddhist temple, many of these cave temples can be found around Ipoh, see for example my blog Gunung Rapat Cave Temples . Compared with those temples, this one looks rather neglected. Steps lead to the upper cave with the fossil.
Information boards tell about the history of the fossil. They look new.
Here is the fossil. It could be a tiger, or a leopard, or even a bear. It could be more than 300.000 year old, according to a recent study.
It is not that easy to spot, you must know where to look ;-). We were the only visitors. Using some rickety scaffolding you can come a bit closer to the fossil. Apparently there is work going on and probably in the future the cave and also the temple will look better.
A few more pictures
View of the surroundings from the cave entrance. A lot of industrial development. The hills are part of Gunung Lanno, our next destination.
For the second cave, Gua Air (Water Cave) , we drove a few km north, to Gunung Lanno. Extensive quarrying takes place here, as can be seen in this GE screenshot. To visit the cave, you have to enter the quarry site, permission was easily given.
Before we entered the cave, we first drove a bit farther, where the cave exits in a beautiful lake with crystal clear water.
Back to the cave entrance. Henry had brought helmets and headlights.
Entering the cave was a bit tricky, using a ramshackle ladder. Some steps were already missing, and going down another one broke loose.
The cave itself was disappointing, only a short stretch, and probably not natural, but blasted. However, at the end you reach the small lake, really beautiful.
I was a bit worried if we would be able to climb up the ladder, which was now missing one more step, but we managed 🙂 . Outside the cave we followed a trail to the lake. That was more interesting than the cave itself.
Visiting the two caves had taken only taken about two hours, less time than we had expected. Henry decided that on our way to the waterfall, we could have lunch in the Old Friend Restaurant in Kuala Kuang (Chemor), famous for its Roast Duck. Delicious!
Our last destination was the Lata Penyel waterfall. In 2015 I visited waterfalls in the Sg Siput region: Sg Siput Waterfall Recce. I ended this blog with:
From Bawong 4WD roads lead to remote Pos Piah and Kg Kuala Mu. There must be dozens if not hundreds of waterfalls along these roads, waiting for intrepid explorers!
A few years later the road to Kg Kuala Mu has been tarred and is now accessible for normal cars. But it still a 2.5 hour drive from Ipoh to Kuala Mu!
The Tengkoh Penyel waterfall is near the small Pos Yum kampung. and can be reached on an easy trail of about 600 m. The kampung folk (Temiar O.A.) maintain the trail and are doing a good job.
The tall waterfall is a real beauty, very scenic. There is only a wading pool, so it is safe for non-swimmers.
The tall waterfall is a real beauty, very scenic. There is only a wading pool, so it is safe for non-swimmers.
The Orang Asli have done a marvelous job, they have built a few shelters and huts near the waterfall. You can rent them and even stay overnight
Some more pictures
Before driving back to Taiping, we still had time to have a look at Kampung Kuala Mu. A very winding road, climbing to an altitude of 600 m. Surprisingly there were many people there, bikers mainly, staying overnight in one of the huts. Well organised.
It was still a long way back to Taiping, where we arrived around 7 pm. Here is a Google Earth screenshot, with the location of the two caves, and the road from Chemor to the waterfall and Kuala Mu.
We finished this rewarding outing with a dinner at Thomas’ Western Food in Barrack Road. Henry had brought a few bottles of toddy!
I must confess that until a few weeks ago, I had never heard about this young Russian pianist. I am interested in classical (piano) music, see for example my post about the 17th Chopin Piano Competition . This year, from 4 until 21 May, an international music competition was held in Beijing. This China International Music Competition (CIMC) was devoted to the piano.
The CIMC concert with the three finalists, and the presentation of the prizes can be viewed here. Malofeev got the second prize and not everybody was happy with the verdict of the jury. Have a look at the comments given. Here are a few:
“Malofeev should have won. end of story. ” , “Malofeev is FAR ABOVE the rest. Politics again; what a shame! “, “Unforgivable result – a travesty of justice.“, ” Alexander was obviously the best, is it Russophobia again? “
I got intrigued by Malofeev and searched for information and YouTube recordings.
He was born in Moscow on 21 October 2001 amd began studying the piano at the age of five.
