During my visits to the Netherlands my friend Inez and I always try to organise an outing. Sometimes a longer trip, like in 2018 to Brugge, this time a day trip, with a mixed destination.
A former colleague of us is now living in Slikkerveer, a small village not far from Rotterdam. Piet and his wife Helma invited us to visit them and suggested that we should combine it with an excursion to the world-famous windmills of Kinderdijk . After lunch they would show us some modern architecture in Rotterdam.
Inez and I met at Amsterdam Central and took the train to Rotterdam. It was tulip season and from the train we saw several flower fields.
Left picture: The façade of Rotterdam Central Station, an interesting modern building. Almost all railway stations in the Netherlands have rental bicycles, simple sturdy models. Not easy for me, because I am used to hand brakes and these had coaster brakes (terugtraprem in Dutch, I had to Google for the English word).
It was beautiful weather, with our bikes we cycled to the river Maas and used the Waterbus to go to Kinderdijk. Here is a picture of the Waterbus, no idea why a Dutch bus should be named Blue Amigo.
The waterbus is part of the Dutch public transport system and a very nice way of traveling in Rotterdam. Left the iconic Erasmus bridge, right the Willems bridge.
On our way we passed a very unusual ship: Noah’s ark, built by a fundamentalist Christian businessman, who believed in the literal truth of the Bible.. Years ago I visited an exhibition on this ship, an amazing experience. Now temporarily closed, final destination Israel;
We left the bus in Alblasserdam and soon passed the first windmills of Kinderdijk. There are a total of 19 windmills, built to pump water out the low-lying Alblasserwaard polder into the rivers, World-famous and I had never visited them!
With the blue sky the windmills are a photographer’s delight. Some are still operational, although their work has been taken over by modern diesel pumps.
There is a visitor center where we had coffee.
When I talked about Kinderdijk with family and friends, everybody knew about the famous windmills, but almost nobody had actually visited them! I will go again with Aric on our next Europe trip.
From the visitor center a ferry took us back in a few minutes to Slikkerveer. Piet and Helma are living in a former warehouse of Smit Slikkerveer, now transformed into spacious apartments
We got a hearty welcome, were shown around in their loft and had a nice lunch.
After lunch they joined us with their bikes on the Waterbus back to Rotterdam. We passed many modern buildings on our way. Left the Headquarters of Unilever BV (2007), right the iconic building De Rotterdam (2013).
We parked our bikes at the Veerhaven and walked around.
This is the Parklaanflat (1933) one of the earliest examples of a stacked building, with (in this case seven) luxury apartments one above the other.. Now we are used to apartment buildings but then it was a novelty. Right the monumental entrance.
We continued to the entrance of the Maastunnel (1937-1942) . Left one of the ventilation buildings, right the entrance for pedestrians and cyclists. Beautiful expressionist architecture.
Piet had been using the tunnel often when he was a teenager, and was eager to show me around.
After we had explored the tunnel it was time for a beer.
After our beer we decided to call it a day, although Piet and Helma said there was much more to see. We have to come back. Here is a last view of the Rotterdam skyline.
Cycling back to the station we passed the Depot of the Boymans van Beuningen museum. Spectacular with its reflecting walls.
fThe Boymans is closed for renovation, the Depot should be interesting to visit. In the reflection you can see Inez and me in the center 😉
As it was getting a bit late we decided to have a beer with some snack food before taking the train. Near to the pub we saw this controversial work of art, called Santa Clause, but commonly called ……… by Rotterdam people. Find out for yourself.
It was a rewarding trip, full of variety. Here is a Google Earth screenshot, where I have marked the various points of interest.
On 30 March I flew from Malaysia to the Netherlands, I wrote a report about it: Perdana View => Backershagen I stayed in the Netherlands six weeks in which I visited family and friends and took more than 1000 photos. It will take time to write posts about the trip, the first one in three years! On 11 May I flew back and I decided to write a (short) post about it, mainly about the rules and regulations related to COVID-19.
When I booked my trip in February, Malaysia was planning to reopen its borders, which they did on 1 April. The new rules were: a negative PCR test, less than 48 hours before departure, a negative Antigen test within 24 hours after arrival and 5 days in home quarantine. Acceptable for me, although of course I was not happy with the PCR condition, as it meant that I could only be sure that I could fly, one day before departure.
