Monday, March 31, 2008

Train Topper

The central tower of Amsterdam's Centraal Station features a gleaming coat-of-arms of The Netherlands. The tile shields below continue all around the building. I'm not sure the significance of all of the shields ... my guess would be that they are a combination of towns, provinces, and perhaps guilds. The shield centered below the coat of arms is the symbol of Amsterdam.

I'd like to be able to post a photo of the entire station, but it's been under construction for as long as we've lived here, and will be long after we leave. The current estimate for completion of the new metro line is 2013.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Towering Above

The current form of Delft's Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) was started in 1396. The tower is the 2nd tallest in The Netherlands. Erected in 1872, it stands 108.75 meters high, and if you are interested in the view you can walk the 356 steps to the top.

Sorry, you won't be seeing any photos from the top of the tower on this blog. You'll have to be content with the ground level view.

The Nieuwe Kerk holds the crypt of the royal family and the memorial tomb of Willem I.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Memorial in Glass

The Old Church (Oude Kerk) in nearby Delft dates to 1246, but various calamities (fires and gunpowder explosions), not to mention the iconoclasm of the protestant reformation, kept the windows plain until the 1960s, when new stained glass windows were commissioned. This window celebrates Koningin (Queen) Wilhelmina, the longest serving dutch monarch (1890-1948).

The window appears to show her return to the war-torn Netherlands after WWII (where she ruled in exile from the UK). Apparently Winston Churchill once said she was the "only man in the Dutch government," a quote that says a lot about both leaders.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Over the...

Taken last week by sticking the camera out of the window while speeding along the A13 between Delft and Rotterdam. I wouldn't normally recommend this technique but it was the only way I could capture the rainbow. You can just barely see the double rainbow on the right hand side of the photo (along with a big smudge of a raindrop).

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Up the Mount in Normandy: Where?Wednesday

Truly an amazing sight, Le Mont St. Michel rises up from the tidal flats to dominate the landscape at the edge of the Normandy coast.

After pushing through the crowds of tourists (even on a very cold "spring" day) up the narrow, steep street, you are greeted with a lot of stairs to the top of the abbey. Once you catch your breath, you can tour around (maybe even seeing some monks and nuns in a devotional service) and see the immense, rambling abbey complex.

This place has been home to religious pilgrimages as well as serving as a prison -- a microcosm of the complex history of Normandy. The monastery supposedly was built by St. Aubert at the request of the archangel Michael, who grew so impatient with Aubert's procrastination that he appeared in a vision and pressed so hard on Aubert's forehead that he burned a dent into his head. Now that's what I call leaving an impression (insert groan here)!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Weather Report

We returned from our travels in France late Sunday, and woke up yesterday to our first "major snow event."

This is the view looking down our sidestreet. It doesn't look like much, but this is the first time this year that snow actually stuck to the ground. There was even a little more on the ground this morning. The lead story in one of the dutch newspapers was "Chaos op de weg!" -- chaos on the roads.

Right now I can hear the groans from our readers back in the midwestern US.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

We'll return after this short break...

Taking a break -- hope to see you back after Easter. I've seen "Happy Easter" many ways in dutch ... so, Gelukkig Paasfeest / Vrolijk Pasen!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Waiting Game

What were these two dogs waiting for? The lip-smacking should give you a hint.

Their master was inside the Hollandse Nieuwe Haring stand just outside of the Binnenhof (houses of parliament) in The Hague. This must be a routine stop for them, as they really knew what they were waiting for.

After coming out and giving them both a bit of fish, their master went back inside the stand for a second, leaving a tempting sight (you can't tell, but the dog is at the end of it's leash).

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Bull -- but no bull -- in Milan...Where?Wednesday

The Galleria Vittoria Emanuele II in Milan is an amazing building. Mix a bit of neo-classicism with a lot of ornamentation and a (for the time) modern steel-and glass roof, and you get this big cross-shaped "mall" in the shopping capital of Italy.

There's a lot of mysticism surrounding this building. The architect and builder, Giuseppe Mangoni, died from an "accidental" fall from the roof just 2 days before the galleria opened. It's said that it was actually suicide, a result of harsh criticism of the building.

