Not a spy Camera

I had seen a number of these while walking around Amsterdam, I wasn’t sure what they were, they looked like cameras, but nothing like the cameras in London. I was sure they weren’t for “spying” on anyone. What were they?

I didn’t think i would find out……until…..

I was watching MegaWorld: Netherlands on Discovery Canada.

I enjoy construction shows, especially shows that feature places I have been.

During the segment about the subway in Amsterdam they talked about how important it was to make sure that none of the old buildings get damaged or shift when the new tunnels are dug.

What do they use, but these cool little “cameras” looking at mirrors placed on various buildings; making sure nothing has shifted or moved.

The system seems to be working. When I was there nothing seemed out of place….well…except for all the holes to dig the subway tunnels.

The Rain in Spain……

I saw a friend off at Centraal Station and then proceeded to walk around and take some pictures. The sun was shining and everything was drying out.

As I start to head back to the train station it starts to rain again, nothing to worry about, it was a light rain.

I head for a Belgian frites (fries, chips) stand and order my frites with mayonnaise.

Vlaamse friet
Not my picture, but the frites stand I was waiting at for my frites

As I waited, I got the distinct impression that someone was dumping all the water from the canals on the city, the way someone would dump a glass of water.

Fumble for the umbrella…..again…..balance an umbrella in one hand; hold the Frites in another and with my other hand actually enjoy them. Needless to say, this was NOT going to work.

I run for shelter under the awning of a neighboring restaurant, something I wouldn’t usually do, but under the circumstances, it was much better than becoming so saturated that I would melt (yes I am made of sugar) The rain did let up to a light drizzle and I was able to get to the train station without looking like a wet rat (no comments please)

My umbrella was so saturated it no longer kept the rain off; my camera bag was saturated as well. My camera was in the bottom and did not get wet.

I really don’t enjoy walking around in the rain…../end editorial comment

First Sunday in Amsterdam

This was my first Sunday in Amsterdam in a loooooooog time.

I wanted to get my bearings and just walk around with no specific plans.

Unfortunately the rain made it difficult. I spent more time seeking shelter than actually looking around. I managed to take 3 pictures. (I took over 1600 pictures all together)

On a happy note, I did get together with an old friend from my first trip here.

We had a beer at Hoopman’s Irish pub on the Leidseplein. We also saw a street performer from my last trip here….a 98% naked man wearing only a codpiece doing acrobatics on a rope…please don’t ask….the image hurt me enough the first time I saw him.

Closed…you mean everything?

Something you need to know about the Netherlands is that just about everything is closed on Sunday, except for some of the bigger cities.

We needed food for Sunday night’s dinner. The time 5:40 PM, what time do the stores close on Saturdays? 6:00 P.M. Uh Oh

Jump in the car, drive like mad men….ok I wasn’t driving….only one person can
drive at a time…with less than 15 minutes to spare…….We got pasta and
meat sauce, in my case is was fake meat.

We managed to finish our shopping in record time.

It is very quiet around here on Sundays.

Bells on a Starry Night

You may be saying yo yourself….”self when does the name of this blog mean?”

If you are familiar with Amsterdam you would know about Anne Frank and Vincent Van Gogh. Both are reflected in the name.

The “bells” are a reference to the Westerkerk (or west church) bells that Anne could here from the secret annex.

Starry night is a reference to Vincent Van Gogh and his paintings; especially the Starry Night series (yes he painted more than one)

Starry Night
Starry Night Over the Rhone

The Van Gogh art is from The Vincent Van Gogh Gallery

Note to self….stop calling yourself “self”

The Domtoren (Dom Tower)

The Dom Tower of Utrecht is the tallest church tower in the Netherlands, at 112 metres (368 feet) in height, and the hallmark of the city. The tower was part of Dom Church, the medieval cathedral of Utrecht, and was built between 1321 and 1382.

Some of the best views of Utrecht are from the top of the tower.

City View

the Dom Church (whats left of it)

My Workout
I walked ALL the way to the top! All 465 steps, every last one of them. They are doing some maintenance work on the tower, so it was easy to imagine what it might have been like in the 14th century Let’s lust say I really like my job

I also spent time walking around Utrecht, exploring the streets, getting lost, learning how to read a map….you really do need to know where you are to be able to figure out where you’re going.

Today was Frites day, I had my first Belgian fries with Mayo for lunch…well….I did walk up all those steps, didn’t I?
Dinner was much Better, health wise, fresh Herring with onions and sweet pickles and a bottle of water. DELICIOUS

A typical Dutch delicacy is raw herring (Hollandse Nieuwe). This is typically eaten with raw onions. Hollandse nieuwe is only available in spring when the first seasonal catch of herring is brought in. This is celebrated in festivals such as the Vlaardingen Herring Festival

A soused herring, Zoute Haring Dutch, or Matjes (German, Swedish), is an especially mild salt herring, which is ripened using enzymes in a salty solution, or brine. In the Netherlands they are called maatjesharing which means maiden herring

If you’re a vegetable….I mean vegetarian…oops….sorry

“Your raiment, O herring, displays the rainbow colors of the setting sun, the patina on old copper, the golden-brown of Cordoba leather, the autumnal tints of sandalwood and saffron. Your head, O herring, flames like a golden helmet, and your eyes, are like black studs in circlets of copper
~Joris Karl Huysmans (1848-1907) French author, as quoted in Larousse Gastronomique (1988)

Train Station Clocks

These are not what they seem. They look like analog clocks, the ones with a second hand, a minute hand and an hour hand, but if you carefully watch the clock, you will see that the second hand moves directly from mark to mark, on each beat of tick, tock, tick, tock. Second to second, not smoothly like a wrist watch.