The earliest recording I have found, is from May 2013, when he was eleven years old. He is playing Grieg’s piano concerto in A minor, the audio quality is not that good, but you should watch at least the beginning, how he is greeting the orchestra twice and struggling to adjust the piano stool!
The next recording is from about one year later, when Alexander took part in the 8th Tchaikovsky competition for young musicians, where he won the First Prize and a Gold Medal. In this recording he is playing Saint-Saëns’ 2nd Piano Concerto in G minor. A spectacular performance by a 12 year old boy.
Again an endearing start 🙂 He comes on stage and wants to sit down, but then realises that he still has to greet the conductor and the concertmaster.
The quality of this YouTube is very good. If you don’t want to listen to the complete concerto, you should at least watch him playing the third movement. At the end of the recording he comes on stage with his piano teacher, another charming moment.
On 29-3-2015, Alexander Malofeev, 13 year old, plays Prokofiev’s 3rd Piano Concerto in C major. The (audio) quality of the video is not perfect, but it is fascinating to see him in action. And as if playing this demanding concerto is not enough, he gives an encore, Stravinsky’s Sacre du Printemps in a transcription for piano by Kurbatov.
I found two recordings of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto no 1. This one was recorded in Saint Petersburg, also in 2015, on 25 December.
And this one is from the Scala in Milan, 6 February 2017, Malofeev is now 15 year old, a teenager, losing his puppy fat :-). He is playing two encores, a piano transcription of a “pas de deux” from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite and Ondine, the first movement of Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit.
Last year, 27 July, Alexander, now 16 year old, played again Prokofiev’s 3rd Piano Concerto, this time at a festival in the south of France. It is interesting to compare this recording with the one recorded three years earlier (see above).
On 30 December 2018, 17 year old Malofeev played Rachmaninoff’s 3rd Piano Concerto in D minor in the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow. A spectacular performance. It is interesting to read the comments. One of them says:
Its pretty obvious who the next winner of the Tchaikovsky Competition will be in June of 2019.
At the CIMC competition, May 2019, where Malofeev got the second prize, he played Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D minor, KV 466, in the final round. It is my favourite Mozart concerto and Alexander plays it beautifully.
For comparison here is the same concert, played by Tony Siqi Yun, the winner of the first prize. Also born in 2001, a few months older than Alexander. He is a Canadian and currently a student at the Juilliard School.
The chairperson of the CIMC jury is Yoheved Kaplinsky , who is also the chair of the Piano Department of The Juilliard School. A coincidence? Not everybody will agree.
Until now the year 2019 has not been very lucky for Alexander Malofeev. The commenter, mentioned above, may have found it obvious that Alexander would be the next winner of the 2019 Tchaikovsky Competition, but actually he did not even survive the first round! Here is the list of contestants. Malofeev was the youngest of all. Maybe he should not have participated and wait a few more years.
Here is an interesting analysis of Alexander’s first round. He played Bach, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Rachmaninoff and Liszt in a 50 minute recital. A quote from the analysis:
By the end of fifty minutes this pale, black-shirted young man of stooping posture had given his all and beyond. Totally drained, totally exhausted. Visually, seemingly even a little unwell, drenched in sweat. Just maybe this could explain the tailing off in parts of the Chopin and Liszt, the gradual lessening of right-hand ‘ring’ and strength. But his determination and imagination, the vision he wanted to deliver, never failed. In the grand scheme of things, the few (inconsequential) slips and blips counted for nothing. The personality and possibilities, the honed facility, the ability to cope under pressure, are what exhilarated.
And we spent five days in Italy, here is the report: Cinque Terre.
After Aric went back. I stayed for another three weeks. During that period I visited my family and friends. I wrote a report about three of these visits: Family Visits. Here a few pictures, one of each visit.
I also visited a friend in Utrecht and walked around a few hours in this beautiful town. It resulted in another post: Utrecht 2019 .
And finally I wrote a post about an open-air art exhibition in Amsterdam, which I visited just a few days before I flew back to Malaysia : ArtZuid
Altogether seven (!) blog posts 😉 . About some of my other activities I will report in this final post.
Aric and visited the Royal Palace in Amsterdam, Aric had never been there yet. In 2016 I have written a detailed report about the Royal Palace, Amsterdam. Here a few pictures taken during our visit.