So I was really relieved when the Malaysian government announced that from 1 May, the two tests and the quarantine were no longer needed. Only proof of full vaccination and you needed to have the Mysejathera app installed on your mobile. This app contains all your vaccination details and for my flight I had to create a Traveller Card in the app. Which I did.
Of course I still had to limit my luggage to less than 12 kg. And I had to clean the flat (and the fridge) in Backershagen, as it would be empty for many months. Left picture, doing the last laundry, right picture, collecting my stuff.
KLM advised to come to the airport at least three hours before departure, because of extra COVID checks. As usual my brother Pim brings me to the airport and after checking in we have coffee and a snack. But not this time. At the check-in counter I was told that I had to proceed through security check and passport control to gate E1 where they would check my Covid documents and issue a sticker. Also they only could give me a boarding pass for the flight to Singapore. There I had to go to a transit counter and get a boarding pass for the connecting flight to KL. Fortunately they were willing, after some discussion, to check in my cabin bag and take it straightaway to KL. Flying is no more what it was before 😉
So I had to wave goodbye to Pim from a distance. At the E1 counter officials were checking whether I was fully vaccinated and had a Traveller Card. As I was early, there were only a few people queueing. I got my sticker and they told me the departure gate, E9. Finally I could relax with a Cappuccino and a brownie.
When I passed E1 again on my way to the gate, there was a big queue with slow processing. Good that I had been so early 😉
It was a full flight, continuing to Indonesia after Singapore. At the airport and in the plane face masks were still compulsory.
After take off at 9:45 pm, dinner was served. No first round of drinks anymore, and no cognac with the coffee. One ridiculous detail, there was an announcement asking passengers to remove their masks only after everyone in a row had been served.
New for me was that passengers had access to WIFI during the flight. Full access for a fee, but one hour texting was free. So I used WhatsApp to text a friend, I am now flying over Rumania!
I was worrying a bit how to get the boarding card for the connecting flight. But when we exited the plane in Singapore, a lady was waiting with this paper in her hand. She guided us to the terminal and transit counter where again my documents were checked and a second sticker was put on my passport.
The flight to KL takes only about 45 minutes.
I was wondering what kind of COVID-control Malaysia would have at the KLIA airport. The answer: nothing at all. Apparently the checking in Amsterdam and Singapore, resulting in two sticker, were enough. Surprising.
There were long queues at Immigration, but there was a special counter for Diplomats and MM2H passengers, with only a few people waiting.. And I didn’t have to wait long for my luggage!
KLIA arrival hall was rather desolate looking.
The whole procedure was so fast, that I had to wait a few minutes for Aric. On our way back we stopped for food, my favourite hokkien mee. In the middle my passport wit the two stickers. And to the right a photo that shows me, tired but happy: Back home.
There are two places I call home, Perdana View in Petaling Jaya and Backershagen in Amsterdam. Most of the time I live in Malaysia, once or twice a year I stay for a couple of weeks in the Netherlands. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic it was almost three years ago that I visited the Netherlands. In the picture below the apartments are indicated with an X, left Perdana View, right Backershagen.
In February I decided to book a trip to the Netherlands from 30 March until 11 May. I was fully vaccinated, including a booster shot. The Netherlands were opening their borders and Malaysia was planning to do the same. I only needed a negative PCR-test, taken less than 48 hours before my planned departure.
The weekend of 20 March I had visited Taiping, see my report Taiping, March 2022. On the last day of my visit I had been in close contact with a Covid-infected friend and although I should be immune, I was a bit worried, so I did an antigen self test, which was negative. Still I was nervous when on 28 March I went to my GP for the PCR test. Relieved when I received the negative result the next morning. Left the antigen test, right the PCR test
Because of the uncertainty, I only started packing after I received the negative test result, one day before departure! When I booked my ticket, I expected that, being a KLM frequent flyer, I was entitled to one piece of cargo luggage (23 kg) free of charge. But my level was too low, so I could only bring 12 kg cabin luggage. I managed to take only essential stuff, of course I had warm clothes in Amsterdam. The last evening I could relax in our roof garden 😉
In the past KLM had a direct flight from KLIA to Schiphol airport, but nowadays I first had to fly to Singapore. When I booked my ticket, I had a Singapore Airline flight to Singapore (20:40-21:50) with a connecting KLM flight (23:35 – 06:50). Perfect, less than a 2 hour transit in Singapore.
