Thursday, November 28, 2013

Canada & broccoli

im on tims computer and was looking for a photo to post... then i checked the 2012 folder and realized it was just a year ago that we visited niagara falls. a year! i was really surprised... somehow it feels like ages ago already. if im not mistaken, we were staying in one of those fancy glass buildings and paid way too much for our stay. but it was so amazing to get to see the falls! and to be able to drive there... now it all seems (and is, ofcourse) so far away!!
here, back home im still debating whether i like the overly used american "excuse me" and the americans that rather move aside more than necessary in order to avoid too close contact with strangers, or the dutch way of just bumping into someone if you dont move quickly enough. i have to admit; i never liked the "excuse me" while in the us and never have been able to utter it myself, but now back home i realize that dutch strangers sometimes get far too close to me and i then still wonder why they dont say "excuse me".
also, broccoli tastes different here. i really liked brocccoli in the usa, but here i like it less. while eating broccoli today, i mentioned this to tim and he agreed!! we couldnt really pinpoint what it was (the taste? or the florets are a little different, maybe smaller, here?), but i was glad not being the only one thinking broccoli is a bit of a disappointment in the netherlands... :)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Same canal

here you see the same canal (oude gracht, i.e. "the old canal") as depicted in yesterdays picture, but now from the other side (yesterday i was standing near the tiny white bridge, which is called the green bridge. but its white, and i cannot find why its called the green bridge while being painted perfectly white). weesp earned cityrights in 1355. nowadays, all the buildings in the city center are protected. apparently that also meant that while the church could be remodeled into a dental practice, the church organ had to stay and remain fully functional!
but, i actually took this picture for the cute canal art you see to the right. i really like it, and took several photos of it already. every year there is some art in the canals, but i think this one is to stay.  i jut couldnt find any information on it...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My hometown

last week we were briefly in the city of weesp, a small city not too far from amsterdam. thats where i grew up. above you see the city center, the little houses, the canal, the bikes. all on a much smaller scale than amsterdam, but other than that its pretty similar. like many dutch cities, i would say..... the church to the right actually houses "my" dentist now, although he moved there while i was living in boston. we had a peek inside; such a fancy place! but i didnt make an appointment yet.... im thinking whether i should switch to one in amsterdam or stay with this practice where i have been all my life but for the 3 years i lived in the us. ah well... thats for another day to decide...

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Biking restrictions

i had no clue what to post today, and then i saw this one... no! its not in the netherlands. i dont think such a restriction on bikes could be possible at all here. this one is for the boardwalk at coney island in new york.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Fascinating clouds

another picture from the zaanse schans where we were 2 weeks ago. the clouds were absolutely stunning while we were there. the upper path is for pedestrians and the lower for bikes (and the occasional car, i guess only people who live around here are allowed to drive there). whenever a pedestrian dared to set foot on the bike path, bicyclists furiously rang their bells.... i guess they are tired of all those tourists constantly slowing them down by suddenly jumping in front of them...
it has gotten pretty cold this week. no biking without gloves anymore! however, especially when going for a longer bike ride (i would say longer than 5-10 minutes) you should really dress less than what you would want. yes, the first few minutes on your bike you will be cold, but each and every time there is this moment where you suddenly get hot, and then you will be glad not being overdressed (of course, you do need to wear a hat and gloves, but the jacket really should not be too warm). the other option of course is to bike slowly, but then be prepared to be overrun by impatient "real bicyclists". (tim already thinks i am biking too slow, although i think im going at a decent speed....)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Westerbork memorial

i want to show one more picture of westerbork. above you see where the actual camp used to be. nothing is left of it nowadays, except for the house of the camp commander at the opposite entrance. the railroad you see above is the national westerbork memorial, designed by ralph prins in 1970, who was a former prisoner and one of the few survivors. it is at the location where the train arriving in westerbork came to a standstill. none of the materials used for the memorial are derived from the actual railroad. it consists of 93 railway sleepers, representing the 93 outgoing cargo trains, transporting prisoners from this site to concentration camps in germany or poland. anne frank and her family were among those that were put in the first of the 3 final train transports in september 1944.
as you can see, the rails is curled up near the entrance to the camp. with this, the artist wanted to show the despair and bewilderment that what happened here is possible in our world.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A postcard