During an earlier visit, Aric had found on the Internet information about an interesting sculpture near the Leidseplein, the Little Saw Man. The artist is unknown, and has created more artworks in the past decades. We found two more.
Each time I come back to Amsterdam, I fall in love again with the town 🙂 .
There is a lot of beautiful architecture, old and new. From left to right, the Westerkerk, the hardware store of Gunters & Meuser and the hotel Nhow, still under construction.
And there are so many beautiful museums! The Stedelijk Museum is one of my favourites. They have a large collection of Malevich paintings
Like many museums do nowadays, often different art forms are combined in the exhibitions, which adds to the pleasure of walking around.
I like the German Expressionists, the museum has quite a large collection.
A few more of my favourites.
My followers will expect that I also write something about food and the meals I enjoyed :-). I had many lunches and dinners with friends, at home or in a restaurant, but I don’t always take pictures nowadays.
Let me start with a YouTube where I show how to eat a raw herring. It was on Kings Day, normally I am not dressed like this 🙂
My usual dinner with Yolanda took place this time in restaurant Entrepot . Casual, relaxed atmosphere. We ordered the chef’s menu, 5 courses, and everything was delicious. Each dish looked as an artwork 😉
I had also a lunch with ex-colleagues from my school. In restaurant Merkelbach. a 3-course lunch menu. Beautiful weather, and here too each dish was a work of art (and delicious as well).
Two more “social” pictures. Left a lunch with friends from my school, right a dinner with friends from my university past.
I will finish this post with a few pictures of my apartment and its direct environment. Here is the livingroom and my study annex guest room.
This is the view north from my apartment.
And here the view west during sunset.
From my apartment it is a 5 minutes walk to a big shopping center, where I almost daily go for my grocery items. On my way I have to cross a small park, with a pond where I noticed a Common Coot who had built a nest. In the right picture the bird was standing up for a short while, so I could see that there were six eggs.
The nest was only a few meter away from a footpath and often people were standing there watching the bird.
On the first of June, three days before my departure, the eggs had hatched! In the video you can see three chicks and the father bringing food. Very interesting. Unfortunately on the last day, the nest was empty and only one chick was swimming beside the parents. Probably the other had been eaten by the seagulls who are frequenting the pond. That’s life
Seven wonderful weeks, though sometimes a bit hectic. After I came back to Malaysia from my “holidays”, I needed time to recover 🙂
During my visits to the Netherlands, my siblings and I often organise a reunion, see for example my blogs De Nollen and Family Gathering .
This time it was not possible to find a date that was suitable for everybody, so instead I met my siblings separately. My sister Lous and brother Pim, I had met already with Aei Ling and Aric, see my earlier report.
On 16 May I visited my brother Arie, who is living in Alkmaar. During an earlier visit in 2015 he had guided me around in this historical town: Alkmaar. This time we visited the Broeker Veiling, north of Alkmaar.
Here is a Google Earth image of what has been called the Realm of the Thousand Islands. From the 13th century farmers have created these small islands to cultivate vegetables, like onions, potatoes, cabbages.
In 1887 the first vegetable auction took place, in the open air! In 1912 an auction building was constructed, built over the water, so the boats could sail through it.
The real auctions do not take place here anymore, but the building has been beautifully preserved and is now part of the Museum Broekerveiling.
The walls of the modern main building have been decorated with photos of the thousand islands and the giant cabbage in front of the museum is of course an obvious photo object 🙂
The museum gives an interesting history of vegetable farming in the region. There are interactive displays and videos of people telling about their experiences when they were kids. It must have been a harsh life.
The auction building is surrounded by “lighallen” (mooring halls) where the farmers could wait until it was their turn, to sail through and have their cargo auctioned.
Although the real auctions don’t take place here anymore, the atmosphere is still very authentic. The blackboards mention the name of the farmer, the weight and other specifics about the cargo.
No real auctions, but regularly demonstrations are given in the auction hall. For me it was the highlight of our visit.
First the auctioneer explained the procedure. The starting price for a load is high, then the clock is going down and down to lower prices, until one of the buyers pushes a button in front of his seat. He will pay that price, so he must take care not to push too early :-). On the other hand, if he waits too long, another buyer will have pushed his button!
The Dutch expression is “veiling bij afslag”, when I searched for the English translation, I was quite surprised to find that it is : Dutch Auction !