But a few days before departure KLM rescheduled my flight “for operational reasons” Departure from KL at 2pm with Jetstar Asia and from Singapore with KLM at 23:05, resulting in about 8 hours transit in Singapore. How to spend that time? The departure of the KLM flight half an hour earlier was probably the reason, to change the connecting flight from KLIA.
We left Perdana View early at 10 am and that was a good decision because KLM had not notified me that the Jetstar Asia flight would not depart from KLIA but from KLIA2, the former Low Cost Terminal. Nearby KLIA, but still a hassle for us and a bad move of KLM.
I was pleasantly surprised by the service of Jetstar. I think they were not used yet to KLM travelers. They decided to accept my cabin bag as cargo luggage and directly transfer it to Schiphol, so I didn’t have to carry it around in Singapore. I had to show my negative PCR test, that was all. There was time enough for a nasi lemak 😉 Passing Malaysian immigration was smooth.
When boarding started, they invited me to came forward first, for the first time in my life I entered an empty plane. And during the short flight (less than one hour) I was one of the few passengers who got a muffin and a bottle of water. Kudos for Jetstar
Thorough fogging of the plane and not a full flight.
In Changi airport I noticed the departure time of 23:05. Eight hours to spend. I had visited Changi Airport in 2019, admired the famous Jewel, but now I was in transit. However there are an amazing lot of things to do while in transit. You can even make trips to the city while staying in transit! I only visited the gardens in Terminal 1. There are three of them.
From left to right the Artifical Tree garden, the Waterlily garden and the Cactus garden.
I bought a book and found a quiet place to read.
I had dinner at the Burger King, quite good quality.
Many shops were still closed
Shock! The KLM flight was retimed to 23:35, the original departure time! So I could have taken the 20:40 SQ flight and saved 8 hours of time. The flight (from Jakarta) was unpleasantly full, but fortunately i had an empty seat next to me.
Usually the KLM flies from KL to the Netherlands over the Ukraine. Of course they did not because of the war in Ukraine, the plane went far south. As usual I could not sleep well. We landed early at 6:05 am, the pilot announced that the temperature was 1° Celsius with a chance of show.
Immigration was surprisingly smooth, no Covid checking at all. Nobody was wearing mouth masks. Because of the cold I considered taking a taxi, but finally decided to go the usual way, a ten minute train to Amsterdam-Zuid and from there a 15 minute walk home. I survived the walk, but it was bitterly cold.
Here I am standing in the lift to my apartment. Yolanda, Paul’s sister who has a key of the apartment, had bought flowers, a nice welcome.
As the apartment had not been inhabited for more than two years, I had to go shopping at the nearby AH. And have my first lunch, with cheese, herring and strawberries, of course.
It was a cold night, with snow.
Here are some pictures I took the next day.. Some daffodils were trying to survive. Real winter atmosphere.
I had to solve several problems that day. The prepaid sim card of my mobile had expired, I needed to buy a new one. My laptop had problems, I had to buy a new keyboard/mouse. And the central heating was not working properly. Not a nice start of my visit. But still I could enjoy a pre-dinner drink
And prepare my first, very Dutch dinner.
Saturday a guy came to repair the central heating. And a bicycle pump was deliverd after an online order. Because of course the tyres of my bike were completely flat after three years.
That Saturday evening, three days after coming home, I could finally relax and enjoy the tulips.
Sunset and view from my apartment Sunday morning. At least a bit of blue sky. But still unpleasantly cold.
More blogs about this trip to the Netherlands will follow
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!
My usual visit to the Netherlands started this time in a special way! During the first two weeks, Aei Ling, Aric’s sister, stayed with us in Amsterdam. As it was her first visit to the Netherlands, we showed her many of the Dutch tourist destinations. Here is a report.
Monday 15 April
We arrived early morning at Schiphol airport, took the train to Amsterdam Zuid station and decided to walk to my apartment, although it was only a few degrees above zero! Just outside the station we saw our first tulips 🙂
After a few hours rest (and having our first Dutch strawberries) , we went into town. It was cold but sunny and everywhere the “cherry” trees were in full bloom. Aei Ling would have liked to ride a bicycle, but I thought that would not be wise…:-)
We took the metro to the center of the town, the Dam square with the National Monument.