this is whats written on this postcard in dutch: "Dear Jo. Now that I am still here I am sending you my greetings. Since 2 days i am in Drenthe, and tomorrow the journey continues. I am in good spirits, and the hope to be able to soon be with my fiance, gives me strength. Jo, I hope that you, [the remainder is on the other side of the card] your fiance, and your dear parents will get through all this in good health. Once more my warm greetings, your loving friend Trude."
just an ordinary postcard a young woman sent to her friend, if you read it without knowing anything else (in dutch it does sound a little less pressing than how i managed to translate it into english). however, it was sent by a woman that the next day, together with some 1000 others, would be placed in a cargo train from detention camp Westerbork in the dutch province of drenthe to a concentration camp in either poland or germany.
we visited this place last week. nowadays, not much is left from it. from the parking lot, it is a 3 km (1.8 miles) walk to the camp. the paved path leads you through a beautiful forest on one side (thats where yesterdays picture was taken), and heath and marshland on the other. with every step i wondered how we could enjoy so much beauty around us, while we were going to such a horrible place. as it was a transit camp, rather than a work or death camp, it was organised very differently from other concentration camps: it was set up like a miniature city, with a café, offices, a registry, a canteen, kindergarten, and hospital; some people even got married there. this deceptive "normalness" explains the tone of the above postcard, but made me even more aware of the atrocities human beings are capable of; almost every tuesday, a cargo train left for concentration camps in germany or poland. of the 107,000 people who passed through this camp between 1942 and 1945, only 5,200 survived.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Fall colors

during our little outing last week we had a walk in the woods. see, we do have some pretty fall colors in the netherlands!! even though the weather was so grey, here it was suddenly quite bright!
this week the weather will get even colder. it was indeed, today. it was really chilly during biking; i finally got my gloves out and was glad to be wearing them....

Sunday, November 17, 2013

De afsluitdijk

yes, yesterdays and todays post were taken at the "afsluitdijk", literally the "enclosure dam". it is a 32 kilometer (20 miles) long dike, between the dutch provinces north holland and friesland, and was built between 1927 and 1933. by building this dam, the zuiderzee ("southern sea"; a salt water inlet of the north sea) was transformed into a fresh water lake (ijsselmeer). this dam protects the dutch from floods, and allowed them to claim new land from the fresh water lake. this resulted in an entire new province in the netherlands, called "flevoland"!
so, above you see the sea to the right, and the sea-tunred-into-lake to the left as a result of this dam. we stopped at the memorial, here i am standing at the bridge they built to cross and have an outlook over the highway on the dam. it is at the location where the dam was eventually closed in 1932. this huge project resulted in a lot of jobs and relieved unemployment during the great depression. the american society of civil engineers declared it one of the 7 wonders of the modern world. to the right you see a statue staring out over the ijsselmeer. this is the dutch civil engineer cornelis lely. already in 1891 he formulated a plan that would become the basis for this dike and thus the damming of the zuiderzee.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Empty roads....

this is when we drove from amsterdam to groningen. anyone who knows where this might be...? :) i will tell you tomorrow...
if you take a picture at the right moment, dutch roads can appear as empty as many of the roads we took in the US during our road trips... ;) but you certainly shouldnt get out of your car on this road, or sit in the middle of it....

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Self portrait

we were away for a night! we explored the netherlands a bit again (and attended a PhD defence). we went to the far north part of the country; groningen. last time we went there by train, now we went by car. both is nice, but by car is defenitely more convenient and you can easily make many detours. unfortunately, when getting back today we got stuck in the evening traffic into amsterdam. beeeeehhh. 
we stayed in a nice and quiet hotel with a swimming pool, so we went for a little swim last night as well as this morning. breakfast would have been more expensive than the cost for the night. we had some special offer and stayed for only 25 euros; breakfast would have been 32 for the 2 of us. but guess what?! most supermarkets serve relatively good coffee for free, so all we had to do was buy their croissants; bringing the total cost of our breakfast to around 3 euros; we went all out and bought some fancy orange-mango juice as well.... hmmmmmm (thats how cheapos do it!)
yesterday it was really sunny, but today was grey and gloomy. and chilly! we went for quite a walk and i was glad to have something on my head...
more pictures of what we saw in the coming days!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Pollard willows

see?! this is how grey and rainy the netherlands is right now. beeehhhh!! again a rainy day today. we drove on this narrow road, which is actually a 2-way road. every now and then there was some space so that cars could pass each other (but we didnt see any other). the trees you see above are so very dutch! they line many small roads and pastures. according to the digital dictionary, in english you call them pollard willow (we call them "knotwilg"). by heavily cutting back the branches of the tree close to its trunk, you get that bushy growth on top. this has been done by people for many centuries; its cut off branches were used to make all sorts of stuff; from houses (or more like building blocks of houses) to weaving baskets and other utensils made by braiding some branches... nowadays we dont use their branches for that anymore, and more and more trees disappear. but those trees are such a dutch thing, some people are trying to actively keep them in the dutch landscape. to keep the trees healthy; their branches need to be cut periodically. if not, their top becomes too heavy and they will die. nowadays this is mostly done by volunteers. birds (mostly owls) like to make their nests in these trees and lots of vegetation grows on them as well....
before posting this picture, i just knew the dutch name of these trees, and that they are very dutch...!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Twin girls..