We, the visitors, could bid ourselves! Of course not on huge quantities of onions etc, but on small bags of carrots, apples, strawberries, etc. I bought two pears, for 1.35 Euro, probably more expensive than in the supermarket. Big fun!
The lady auctioneer and the couple that played the role of farmers, gave a perfect, entertaining performance. She didn’t mind to have her photo taken with us, probably she will be in thousands of pictures..:-)
Back home, Ineke had prepared a Dutch meal, not with cabbage, but with asparagus. Delicious.
A few days later Otto, my youngest brother, visited me in my apartment in Amsterdam. We had dinner and, as usual, a long, interesting conversation about many different topics, like the universe for example 🙂
He stayed overnight and the next morning, after breakfast, we drove back to Alphen a/d Rijn, our hometown. We had lunch in the family house. The weather was nice, so in the afternoon we decided to go for a walk through the polders. When I was a teenager, it was my playground, a lot has been changed since then. Here is a Google Earth image with our walk in green.
We walked through beautiful polder landscape. Part of the polder here has been “given back” to nature. Lots of flowers everywhere. A coot was swimming around with a single chick, probably the rest had been eaten already.
Part of the walk took us to the Bedelaarsbos (Beggars Forest). Not much of a forest actually :-). Sixteen years ago, my siblings and I have hidden a so-called geocache here, Bedelaarsbos. The geocache was a small container, hidden in a hollow tree trunk. It was a popular geocache, found about 150 times yearly. Otto took care of the cache regularly, because I was living in Malaysia most of the time. When he told me that the hollow space was closing up, getting too small for the container, we decided to archive the cache, now four years ago.
I did not have the coordinates of the cache location, so we tried to find the tree trunk, using our memory…:-). Not easy, but we thought it might be the tree in the right picture. Later, checking the website, I found that we were right!
It was a pleasant walk, about 3.9 km.
There was still time enough before I had to go back to Amsterdam. Otto suggested that we could visit our parents’ grave. First we went to a garden center to buy some plants, because he said the grave was a bit barren.
The cemetery was established during the thirties of the last century, I had never noticed the nice sculptures at the entrance gate!
Left Otto as gardener, right the result of his work 🙂
At the end of the afternoon I took a bus back to Amsterdam
Ten days later I took the train to Groningen to visit my brother Ruud. During my stay in the Netherlands I always spend a few days with him, see for example my report Groningen 2018. This time he suggested to have a look at Blauwestad, a “new” village in the east of the province of Groningen.
During our trip we passed several “old” villages, where we took pictures of churches and windmills. The locations are indicated in the Google Earth map
Our first stop was at Harkstede. The church in this village was built at the end of the 17th century by Henric Piccardt, a fascinating character, adventurer and diplomat (the link is in Dutch). He built the church also for himself, beneath the church there is a mausoleum for his family, and he had his own study and library in the church!
Above the church entrance the coat of arms of the Piccardt family. The tower in the right picture is much older than the church, dating back to about 1250.
Next we visited the church of Slochteren. The original cruciform church was built in the 13th century, nowadays only the transept remains, with a separate church tower
A bit confusing. Anno 1650, but the inscription mentions MDCCLXXXIII = 1783.
In Schildwolde, the church tower, separate like in Slochteren, belongs to the original 13th century church. It is an impressive, 48m tall structure. The church itself was built in 1686 and is a simple hall church.
We continued to the Oldambtmeer, where we had lunch. The Oldambtmeer is an artificial lake of about 800 hectares in the Oldambt region. Compare the two maps below. In the center of the right map you can see the new village Blauestad.
A few pictures of the lake. Its purpose is recreation, for the population of Blauestad and the other villages around the lake.
Here is a part of Blauestad, still under construction. Not really a place where I would like to live, but probably perfect for people who love sailing, fishing etc 🙂
We passed two flour mills on our trip. The first was Stel’s Meuln in Harkstede. Built in 1851 as “grondzeiler”, a windmill where the blades almost reach the ground. Later raised on a platform to become a “stellingmolen”. This was often done in a built environment, so the blades could catch the wind better.
The other windmill is the Edens in Winschoten, built in 1763, the oldest windmill of the province Groningen. Raised several times because of the buildings, surrounding the mill. Looked very impressive.
Back in Groningen town, we finished the day with a nice dinner in restaurant De Branderij.