Back home we had our first Dutch dinner. Of course with potatoes.
Tuesday 16 April
We visited the windmills of the Zaanse Schans, one of the top tourist attractions of the Netherlands. Several of the mills are working and you can visit them. In this picture Aei Ling is standing on the jetty at the left.
After coming home, we had another Dutch traditional dinner, mussels with fries. Yummie.
Wednesday 17 April
Our destination was the Muiderslot, one of the historical castles in the Netherlands. We took a ferry from Amsterdam, which lands at the castle itself, a very romantic approach.
The history of the castle goes back to 1280. In the 17th century P.C. Hooft, a Dutch writer and poet has been living in the castle, many of the rooms are furnished in the style of the Dutch Golden Age. It must have been many decades ago that I visited this castle, so it was a nice experience for me too.
It was my 75th birthday and I had invited a few people for dinner at the Zoku restaurant. A very pleasant evening.
Thursday 18 April
My sister Lous had offered to show us around in the tulip fields of North-Holland. We arrived by train, enjoyed their garden and had lunch with them.
The Keukenhof is the most famous flower garden of the Netherlands, crowded with tourists from all over the world. Not many people know about the Poldertuin in Anna Paulowna, a miniature Keukenhof, quiet and F.O.C ! We were lucky, it was a perfect time to visit.
There were so many species of tulips, daffodils, etc, that I kept taking pictures…:-)
After visiting the garden, Lous and Arend drove us around through the flower fields.
We visited one garden where you could pick your own tulips, for 25 euro cents per flower.
We had dinner near the beach, it was not cold, we could even sit outside.
We stayed overnight, enjoying a beautiful sunset.
Friday 19 April
The famous Cheese Market of Alkmaar was the destination for this day. Arend dropped us near the Waagplein, where the market is held every Friday morning. It is a colorful spectacle, attracting massive crowds of (mostly foreign) visitors. Background information can be found here.
It is a honour to become a cheese carrier and you need years of training. Each cheese weighs 12-13 kg, and a barrow carries eight of them. The market started in 1365 and the whole process is steeped in tradition.
Alkmaar is a beautiful historic town, where you could easily spend hours.
We took a train back to Amsterdam and had a late lunch in the Pancake Bakery, one of Aric’s favourite eateries. And at home a late dinner with escargots. By the way, Aei Ling is drinking 0.0 % alcohol beer, getting more and more popular these days .. 🙂
Saturday 20 April
The Amstelpark is in walking distance from my apartment. Many years ago I had visited in this park the rhododendron valley, and after breakfast we tried our luck. It was a nice , easy 20 minute walk to the park, you can easily forget that you are in a suburb of Amsterdam.
And lucky we were, the rhododendrons were in full bloom
Near the park a beautiful windmill is located, the Riekermolen (1636). Almost any time of the day tourist buses stop here., we had to wait a bit for a picture without people ..:-)
Before walking home we had lunch in the park. I had an uitsmijter, a visit to the Netherlands is not complete for me without this traditional lunch of fried eggs with ham and cheese on bread 🙂
Later we went out again, because a tourist visit to Amsterdam is also not complete without a visit to the Red Light district. Too many tourists, the ladies of the night are not happy about it and often close the curtains of their rooms.
It is actually a beautiful, old part of the town.
We had snack food at a FEBO outlet, a typical Dutch institution with vending machines for the different foods provided.
Sunday 21 April
Easter Sunday! My friend Inez had invited us for lunch. With eggs, that is the tradition.
In the afternoon we visited the Vondelpark where lots of people were enjoying the nice weather and even sunbathing. We joined them and also had a look at the Boomzagertje, a hidden jewel near the Leidseplein
The next day we took the train to Paris, where we stayed four days. I have written a separate post about it, Paris, April 2019, and continue this one, after we came back to Amsterdam.
Saturday 27 April
Koningsdag! The celebration of the King’s birthday is very popular in the Netherlands. Unfortunately the weather was not very favourable this year, cold with rain showers. But of course we went to town. The Vondelpark is a huge freemarket on this day, where kids try to earn a few coins by playing music etc. Pity that it was so cold.
