Around the southern Dutch city of Maastricht there are also some beautiful statues. Here is a small selection of the ones I found…
September 5, 2015
September 4, 2015
Several years ago Family Kiwidutch visited the Dutch province of Limburg, staying in a holiday park near the town of Vaals and making regular visits to Maastricht.
Once again we are looking around the city, capturing images whilst walking or from in the car.
We see many beautiful buildings, and some curious sights.
One of which is when I was waiting for a gap in the car and bicycle traffic to photograph a lovely building on a street corner, and I was passed by a group of students, the men dressed in suits and ladies who accompanied them in matching black skirt-suits.
Two of the young men were carring a long pole between them, the rear end of which was decorated with a garland of flowers. I saw a second group later on when looking down a side street as we went past in the car and can therefore only assume that they must have been taking part in some sort of ceremony to do with the university.
Maastricht is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands so the buildings in the city centre come in all shapes, sizes, ages and styles. There are many tiny streets, actually I’d call them either lanes or alleyways, where ancient buildings lean inwards or back from the street due to centuries of slow subsidence. All cities and places have their mysteries and surprises but Maastricht has a definiate charm. Before we came, many friends in the Hague told me that we would love it here, that people visited it and afterwards always wanted to return for more. They were not wrong…
April 19, 2015
On my visit to Den Bosch last year I saw something that is a truly uniquely European sight: a fun fair quite literally squeezed into one of the little squares in the centre of town.
The fun fair is called a “kermis” in the Netherlands and the people who run them have turned squeezing in as many attractions as possible into an art form.
My car and sea sickness notoriety extends also to motion sickness on anything like this, so big dippers and swinging arms like these are my idea of hell.
Instead I take photographs of my friend’s toddler on a carousel, which pleases both of us greatly, him for the joy of the ride and me because the painted decoration on the horses, carriages and the carousel itself is stunningly beautiful. The photographs that include him are not posted here for reasons of personal privacy, but I did get some photographs of the carousel horses. I’m also surprised because this is a double-decker carousel, the first I have ever seen. It’s not busy enough at the moment for the upper level to be open, but there is a small second floor that has a single row of horses around it, and you can see this in a few of my photographs here.
After we have prised my friend’s youngster, several rounds later off the carousel, he makes it clear that he’s ready to advance to more stomach churning rides, none of which are my cup of tea. His parents and their visitor are also game for some giddier action, therefore we discuss our plans for the next hour or so, and since I have seen somewhere else that would delight me to visit, decide to split up for a little while. They will come and collect me when they have had enough of the fun fair rides.
March 25, 2014
There is something peaceful about waterways: they are often the quiet, restful spaces between the bustling busy streets, they reflect the sunshine, clouds and patterns of the surrounding trees and buildings.
In my last post about Velvetines’ adventures I will leave you with a pictorial post about Delft’s canals. Velvetine has squeezed in all sorts of adventures, tried new culinary delights, seen many new places, put up with and survived the chaos that is Family Kiwidutch.
Her bags on this day back in the summer of 2012 were being packed and we were making ready our goodbyes, trying to hold back tears as we have had so much fun and parting is always the sticky bit that we never do particularly well.
She’s tired of course because we have worn her out but we just (half) jokingly told her to make good use of the fourteen hour plane trip back home to Singapore to catch up any sleep she lost at our place and we will of course see her S’pore when we next pass through on our way to New Zealand sometime in the future. Velvetine is someone that Himself and I find intelligent, funny, good company and easy to get along with, she’s a fellow Foodie and she and I, with our love of detail, architecture, old buildings, churches, stained glass and quirky things are kindred spirits so hanging out together is never a bore. Living half a world away from one another, we can of course only see each other every few years, but we know that each time that moment comes and we are back in each other’s company, the threads are picked up from where we last left off, it’s like our last meeting was only yesterday. True friends can stand the test of time and distance, and Velvetine is one of these. When true friendship is in your heart, your friend is really only a heartbeat away.
March 24, 2014
The average evening meal for most people contains meat.
Meat has become a regular part of our diet, a far cry from for instance one hundred years ago when probably only the Sunday meal contained meat and the rest of the week was eked out with leftovers, vegetables, potatoes and bread.