The next morning I took the train back to Amsterdam
During my last stay in the Netherlands, I visited Leiden and I was very enthusiastic about this historic town. This time I had arranged to have lunch with a friend in Utrecht and I decided to make it a daytrip, so I could explore another historic town.
Let me start with three images. First a map of Utrecht , drawn in 1652. The town is surrounded by defensive moats (singels in Dutch).
This map is from 1856. Still not much development outside the singels
And here is a Google Earth screenshot from 2017. To guide the eye, I have marked the “singels” in blue and also indicated the locations where I have taken pictures. Click to enlarge. (I have rotated the GE image in such a way that North points in the same direction as in the old maps)
I arrived at Utrecht CS, the largest and busiest railway station in the Netherlands. To reach the historical town, I had to cross a shopping center to the Vredenburg square, from where I had a look at the TivoliVredenburg (2014), the modern music complex of Utrecht.
From the square I entered the Zakkendragerssteeg, mentioned for the first time in 1425 and reached the Oudegracht, dating back to the 12th century. In a few hundred meters from the 21th century to the Middle Ages 😉
The canals of Utrecht (Oudegracht, Nieuwegracht and a few minor ones) are rather unique in the world, very different from the Amsterdam ones. They have functioned in the past as an inner-city harbour. The canals were connected to the rivers Rhine and Vecht, and alongside the canals there were wharves, giving access to basement cellars, underneath the houses of the merchants.
I crossed the Oudegracht (more pictures later) and walked to the Janskerk, founded shortly after 1040, built in roman style, but of course modified many times later.
I had no time to visit the interior, and continued to the hallmark of Utrecht, the Domtoren (Dom tower) built between 1321 and 1382. With a height of 112 m it is the tallest church tower in the Netherlands. Work was being done on it during my visit.
On the Dom square I took a picture of the statue of Jan van Nassau, the younger brother of William of Orange, who has been instrumental in the signing of the Unie van Utrecht (1579), regarded as the foundation of the Republic of the Seven United Provinces, during the war of independence with Spain.
The Academiegebouw on the Dom square looks old, but isn’t ! It was built between 1891-94 in Dutch Neo-Renaissance style.
Then it was time for lunch. I met my friend at the Rechtbank, in earlier days a courthouse, now a popular cafe. He was one of my first students when I was a physics teacher, and is now a physicist himself…:-)
AFter our lunch I continued my walk, crossing the Nieuwegracht to the Maliesingel. The Nieuwegracht (New Canal) is actually very old, built around 1390, but still newer than the Oudegracht (Old Canal), which was built in the 12th century. The Maliesingel is one of the moats, still surrounding the old town.
In the past, rich people sometimes built simple houses for the poor around a courtyard. The Dutch name for such a compound is “hofje”, in Utrecht you still find an alternative name : Kameren. The houses consisted basically of one room (kamer). Here is the Bruntenhof (Bruntscameren), built in 1621.
I wanted to visit the Centraal Museum, so I walked back to the Nieuwegracht and the Lange Nieuwstraat. This “New Street” dates back to ca 1300, same as the Dorstige Hartsteeg. The church tower you see in the background, belongs to St Catherine’s Cathedral, no time to visit.
Walking to the Centraal Museum I noticed a sign for The University Museum and the Hortus , the former botanical gardens of the University.
I spent some time in the University Museum. Interesting mixture of sometimes weird objects. As a physicist I was of course interested in the particle accelerator, in this case even more, because my friend told me that he had actually been working with this machine, during his research!
Walking to the Central Museum I passed the Beyerskameren (1597), another charity project to give (free) housing to the poor.
The end of the Lange Nieuwsstraat is dominated by the Fundatie van Renswoude. Built in Rococo style in 1757, it was meant to provide education for “intelligent” orphan boys. The interior must be magnificent, but is only open to the public at specific times, like the Open Monument Day.
The Centraal Museum is the main museum of Utrecht, founded in 1838. It has an interesting collection of “old” art, modern art, applied art, the history of Utrecht etc. For me it was the first time that I visited the museum. Therefore quite a lot of pictures.
Many museums nowadays show their collection, combining the various art forms, like here: paintings, furniture, fashion. I really like this approach..