Sunday 28 April
My friend Yolanda is singing in a choir and they were performing Mozart’s Requiem in the Dominicus church this Sunday afternoon. Before the concert we had apple pie in restaurant Winkel 43, supposedly the best apple pie in town 🙂
It was a beautiful concert, in a beautiful church.
After the concert we had a drink in a cafe nearby with Yolanda (left) and friends.
Monday 29 April
Aei Ling was flying back in the evening, still time enough for a last activity, a visit to Leiden. During my last stay in Holland I had “rediscovered” this beautiful town, near my “hometown”, see my report Leiden 2018
Only a few pictures here, to give an impression.
Then it was time to say goodbye. It was very nice to have Aei Ling as our guest!
In 1976 I started teaching physics at the Snellius school in Amstelveen. I was 32 year old and had just graduated from the Free University in Amsterdam. Left I am defending my thesis, right I am teaching my students, in a different outfit. And yes, my hair was long..:-)
Here is a photo of the school team in 1990-91. After a merger with other public secondary schools in Amstelveen, the school was renamed Nieuwer Amstel school. I am wearing contact lenses and have less hair.
Two years later. Can you find me?
This photo is from 1995-1996. I am wearing a brown jacket.
The next year, 1996-97, was my last regular teaching year. Here is my last “Lerarenagenda”, I still have the complete collection 🙂
The following years, until 2002, I worked part-time at my own alma mater, the Free University, on education-related topics. In 2002, at the age of 58, I became a full-time pensionado..:-)
So, it is more than 20 years ago that I was in daily contact with my colleagues, although several of them have become friends, whom I meet regularly when I am back in the Netherlands.
One of them told me in May that there was a plan to organise a reunion of pensionados, who had retired from one of the schools which now, after another merger, form the Amstelveen College.
The date proposed was 5 October, and I was so eager to attend this reunion that I decided to prolong my yearly visit to the Netherlands a few weeks…:-)
In the afternoon of 5 October I went to the Amstelveen College, the old Snellius school building has been demolished quite a few years ago.
The meeting of pensionados was well organised. About sixty of them were present, basically from the schools that had merged into the Amstelveen College, but more than half of them had been working at the Snellius, so there were many familiar faces and fortunately in almost all cases I still could remember their name 🙂
There was a short introduction about the present status of the Amstelveen College.
But of course the main interest of the attendees was social, meeting former colleagues and chatting about their shared past.
Left three colleagues who were already working for many years at the Snellius, when I arrived in 1976. The right picture shows me with a few colleagues of the former Casimir school, in the past the rival public school in Amstelveen.
It was a pity that there was no “official” photographer. In between conversations with former colleagues, I managed to take some pictures but they are not representative for the group. Here are my pictures.
During the meeting old photos , taken in the period 1976 to 1988, were shown on a big screen. They belong to the collection of Dick Vader, who worked at the Snellius during the 70s and 80s and who was (and still is) an avid photographer.
He has given me permission to use these photos and below you will find a selection, with persons who also appear in the color pictures above. It will be an interesting exercise to compare the two sets and find out the corresponding images…:-)
I have cropped most photos to show only one specific person.
Because most attendees were busy chatting with each other, many of them may not have paid full attention to the photo presentation of more than 500 photos.
That’s why I have put a representative selection of these photos in a separate album Snellius 1976-1987 (text in Dutch)
It was a very successful meeting, worthy of a repeat.
Would you like to go with me to the Marker Wadden, my youngest brother asked me during my recent visit to the Netherlands. The Marker Wadden? I knew about the Wadden Islands and the Wadden Sea, but had never heard about the Marker Wadden.
He explained to me that it was a project of Natuurmonumenten, the Dutch Nature Society, to create a number of artificial islands in the Markermeer.
Ok, I knew about the Markermeer. Have a look at the left map, taken from the informative Zuiderzee Works entry in Wikipedia. After closing the Zuiderzee with the Afsluitdijk in 1932, it was renamed IJsselmeer, and gradually changed from a salt water lake into a fresh water one. Large parts of the lake were reclaimed to form polders. The original plan was to reclaim also the Markermeer, and a dike, the Houtribdijk, was already built between 1963 and 1975.