this was a few weeks back, near the finish of the amsterdam marathon. those 2 little girls were so cute! i only took one photo, as i didnt really dare taking photos of them. but they were too cute!!
its been raining on and off the past few days. and its really getting colder. this evening we biked to the city center and i was glad to have my gloves!! surprisingly, nobody is wearing gloves or a hat yet, but i really missed a hat!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Too bad!

as you can see, they were just doing some work on that cute house, so its covered with this ugly white cloth... :( too bad!! up close the wooden house was indeed just painted to shiny green perfection. this is still at the zaanse schans, just like yesterdays picture. i wouldnt mind going back anytime soon just to take some more pictures (even though its one of those places that has been photographed by everyone already, apparently it gets almost 1 million visitors per year). too bad you of course do have to pay for parking... (7.50, some 10 dollars if you stay longer than 30 minutes, which you will most certainly do).

Friday, November 8, 2013

Too pretty!

yesterday we went to yet another very very dutch place. very touristy too. suddenly we were one of the few dutch people amongst mostly asian tourists. but we had big cameras too, and took as many pictures. unfortunately, looking at them today, i was mostly disappointed... :( we even had those great typical dutch clouds as you can see above! lots of them in crazy formations, some very dark, others more white, all perfect, but my photography not so much....  this is one of the few i actually liked. 
here we are at the zaanse schans, a neighborhood of the town zaandam (not too far from amsterdam). there are 8 windmills of which you see a few here, and they all have a name! those are sawmills, oilmills, a dyemill and a mustardmill. i was just disappointed there wasnt a flour mill so that i could buy some for my bread baking... (as opposed to the US, different types of flour arent that readily available in supermarkets). 
this is not only a tourist destination; actual people are living here too. they bike around and we experienced that they are VERY annoyed when you dare stepping on the bicycle path, even if you are not blocking their way (just the possibility that you might slow a dutch person down while they are biking is enough for most of them to make it very clear that you have to stay out of their way). dont you worry, i do that too.... sometimes... :)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Stupid thieves!!

this is part of our street, and as you can see, leaves are coming down!! when we got back home 2 or 3 weeks ago a handbag was lying next door, right in that corner under the 9, and all its contents were next to it. after staring at it for a bit, i decided to pick it all up. seeing there was no phone, wallet or anything else valuable, it seemed to have been dumped there, after all that had been taken. 
we did find a diary with a name and phone number, but the number wasnt answered (i guess because the thieves just had taken that phone). upon further inspection, i discovered the idiot thieves hadnt taken everything; a small pocket inside the bag still contained some 50 euros! tim then just dialed the first random number he found scribbled down on a piece of paper. although that person actually didnt know the owner of the bag, her boyfriend did and so a few days later she came to pick it up. this is what happened; she was biking, in broad dayligyht!! her bag was in the basket in front of her bike. while 2 guys on a scooter passed her, they took the bag. she then tried to pull it back from them, but they wouldnt let go of it and she fell off her bike, the guys speeding away with her bag. she lost her phone, wallet, etc etc...AND she didnt dare biking alone anymore....
unfortunately, this happens quite a lot in amsterdam (and elsewhere in the netherlands?). so, beware!! (the other day it was the scooter that crashed while they tried to rip a handbag off a bicyclist, and still they managed to get away with the handbag; those at least got caught by the police soon after..)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Interesting hairdo

after 2 days of absence finally a picture again. sometimes i think of just stopping the blog entirely, im a bit frustrated, and not taking as many pictures. and then i post again, and again, and then i dont what to post, and then im too lazy, and then i want to quit again.... grrrr. this weekend i didnt take any pictures, the weather has been awful. especially today it was crazy with heavy wind, rain and hail.
but the above chicken really made me laugh. their hair, i guess feathers are soo very odd!! i have never seen that before i think. not on a chicken at least, their hairdo very much reminded me of our former queens hair. you can see for yourself here if you agree with me... :D (apparently she more or less has had this hairdo since she was 18. some call it the hairdo made out of concrete)