Of course the museum has lots of Rietveld furniture. The dollhouse is from the end of the 17th century and obviously not meant for children 🙂
Two examples of art mixing. Left 17th century portraits combined with a self-portrait by Carel Willink (1922). Right various forms of fashion.
Roelant Saverij (1576 –1639) was a Golden Age painter who lived a large part of his life in Utrecht.
Pyke Koch 1901 – 1991 ) can also be considered an Utrecht painter. He and Carel Willink were the main representatives of Dutch Magic Realism. He was a perfectionist, his oeuvre is quite small, and I am always happy to find one of his paintings in a museum. The Centraal Museum has quite a few!
J.H. Moesman (1909-1988) was born in Utrecht and lived there almost all of his life. A Surrealist painter, the “Dutch Dali”. The museum houses a large collection of his works.
I spent only about one hour in this museum, a next time I will stay longer, there is a lot to see, but I had to make my way back to the station.
The Nicolai church is located next to the museum. Its origins go back to the 12th century, the front with the two towers is still in the original Roman style. In 1586 one tower was raised to make room for a carillon.
A few more pictures of de Oudegracht.
On my way back, I visited a few more “hofjes”. Lot of heritage buildings, a very pleasant part of Utrecht.
But Utrecht is not only interesting because of its heritage. It is a lively town, with many cafes, restaurants and entertainment outlets. And there is a lot of Jugendstil in Utrecht, one of my architecturale favourites. But that will be for a future visit.
When friends of mine are visiting the Netherlands, I sometimes advised them to skip overcrowded Amsterdam and visit Utrecht instead. Now that I have walked around myself, I will keep telling them: Visit Utrecht!
To celebrate the 60th birthday of Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf a double retrospective exhibition of his work has been held in the Gemeentemuseum and the Photography Museum, both in Den Haag.
I have always been a fan of him, so during my recent trip to the Netherlands, Aric and I made a day trip to Den Haag. The Gemeentemuseum is one of my favourite museums. The building, designed by Berlage and constructed between 1931-1935, is an artwork itself, and the museum houses the world largest collection of Mondrian paintings. My last visit was in 2017, More museums in Den Haag
I was very impressed by the Erwin Olaf exhibition. I was familiar with his older work, but not really aware of his development during the last decades. As the Gemeentemuseum describes him, he is not only a photographer but has become a digital image-maker and storyteller.
Here are two of his recent works, that especially fascinated, and also intrigued me.
What struck me is the lack on interaction between the two persons. They seem to be living in their own world. Here are a few more examples.
More persons, or one only, I get the same feeling of loneliness and isolation. With all of these (large-scale) photographs, you are wondering about the story behind it. And of course admiring the sheer technical perfection!
A selection of portrait photos
Erwin Olaf is also an installation artist.
Last year he has made a widely acclaimed series of portraits of the Dutch Royal Family.
I enjoyed this exhibition of his recent works very much! Maybe also because some of his photographs reminded me of works by other favourite artists of mine 😉
Before moving to the Photography Museum for the second part of the exhibition, we first had some food in the restaurant. The right picture shows my failed attempt to evoke loneliness and isolation 😉
The exhibition in the Photography Museum is about Erwin Olaf’s development as a photographer. Most of the photos I had seen before, so we spent less time here. There was also work of photographers who have influenced him.
Two fascinating self-portraits, created 33 years apart!
ArtZuid is an international sculpture exhibition which takes place every two years in Amsterdam. The first time was in 2009 and the artworks are exhibited mainly in Plan-Zuid, an urban development plan designed by Berlage in 1917. The 2019 exhibition takes place from May 17 to September 15. More information can be found on the ArtZuid website.
The exhibition is becoming bigger every time it is held, with extensions until the Rijksmuseum and Amstelveen. I limited myself to the proper ArtZuid exhibition, which has 91 items this year. Of course not all the works of art appealed to me, here is my selection. In a rather arbitrary order, but I start with those that have been created after 2000. For each artist I have added a link either to their own website, or to Wikipedia.
When Aric and I are visiting the Netherlands, we always try to include in our program a trip to another country. This time we wanted to visit Italy again. But which part? Aric suggested the Cinque Terre, the five coastal villages in northwest Italy. I had visited that region long ago, in 1991, and did not mind going again! Here is a map of the region.