But the reclamation plans changed, and in 1986 it was decided that the Markermeer will remain a lake. When you look at the right picture, a Google Earth map of the same region, you will notice the different color of the water in the Markermeer. Because the lake is separated by a dike from the IJsselmeer, there is a lot of siltation, resulting in turbid water. This has a negative impact on the aquatic flora and fauna.
In 2012 Natuurmonumenten, with other partners, presented an ambitious plan, to create a couple of artificial islands in the Markermeer, using sand and silt from the bottom. The islands will not be used for human habitation, but will become a bird sanctuary.
The project has been accepted and is now in progress, with support of several sponsors. In the left picture you can see the location of these Marker Wadden relative to the Houtribdijk. The right images shows more details, the north-west island has a harbour and some infrastructure (footpaths and walkways), this island will be accessible to the public (but only if you have your own boat!). The other islands will be strictly nature reserves.
To show these Marker Wadden to the general public, Natuurmonumenten organised a temporary ferry service during the weekend of 8-9 September and my brother bought tickets, for of course I eagerly accepted his invitation…:-)
The ferry left from the Bataviahaven in Lelystad. We arrived early, so we could have a nice seat and a cup of coffee. Many interested people, often armed with binoculars and cameras.
After about 45 minutes we arrived at the jetty of the Marker Wadden
There were two walking routes on the island, 2.5 km and 6 km. We took the shorter one. At the start it looked like a crowd, but it spread out quite fast.
Work is still going on, but this was a weekend, so no activity.
Here I am posing as a climber of the Marker Wadden mountains…:-)
There is a lookout tower, solidly built.
From the balcony at the top you have a good view of the surroundings.
It was an interesting walk, In many places the work was still in full swing.
A warning sign for dangerous quicksand.
Regarding plant life, the philosophy of Natuurmonumenten is to let nature take Its course.Slowly plants will start growing, from seeds blown over by the wind from the surrounding polders. I have my doubts about the single patch of sunflowers I saw…:-). Could it be that somebody has bought a packet of sunflower seed and sowed it here?
We walked over a nice walkway, sat down and had the sandwiches we had taken from home. In a few years time this will be a beautiful region.
It will also become a paradise for bird watchers. During our visit we did not see many birds, because it was not the migratory season yet.
We spent a few hours on the island and then took the ferry back to Lelystad. A very nice outing.
Most of my life I have been living in Amsterdam, but I was born in Alphen aan den Rijn, a small town 15 km from Leiden. Of course I have been in Leiden many times in my youth, but I have never really explored the town.
Therefore, on the first Sunday in September, I took the train to Leiden Central Station and visited the town. Leiden has a long history. It received city rights in 1266 and flourished in the 16th and 17th century, because of the cloth industry. Here is a map of Leiden in 1690
And here is a Google Earth view from 2008. It is remarkable how the historic town center is still easily recognisable. The blue markers indicate some of the locations where I have taken pictures.
The 1690 map is full of interesting details, Click here for a large size image. Count the windmills on the city walls! And notice that numerous canals have nowadays been filled in to become roads.
These days only two windmills are left. The Valk mill will draw your attention when you walk from the station to the old town. The water in the foreground is one of the singels (moats) surrounding the 17th century town.
De Valk is a tower mill, built in 1743, replacing an older mill. In the past the miller was living in the mill with his family, nowadays it is an interesting museum. The mill is built so high to catch the wind. In the right picture you see the wheel to rotate the top of the mill in the direction of the wind. This is a cornmill and still operational
The lower floors show how in the past people were living here.
You have to climb many steep ladders to reach the top of the mill. The complicated machinery (wooden gears!) always fascinates me.
The top part can rotate
Two mill stones
Machinery inside the mill
The second windmill on the ramparts is the mill de Put. Although there has been a mill here since 1619, several times rebuilt, it was destroyed in 1817. Only in 1983 the mill has been reconstructed and is now a museum. It is a so-called post mill, the whole mill structure can be rotated around a central axis.
The mill was under renovation when I visited Leiden. The bridge in the foreground is also a recent reconstruction of an old bridge. It is called the Rembrandt bridge, because not far from here Rembrandt, the famous Dutch painter, was born in 1606.