Of course many more people kept their own livestock in centuries past and even in my own family as recently as my father’s childhood when he breed rabbits for show, with the ones that didn’t make the grade going into the pot. He was one of ten children, and in the practical and stoical dutch fashion of the family, even money put into hobbies could yield no waste.
Across the world in rural New Zealand I grew up with the reality that pigs never got named, and that once a year one would disappear during school time and be returned a short time later in the form of voluminous bags of sausages, chops, minced meat, diced meat etc. and after a while longer, hams.
Even when we moved to the city of Christchurch, my parents went to the Sydenham butchery every so often and order a side of beef: my mother would prepare the chest freezer in our garage during the previous month, it would be defrosted and completely cleaned, and reduced to a state of emptiness that meant only few lonely old fashioned metal trays of ice-cubes remained.
Then my mother would return from a shopping trip with an arm-load of plastic bags and labels, large ones, small ones and I knew which chore would be coming next. The half-side of beef would arrive in boxes of a large assortment of various cuts and it was my job to count out schnitzels, sausages, steaks etc into family meal sized portions and bag them whilst my mother labeled them and stacked everything in sections in the base of the freezer or in the baskets that sat suspended inside the freezer.
The sorting, counting, bagging and labelling would take the whole family some hours but once done the freezer would be tightly packed full of meat and whilst it was a large financial outlay at one time it worked out far cheaper over the course of the year when compared to supermarket prices with packaging etc.
In centuries past there were no chest freezers of course, or any sort of freezer at home or anywhere: a few large country houses may have their own ice-house, where blocks of ices were cut and stored for use in the kitchens, but in general apart from cured meats, meat was impossible to store for long or to transport very far.
The solution in medieval European cities was that once or twice a week there would be a meat market day, where livestock were herded into the centre of town and butchers would slaughter and butcher the beasts on the street next to a market stall where the meat would be bought fresh by the city customers.
In due course the cities grew large enough that the volume of beasts and mess of the slaughter became a messy and problematic issue for the city centre pavements, so the meat market moved it’s trade indoors to purpose built buildings where the mess, noise and smell could be better contained and regulated.
The move indoors also meant that beasts could be bought in in smaller numbers on almost a daily basis and meat could be bought fresh most days: thus in it’s earliest form the local butchery businesses as we know it today was born.
Here in the center of Delft is one of these early stone slaughterhouse and butchery buildings, the animals carved in stone of the front façade a signpost to the trade that took place within.
The lower doors access the slaughter-house via ramps, the steps to the upper doors were probably for the meat sale rooms, separating and removing the customers from the less gentile realities of the trade … an aspect of our food production that continues to this day.
The reality of a butchery may be grim but it’s a fact of life and I firmly believe that people who are more aware of where their food comes from are also more likely to fight to ensure that the beasts we eat are well reared, killed in a humane fashion and that nothing is wasted. The Butchery trade has evolved, but there is an aspect of the reality that in this ever increasing “processed” world that I really hope we never loose.
March 23, 2014
One of the things that always piques my curiosity when looking at old buildings is the seemingly “standard” practice of the architects of centuries past to infuse their designs with tiny details that are extra to the overall design of the building.
Sometimes these additions are decorative roof touches, patterns in the brickwork, window adornments, stone carved details, tiles or plaques.
I often find that new, modern building are completely devoid of embellishment, they are rarely tactile and for me are the equivalent of a visual desert, compared with the packed rainforest of detail that exists in their centuries old counterparts.
Sometimes the details are stashed away like tiny treasures, waiting to be noticed and enjoyed only by a very observant few, but in general you don’t have to look too hard, there is plenty of “building bling” on show so you can quickly spot the embellishments that give these buildings additional character and charm.
Back in the summer of 2012 I was walking around central Delft with my visiting Singaporean friend “Velvetine”. As usual since she also loves architectural detail, old historic stuff and photography we have our respective cameras in hand and are kept busy by the sheer abundance of possible shots. I will admit that a few extra photographs crept into this post: flowers, window ornaments and the like, but they are detail too so hey, why not?
