Thursday, April 24, 2014

Boats, Windmills, Tulips and a Dream… Kinderdijk

Day 5 - Kinderdijk
The next day we traveled to the area of Kinderdijk in South Holland. The village is situated in a polder at the confluence of the Lek and Noord rivers. Living along side a river or body of water is part of the Dutch way of life in this area. This quaint house was built on the banks of the river and had a traditional thatch roof.
This house was located just a little further down the river, but was more contemporary.
But the most desirable property to own in the area is one which has a traditional windmill. Around 1740, to drain the polder, a system of 19 windmills was built. They have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. The owners take great pride in owning one of these windmills and must maintain the mechanics in functioning condition. These windmills are proudly passed down from generation to generation, thus there is actually a long waiting list to buy a windmill. 
The Dutch, bicycles, water and windmills… woven together into a lifestyle.
As we were approaching the windmills we came across these two fishermen bringing in their catch.
They were using a seining net to catch carp fish. Then they were measuring them and tossing them back into the water. It appears that they were participating in a fishing competition that required catch and release.
The sky was a bit overcast when we arrived at the windmills, but the lighting was good for taking photos.
Most of these traditonal windmills were used to mill grains that were grown nearby. But the windmills also had a deeper significance in the local way of life.
The position of the sails of the windmills speaks its own language, which is clear to all who can read it.
There are four characteristic positions of the sails. The sails turn counterclockwise.
Above left: indicates rest for a short time during the working period 
Above right: indicates rest for a longer period
Below left: indicates a 'celebration' position, with the upper sail just before the vertical 
Below right: indicates a 'mourning' position, with the upper sail past the vertical 
This windmill owner recently had a new addition to the family, a grandchild, so the sails of his windmill were in the celebration position.
Here's the lucky windmill owner… grandpa.
He let us inside his windmill.
The Dutch traditionally used wooden shoes for at least two reasons. Clogs were often worn for heavy labor in the wet fields. Leather shoes would quickly deteriorate in damp conditions, but wood shoes would last longer and were easier to clean. Also, wooden shoes were relatively inexpensive to make, buy and own. The Dutch are proud of their reputation for being practical and frugal.
Inside the windmill there was a collection of tools used to manufacture parts to help maintain the structure. All of the traditional windmills were built out of wood and replacement parts were fabricated out of wood as well.
From the top of the windmill there was a nice view of the surrounding area.
After spending some time walking around the windmills, we returned to our boat and prepared to move on to the next destination.
As we set sail, we passed by some modern windmills that were primarily being used to generate electricity.
Learning about the history of the traditional windmills provided me with a new perspective of the Dutch culture. I now understand how the Dutch are intimately connected with water as a resource and windmills as a source of power. I also learned why wearing wooden shoes was more than just a fashion statement.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Boats, Windmills, Tulips and a Dream…Arnhem and Paleis Het Loo

Day 4 - Arnhem and Paleis Het Loo
Our river boat moved during the night to the town of Arnhem. In the 19th century, Arnhem was a genteel resort town famous for its picturesque beauty. It was known mainly because a number of rich sugar barons or planters from the Indies settled in the area. Even now the city is famous for its parks and greenery. The hilly terrain around the city is also quite unusual for the Netherlands.

During World War II Arnhem experienced battles and bombings. There were ruins of some bombed structures in parts of the city that have now been converted to memorials. Because of the destruction that occurred during the war, many neighborhoods now consist of more modern architecture structures compared to other cities in The Netherlands. But we really did not come to see the modern buildings.
We came to see a palace. The Paleis Het Loo (The Woods Palace) is a palace on the outskirts of Arnhem. The symmetrical Dutch Baroque building was built between 1684 and 1686 for King William III. 
The palace was a residence of the House of Orange-Nassau from the 17th century until the death of Queen Wilhelmina in 1962.
Originally, the Paleis Het Loo served as country estate or hunting lodge. This facade contains a boar's head.
This facade contains a stag's head in tribute to the hunt.
We first walked around the palace and through the garden which was designed by Claude Desgotz.
This Dutch Baroque garden incorporated Baroque elements such as symmetry, axial layout with radiating gravel walks, parterres with fountains, basins and statues. 
The private "Great Garden" situated in the back of the palace contained more conservative rectangular beds instead of more elaborately shaped ones. It was an enclosed space surrounded by raised walks, as a Renaissance garden might be, tucked into the woods for private enjoyment.
We entered the palace and learned a little about the history of the monarchy of The Netherlands. The painting above is of the royal family of the House of Orange-Nassau with King William III and the future heiress Wilhelmina.