In a small park nearby there is information about him, with his statue, painting of course. All tourists want to have their picture taken here, and so did I…:-)
Both tourists and locals were enjoying the beautiful sunny weather. The cafe terraces, which in Leiden are often placed on floating pontoons, were crowded.
In the morning, the sky was incredibly blue. Left the monumental facade of the Stadstimmerwerf (town carpenter’s yard) built in 1612. Next to it the Doelenpoort (1645), in earlier days the entrance gate to the exercise grounds of the Schutterij , a typical Dutch institution in those days. Many houses had characteristic stepped gables..
Leiden has the oldest university of the Netherlands, founded in 1575. It is still one of the important ones, the royal family has been studying here.
This is the Academiegebouw, the oldest building in Leiden, in 1516 built as the chapel of a Dominican monastery. SInce 1581 it has been used by the university, nowadays mainly for ceremonial functions.
The Pieterskerk is the oldest church of Leiden, building started in 1121 and lasted hundreds of years. It is within walking distance from the Academiegebouw and a cortege of professors walks twice yearly from the university to the church, for the dies natalis (anniversary) and for the opening of the Academic Year. An old tradition, this year the 443th time! When I visited Leiden, they were very busy in the church with preparations for the ceremony the following day.
I would really have loved to watch the procession. Here is a video taken during the dies natalis ceremony of 2016. Fascinating.
The church had a 110 m tall tower,which collapsed in 1512 and was never rebuilt. Not so easy to take an overall picture of this church, also because houses have been built against the church walls.
The interior of the late-gothic building is very impressive. Of course it was originally a Roman-Catholic church, but after the Reformation and the infamous Beeldenstorm in 1566 it became a Protestant church in 1572.
Many famous people were buried here (Jan Steen, Boerhaave), but I had no time to find their tombs. Just a few more pictures. The magnificent Van Hagerbeer organ is from 1643.
The Hortus Botanicus (botanical garden) of the Leiden University is the oldest in the Netherlands and one of the oldest in the world. I had never before visited the Hortus, and spent quite some time there.
There are many greenhouses with tropical plants. Probably the most famous one is the Victoria amazonica, with leaves that supposedly can carry a baby.
The park is very attractive. Left a view of the singel, right the Japanese garden
Also in the garden is the Leiden Observatory. It is one of the oldest in the world, originally housed in the Academiegebouw. In 1860 it was moved to the Hortus and in 1974 to the science campus, outside the town center.
After my visit I had lunch in the Hortus cafe
Leiden has numerous “hofjes” and I visited three of them. A “hofje” is a courtyard with almshouses. Rich people in the 17th century founded such hofjes as a charity. The almshouses were meant for various groups, poor people, or spinsters, or foreigners without family, etc.
Nowadays they still have rules and regulations for the tenants. They are oases of tranquillity, many of them have free access , but you are expected to be quiet and not disturb the people living there.
Jean Pesijnhof (1683)
This hofje, near the Pieterskerk, was founded by the widow of Jean Pesijn. They came from France, had no children and the almshouses were meant for members of the Walloon Church. A beautiful, idyllic courtyard.
Eva van Hoogeveenhof (1652)
Eva came from a wealthy family and never married. As the inscription above the entrance gate says, she was a “virgo castissima et laudatissima” (Google for translation). In her will she had stated that the almshouses were meant for honest women, above 40 year old and unmarried..
Van der Speckhofje (1645)
Also know as St Pietershofje. A secluded one, you can easily miss the entrance gate.Founded by Pieter Gerritsz. Van der Speck. In his will he stated that four of the eight almshouses were meant for widows, the other four for elderly couples. Nowadays younger people are housed in this little gem.
The town hall of Leiden stood in the Breestraat as early as the Middle Ages. In 1596 it was given a new facade in Renaissance style to show the importance of the town. It still looks impressive, although it is “new”! In 1929 a devastating fire destroyed the town hall, leaving only a skeleton of the facade. In 1932 it was rebuilt , the facade in the original style, the tower in a different location and the rest in modern style ( a design by Dudok was rejected, understandable, but still a pity!)
Some details of the facade
The Burcht of Leiden is a fortress built on an artificial hill, constructed in the 11th century, located where two tributaries of the Rhine come together.