March 22, 2014
“Gemeenlandshuis” in Dutch can literally be translated as ” common land house” or “common country house” but in fact that’s a little misleading.
The reason is that the Dutch word describes it’s use succinctly: the specific purpose of holding water management meetings. In my opinion in English the name would change subtly depending on the size and location of the house, especially because the name would not be connected to a specific use: so the closest I would get to an English translation would be: “country house”, “stately homes”, “mansion” or “manor house” .
A small information board on the wall tells me:
“Very large and luxurious, late-gothic private house with stone facade and a nice turret built for Jan de Huyter largely about 1505. Since 1645 seat of the Syke Conservancy Board of Delftland. Coasts of arms above the entrance designed by Pieter Post (1652).”
In the links below (Note: Dutch language texts only), I learned that Jan de Huyter was the wealthy chairman of the polder board of Delft and at the time that this residence was built on the inner-city canal side of Oude Delft 167, it was the most expensive building in Delft.
Jan de Huyter was a man of many talents who was active in many areas. He was the sheriff of Delft and a Bailiff of Delftland, was also a tenant of the hopgelden and due to the many prospering breweries in Delft he amassed a fortune importing hops to supply them.
Some fifty years later, because of his sons’ political sympathies with the Spanish, the house de Huyter built was confiscated and came into the possession of Philip the Count of Hohenlohe who was married to Mary of Nassau, daughter of William of Orange. Therefore, since 1645, the Delfland was located there.
The building contains a large collection of old maps of Delfland. The sandstone façade is elaborately decorated with coasts of arms and the cones or flowers of the hop plants that built de Huyters’ wealth feature throughout the design. The façade survived the massive Delft fire of 1536. The main entrance to the Water Board is now located at the Phoenix Street.
The building is truly impressive. It’s difficult to photograph well due to the narrowness of the street and my fear of taking one step backward too far and ending up in the canal, so I’ll just have to assure you that the photographs don’t do it justice and that you need to add this to your bucket list to come and see this Delft treasure for yourself.
March 21, 2014
Sometimes you stumble on a place that sparks your imagination. It’s like finding the first paragraph of a story and wishing you had the entire book.
You wonder how this place came to be, you wonder what will happen next, you have a desire to know more.
Generally I have to admit that I usually have this kind of “moment” when travelling somewhere new, viewing ancient buildings or a beautiful landscape, or something really dramatic that stops you in you tracks.
On occasion though this also happens on a smaller scale, especially if you are as detail obsessed as I am.
Especially when you are a foodie and especially when you have a quirky sense of humour.
Back in the summer of 2012 I was walking through the inner city streets of Delft… slowly as one does on crutches. My visiting friend “Velvetine” didn’t mind because she was enjoying taking photographs as much as I was, and believe me, in old Dutch historic towns there is more than enough to photograph. On this occasion it’s a shop that’s appealing to my sense of curiosity… and it’s no ordinary window display that’s captured my attention.
It’s hard to see inside because of the reflections in the glass of the buildings on the opposite side of the street, also difficult to photograph for the same reason, but I do my best.
The objects that piqued my interest are tall shiny metal containers that resemble old fashioned milk churns, and it turns out that they contain oil and vinegar and this is a shop that specialises in these two products alone.
There are also cooking workshops available (note to self: must return when I can stand for long enough to take part in one of these) and there’s a tagine sitting in the window… Foodie heaven naturally! Who on earth had the idea to start such a specialist enterprise? Olive oils… Greek? Spanish?Portuguese? Italian?
All of the above or “other”? Vinegars… ?
What do they cook in the workshops? So many interesting questions but sadly the place is closed as we pass, otherwise I would have stepped inside and asked. Quirky, Interesting and certainly well worth a follow up at a later date… Even the silver metalic churns look inviting, and it’s definiately a window display that has completely and uttery captured my imagination. Forget shoe shopping, …olive oil anyone? Oh drool!
March 20, 2014
Some countries have a distinctive melody that runs through them, a certain sound that is synonymous with their history, culture and traditions.
Cities in Europe with their cobbled and often narrow streets are no different.
The music differs from country to country or even from province to province and here in The Netherlands the sound you will often hear whilst out shopping on a busy Saturday is usually that of the local barrel organ.