And then there's the mosaics in the floor. In the center of the building are four mosaics representing the cities of Milan, Rome, Florence and Turin. The symbol of Turin (Torino), the bull, has a curious cone-shaped indentation where it's -- uh -- "manly bits" should be.

Why, you ask? Legend has it that if you spin on the bull's testicles you will receive good luck.

Evidently this refers back to a bull in the city of Turin/Torino itself. Why, you ask again? Well, this one I'm not so sure of. I found a lot of references, but no real reason why. And there seems to be some confusion over how many times you must spin, what direction you should spin, and on which foot you should spin.

Nonetheless it's fun to watch. Kids love it, tourist go nuts taking pictures, and locals do it quickly and without much fuss.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hidden Worker

A neat little statue, almost hidden for wanderers to discover, along the Stadhouderskade in Amsterdam.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Dog Day II

Although we never owned one, my mother loves bulldogs. They do have a sort of -- uh -- charm.

This one was having a great time in the Vondelpark in Amsterdam.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Playtime in the Park

So much energy! One of the many dogs playing in the Vondelpark in Amsterdam on a nice spring day.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Another Bakfiets Shot

A follow-up post from yesterday. This was shot a few seconds after yesterday's photo. Although it's a bit blurry, the girls' reactions to the horse & carriage are great.

It's true that the bakfiets probably wouldn't make it in the U.S. (see yesterday's comments) -- you'd probably have to install airbags to make them legal.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Alternative Transportation Methods

In which would you rather tour Amsterdam ... a horse-drawn carriage or a bakfiets?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Not Teasing Today

Today's Lesson: How to put on your own sideshow in 4 illustrated steps!

1. Capture the crowd's attention with your look. Consider something that might intimidate people --like body piercing, tattoos and a leather skirt. Create a "performance space" ... for example, standing on a pile of broken glass is a unique attention-getter.
2. Get the crowd's attention by taking off your shirt. Enhancing the look with nipple rings and more tattoos is an added bonus.
3. Start to "gross out" the crowd. You might try sewing some string through belly. Tugging on the thread, thereby stretching your skin, will induce a loud "eeewww" from the crowd.
4. Gross out the crowd even more by tying a heavy staple gun to your skin, then letting it swing like a pendulum. More "eeewwwwwws" will certainly follow.
Once you've mastered these steps, you can go on to other things, like tying objects to your nipples and twirling around. Or hammering a large nail into your nostril.

Your big money moments will come when you introduce crowd participation into your act. Have someone pay for the privilege of using the aforementioned staple gun to put staples directly into your body. Or lie face down on the broken glass and have someone pay to stand on your head.

You get the idea. All in a day's work. Hope you've enjoyed yesterday's teaser and today's follow-up lesson.

(Note: I had one report of the picture not showing on the post. If anyone else notices this problem, please leave a comment or send an email (see address under "check out

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Teaser for Tomorrow...

Hmmm ... this guy is curiously dressed (you don't see too many leather kilts these days), and what's he doing with a staple gun in Amsterdam's Dam Square?

You'll have to come back tomorrow to see...

(Hint: don't check back if you're squeamish)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Easy Money? (1)

There are some pretty strange street performers in Amsterdam's Dam Square. This quasi-Neptune-guy was making money snatching the hats off of kids heads. I don't really get it, but the kids loved it. As you can see by this boy's smile ... and the coins going in the bucket for the next kid. Check back for more street performers throughout the week.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Not-so-blank canvas

Thanks to all who visited and commented on our theme day post. We're just returning from a weekend away and it'll be a few days before we can check out all of the theme day photos!

This is another shot at the same location as Friday's post. The guy was texting on his cell phone as he approached the building, but he put it away moments before he walked in front of the building. It would have made for an interesting juxtaposition against the scene from the mural. Oh well, you can't plan such things.

In this photo you can see the scale of the mural and the enormous amount of graffiti at street level. The mural itself probably invites graffiti, or as mentioned in the comments from Friday it's possible that this building is occupied by squatters.