Here is the south gate (1651). access is free, it is a pleasant park.
Gate of the fort (1651)
Stairs to the ramparts
From the ramparts, you have a view of Leiden. Here two churched I had no time to visit, left the Hooglandse Kerk, a gothic church from the 15th century, right the Marekerk, built in classicist style and opened in 1649. The Hooglandse Kerk was of course built as a Catholic church and only after the Reformation transformed into a Protestant one. The Marekerk was designed as a Protestant church.
I could not resits the temptation to have Poffertjes, a traditional Dutch mini-pancake. Served with butter and sugar, not healthy, but so delicious.
With my interest in architecture, I could have spent many days in Leiden. The Lakenhal was built as a guild hall for cloth merchants and is now an important museum, but closed for renovation during my visit. The Hartebrugkerk is the first Catholic church in Leiden built after the Reformation.
De Waag (1657)
Nieuwe Beestenmarkt (?)
Zeevaart Kweekschool (1855)
Lido theatre (1936)
The Koornbrug is from 1642. It was so named, because for many centuries corn was traded on this bridge
With its many singels and canals, Leiden looks a bit similar to Amsterdam. Here is a collection of photos taken during my visit.
Marebrug nd Marekerk
After a long day it was time to go back to Amsterdam. The central station is an attractive modern building from 1996.
Walking to the entrance of the station, I came across a pavement decoration, which did not make much sense to me (left picture) . Until I walked past and watched it from the other side (right picture). A spectacular anamorphic work of art!
When I am in the Netherlands, I always try to stay a few days in Groningen with my brother Ruud. We usually spend a day in the countryside and this time we decided to visit the Menkemaborg. A “borg” is a manor house, typical for the province of Groningen. In the past there were many, now only less than twenty survive, here is a list of the existing borgs
On our way to the borg, we passed the small hamlet of Eppenhuizen with an attractive church. The church is not old, built in 1882 and no longer in use as church. Surrounded by a graveyard with a “baarhuisje”, a mortuary.
The Menkemaborg was originally built in the 14th century, but altered to its present form around 1700. Owned privately by the Alberda family until 1902, it was donated in 1921 to the Groninger Museum. It is surrounded by a moat and extensive gardens.
The interior of the borg has been furnished in the style of the 17-18th century. The result is beautiful, it gives the impression that the residents are away for a moment and can come back any time.
Only the ground floor and the basement are accessible to the public. The basement contains the kitchens and the servants quarters
Pots and pans
There were two toilets, located outside the main building, flushing into the moat…:-). The lion is carrying the coat of arms of the family and the pedestal shows the year that the Alberda family acquired the property and altered it.
The Schathoes was originally the farm belonging to the Menkemaborg. Now it is a restaurant where we had our lunch.
After our lunch we walked in the well-maintained gardens. There is a maze in this garden where we almost got lost…:-)
In Google Earth the Menkemaborg is clearly visible. When you enlarge tie image, you will notice the maze in the garden with an old plane tree in its center
My brother suggested to drive to the coast of the Waddenzee after our visit. On our way we passed another beautiful church, in Uithuizermeeden. The church is old, but in 1896 the church tower was destroyed by lightning and rebuilt the next year in this interesting neoclassical form. A real gem.
Dykes protect the low-lying lands against the seawater At several places roads have to cross these dykes, in these pictures you see the old wooden doors that can be closed
And of course you will find windmills in many places to pump the rainwater back to the sea. The windmill here is the Goliath , built in 1897. In the background many modern windmills which generate electricity.
When we stopped at the mill to take pictures, the miller told us that we could enter the mill and climb up, using steep ladders. After our visit she would have coffee and cake ready! Of course we accepted her invitation…:-)
Please give a donation for the coffee
This type of windmill is called a bovenkruier, the top part of the mill can be rotated when the direction of the wind is changing.
The miller had lots of interesting stories to tell about the Goliath and her efforts to preserve the mill and keep it in mint condition. We asked if the name Goliath was a pun, but no it was the original name. It was a pun that one of the huge new windmills nearby had been named the David…:-)
Personally I think the modern windmills are a form of horizon pollution, although in the picture below they fit quite naturally in the landscape.
The northern part of Groningen has a special charm. Look at this Google Earth View