What happens when the second hand hits the 12 position, not much, until the minute hand moves over to the next minute mark, then and only then does the second hand continue on it way from mark to mark.

Are these really digital clocks in disguise?
I think they are, but because this is a old country there may be a fear that converting them to “real” digital clocks may cause panic throughout he countryside. OK, not really, but it could cost a lot of money.

On a related note, the trains here mostly run on schedule. My route from Soest to Amsterdam requires me to change trains in Baarn I have about 5 minutes between trains, or I will have to wait 30 minutes, without fail the trains come and go precisely on time. Within 15 seconds of the scheduled time the train leaves the station.

The train remains in the station for about 2 minutes, exactly enough time for people to get on or off the train. People just know what to do, no pushing or shoving.

For the record, the train system here is not perfect, it does breakdown, and there are other delays caused by all sorts of problems. Considering the number of trains and stations here, it’s a pretty good system….except that the ticket machines do not take Euro notes or regular credit cards for payment. You can’t even pay for tickets at Centraal Station, at the ticket office, with a credit card. You can use a pin (bank) card or specific cards to pay.

Anne Frank House

Visiting the Anne Frank House has always been emotional for me. This visit was no different.

I am not old enough to have any first hand memories of the second world war, everything I know has been passed down to me either through books or movies.

I first read the Diary of Anne Frank almost 25 years ago, it was very moving then, especially as I was student teaching at the time and I was working with a grade 6 class. They were all Christian and had no direct knowledge of what persecution based on religion was like.

I knew then that if I had the chance I wanted to see the secret annex in Amsterdam. I wanted first hand knowledge of what it was like during the war; or as close as possible to first hand.

Walking through the secret passage and seeing how small the space was and knowing that there were 8 people living there made the spaces even smaller.

Reading the notes and the information on the walls and tables brought everything to life.

The cramped spaces, lack of food, and the constant fear of being discovered had a major impact on those hiding. Anne makes that clear. It becomes clearer when you are standing in the same room she sat in to write; when you look out the same windows she looked out through and listen to the same bells she listened to.

Anne died a few short weeks of her camp being liberated.

The Anne Frank House forces me to remember that over a million children were part of the 6 million Jews that were killed during the Holocaust.

A generation lost.

A bit of a side note…..The Dutch seem to have a storage way of celebrating….

I was at The Anne frank House today with a school group of 12 year old kids. This was a class trip to celebrate the end of the school year and their “graduation” from elementary school. A celebration…at the Anne Frank House?

Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery

“…is the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery containing the largest number of Canadian war dead in the Netherlands. There are 2,338 graves…”

The cemetery is located near Nijmegen

The area is famous (or infamous) for a critical battle in WW II, Operation Market Garden as told in the book and film A Bridge Too Far The allies tried but couldn’t break through the German lines in Arnhem. It was a defeat for the allies.

I have no first hand knowledge or memories of the war, and besides my great uncle Syd, no other family members saw any active duty (I may need to be corrected)

I have no one to thank for their duty to MY (our) country.

This would be my chance to pay my respects.

Below this the inscription reads (in dutch on this gatepost):
The land on which this cemetery stands is the gift of the Dutch people for the perpetual resting place of the sailors soldiers and airmen who are honoured here

Walking through and between the head stones I thanked the men here. I left small stones on the headstones of the Jewish members of the forces, and asked G-D to look after them.

I left small Canadian flags on their graves and on other random graves.

They shall not grow old as we who are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

This is a Google satellite image of the cemetery

View Groesbeek War Cemetery in a larger map

The Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum

Another one of Amsterdam’s great museums.

I like the Rijksmuseum , it has some of the worlds best and best known paintings; including The Nightwatch by Rembrandt 1642, Actually its called the Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch’ The painting is over 3m tall and 4m wide.

The Nightwatch
The Nightwatch

The Rijksmuseum also has paintings by Vermeer

The Girl With the Perl Earring

The Milkmaid

Frans Hals

Family Portrait in a Landscape
Two Boys Singing

and others too numerous to list here.
I was a bit disappointed because most of the museum is still under renovation and is off limits. I was expecting to spend a couple of hours or more there, I spent a bit more than an hour.

I am still impressed with the masterpieces and I know that the only place to see some of them, especially the Nightwatch, will be at the Rijksmuseum. Hopefully I will be able to return after 2010 to see the museum after the renovations.

I’m glad I have the museum card and didn’t have to pay the admission charge.
The museum card is a great way to save money on some of the best museums in The Netherlands.(I’ll have more information about the Museum card in another post)