The Netherlands has been a constitutional monarchy since 1815 and a parliamentary democracy since 1848. The monarchy has been passed down through the House of Orange-Nassau. The dynasty was established as a result of the marriage of Henry III of Nassau-Breda from Germany and Claudia of Châlon-Orange from French Burgundy in 1515.

Since 1984, the palace has served as a state museum open for the general public, showing interiors with original furniture, objects and paintings of the House of Orange-Nassau.
Inside the palace there was room after room decorated primarily in Baroque style.
But since the palace is now also a museum, there were some exhibits of art like this display of suspended flowers.
Later in the afternoon, we took a walk around the downtown commercial area. It was bustling with shoppers and cafe loungers.
This jester seemed to be having a good time.
We passed by this church and this nook which had a cherry blossom tree in full bloom.
Cherry blossoms in bloom.
In the center of town was this huge reclining aardvark. The local kids seemed to be having a good time walking up its tail and hanging out on its stomach.
We went inside a department store to see what the locals might be buying. It turns out that they had a really nice sweet shop inside the store with these Dutch macaroon meringues.
And a chocolate shoe… every woman's dream.
We returned to our river boat, enjoyed dinner and set sail for the next destination. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Boats, Windmills, Tulips and a Dream… Hoorn, North Holland

Day 3 - Hoorn
The next day we woke up and our boat had docked in the town of Hoorn. Founded in 716, Hoorn rapidly grew to become a major harbor town because of its location in a protected bay with access to the North Sea,
The coat of arms of the city shows a horn held by a blue ribbon. According to a myth this is a horn of a bull that fled from Monnickendam and lost its horn while pounding the city gate of Hoorn. Upon seeing the horn the sheriff decided that the horn would become part of the coat of arms of the city. In 1538 the coat of arms of the city was shown with a unicorn which was the actual coat of arms of the bishop Jan van Egmond, bishop of the Archdiocese of Utrecht. 
During Holland's Golden Age, Hoorn was an important home base for the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and a very prosperous centre of trade. Unlike the houses in Amsterdam with narrow facades, the houses in Hoorn were often built with wide facades demonstrating the owner's wealth.
The Hoorn fleet plied the seven seas and returned laden with precious commodities. Exotic spices such as pepper, nutmeg, cloves, and mace were sold at vast profits. With their skill in trade and seafaring, sons of Hoorn established the town's name far and wide. 
Dutch explorer Jan Pieterszoon Coen (1587–1629) is famous for his violent raids in Dutch Indies (now Indonesia), where he founded the city of Batavia in 1619 (now Jakarta). He has a big statue on the Rode Steen square in the center of Hoorn. 

In 1616, the Hoorn native and explorer Willem Corneliszoon Schouten braved furious storms as he rounded the southernmost tip of South America. He named it Kaap Hoorn (Cape Horn) in honour of his home town. 
Hoorn's fortunes declined somewhat in the eighteenth century. The prosperous trading port became little more than a sleepy fishing village on the Zuiderzee (Bay of the North Sea). Stallholders and shopkeepers devoted themselves to trading in dairy produce and seeds. 
When the railway and roads came to Hoorn in the late nineteenth century, the town rapidly took its rightful place as a conveniently located and readily accessible centre in the network of towns and villages which make up the province of Noord-Holland. 
In 1932, the Afsluitdijk, or Great Enclosing Dyke, was completed and sealed off the Wadden Sea (North Sea) and created IJsselmeer Lake. As a result, Hoorn was sealed off from the sea and was no longer a seaport. 
The years after the Second World War saw a period of renewed growth. At the centre of a flourishing horticultural region, Hoorn developed an extremely varied economy. 
During the 1960s, Hoorn was designated an 'overflow' city to relieve pressure on the overcrowded Randstad region. Thousands of people swapped their cramped little apartments in Amsterdam for a family house with garden in one of Hoorn's modern new developments.
Today, Hoorn seems to be a relaxed mid-sized town filled with outdoor cafes, restaurants and small merchant shops.
It seemed like a nice place to raise a family.
Some of the local chocolate shops were preparing special designs for the Easter holiday.
And there were fresh cut tulips that could be found around the town.
Some of the merchants were obviously catering to the tourists crowds.
But Hoorn, seemed to be a gentle town where people could live at a slower pace than the lifestyle in Amsterdam.
I noticed that the locals took time to stop and chat with their friends.
And it appeared that the easiest way to get around town was by bicycle. 
There were very few cars.
There were mostly boats and bicycles.
And the streetlamp seemed to be as good a place as any to talk about the news of the day.
So while the town of Hoorn no longer holds its place as an international port of call as it did in the past. It now holds a simpler charm.
In the afternoon, my mom and I walked along the seashore, visited a maritime museum and strolled around the town at a leisurely pace. 

The next day we would be traveling to a completely different part of the country with its own significance in the history of The Netherlands.