There are small ones, like one elderly man that I know who has one the size of a baby’s pram, it’s basically a tall box on wheels and he winds it up and the music tinkles through the neighbourhood, bringing curious children out of the surrounding houses like ants to honey.
He’s a frail looking gentleman but always immaculately dressed, very formal and polite and when the kids cage lose change from their parents to put into the collection tin, he is always very appreciative.
More often the barrel organs are bigger, very ornate with highly decorated painted wooden figures that often make simple movements of their own as the music plays.
The organ is mounted on a wagon that is in turn pulled by a horse, and it’s not at all unusual to see one making their way down any local big city shopping street with the vendor shaking a tin that indicates that a “token” for listening to the music would be appreciated.
The tin, as far as I have experienced in the last twenty years of living here, always takes the same form, but the vendors differ: some can be rather aggressive as they shake the tin loudly under your nose and make it more difficult to pass without making a contribution.
I started out being more than a little intimidated by them, feeling obliged to pay even if I was short of cash or in a hurry, but I got tougher and now I weigh up the vendor and the situation and react accordingly. My attitude these days is simple: the more aggressive they are, the less willing I am to donate, if they are friendly and I’m not in a hurry, would like to take photos, or if the kids are with me and we fancy stopping and listening for a bit, then I will press coins into little palms so that they can go up to put them into the tin.
It’s a little known fact that The Hague has a surprising number of inner city stables: they are well hidden behind unassuming doors off both small and large streets, and there are apparently well over fifty of them.
It was therefore no surprise for me when I heard familiar music whilst walking around the inner city streets of Deft with my visiting Singaporean friend “Velvetine”.
Since we could hear them before we could see them I explained to Velvetine that it would be a new experience for her and we should make a small detour.
Around the corner of Oude Kerk (Old Church) came the source of the music… and a horse with the best haircut in the Netherlands.
In fact it’s fringe was waaaay better than mine… so yes it’s possible that a horse can make you suddenly realise that you are having a bad hair day! The street area where we were was quiet and the vendor turned out to be very friendly when I asked if my overseas guest and I could please take photographs , so naturally we dallied for a a tune or two and were generous when it came to making a contribution. We saw them again later and waved a friendly goodbye before we left, but somehow I don”t even think the horse saw us though all that hair…
March 19, 2014
Regular readers of this blog will know that I like quirky stuff, I like weird and mundane things like the decorations on manhole covers, letter boxes or windows.
I also like bricks, cobbles and patterns found beneath my feet, over my head or anywhere I can stretch to see them.
At first I was hesitant to post this kind of post, after all surely my obsession with manhole cover and drain grates was a unique one and readers would be left scratching their heads and saying “well there is this blogger… most of the time she appears normal enough but once in a while we have our doubts because she has some rather strange obsessions…”
Oddly enough I am not the only soul on the planet who finds a pattern in a humble street stone fascinating.
There’s the added aspect too, that three years on crutches has me cautiously watching where I walk to the point of obsession, lest I take a tumble and add yet more physical damage to an already long list.
It should not surprise you that during the summer of 2012 I watched people walk around Delft completely oblivious to a few small but delightful details beneath their feet.
These details come in two basic forms: the first in the area of th “Oude Kerk ” (Old Church) is in the form of a small brass domed “button” placed in the bricks, they all have a simple graphic of a church on them and they are spaced a short distance apart.
Together they form an outline but less certain is what that outline represents: the site of a previous building? ( I’m sort of guessing not though, since the present church is the larger replacement of a smaller previous one).
My best guess would be that it maybe represents the boundary of the Church property?Maybe it’s a subtle route marker for a tourist walking tour? …or of course something else completely because I’m plucking ideas from thin air.
The other form of little detail can be found around the central city canal streets where the flea market takes place. Every now and again a street stone has been removed and in it’s place is a small rectangular tile, in blue and white appropriately enough, with words relating to the earth in several languages. Again, I don’t see any of the tourists or locals even noticing them… but of course, unlike me they are also not obsessed with making certain that every step is a safe one. They have the luxury of walking without thinking, I on the other hand have the luxury of finding detail that they have missed…