We booked a flight to Pisa and from there took a train to La Spezia, where Aric had booked an Airbnb, near the station. A frequent train connects La Spezia with the five villages.
Our Airbnb was really something special and deserves a few pictures. It is the former home of Pietro Ravecca, an Italian Sculptor. After his death, his daughter decided to transform it into an Airbnb apartment. It is located in a traditional building with an old-fashioned elevator and massive doors. It feels like entering the past (but the bathroom and kitchen facilities are up-to-date 🙂 )
Many of Ravecca’s works of art are still kept in the apartment. A wonderful experience.
The next day, after breakfast, we walked to the station, passing a modern fountain in the Garibaldi square and, surprisingly, a marihuana shop (in Italy!). At the station we bought a 2-day Cinque Terre pass and discovered that several hiking paths between the villages were closed (because of landslides). Only the path between Monterosso and Vernazza was open.
We decided to walk that path and took the train to Monterosso. Mostly through tunnels. The Monterosso station is in the modern part of town, nothing special, but with a popular beach.
Monterosso al Mare
To reach the old town you have to cross a short tunnel. The village is at the center of a small natural gulf, protected by a small artificial reef. It is the only Cinque Terre village with a substantial beach.
Here is a collection of pictures. Romantic, narrow streets, a church, many cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops.
We had a simple lunch in one of the cafes. A popular aperitif is the Spritz , Aperol with prosecco. Aric tried it, it was stronger than expected, I had to help him finish it 🙂 .
It was almost 3 pm when we started our hike to Vernazza. A well-maintained path, with some steep stretches.
AFter about 1.5 hour we got our first views of Vernazza. It was not always easy to take pictures.
Vernazza is very old, first mentioned as a fortified town in 1080! The only Cinque Terre town with a natural harbour. Basically still a fishing village, although of course nowadays crowded with tourists.
Narrow streets and an elegant church, the Santa Margherita d’Antiochia, c. 1318. We had ice cream, and tried cone calamari, fried squid. Delicious!
Vernazza is famous for its elegant, colorful houses. We stayed quite long there, to take pictures in the evening light, before we took the train back to La Spezia. A long, but very rewarding day.
The next day we took the train to Corniglia. It is the only Cinque Terre town that is not adjacent to the sea, but built on a promontory, 100 m high. From the station a shuttle bus brings you to the town, if you don’t like to walk 🙂 .
Corniglia is the smallest of the Cinque Terre towns.
After visiting the town, we took the shuttle bus down to the station. It is only a few minutes to the next stop, Manarola, the second-smallest Cinque Terre town.
Francesca, our hostess in La Spezia, had suggested us to have lunch in restaurant Nessun Dorma, because of the superb view of Manarola. There was a queue, but it was worth waiting. The food was good too.
It is only 1 km from Manarola to the last village, Rio Maggiore, but the trail has been closed for many years already after landslides. So we took the train.
From Rio Maggiore you can reach a small pebble beach, but it was too cold to sit down and relax.
We were back in our Airbnb around 8:30 pm. Having finished all five Cinque Terre villages, we decided to visit Portofino the next day, another picturesque town, southeast of Genua, 50 km northwest of the Cinque Terre.
The weather was a bit dull and grey. When we arrived, we first walked up to the Castello Brown, dating back to the 16th century, later transformed into a villa. From there you have a beautiful view of Portofino with its harbour.
We walked down to the old town, took more pictures and found a nice restaurant for our lunch. For the first time during this trip we had pasta 🙂
Here are a few more pictures, before we took bus and train back to La Spezia.
As it had started raining , we skipped the plan to visit Portovenere in the afternoon. We took some rest and in the evening we walked to a restaurant where we had the regional speciality farinata, a pancake of chickpea flour. Later we walked to the harbour, but it was too cold to protect the mermaid against the rain 🙂
The next morning we checked out, had our breakfast and took the train back to Pisa. The rain had stopped, we had time enough to visit the Piazza del Duomo with the Cathedral, the Baptistery and of course the Leaning Tower.
There were crowds of tourists. Many tried to support the leaning tower and of course I helped them 🙂 .
We flew back to Amsterdam with Transavia.
Nice views, of the Swiss Alps and, just before landing, of my beautiful country. In the centre of the right picture you can see fort Krommeniedijk, part of the (historical) Defense Line of Amsterdam .